A Hollywood director could not have conceived a better setting for the National Windshield Repair Association (NWRA) fourth annual conference than the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas. While Las Vegas is a city where gamblers negotiate the perilous line between boom or bust, NWRA members are used to negotiating this line daily. They look one way to see a gold mine in the massive untapped market for repair, and the other to see large replacement companies and networks threatening to devour their business.
With this as the background, NWRA convention organizers put together a conference that was designed to teach members how to cash in on the amount of repairable cars on the road, while also fighting off the networks and large companies that threaten them.
NWRA president Dave Taylor took the podium early in the convention to share his outlook on the repair industry. Taylor focused on the shift to the consumer in the marketplace, lamenting that service providers have lost pricing control. "The buyers have power, not the sellers," he said. "We cannot just split up a town between us. If the government comes after Microsoft they will come after us."
With this established, Taylor went on to emphasize how profitability will be obtained in the future through efficiency, not increased prices. He suggested technicians do more repairs per location, purchase more efficiently and concentrate on accounting. "You have a better chance to make a profit by reducing expenses, than by raising prices," he said.
Taylors speech not only gave technicians a glimpse into the future, but its emphasis on efficiency also set the stage for the first days focus on dealer and fleet marketing. The two dealer-related presentations, Analysis of the Fleet Market by Dave Casey, president of Superglass Windshield Repair of Orlando, FL, and Fleet Relationships by Ron Ipach, owner of Windshield Repair Marketing Systems of West Chester, OH, offered some overlap, but they provided technicians with the advantages and disadvantages of the fleet market and some important marketing advice. Casey stressed the regular income that fleets can provide. "It gives you the ability to forecast your month, quarter and year with regularity," he said. Ipach followed by highlighting a three-letter direct mail marketing program that technicians could use to get their foot in the door with fleets.
John Morris of Crackattack Windscreen Repairs, who made the journey from Dublin, Ireland, to attend the show, found the speeches on dealer marketing to be valuable. "I thought the technicians were very forthcoming with information," he said. "I thought Mel Neulander did a very good job. He gave us a lot of information we can use."
Neulander of Mr. Chips Windshield Repair in Cliffside Park, NJ, spoke about how he markets his repair operation to dealers, including how he gets his foot in the door with dealerships by performing lot inspections. "Dont talk to anyone until you inspect the lot," he said. "After I do that I give them a yellow form that says Damaged Windshield Inventory to stress the urgency of repair."
Last year the NWRA faced criticism because it did not focus enough on the technical aspect of repair. This year the association devoted a large portion of the conventions second day to technical issues so technicians could properly repair the windshields they secured with the marketing lessons from the first day.
Jim Keller of Star Break Systems of Dayton, OH, opened the second session with a presentation on UV lights. Keller displayed a chart that illustrated the intensity of UV rays at different times of the year and demonstrated when a UV light was necessary to compensate for the lack of UV radiation from the sun. The technical side of repairing long cracks was addressed by Richard Campfield of Ultra-Bond of Grand Junction, CO.
The convention wound to a close with updates on recommended practices and certification and how they could help technicians survive. Jackie Newman of Redline, Inc. of Austin, TX, provided an update on the associations recommended practice document and the theory behind its existence. "You are now up against giants so you have to become a professional organization," she said.
Attendees seemed to be unified in their enjoyment of the show. "I thought it was interesting," said Joe Blakely of Professional Windshield Repair of Montpelier, VT. "It brought together different aspects of the industry."
Joel Morse of Dees Windshield Repair in Westminster, CA, echoed this sentiment. "It was terrific. The focus on specific issues like marketing and fleet dealers was great," he said. "It is great to see the industry showing such tremendous growth and potential."
Leslie Shaver is an assistant editor of USGlass magazine and editor of Windshield Repair magazine.
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