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Profits and People

As part of its re-tooling, the National Auto Glass Conference is now called a forum for glass executives, and two sessions on Monday focused on: increasing sales and profit and managing employees.

Both were breakout sessions in which attendees were encouraged to exchange ideas and experiences with each other.

Richard Voreis, Consulting Collaborative, moderated the session on increasing sales and profits. He started by explaining, "I'm often asked how you can improve your business and I say you have to adapt to change. I see very similar problems and issues at companies that are having problems. You have to be sure your employees are focused and that they share in the need to have a profitable company. If there's only one thing you take out of this session, that's it."

Voreis had attendees fill in a 13-question self-assessment of their businesses which focused on the communication between management and employees.

He then asked attendees to share what they had done to increase sales at their companies. One person indicated that he had hired an outside salesperson, while another said conducting continuing education courses for insurance agents had been successful.

A big discussion of yellow pages versus Internet as a marketing tool followed. Most said that they are finding the Internet more successful and that increases in the cost of yellow pages advertising is making the decision to switch easier. Although it was also brought up that the price of advertising online was also increasing as more companies were using it and bidding up the costs of placement.

Part of the discussion of increasing profits centered around employee incentive plans. In group discussion the point was made that any incentive plan has to be easy for the employee to understand and that making changes to incentive plans is fraught with danger because people don't like change and may not understand why the change will be better for them. "Keep it simple," Voreis advised.

Incorporating Technology

Timmons discussed how to incorporate technology into your business in an effort to be more efficient--and ideas for programs needed to assist with this.

Joel Timmons, founder and president of Profitable Glass Solutions and the author of a bi-weekly blog on glassBYTEs.comô, held a session on incorporating technology into your business for efficiency purpose. Attendees also brainstormed ideas for software needed to help with this.

One hot topic was the recent DOT 430 recall, and how additional technology could have made this easier for shops to pull records to find out when and where the recalled DOT 430 glass had been used.

"We register the glass parts and write them down, but to find these pieces, we've got to get this information into some kind of form," said Dave Burns of Ray Sands Auto Glass in Rochester, N.Y.

Bud Oliver of NAGS also chimed in, noted that there's been talk for a long time of having standard barcodes that shops could scan among the manufacturers of glass.

"The recall of this glass adds more importance for us to get this thing done," Oliver said. "If we could get to the point where we have a standard, it could go right into your database and be much more efficient."

Managing Employees

Carl Tompkins, western sales manager for SIKA Corp., moderated the session on managing employees.

He said the discussion could be divided into three sections: Finding good help, training them and keeping them.

Tompkins said that in his experience a company does not find good help. "You have to make it. The hiring process is where you have to be pickiest. Hire the right people," he advised.

In discussing how to find good employees, several attendees said they are using the Internet to find people and having success at it. The technique works for trainees and support staff, but has not been successful for experienced installers. Several attendees said that they find good people through their current employees and use incentives for those who do recommend people who are hired and stay with the company.

During the discussion of the steps taken to qualify potential employees (run credit and background checks, have a drug test) one successful method which was brought up was telling a perspective employee that there is a $50 deposit for the drug test which is then refunded after the test is successfully passed.

Once you have hired good people, you have to tell them what they have to do to be a good employee and then teach them how to do it, Tompkins explained.

"Keeping good help is the most important of the three sections," according to Tompkins. "You don't want to train good people and then lose them to your competition," he said.

To retain good employees, Tompkins said to keep in mind the needs of employees and let them know how you are measuring them. "Teach by example. Do as you want your employees to do," he advised.

Safe Shops

While safety is usually a big topic, it usually focuses on the safety of installations, but Charles Turiello of Diamond Triumph

Turiello's session focused on ideas for ensuring technicians are safe while working.

Glass actually focused on safety of workers in his discussion.

"The message has to be communicated on a daily basis," Turiello said. "We're trying to reduce the number of injuries in the work place."

He suggested that shops form safety committees and contact OSHA to help define best practices for their businesses.

"A lot can fall under the best practices umbrella," he said.

Mike Boyle of GlasWeld Systems said his company contacted OSHA and had OSHA do a free, 3-day study of the business to evaluate it for safety issues.

Turiello added that it's important to instill the safety-on-the-job concept in employees from the start.

"When someone walks in that door, you want to train them right from the start," he said, adding that all employees should be involved, from CSRs to CEOs.

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