Volume 9, Issue 2,                                March/April 2005

WORKING SIDE BY SIDE
Contract Glazing and Window Film Industries Not Mutually Exclusive
   
  by Brigid O'Leary

“If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” While that phrase is often uttered, yelled or lectured to teenagers who have or will succumb to peer pressure, it’s a fair question when it comes to business, as well. If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll only do as well as everyone else is doing. So how do you set yourself apart and get a jump on the competition? One way is to get in on the ground floor by working with a contract glazier—or several—and landing jobs early in the construction process.

There are those who will say that window film is an aftermarket product and doesn’t have a place in the design stage; but Alan Hardt thinks they are wrong. Hardt has working with contract glaziers practically down to a science. Better yet, you could say he has it down to a business. 

The Benefit of Experience
This will be the 28th year in the window film business for Hardt, owner of Alan and Associates in Chicago. He got into the business by working with 3M. The company had approached his dad, who ran an armored car business, and pitched their product. Both father and son considered the sales pitch in light of the social and economic climate of the time.

“We thought that with the energy crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it would be a good business,” Hardt said.
The industry indeed proved lucrative, as Hardt established his company and began building relationships with contract glaziers in his area. One of those contract glazing companies was MTH Industries, one of the largest contract glazing companies in the country.

“We’ve been working together a good 20 years, but it’s really taken off more now than it had 10 or 15 years ago,” said Tony Lample, senior project manager at MTH. Though Lampl. 

“Back in the old days, film wasn’t as prominent as it is now … before it was just sun control [that film was used for] but lately it’s been a lot more, including more safety [applications],” Lampl added.

Establishing a Name
Some of MTH’s projects that have utilized security and safety film include government buildings in Chicago and terminal windows at O’Hare airport. The company’ use of film is not limited to protective film, however. It often incorporates decorative window film into projects and tries to get it in early in the design, sometimes as early as the bidding process.
That’s where the benefit of working with a contract glazier lies.

“Usually, they wrap it into their price when bidding on the jobs,” Hardt said. “In turn, we get a good price because it’s a larger scope of work. It’s not like turning a regular job and filming just 30 windows, it’s part of a larger project.”
MTH calls upon Hardt particularly when the job’s specifications include a decorative element in the glass and doing so magnifies all the benefits of using decorative film.

“We have some sandblasters in town and they’re very independent, meaning it’ll be a four- or five-week turnaround. We don’t usually have the luxury of a long lead-time. We always try to offer an option for window film,” said Lampl. “When it’s sandblasted, it’s sandblasted at the shop, not on the field. We can offer the owner the option of having the glass in place so they don’t have to leave the job with it open and send the window film guy in later.”

Hardt’s work with MTH is not mutually exclusive; both companies work with others in the crossover business. Hardt readily admits that he works with all seven contract glazing companies in Chicago, and Lampl acknowledges that they, too, will work with other window film companies. But they work well together and promote the working relationship in a way.

In the front lobby of MTH headquarters is a bent-glass entryway that features the MTH logo—in film.

“We didn’t want to send the glass out for sandblasting. That’s the real reason we did it,” said Lampl. “We have a good window filmer that wanted to do the job and when people come in and comment on it, we can refer it to him.”

He is, of course, referring to Hardt.

Fostering Relationships
Hardt, for his part, works hard to ensure good working relationships with the contract glazing companies. His company hosts open house and lunch-and-learn events, inviting representatives from the companies with which they work to visit and get to know them.

“We bring them in on Friday afternoon for drinks. We don’t get involved so much with teaching, necessarily, but getting them into the shop to see what we do,” Hardt explained.

Strictly a commercial and residential window film company, the networking has paid off. 

Building the working relationships that Hardt has takes time and despite knowing and working with all the contract glaziers he can in the Chicago area, Hardt says work isn’t always steady.

“We might have nothing for awhile and then suddenly four or five jobs come in,” he explained.

Without those connections, however, work would be very different and he offers this advice to others in the industry interested in building relationships with contract glaziers: promote yourself.

“Put together a binder with examples of the work you’ve done and call on all the contract glazing companies—even the small ones. You want to get your name, the company name out there, not the film name,” he advises.

Prove Your Worth
Don’t promote the film you use? It may sound like sacrilege, but Hardt can say that with confidence. Though he started in the industry selling 3M films, he made the decision a decade ago not to limit his company to one or two suppliers.
“We work to the specs of the architects, we give them what they specify,” he said.

Performance, of course, is important on all levels. If a film doesn’t perform it reflects on everyone involved in the job and when a film company is involved from the very beginning of a build, there is nothing more important than the job’s performance. It could make or break a working relationship.

“Repeat business becomes key as it relates to projects you’ve done. If you’re going to be in the major leagues, you’d better know what you’re doing,” advises Lampl. “You’d better not cut corners.”

Five Tips for Working With Contract Glaziers
Alan Hardt of Alan and Associates in Chicago has built his window film company into a successful business that does business with all the contract glazing companies in the city. He offers these five tips for building and maintaining good working relationships with contract glazing companies:
1.Create a Professional Portfolio. Hardt recommends keeping a binder with examples of the work you do. High quality photographs and examples of specification sheets, etc., will help you market your image in a professional manner.
2.Call on all Contract Glazing Companies in Your Area. It doesn’t matter how big or small the company is, contact them. Even small companies can provide projects, and as the company grows, so will your business with them—so long as you have a good working relationship. 
3.Teach Your Audience. Sometimes a contract glazing company may not realize the options window film can offer. Once you start making connections with local contract glaziers, bring them into your office and show them exactly what window film can do. Explain the science behind it, how you do your job and what it can bring to their projects. Teaching them how it can benefit them will allow them to explain to their customers why window film is a viable option.
4.Get Your Name Out There. While the film you use is important, it’s your company doing the job. Don’t sell the film, sell yourself. Sell your skills, your professionalism, and your workforce—and use the film as a tool to show just how good you are.
5.Be Patient. No company is going to be successful overnight, so don’t expect to land every contract glazing company in your corner the first time you meet them. You’ll probably have to prove yourself for reliability and skill. When you do start working with contract glaziers, remember that they can only provide you with projects when they have projects.

Brigid O’Leary is the editor of Window Film magazine.

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