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Volume 8, Issue 1        January/February 2006

View from the Driver's Seat
   the retail manger's and owner's perspective

Critical Information
by Jim Horrox

With this issue, AGRR welcomes Jim Horrox, chief operating officer of Stockton Auto Glass, as a columnist. His experience as a manager for the largest retail company in the industry and as head of an independent business give him a unique perspective. His column, with its razor-sharp insights, will appear in every issue of the magazine.

Last year was another exciting (about the nicest word I can use to describe it) one for the auto glass industry. Remember the NAGS ďrebalancingĒ event from way back in March? The Chicago Auto Glass Group? The meetings, conventions, panel discussions, etc., about part pricing? A schism developed as different industry groups decided to observe different list prices. 

I donít know about you, but other than cut margin out of parts sales (if there really was any left in the first place), all these actions have accomplished is a further complication of how we charge for the inventory our business uses. 

Hereís an interesting exercise: try explaining how your company arrives at the windshield price it puts on an invoice to someone from outside the glass business. Itís almost embarrassing.

Last year also brought the introduction of METRYX, an online registry tool for service providers which has created a database of technicians and company operating parameters. Many in the industry raised quite a vocal opposition to this concept, and not because of the program but because of its owner, LYNX Services. After all, no company has an appetite to divulge strategic intelligence to a potential competitor. 

Paranoia was rampant, deep secrets would be divulged, and more retail shops would be forced out of business.

Information Sharing

Then an interesting thing happened: nothing. Many service providers signed up (including us), one of our major customers (State Farm) embraced the program, and life has continued on. Maybe Iím wrong, but I havenít heard of even one instance where any METRYX data has been used inappropriately. My point is this: information is the most critical resource in business today. We have to be willing to leverage as much of this resource as possible for our common benefit. Iím not advocating that anyone recklessly release data; but when you consider the measures taken by METRYX to ensure confidentiality and integrity (plus the fact that theyíre willing to listen and make changes), I honestly believe the risk of misuse is low.

One final comment on data sharing: prior to my assignment with Stockton Auto Glass, I was a field executive in the Southwest with Safelite Glass Corp.; and I can tell you that even if I tried, I simply could not get access to any pricing, volume or buying data on my competitors from the network side of the business. 

SGC has many firewalls in place, both in systems and process, to prevent the release of this truly proprietary information from network shops to Safelite retail. You may choose not to believe me, but itís the truth. 

The bottom line is that we as an industry should take every opportunity to trumpet the number of technicians we have, their qualifications, our service areas, our store locations, and the like. This is all part of a good brand-building strategy (a topic that I plan to write about in a future column), and can help get us away from selling on price.

After all, cutting your price to beat a competitor is like fighting over deck chairs on the Titanic. 

Jim Horrox is chief operating officer of The Stockton Glass Group (d.b.a. Stockton Auto Glass) in Stockton, Calif. He may be contacted at 
jim@stocktonautoglass.com.


© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.