It’s Only Been Forty-Six Years: Looking Back on a Career—the Special People and the Moments

By Paul Bieber

That’s all. It’s not a lot, is it? I’ve been in our wonderful glass industry for 46 years with three companies: C.R. Laurence (CRL), Floral Glass and Bieber Consulting LLC. Three great companies.

What’s going on now? Why this column? Because I am reducing my input to USGlass magazine, dropping off the blog page and the bi-monthly columns. My wife said I was retiring. I told her, “Just taking a long vacation.”

A Look Back

So here is some history acknowledging some of the wonderful folks I’ve worked with for these 46 years. It started in 1976 with Phil Saitta, who hired me as a sales rep for CRL. Living in Boston, I was given the states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. It took me eight weeks to see each glass company and tens of thousands of miles.
I loved this job, loved the industry and met wonderful people who taught me about glass.

In 1979, CRL sales manager Bill Rowe offered me the regional sales manager’s position, covering the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and working with 12 salespeople. My wife, Elaine, and I moved to New Jersey. I was on the road 42 weeks a year. After five years of this and the arrival of our baby daughter, Jessica, we decided I needed a better home life. So, after nine years with Bernie Harris and Don Friese the owners of CRL, I started as the general manager of Floral Glass on Long Island. I became the chief operating officer of this privately-held company and stayed there for 20 years until we sold to Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope®. It was a great company owned and led by Chuck Kaplanek. After a year together, Chuck and I were finishing each other’s sentences and thinking through many thoughts like twins. We are still best friends and speak regularly.

A Great Team

Floral Glass went from an 80-person distributor and fabricator of insulating glass in three states to a 225-person fabricator with the largest tempering line and laminating lines in the Eastern U.S. Of course, lines are much larger now, but this was in the 1990s.

So many wonderful people contributed to our success. Stan Lane was our financial genius. Steve Brenner ran our sales group for many years. Kevin Nolan held together our great inside sales and service phone operation. Terry and John Turner ensured our trucks were out on time and carefully loaded. John Mendlovsky (arguably the best mechanical genius I’ve ever met) kept us running through hurricanes, power surges and stupid mistakes by everyone else. Alan Freeman successfully ran our plant in Connecticut.

We had one computer in our accounting department in 1985. Like everyone in the 1980s and 1990s, computers grew and became extremely valuable. A lot of learning for an established group was on our continuing agenda.

The biggest issues we faced as the leaders of this company were not related directly to glass! First was insurance. Between worker’s comp and medical insurance in three states, we spent more money on insurance than anything other than glass and direct labor. I am betting that glass shop owners understand.

The second biggest issue was safety. We had great employees with many decades of experience. The unfortunate part of that is they thought they couldn’t be hurt. They “knew” how to be safe. Every time we added a new safety rule or required more folks to wear hard hats or cut-resistant sleeves, we had headaches with people. More people were suspended for safety violations than any other reason.

I can’t forget Nat Aquilino, our local labor union’s business agent and a former company leader. He kept our operation smooth, bringing in qualified applicants and helping with many problems to satisfy our multi-national workforce. Chuck’s son, Cory, learned the glass industry and became a very special part of our salesforce. So many wonderful folks worked with us. It was and still is a great source of pride that we grew this business with
such a loyal and hard-working crew.

Suppliers & Partner Relationships

We had a great relationship with LOF, which morphed into many companies over the years. Then PPG and AFG introduced us to low-E and perfectly clear glass; we received thousands of truckloads of product from Stroupe Mirror and many others after they closed.

We were the first company in North America to have Bystronic machinery. When Bystronic set up a U.S. office, it was just two miles away from us, and we were their showroom. They made sure our equipment operated flawlessly.

We serviced glass shops in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. There were thousands of them, and they all knew us. Most even bought from us. We survived economic struggles, three-day strikes and hurricanes. We morphed from a one-shift-per-day company to a three-shift operation, with maintenance on the weekends. It was all wonderful.

After selling to Oldcastle in 2004, I stayed for one year to help with the changeover. Elaine and I pondered what to do with the next chapter of our lives. Our grown children didn’t live with us, and we could do anything. We moved to the southwest corner of New Hampshire, near Elaine’s hometown and family, and have lived here since.

Working with Stan Lane, our finance wizard at Floral Glass, we started Bieber Consulting Group LLC. We helped companies in our industry with many time-proven solutions to personnel problems and situations.

About the time we started consulting, came THE phone call from Deb Levy, the publisher of USGlass. We had worked together often on glass industry expos and glass events. She asked if I would be interested in writing a bi-monthly column for the magazine. Then I learned from Ellen Rogers, the well-experienced editor of USGlass, as she quietly improved my writing. A hundred columns later, this is the last one.

I also wrote a weekly blog. I didn’t know what a blog was back then. I had a great time writing, sometimes serious, sometimes silly, and always from my heart. Last year we added Paul Daniels, who, 40 years earlier, replaced me as the Boston area salesperson for CRL and then as the Northeast regional sales manager. Six hundred blogs later, it is time to put this part of life behind me.

So, farewell to my readers. Thank you for your comments, interesting phone calls and conversations. My friends will remain, and the phone calls and emails will go on. It was a wonderful past, and an interesting future is coming.

Paul Bieber has more than 40 years’ experience in the glass industry, with C.R. Laurence Floral Glass, and, most recently, Bieber Consulting Group LLC. He can be reached at paulbaseball73@outlook.com.

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