by Tara Taffera
More than 700 professionals in the auto glass industry attended the National Auto Glass Conference, held in Memphis from September 16-19.
Some attendees attributed the high attendance to the shows location in the central part of the United States and reasonable hotel rates. Next years conference will be held September 22-25 at The Breakers, Palm Beach, FL.
The event kicked off with keynote speaker, Sparky Anderson, former manager of the Detroit Tigers, who entertained the crowd with tales of his legendary baseball career. But, Anderson offered advice for the auto glass professional as well. He told the story of one auto glass technician standing on one corner selling a product and another on a second corner selling the same product for five dollars more. The second individual was making more money than the first. "The first thing a person has to do is sell themselves and then the product," said Anderson. "We all want to be treated right."
The educational sessions began on Thursday morning with the The New NAGS®, presented by Catherine Howard of National Auto Glass Specifications (NAGS). Howard and other NAGS representatives have given more than 70 presentations in the past year in an attempt to prepare auto glass professionals for the upcoming changes in NAGS pricing information.
Howard asked all industry participants to identify problems with NAGS pricing, resulting in Revaluation 98, a program designed to eliminate problem parts, inflated list prices, unexplainable discount levels and inaccurate labor times. While the new structure was originally slated to take effect in November, Howard announced that the changes are delayed until January 1. "The industry needs more time to analyze it and determine the impact," said Howard.
While a handful of attendees offered negative criticism of the new NAGS prices, Howard believes auto glass professionals are beginning to accept the new NAGS structure. In the beginning stages of the educational process, NAGS representatives had to endure constant criticism. The attitude of those at this auto glass conference proved this has changed. When one attendee challenged others to raise their hands if they believed the NAGS changes would or would not affect their business, the show of hands was approximately two-thirds saying it would not have an effect and one-third saying it would.
Other educational sessions included Retaining Quality Employees, OSHA Proofing Your Business, State of the Art Auto Glass (see sidebar page 61), Managing Conflict and Succession in Family Businesses, Marketing and Liability on the Internet and Software Issues for Retail Glass Replacement and Repair Shops. The event also included auto glass installation demonstrations.
The auto glass conference closed with a three-hour forum, Auto Glass: Parts, Applications and Technology. Topics covered by the panel included industry-wide standards, EDI and the importance of utilizing the internet and web sites. Although the forum was designed for professionals in the auto glass industry to ask questions of their peers, only a few attendees raised questions, causing the session to end one hour earlier than expected.
In an attempt to gain input, moderator Ed Fennell of Bartlestone Glass asked attendees what they would like to see in the future. One individual missed the presence of representatives from the insurance industry. Fennell explained that State Farm representatives were asked to attend a seminar, but declined.
When Fennell asked attendees what they thought of the exhibits, participants answered by way of applause. Thirty-six conference exhibitors included those offering tools, repair kits, adhesives and software packages for auto glass technicians.
Some exhibitors, like Sika of Lyndhurst, NJ, took advantage of the conference as an opportunity to unveil new products. The company introduced two new adhesives, SikaTack-Ultrafast II and SikaTack-Drive. Sika says the focus in the development of these products was to: improve safe drive-away time, extend low temperature capabilities for one-component urethanes, maintain the user friendliness of its products and lower the average cost per installation.
When Dave Schuh of the Glass Medic in Eden Prairie, MN, first heard about the exhibits, he said the last thing he wanted to do was exhibit at another trade show. However, Schuh said he was pleasantly surprised by the exhibit attendance. "The traffic has been good and people are interested in our products," said Schuh.
Tara Taffera is the managing editor of USGlass magazine.
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