"What a Great Opportunity for Any Organization"

Glasspro President Paul Heinauer Reflects on a Successful Auto Glass Technician Olympics

We're very excited. It's great to visit customers and be able to tell them about the [Auto Glass Technician] Olympics and having two [of our certified technicians] finish so well," Paul Heinauer, president of South Carolina-based Glasspro, told glassBYTEs today in a telephone interview.

Those two gentlemen are Jeff Olive and Randy Chadwick, who finished first and third, respectively, and they were the only two competitors representing Glasspro in the competition, held October 16-18, 2005 in Las Vegas.

So how did one company-an independent chain in South Carolina-end up with its only two competitors in the finals of the first-ever Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO)? Partly because of the company's focus on training.

"We have always been known for our customer service and certainly doing a quality job and safety has always been important. But with the changes in the industry, it's more and more integral that jobs are done right and the first time," said Heinauer.

Described in a 2002 AGRR magazine article as a "fast-talking Yankee from Pennsylvania," Heinauer hasn't slowed down any in the years he's lived in the South; nor has his commitment to his company wavered. He explained that several times a year, training courses are offered to the company's technicians and he's proud to say that the courses are well received. He described a training session that took place last year:

"We had all our technicians come to the Mt. Pleasant location- a central location - and we started at 4 p.m. It went to 8:30 (p.m.). Some of the guys had to drive a fair distance home. It impressed me just how engaged they all were with the process. I was very proud at just how they took it all very seriously and they were all intent on wanting to improve, to do a quality job."

Doing a quality job - all the way around - is what got Olive and Chadwick into the finals.

For the AGTO, competitors had to not only install a windshield to AGRSS standards, they were also judged on their customer service skills, something else Heinauer stresses in his company.

"Every one of our technicians realize that our primary goal is that we want to delight the customer. We don't want to just satisfy them, we want to delight them and I think our folks recognize that the best way we can delight them is by doing a quality, safe installation. We spend a lot of time with our customers. It's a big part of who we are, but the biggest part of our job is to do it right and safe. Unfortunately, most people see only the customer service end. We want our guys to do that well and have that down, but the number one thing is to have the job done right," he said.

With seven shops and more than 40 employees, how did Glasspro decide which technicians would represent the company? Luckily for Heinauer, that was the easy part.

"When I first found out [about the competition], I thought 'what a great opportunity for any organization and I felt fairly comfortable that our guys would do pretty well. We talked about it in our company-and there was a lot of energy that this created," he explained.

At first, the plan was to host a feeder event, but the logistics of holding one were not feasible at the time. So instead, the company went for an easier solution. During a training program wherein all the technicians were assembled, Glasspro employees were told that the company wanted to participate in the AGTO and asked who wanted to be considered to represent the company.

"I'm pleased to say that our folks recognized there were, quiet frankly, four guys that we all thought could be champions. We didn't have to make that decision. The guys themselves decided. We sent two because the other two couldn't go due to personal reasons," Heinauer explained. "We knew the competition would be tough, but we had a lot of confidence in Randy and Jeff. And we're really proud of them, but not surprised."

So what about next year? You can bet Glasspro will be back.

"We'll definitely be back," Heinauer said, pleased not only at the results of the competition but that the event as a whole. The AGRSS Conference that took place immediately prior to the AGTO, brought what he feels is the most important aspect to the industry into the forefront of an industry gathering.

"You look at the pressure on our industry as far as pricing. As much attention as we can bring to doing a quality installation, which obviously means safety, it helps the entire industry. It brings attention to where it needs to be," he said. "Prices are always going to be a factor, but we can bring attention to it as a quality factor; that we have an industry that is serious about doing good work. When you have these kinds of events, it keeps on bringing the attention back there, to where it needs to be. We're never going to get price out of the equation. What we also need to understand, is that while we need to control our costs, doing the job right the first time is a way to do that and that's where training comes in - eliminate the defects."

For a recap of the Auto Glass Technician Olympics, held October 16-18, 2005, click here.

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