The Oldest Repair Technician?
by Kerry Wanstrath
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
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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