In the upcoming May-June issue, AGRR magazine concludes its series on getting paid with stories of auto glass shops that are finding success as “individuals,” while getting paid direct.
“We are not members of any network,” says Michael Franklin, co-owner of AmeriPro Auto Glass LLC, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. “We set and get paid what we feel is fair and reasonable, not fixed pricing from TPAs or insurance companies.”
Franklin says he’s gotten to where he is the old-fashioned way: by finding and pleasing one customer at a time, in any way possible. Other companies say they’ve done the same. And while that may sound low-fi, it’s precisely what marketing expert Hamilton Wallace, of smallbusinessmarketing.com, says those companies should do in order to find success.
“It’s boots on the ground,” Wallace explains. The alternative, he says, is just scraping by while “sitting back, waiting for the phone to ring and then doing it for pennies on the dollar.”
Each of the business owners interviewed say they put boots on the ground in different ways, but all agree that you’ve got to pick a strategy and just get down to business. And when you’re non-network, everyone agrees that strategy has got to include the best possible customer service in order to generate return customers, good reviews and referrals. It’s all about mindset.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur type since a very young age—starting with lemonade stands and selling coupons—so this is something I’ve wanted to do since I was very little,” says Josh Dutra, owner of GoToAutoGlass in Wakefield, R.I. “I wanted to create a professional service. Instead of worrying about price, I wanted to be able to provide a full, high-quality service and a lifetime warranty on workmanship.”
Those factors are what independent glass shops say differentiate their businesses from the competition. And marketing experts say those unique stories are what ultimately draw in customers.
“Think of it this way,” says Carter Harkins of Spark Marketer in Nashville, Tenn., co-producer of the show Blue Collar Proud. “If I’m a widget maker and my competition are also widget makers, well, we’re all widget makers. So, if all we tell people is that we’re the best widget maker, we’re all telling them the same thing.” The bigger opportunity, Harkins says, is in telling folks things like why you got into business in the first place, why you feel the need to be independent, or what drives you as a business owner. “Culture is huge,” he says. “I think consumers make decisions about who they’re going to do business with based on whether or not that company shares their values. I think if we as businesspeople tap into that and tell the story of how we are contributing to our local community, helping to make it stronger by providing really good jobs, that we consider our employees like family, that the reason we’ve been in this business is because we take pride in the work that we do, and how our customers consider us indispensable in their lives anytime they have need of our services—those are the kinds of things that help to make a different and more human story.”
That’s certainly been the case for the shop owners we interviewed for this story.
“Watching every one of my employees buy houses and provide things for their families, while not running around worried about money all the time—that’s the highest high for me as a business owner,” Franklin says. Since going independent, “Because we can pay such good money, we’ve changed a lot of people’s lives here. And that’s what I get out of it. That’s where I get my jollies.”
Look to the May-June issue for the full article and more stories of success.
Drew Vass is a contributing editor for AGRR magazine.