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The Oldest Repair Technician?

by Kerry Wanstrath

A year or so after I came to work for my brother, the founder of Glass Technology, we received a call from a then very young 63-year-old gentleman named James. The former mid-level manager for a large national aerospace conglomerate was now looking to find a simpler lifestyle. Jim, as we call him, contacted us, curious about what we did and how this new business of windshield repair works. Knowing what Jim now did for a living, we suggested he give windshield repair a try. We told him he had nothing to lose but a few hours of his time learning how this new concept of repair worked.

A Fast Learner
Jim is a very personable guy, friendly yet unafraid of making new contacts. I guess as we get older we lose that fear and the intimidation of talking to new people. He made contacts and customers almost immediately and within a few months said goodbye to driving 40,000 miles in Southern California traffic year after year.

Jim now was an entrepreneur at the age of 63. He lived in a very rural area of Southern California, the Antelope Valley (or, more precisely, a wide spot off of Highway 138 called Phelan). My best guess is, at that time the population must have been all of 500 people in a 10-square-mile area. How he made a living I don't know-he just did. Jim and his beautiful wife and secretary, Leslie, placed a sign out on their 1-acre yard that simply said "Windshield Repair" and their phone number. Of course, all the locals came to him for their repairs and continue to do so to this very day. Jim also traveled to the nearby towns of Victorville and Barstow seeking fleet accounts like city fleet vehicles, the sheriff's department and local car dealers. What shocks me is Jim (or J&L Windshield Repair) still services many of these same accounts, and this is in an industry were loyalty is a rare word. Perhaps his customers' loyalty can be explained by his continued enthusiasm for the work he still does.

Still at It at 84
Jim recently sent Glass Technology a picture of himself at age 84 (now 85 years young), up on scaffolding doing a repair on a Blue Bird RV. He was so proud of the fact he did such a good job that the customer gave him an extra $10 as a tip. I continue to tell him he doesn't charge enough.

Jim doesn't keep up on all the latest standards and network billing rules and hoops one must jump through these days to survive in business. No, I'm quite sure he is oblivious to terms such as AGRSS, ROLAGS, LYNX, Safelite, Harmon Solutions, ANSI, NGA, IGA, NWRA, NWRC or any other acronym that may apply to our industry.

In fact, I'm sure if Jim were to compete in the Windshield Repair Olympics he wouldn't be a serious threat for any title other than the oldest technician. Not that his repair quality wouldn't be on par with the other contestants, he just isn't familiar with the best practices criteria, rules, standards and all the self-imposed does and don'ts we have heaped upon ourselves. In fact, with access to customers controlled by various third parties and current market conditions, sadly Jim and Leslie probably couldn't start their business today.

Keep up the good work, Dad. (By the way, his full name is Jim Wanstrath.) We are proud of you.

Kerry Wanstrath is the chief operating officer of Glass Technology in Durango, Colo. Mr. Wanstrath's opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this website.

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