Volume 9, Issue 3 - June/July 2007

Not Your Father’s IGA Conference
IGA Heads in New Directions at Las Vegas Event
by Penny Stacey, Les Shaver, Megan Headley and Brigid O’Leary

It was not your father’s IGA Conference. This year’s annual Independent’s Day Conference and Spring Auto Glass Show, sponsored by the Independent Glass Association (IGA) seemed to mark a new era in education for independents. 

“This was the best event I’ve attended in years,” said Rusty Earles of Earles Auto Glass in Troy, Ala. “I don’t feel like anyone here could leave without feeling it was successful.”

Brad Henningsen of Page Fast Glass in Page, Ariz., agreed.

“I thought it was an extremely successful show,” he said. “I particularly enjoyed the AGRSS seminars. I think it’s one of the better ones that I’ve been to in awhile.”

Thursday, The Opening Day
The event began May 17 with a golf tournament and was followed by an Opening Session with members of the IGA board of directors at which IGA had promised to deliver five new member services. “We lied,” said IGA president Dave Zoldowski of Auto One in Brighton, Mich. “We didn’t mean to, but we did. IGA actually have 10 new services to announce today. We’ve done an extraordinary amount of work in the last year to bring them to you.”

Zoldowski then introduced IGA vice president Bandi Hantke of Rockford Auto Glass in Rockford, Ill. Hantke announced the premier of IGA’s Certification Program. He said there are three different types of certification programs available: IGA-Certified Auto Glass Technicians, IGA-Certified Customer Service Representatives and IGA-Certified Shop Managers. The first of these, Technician Certification, will premier in July. 

“We’ve developed an affordable, Internet-based training and certification program that does not require travel to testing centers,” he said, “and we are very excited to see it get going.” 

IGA board member Rick Rosar of Rapid Glass in Coon Rapids, Minn., discussed a new anti-steering campaign in testing now and will debut at the association’s Fall meeting. “We’ve talked about illegal and unethical steering for a long time,” said Rosar, “but now IGA members will have a chance to fight it through consumer education.” Rosar detailed a new consumer campaign that includes an anti-steering logo, booklet, give-aways, postcard and scripts. He said the association plans to begin testing its effectiveness in a pilot project this spring and will roll it out formally in the Fall. 

Bryan Yarborough of Glass Doctor of Tampa, another IGA board member, discussed the association’s as-yet-secret study of alleged anti-steering that the IGA is undertaking with a key insurance company. “Through the insurer, we are going to document and follow instances where we feel steering has taken place. This insurer happens to tape all their communications with policyholders so we feel like we will be able to get an accurate picture of what’s going on,” he said, adding that the group is “keeping the name of the insurance company confidential until the survey is finished so that the various TPA providers out there don’t have any knowledge of who we are working with.”

Board member Alan Epley of Southern Glass in Charleston, S.C., provided a legislative update. Epley briefed the group on the association’s anti-steering legislative efforts. “IGA has major efforts underway in five states and efforts in 17 states in total. We hope to get to all 50 within the next year,” he said. “Remember, ladies and gentleman, all IGA wants is fairness. When people, such as the legislators in Washington State, understand the issues, they provide that fairness. We are working hard to make sure they understand that.”Board members Shawn Newport of Star Glass in Erie, Pa., and Mike Russo of Thruway Auto Glass in Syracuse, N.Y., also spoke (see sidebar).

The Opening Session was followed by one of the event’s more controversial speeches—a presentation about world leader Belron by Belron US senior vice president of strategy and business development Rich Harrison. Harrison detailed Belron’s holdings and philosophy and showed a number of videos about the company. 

“I’m glad I saw that,” said one attendee, “I learned a lot about who my competitor is going to be.”

“It was a good presentation,” said another. “It showed me they were big, bold and that they mean business.”

One of the most interesting parts of Harrison’s presentation was the airing of a video that had been played at Belron’s international sales meeting a month ago. It explained how the company would be concentrating on providing “extraordinary” customer service and how that effort would propagate through the company.

Fahmy Mechael of LYNX Services then explained how his company sees the future of the auto glass business. “Consolidation is not over,” he said. “We will see more in the future, though the industry remains fragmented.”

Citing SEC and other regulations, Mechael had little to say about the possible sale of PPG Auto Glass including LYNX Services. This can go any of three possible ways, he mentioned, only one of which includes divestiture.

Mechael was followed by noted speaker Carl Tompkins of SIKA Corp., who provided an overview on that same topic—superior customer service. He explained how companies can see their sales rise 21 percent over three months with an emphasis on the initial contact between customer and auto glass company. 

Tompkins’ session led into a very practical one on the same topic, with Newport leading a discussion of exactly how customers should be approached on the phone. He explained how you determine your effectiveness using close ratios and how to track them. 

Friday: The Longest Day
Friday morning opened with two strategic sessions: one on the association’s legislative strategy and the other a legal update. The association, which had voted for the first time this year to open its conference to all members of the auto glass business, did limit attendance at three sessions to members and prospective members only. Though press was permitted to attend, these sessions were off-the-record and no reports are provided.

Members were also able to visit with noted activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader at a private breakfast before his speech.

By the time the noted safety advocate took the stage, it seemed to many he understood the auto glass industry completely. He spoke for 90 minutes about how the auto glass industry works (see sidebar). He once again lauded the AGRSS Standard as a major advancement for the industry and discussed other glass-related issues including wired glass and the lack of glass standards for furniture.

Nader was followed by a presentation by Roger Pickett of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass who explained what branding was and how to do it for your company. 

“Never Thought I’d See the Day”
In a seminar added just three weeks before the meeting, Safelite (now Belron U.S.) CEO Dan Wilson addressed the assembly and took attendees through an overview of Safelite and how the company works.

“I come in peace,” he said. “I know that the IGA and our company have had tremendous differences in the past, but I come to open a dialogue and appreciate the opportunity to do so.”

Wilson then engaged in a question-and-answer session for approximately 30 minutes about topics ranging from steering to philosophy.Wilson also repeated comments made by Harrison the day before. “Our pricing model in the United States is broken,” he said. “When our largest customers do not get lower prices than our single-use customers, something is very wrong,” he said in a reference to cash pricing.

After a short lunch break, two different workshops revolving around the ANSI Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS Standard) were held. Those attending the first were able to review the AGRSS-registration procedure with AGRSS credentialing chair Tompkins and walk through them step by step. As a bonus, IGA is paying the registration fee for members who attended this session and apply for AGRSS-registration by June 30. 

“This is huge,” said Tompkins. “You can see how committed IGA is to safety by this effort, and you can show how committed you are to safety by registering.”

A Standards Update followed. Peg Stroka of the National Glass Association introduced the draft of the windshield repair standard called the “Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard,” a standard developed jointly by Stroka’s group and the National Windshield Repair Association. AGRSS chairperson Cindy Ketcherside of JC’s Glass then explained some of the updates to the AGRSS Standard.

An off-the-record session on deciphering TPA scripts was then held. “This seminar was really helpful to me,” said one attendee. “It showed me some things I might want to change in how I do things in order to preserve business.”

Saturday: The Last Day
The Internet dominated the sessions Saturday morning, as participants learned that 62 percent of adults now consult the Internet before they purchase auto glass services. “You must have a website,” said Gary Hart, CEO/president of eDirectGlass. “The yellow pages are dying and there is no alternative to the web.” Hart said that the ability to schedule jobs online was going to be crucial in the future, though only four percent of glass companies do so now.

Peppering his presentation with clips from “The Simpsons” and even handing out cold hard cash to the audience, Hart illustrated his points about the future of doing business electronically.

“You can put up the spiffiest website in the world, but it will do you no good if no one knows how to find it,” said Mainstreet Computers’ Mark Haeck. He explained that making sure that search engines know how to find you is even more important than the content of your website. 

State Farm team manager for glass claims services Melissa Kern and national glass manager Bob Bischoff then took the podium to explain some of State Farm’s practices. “We believe in customer choice,” Kern said. “When our customer expresses a preference we honor it. When the customer expresses a preference for a shop that we do not have a relationship with, we do try and educate them as to what this means,” she allowed.

Kern also tried to address one of the most difficult situations shops are faced with today. “Who pays for fixing rust?” she asked. “If a customer comes to you and you take the windshield out and find rust, who should pay to fix it?” she asked, using an example. “We recognize that most rust comes from glass improperly replaced in the past, but is that State Farm’s liability? We may not even have insured the customer at the time.”

“Yes, but it’s not ours,” answered a member of the audience. “I’ve got the windshield out already and [State Farm] doesn’t want to pay for it [corrosion correction], and the customer doesn’t want to pay for it, and I’ve got his windshield on the ground. What do I do?”

“There’s no good answer at this point,” said Bischoff.

“That company in San Diego,” as Ralph Nader called it, took the stage next to answer the question, “what if there were no NAGS?” NAGS director of operations James “Bud” Oliver and director of product management James Patterson led the audience through a variety of scenarios about how the industry would change if NAGS no longer existed (see sidebar). 

This presentation was supposed to be followed by a Chicago Auto Glass Group (CAGG) Update, but the group had notified IGA a few weeks prior that it would be unable to accept its invitation. Instead, Zoldowski provided an overview of the new “Jobs4You” Internet marketing program that the association had premiered for its members the day before. 

Back by popular demand, David Carnahan of Mainstreet Computers led a session about understanding the true cost of doing business in the auto glass industry. It included discussions of key measures, how to insure profitability, etc.

“This session was most helpful to me,” said another attendee. “It helped me realize some things that I should be tracking but wasn’t.

The program closed with a two-hour open house where members and prospective members could ask IGA’s attorney Chuck Lloyd questions and discuss strategy.

And Throughout the Days
IGA’s Spring Auto Glass Show™ was held May 18-19 and attendees were treated to goods and services from 40 auto glass vendors. The event was co-located with the Americas Glass Association’s (AGA’s) Americas’ Glass Showcase™. “We thought it was great having the shows from both groups co-located,” said AGA president Donn Harter. “By joining the two, we had a vision to create a true glass retailers’ event and I think we are accomplishing that.”

Ira Turner, president of The Glass Shop in Syosset, N.Y., said the trade show was especially helpful for him.

“It was the type of show where every booth had some interest to me,” he said.Diane Meyer of ABC Auto Glass Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., was a first-time attendee at the show.

“We’ve been in the business for more than 14 years and decided to go this year,” she said. “Hopefully we can go to many more.”Exhibitors also found the show successful.

“It was great having both together,” said Robin Donker of Unruh Fab. “We really like the concept.”

“We had a fabulous show,” said first-time exhibitor Larry Bachman of fixmywindshield.com, whose booth garnered a lot of attention for its … uh … appearance.

“The event was a homerun,” said Tompkins. “The education was great, the show was excellent, it was a real winner.”

“I am very impressed by what the independents are doing,” said TCGI’s Allan Skidmore, while visiting with Keith Beveridge of Novus. 

 

Ralph Nader: A Trip to Bizarro Land
Las Vegas wasn’t the only place Ralph Nader visited in conjunction with his appearance at the IGA’s Independents’ Days Conference and Spring Auto Glass Show™. He also made a stop in Bizarro Land. Nader learned just enough about the industry to call it “a mess.”

“You have to call your competitor to get permission to replace a windshield?” he asked incredulously. “This is just bizarre. You have no laws about this? And you have a group out in San Diego that comes up with prices. This is all just so bizarre. How does this go on?”

“I’ll tell you how,” he said. “It goes on because the people who could change it don’t understand it. You’ve got legislators, regulators [and] judges trying to understand it. If they can’t understand this, they will take no action. You are going to have to simplify it for them—so a comic book if necessary—that gets what’s going on across to them. Then you need to come up with some talking points to explain what you want. You can get it done.”

“I think Nader was right,” said Tom Grim of All Star Auto Glass in Seattle. Grim had been active in the IGA Washington Chapter and instrumental in helping pass anti-steering legislation in that state just last month.

“In my case, I had a legislator who had just had her windshield replaced and had just been steered, She took an interest because she understood it,” he said. 

What’s in a Name? IGA Coins New Term
The vocabulary of the auto glass industry changed in May, when the association introduced a new term –and a printable one at that—to describe companies that own or have an interest in glass replacement companies and also provide claims administration services.

“You may have noticed one other change in our speeches this morning. We have changed the industry’s vocabulary a bit,” said IGA board member Shawn Newport of Star Glass in Erie, Pa. “We are using the term ‘third-party administrator’ only for those companies that administer claims but have no relationship with a glass company. Instead, we will be calling those who do ‘competitor-administrators’ from now on.”

The change in nomenclature must have resonated with the crowd. When Fahmy Mechael of LYNX Services began his presentation, he said he wanted to “clarify that I am from a third-party administrator and not a competitor-administrator.”

No Goodie Bags Here, Just Little Black Books that Mean Business
Country Music Awards (CMA) guests at the event across town in Vegas may have received goodie bags worth $20,000, but IGA attendees were given something more valuable to them.

Full registrants received a leather zipped notebook complete with a handle and more than 200 pages of notes, information and coursework for the seminars. The legal handbook alone was 102 pages long.

“We wanted to give everyone something that would be easy to carry and yet provide more background information for them,” said IGA’s director of operations Patrick Smith. “We are extremely appreciative of Pilkington for sponsoring this effort,” he said. “The notebooks were a great hit.”

Other sponsors included Mainstreet Computers, Glass.net, Mygrant Glass and Mitchell Glass.

Products on Parade
While many pondered questions such as what would happen if NAGS didn’t exist, what is in store for Belron US and the bizarre industry, as Ralph Nader called it, others were on the show floor scooping up information on new products.

A number of auto glass product suppliers were on hand to show off their latest offerings.

ADCO Products Inc. of Michigan Center, Mich., offered its Titan® UP100 Universal Urethane Primer, which is a one-step formula designed to adhere to provide urethane adhesion on all auto glass installation surfaces.  www.adcocorp.com

AEGIS Tools International of Madison, Wis., also displayed its new leak-detecting system. As Henri Goudsmit, on-hand in the AEGIS booth, put it, the number-one complaint many shops receive is from customers who hear noise after their windshield is replaced. With this system, though, shops can either detect a leak if there is one, or have the ability to assure the customer that the windshield is leak-free.  www.aegistools.com 

Along with its windshield repair kits, Delta Kits Inc. of Eugene, Ore., promoted the eDirectGlass™ TSM (Total Shop Management) Lite Edition. According to product literature from Delta, the system provides reduced day-to-day business costs, increased productivity, flexibility, improved relationship management, increased customer service and improved record keeping. There is also a mobile edition of the software available, which allows technicians to print repair orders, process credit cards, view driving directions and route planning and manage schedules from the road. www.deltakits.com

Dow Automotive of Dayton, Ohio, displayed its extensive line of urethanes at the show, including its three new kits, the BETASEAL O°neBP CLEAR EZ Kit, the BETASEAL™ Express CLEAR EZ Kit and the BETASEAL ExpressBP CLEAR EZ Kit.  www.dowautomotiveaftermarket.com

A new iTelemind appointment reminder system is the latest offering from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based eDirectGlass, which was also displayed at the show. The system uses voice-over Internet protocol technology to provide automated appointment reminders over the telephone to customers. www.edirectglass.com

FixMyWindshield.com signed up new companies for its Internet auto glass referral business. www.fixmywindshield.com

Crystal Glass traveled from Edmonton, Alberta, to exhibit at the show, and alerted AGRR that the company is expecting to release a brand-new product in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information.  www.extractortools.com

GlasWeld of Bend, Ore., promoted its new Gfusion™ auto glass repair system, which includes a patented ProVac™ 2000 injector, ProCur™ 360-degree radial UV curing lamp, resins and supplies for 700 repairs, specialized repair implements, seals, cleaners and replacement parts, a cordless drill, probes and a spot heater, safety equipment and a training manual and instructions. In addition, the Gfusion™ Pro is available from GlasWeld. www.glasweld.com

Glass.net provided an Internet café on the show floor with wireless Internet access and several wired laptops as it promoted its site, which offers shops online referrals for work. www.glass.net 

A brand-new booth drew visitors to the booth of Mainstreet Computers Inc. of Belleville, Mich. Once there, attendees were able to learn about the company’s new web services division, which is set up to assist glass shops with designing websites. www.mainstreetcomp.com

MBJ Associates Inc. promoted the products of both of the companies it represents, Gold Glass Group of Bohemia, N.Y., and A.N. Designs Inc. of Torrington, Conn. Gold Glass Group introduced its new logo, offered more than 500 moulding options and introduced its new line of rain sensors. www.gggcorp.com or www.ultrawiztools.com

Sommer & Maca from Cicero, Ill., displayed the Fein Auto Glass Cut-Out Tool Kit, which comes with six blades, a steel case, wrench, handle and sharpening stone. www.somaca.com

Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Laurel, Mont., offered its vacuum cup cleaner, designed to remove soil, lubricants and adhesives without leaving a chemical build-up or residue. www.powrgrip.com

Mygrant Glass Co. of Anaheim, Calif., promoted its new and improved online ordering system, along with its moulding division, Perfec Trim Moldings.  www.mygrantglass.com

For Waco, Texas-based Glass Doctor, the show provided an opportunity to meet with independents and potential franchisees. www.glassdoctor.com

 “The IGA Show conducted a first-class convention,” said Glass Doctor president Mike Dawson. “It’s always great to interact with peers from your industry. The information that was shared with the independent glass companies confirms that Glass Doctor has positioned itself as a national leader in the glass industry for many years to come.”

Equalizer Industries of Round Rock, Texas, displayed its newest offering, the Big Dawg™ Equalizer® Express®, a 36-volt tool that is designed to deliver two to three times more runtime and two times the power of the company’s 18-Volt Express. The kit comes with a 36-volt battery, a battery charger, one BFE1400 blade, an instructional DVD, a pair of safety glasses and a hand-carrying case. www.equalizer.com

Duncan Systems of Elkhart, Ind., offered its line of RV glass.  www.duncansys.com

GTS Services of Portland, Ore., promoted its business software, which is designed to integrate easily with Quickbooks® when necessary. (yyä www.gtsservices.com

Pilkington North America of Toledo, Ohio, had available its OETech™ urethanes and mouldings, along with its range of glass products.  www.epremier.net

Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich., offered its SikaTack®-MOVEIT urethane system, which it says has a 60-minute safe drive-away time, is cold-applied and universal for any climate. In addition, the company offered its SikaTack-COOL. Both come in new 20-ounce foil packs that the company calls “Unipacs.” There are 20 of each provided in each Super Kit the company offers, along with Aktivator pads and Primer STIX, according to Sika Corp. www.sikaindustry.com

Unruh Fab of Sedgewick, Kan., offered its line of vans at the show, including its new Sprinter Van, which is ergonomically designed with easy roll-out racks from both the side and rear doors. The company says the van’s rear rack also can be motorized to handle any load. www.unruhfab.com

F. Barkow of Milwaukee also displayed its line of glass carriers for trucks at the show.  www.barkow.com

C.R. Laurence Co. Inc. traveled from Los Angeles to display its variety of truck slider windows, van windows and sunroofs, as well as installation tools, urethanes and cleaners at the show. Among its line of sliders, the company offered its “Perfect Fit” three-panel tri-vent slider with solar glass for the 2007 Toyota Tundra.  www.crlaurence.com

What If NAGS No Longer Existed?
Who in the auto glass industry hasn’t pondered the following question: what if there was no NAGS? James Patterson, director of product management for NAGS, and James “Bud” Oliver, director of operations for NAGS, took the time to study that very question during the IGA Conference. 

First, they explored what might happen if there was no benchmark in the industry—nothing whatsoever on which to base pricing.

They noted that if this were to happen, likely each shop would have to determine the pricing part by part, and in contract negotiations, a buyer would have to obtain price lists from each potential vendor and comparison shop. In addition, Oliver and Patterson speculated that independent shops would not be able to survive “because large buyers … cannot realistically negotiate with thousands of potential sellers without a benchmark or similar mechanism.”

Secondly, Patterson and Oliver took a look at the downfalls of what could occur if a new benchmark was created—but this time by a for-profit industry participant.

Under this scenario, which they noted would be the most likely to occur without NAGS, at least one or more industry participants with a stake in the outcome would publish price lists. Strong buyers would adopt the most attractive price list and would utilize it like they do NAGS, or might even combine two or more lists to make the list best suited to them. In the end, independent shops likely would be forced to use a competitor’s price list but would have no input on the pricing. Some in the audience pointed out that this was very similar to what has happened in Canada.

Finally, Patterson and Oliver discussed what might occur if a new benchmark was created by a new not-for-profit organization or committee. They suggested that if this were to happen, funding would need to be provided by the industry and there would be no guarantee that there would be a positive outcome. Likewise, if a committee were to take on pricing, Patterson and Oliver said it would be difficult for participants, who would likely be industry members, to take direct action or responsibility. www.nags.com

Compiled from various reports. Penny Stacey, Les Shaver, Megan Headley and Brigid O’Leary contributed to this report. 


AGRR
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