Volume 12, Issue 5 - September/October 2010

feature

Where Are They Now
Catch Up with Champs from the Last Five Years’ Pilkington Classic Auto Glass Technician Olympics
by Katie Hodge

They gleefully accepted their giant checks and posed for pictures. They were interviewed by AGRR magazine and saw their own faces displayed on glassBYTEs.com™. They gracefully accepted industry praise and admiration, and then they flew home from Las Vegas with their medals. So what happened afterwards? What have the winners been up to and what are their reflections on the competition?

With interest peaking about the return of the Pilkington Classic Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO) in 2011, AGRR magazine has tracked down some of the past winners to find out what they’ve been doing since the competition.

Nearly Perfect: Jamie Browning, First Place, 2009
If you reflect just one year back you will recall Jamie Browning’s nearly perfect score at last year’s competition. Browning, who at the time was a technician for Glasspro in Daniel Island, S.C., wowed spectators by finishing with a score of 249 out of 255.

“I knew I had a great chance [to win] with all the work I put into it, but when you are putting that many talented glass guys in one room anything can happen,” he says.

Browning originally came to the AGTO as a spectator. “The first time I was told about the event [in 2006] I kind of laughed and said, ‘Auto Glass Olympics? That’s funny!’ I was living in Las Vegas at the time and decided to go see what it was all about.”
When he arrived at the competition, he found out that it was quite serious.

“The first thing that came through my mind when I walked in was ‘this is a serious event,’” he says. “I was very impressed with the event and how professional things were run and what a great job [AGRR event coordinator] Holly Biller did.”

Browning, impressed with the event, decided to enter the event as a competitor the following year.

“[In 2006] I finished tenth and decided I would take things a lot more seriously and come back,” he says. “In 2008 I practiced more and studied the AGRSS Standard and came in sixth-place.”

But he still wasn’t ready to quit.

“Not being one to just walk away happy with a sixth-place finish, I was determined to do better in 2009,” he says. “I did a lot of studying and endless hours of practice and reached my goal of winning it all in 2009.”

Browning left Vegas with a new outlook on his job and the auto glass replacement industry.

“In early 2009 I was really thinking about getting out of the auto glass industry,” he says. “It seemed like the industry as a whole was being run by the lowest bidder and seeing all the unsafe installs going on had me considering a new career. After seeing that there are installers, vendors and organizations like AGRSS doing everything they can to change the auto glass industry, I have a new outlook and look forward to doing my part to help change things.”

Browning recently opened his own auto glass business in Charleston, S.C., and now authors “The Cutting Edge” for AGRR magazine (see page 12). And he also has some other plans he’s working on behind the scenes.

“I am also working on some projects that I think will make a huge difference in the industry and should be coming out with those early next year,” he says.

Overall, Browning says competing in the AGTO has given him many opportunities.

“I feel like [winning] has opened doors for me to do things and reach some goals that would have been pretty hard to reach otherwise,” he says. “I look forward to helping change the industry and making a difference.”

Browning says the way he deals with customers on an everyday basis also was changed for the better by the competition.

“I have a lot more pride and confidence when I talk to customers and people in the industry now,” he says.

When reflecting on his experiences Browning is glad he has stayed working within the auto glass industry.

“I have had a lot of ups and downs in the auto glass business over the last 19 years, but when I walked off the stage with the medal and trophy it all kind of seemed worth it,” says Browning. “I still try to maintain the same work ethics and values I have always had, but I do tend to show off my trophy from time to time.”

“After seeing that there are installers, vendors and organizations like AGRSS doing everything they can to change the auto glass industry I have a new outlook and look forward to doing my part to help change things.”
—Jamie Browning, Browning Auto Glass


“A Simple Glass Man:” Randy Chadwick, First Place, 2008
When Randy Chadwick, the 2008 winner of the AGTO, arrived in Las Vegas for the first in 2005, he was in awe of both the competition and the city itself.

“The one thing that sticks with me is being in Las Vegas,” says Chadwick, a technician for Glasspro in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. “I had never been there before and it’s a pretty exciting place.”

Chadwick took home the bronze medal his first time competing—before grabbing the gold in 2008.

“The first time I competed it changed me. It helped me to realize a lot about the industry and get to know more people and know that there were that many people that were that involved and working to install a windshield correctly,” Chadwick says.

After that, Chadwick took a few years off to prepare before returning in 2008.

“I did expect to win. I learned a lot in 2005 and prepared myself more,” he says. “If you look at it like any athlete would—you have to train and practice for it to prepare yourself. I put a lot into it and did my very best.”
Chadwick says all of his preparation paid off when he took the gold in 2008, and finished the competition exhausted—but happy.

Since being crowned a champion, Chadwick, who’s been with Glasspro for eight years, has returned to what he does best—installing auto glass.

“I’m doing the same thing as I’ve always done,” says Chadwick.

Chadwick says his time with Glasspro also has given him the opportunity to pass on his knowledge and skill to a new generation of installers.

“They have always looked to me for guidance with young guys and training,” says Chadwick. “Not a lot has changed. If I wanted it to, I probably could have pursued different areas, but I am just a simple glass man.”


Joining the Winner’s Circle: Travis Crebs, Third Place, 2009
Some technicians have already begun preparing for the 2011 AGTO. One such competitor is Travis Crebs of Techna Glass in Taylorsville, Utah, who joined the winner’s circle when he was awarded the bronze last year at the AGTO. This most recent competition in 2009 was Crebs’ third time competing in the AGTO.

Crebs has had the opportunity to compete against many top technicians and appreciates the skill and knowledge of his competitors.

“It’s really exciting,” says Crebs. “The bar is set so high by the level of the competition. The top competitors have so much confidence and they always maintain their composure throughout the entire process.”

Crebs, who scored the overall highest score in the first round of his competition, is humble—but proud—of his achievement.

“To have the overall high score in the first round was remarkable and, honestly, I was happy to finish on time during the final round. I really felt like I’d performed well following both installations,” says Crebs. “Competing in the final round and winning the bronze medal last year was a huge lift for me. It was my first appearance in a final round and I really take a lot of pride in finishing third and putting Techna Glass on the podium.”

After heading home to Utah, Crebs says he has continued to work on his skill and already has his eye on the prize for 2011.

“Competing in the final round this year has really motivated me to get better and improve on last year’s performance,” says Crebs. “I have also put a lot of effort into educating all of our technicians company-wide to prepare them for our own Techna Glass Technician Olympics (TGTO), a qualifying event for the national competition. It’s very gratifying to see all of the guys who have stepped up and taken on the challenge.”

AGTO enthusiasts can plan to watch Crebs compete again as he recently took first place in the company
competition.


“I think it’s given everybody something to live up to,”
—Paul Heinauer, Glasspro

Changing Businesses
Behind every technician, often there is a company owner who has been willing to dedicate not only the resources but also the time to prepare and send technicians to the Auto Glass Technician Olympics to compete. Why do they choose to do this?

For Troy Mason, owner and president of Techna Glass in Sandy, Utah, he’s found that the competition helps his entire staff push constantly to improve.

“I think it raises the bar company-wide, even though it’s only a couple of people who end up competing in the national Olympics,” says Mason. “We have all of our employees from accounting to the call center to other technicians from the stores come watch how it should be done. It raises the bar and the expectation on every installation.”

Mt. Pleasant, S.C.-based Glasspro president Paul Heinauer has seen a similar affect on his employees.

“I think it’s given everybody something to live up to,” he says. “We know there are people coming to us because they perceive us to deliver quality. It’s something that we want to make sure we live up to.”

Heinauer also has been able to use the competition to help market his business externally.

“It has helped us from a marketing standpoint … probably because we are very proud and have publicized our people winning. They are shown on ads. The number-one thing it has done is that it has made us a better auto glass installation company,” says Heinauer.

Heinauer also promotes his company’s success in the competition to local insurance agents.

“When we are teaching continuing education classes we are showing the articles as well as having [our winners] be a part of the classes, especially when a particular installation is involved,” he says. “ … In the spring we had an insurance agent come to the class and both Jeff [Olive] and Randy [Chadwick] were there. I was talking about [the competition] and [the agent] wanted to get a picture of them with her in the middle. She ended up making a picture for both the guys, saying how much she enjoyed being a part of greatness. She sent a copy to each one with her signature on it.”

Mason has invited other companies, such as insurance company and large account representatives for Techna Glass, to view their feeder competition as a way to market their commitment to quality installations.

“We invite people from outside the company to watch the competition, and it raises the bar in front of other people we do business with and they can see how much we care about quality of installation and proper installation techniques,” says Mason.


From Competitor to Judge: Jeff Olive, First Place, 2005
When Jeff Olive of Glasspro traveled to Las Vegas to compete in the first-ever AGTO competition in 2005, he probably had no idea what was in store for him—and that in the years following he’d become a judge for the event. But that doesn’t mean that Olive, who now serves as director of quality control for Glasspro in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., wasn’t confident.

“It took months of training and practice, but I did have the confidence that I would leave a winner,” says Olive. “I knew I was good and, when the chance came to prove to myself that I could hold up against the best in the country, I set out to become the winner.”

And becoming a judge wasn’t the only opportunity to arise from winning the gold.

“Winning the gold has created many opportunities for my career,” he says. “I have joined many committees within our industry, including the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standards (AGRSS) Council’s Standards Committee.”

Olive now trains all of the technicians at Glasspro and teaches insurance agents continuing education courses for the company company. After winning, Olive was promoted to directer of quality control as well as maintaining his management duties. Currently, he is Glasspro’s training manager.

“Competing in the AGTO was an opportunity of a lifetime,” he says. “ … Everyone involved has the same goal of safe auto glass installation. Each technician has the same mindset—do a top-notch job and come out a winner.”

“Everyone involved has the same goal of safe auto glass installation. Each technician has the same mindset—do a top-notch
job and come out a winner.”
—Jeff Olive, Glasspro


Cindy Rowe Auto Glass: Producer of Champions
Cindy Rowe Auto Glass in Harrisburg, Pa., which is now owned by Belron US, produced two winners of the Pilkington Classic Auto Glass Technician Olympics during the competition’s first five years. The company’s Rob Grace took first place in the 2006 competition, fourth place in 2007 and second place in 2008. In 2007, Grace also received an innovation award.

Likewise, fellow technician Jason Horne took first place in 2007 and third place in 2006.

However, 2008 was the last time for the two to compete, as their company was purchased by Belron US in December of that year when company owners Dave Taylor and Cindy Rowe-Taylor decided to retire. The company now operates as part of Belron US (also known as the Safelite Group), which holds its own internal competition.

Attempts to reach Grace and Horne were referred to Safelite’s corporate offices. “Because we do our own competition, we think it might not be the best idea to comment on anyone else’s competition,” Safelite spokesperson Melina Metzger told AGRR magazine.


Katie Hodge is the assistant editor of AGRR magazine.

 

 

 

 


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