David Rohlfing is saying what nobody says about the auto glass industry any
more-that is, that he is happy and excited to be in it. Spend a little time talking
to him and you'll come to believe that the 52-year old president and chief executive
officer (CEO) of Glass America (as well as a shareholder and board member of its
holding company) actually believes what he is saying and is really, truly happy
to be in the auto glass business.
"It's in my blood," he says. "It's the only business I've ever
known and I think it's a great one." AGRR/glassBYTEs.com caught up with him
on yesterday to talk about the industry and his purchase of Glass America last
October. The auto-glass-only chain currently has 85 stores in 19 states, with
two more opening in Florida May 1. Rohlfing expects to have more than 100 shops
by the end of the summer. Speaking with him was AGRR/glassBYTEs.com publisher
Q-How's it going?
A-Great, having a lot of fun.
Q-When you purchased Glass America, there were a lot of rumors that Belron
was involved-probably because of your previous employment [Rohlfing was CEO of
the Belron owned Windshields America at one time]. Did it depress you to hear
A-The rumors regarding Belron being involved in what we are doing are absolutely
untrue. We have no involvement with Belron whatsoever. I'm glad to be able to
set that straight.
Q-What are your plans for Glass America since its purchase?
A-We plan to continue to build on the success that Glass America's management
has had since its inception. We plan to continue to build it both through acquisitions
Q-Are there particular types of companies you are looking to acquire? Do they
have certain characteristics
or is there a model?
A--There's no model per se but the recent acquisition on April 1 [when Glass America
purchased Auto Glass Services] is a good one. It has great people. I know and
have known the owners for a long time. I know the key people
the number of people I know there. The same is true of Glass America. It's a great
company with great management. They built a nice network very quickly and buying
it was a great opportunity.
Q-Do you have any plans to expand into the collision repair market, the way
ABRA or Gerber has?
A--No, there are no plans to do so. We plan to focus on auto glass only. No flat
glass either. We are interested only in doing things that we do best. I guess
you "never say never," but I don't see us moving in either one of those
Q-You were in the middle of the industry for many years, then you were a bystander
for a few years. Had the industry changed a lot in that short time?
A-Well, I really left it in 1996 and since 1996 it has changed tremendously, yes.
PPG's LYNX Services has grown in influence and a variety of mergers took place
that gave birth to the regional players.
Q-You obviously believe there's still money to be made in this business.
A-I do. I think it's still possible to make money. It's a great industry. It's
all I've ever done. I started out as an auto glass installer and it's all I know.
This industry gets in your blood and stays there.
I have been fortunate to surround myself with great people. I delegate authority
ruthlessly. The managers who operate, operate. They are free to do what they need
to do. There's fabulous opportunity at Glass America for them.
Q-Is your senior management team the same as it was before the purchase
A-Yes, Alan Resnick, Sam Cardullo, Chuck Bibbiano, Bob Margerum and
Nik Frye are the management team. I brought in Larry Mills, who is the
regional vice president and hired a CFO, Scott Wills. The management
team was in place. We are just adding to it. The addition of AGS talent
pool will help us too
these are all guys I've known for a long
since the mid-1980s.
Q-What do you think of the changes in NAGS pricing that have taken place in
the last few months?
A-Well I don't know much about it
Q-(laughing) Well, nobody's going to buy that
A--We look at pricing on a daily basis, we look at how these changes will affect
our business. We'd like to see things occur for our industry that are best for
our industry and customers. The current pricing mechanism is understood and yet
there is a fair amount of confusion. We are interested in seeing some sort of
uniformity in the pricing mechanisms used in auto glass.
Q-Glass America has been part of AGRSS. Will that continue?
A--We appreciate being part of AGRSS. It's very important to our industry and
we will stay part of it. [Our representative] Chuck Bibbiano really enjoys being
part of it.
Q--How do you plan to compete against companies like Safelite?
A--We offer consistently high levels of service to our customers. We don't have
a call center, and I don't envision us having one, so it's difficult to compete
[in the same way]. If you offer a high level of service, people will come to you.
All we can do is continue to build on the level of service. We push management
down to its lowest level. Our store managers and reps run the business. I can't
sit here and know what every single market needs. But we have people in our company
who do. Those guys run the business. They operate like the stores are their own
stores. You reap the rewards of that. We delegate it ruthlessly.
Q-What volume number are you targeting for this year?
A-Volume number? No, I don't have a particular number. We just want to be a strong
player, looking to grow, wanting to grow smartly. So it's a difficult question
.we are talking to a number of people [about acquisition] even
Q-Is there anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
The one thing I would say is that this is a great industry made up of a lot of
great people and I am incredibly excited about the future. I hope everyone else
shares the same excitement. I am obviously in a company that's growing and excited
We are doing a few things differently. We are opening greenfield stores. We are
now opening stores in Florida
Q-Where in Florida?
A--Lakeland and Port St. Lucie. We are looking to grow the market. In areas where
we can open greenfields, we will.
We want to be the company that everyone wants to work for. Employees are what
make up your business and they are the most important asset we have.
The industry has been down on its luck for a few years but it's ready to surge.
I am very bullish on the industry. I've looked at many other businesses in other
industries and they just pale in comparison. The glass industry is a fun place
to be once it gets in your blood.