Not Your Fathers IGA Conference
It was not your father's IGA Conference. This year's annual Independent's Day Conference and Spring Auto Glass Show, sponsored by the Independent Glass Association (IGA) seemed to mark a new era in education for independents.
"This was the best event I've attended in years," said Rusty Earles of Earles Auto Glass in Troy, Ala. "I don't feel like anyone here could leave without feeling it was successful."
Brad Henningsen of Page Fast Glass in Page, Ariz., agreed.
"I thought it was an extremely successful show," he said. "I particularly enjoyed the AGRSS seminars. "I think it's one of the better ones that I've been to in awhile."
Thursday, The Opening Day
Zoldowski then introduced IGA vice president Bandi Hantke of Rockford Auto Glass in Rockford, Ill. Hantke announced the premier of IGA's Certification Program. He said there are three different types of certification programs available: IGA-Certified Auto Glass Technicians, IGA-Certified Customer Service Representatives and IGA-Certified Shop Managers. The first of these, Technician Certification, will premier in July.
"We've developed an affordable, Internet-based training and certification program that does not require travel to testing centers," he said, "and we are very excited to see it get going."
IGA board member Rick Rosar of Rapid Glass in Coon Rapids, Minn., discussed a new anti-steering campaign that will debut is in testing now and will debut at the association's Fall meeting. "We've talked about illegal and unethical steering for a long time," said Rosar, "but now IGA members will have a chance to fight it through consumer education." Rosar detailed a new consumer campaign that includes an anti-steering logo, booklet, give-aways, postcard and scripts. He said the association plans to begin testing its effectiveness in a pilot project this Spring and will roll it out formally in the Fall.
Bryan Yarborough of Glass Doctor, another IGA board member, discussed the association's as-yet-secret study of alleged anti-steering that the IGA is undertaking with a key insurance company. "Through the insurer, we are going to document and follow instances where we feel steering has taken place. This insurer happens to tape all their communications with policyholders so we feel like we will be able to get an accurate picture of what's going on," he said, adding that the group is "keeping the name of the insurance company confidential until the survey is finished so that the various TPA providers out there don't have any knowledge of who we are working with."
Board member Alan Epley of Southern Glass in Charleston, S.C., provided a legislative update. Epley briefed the group on the association's anti-steering legislative efforts. "IGA has major efforts underway in 5 states and efforts in 17 states in total. We hope to get to all 50 within the next year," he said. "Remember, ladies and gentleman, all IGA wants is fairness. When people, such as the legislators in Washington State, understand the issues, they provide that fairness. We are working hard to make sure they understand that."
Board members Shawn Newport of Star Glass in Erie, Pa., and Mike Russo of Thruway Auto Glass in Syracuse, N.Y., also spoke (see related stories).
The Opening Session was followed by one of the event's more controversial speeches-a presentation about world leader Belron by Belron US senior vice president of strategy and business development Rich Harrison. Harrison detailed Belron's holdings and philosophy and showed a number of videos about the company.
"I'm glad I saw that," said one attendee, "I learned a lot about who my competitor is going to be."
"It was a good presentation," said another. "It showed me they were big, bold and that they mean business."
One of the most interesting parts of Harrison's presentation was the airing of a video that had been played at Belron's international sales meeting a month ago. It explained how the company would be concentrating on providing "extraordinary" customer service and how that effort would propagate through the company.
Fahmy Mechael of LYNX Services then explained how his company sees the future of the auto glass business. "Consolidation is not over," he said. "We will see more in the future, though the industry remains fragmented."
Citing SEC and other regulations, Mechael had little to say about the possible sale of PPG Auto Glass including LYNX Services. This can go any of three possible ways, he mentioned, only one of which includes divestiture.
Mechael was followed by noted speaker Carl Tompkins of SIKA Corp., who provided an overview on that same topic-superior customer service. He explained how companies can see their sales rise 21 percent over three months with an emphasis on the initial contact between customer and auto glass company.
Tompkins' session was then followed by a very practical one on the same topic, with Newport leading a discussion of exactly how customers should be approached on the phone. He explained how you determine your effectiveness using close ratios and how to track them.
Friday: The Longest Day
Members were also able to visit with noted activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader at a private breakfast before his speech.
By the time the noted safety advocate took the stage, it seemed to many he understood the auto glass industry completely. He spoke for 90 minutes on how the auto glass industry works (see separate story: Ralph Nader: A Trip to Bizarro Land). He once again lauded the AGRSS Standard as a major advancement for the industry and discussed other glass-related issues including wired glass and the lack of glass standards for furniture.
Nader was followed by a presentation by Roger Pickett of Cindy Rowe Auto Glass who explained what branding was and how to do it for your company. Pickett's real-life examples seemed particularly helpful to attendees.
"Never Thought I'd See the Day"
"I come in peace," he said. "I know that the IGA and our company have had tremendous differences in the past, but I come to open a dialogue and appreciate the opportunity to do so."
Wilson then engaged in a question-and-answer session for approximately 30 minutes about topics ranging from steering to philosophy (see related story Q-and-A with Safelite.")
Wilson also repeated comments made by Harrison the day before. "Our pricing model in the United States is broken," he said. "When our largest customers do not get lower prices than our single-use customers, something is very wrong," he said in a reference to cash pricing.
"I am not sure he answered the questions," said Yarborough, "but I really give him a lot of credit for coming to speak. I think that says a lot."
"I appreciate Mr. Wilson's visit," said Zoldowski. "It was the first step toward dialogue."
"I didn't even want to hear him," said another attendee who left the room before the speech. "I wasn't interested in anything he had to say."
After a short lunch break, two different workshops revolving around the ANSI Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS Standard) were held. Those attending the first were able to review the AGRSS-registration procedure with AGRSS credentialing chair Tompkins and walk through them step by step. As a bonus, IGA is paying the registration fee for members who attended this session and apply for AGRSS-registration by June 30. "This is huge," said Tompkins. "You can see how committed IGA is to safety by this effort, and you can show how committed you are to safety by registering."
A Standards Update followed. Peg Stroka of the National Glass Association introduced the draft windshield repair standard called the "Repair of Laminated Auto Glass Standard," a standard developed jointly by Stroka's group and the National Windshield Repair Association. AGRSS chairperson Cindy Ketcherside of JC's Glass then explained some of the updates to the AGRSS Standard.
An off-the-record session on deciphering TPA scripts was then held. "This seminar was really helpful to me," said one attendee. "It showed me some things I might want to change in how I do things in order to preserve business."
Everyone was a biker Friday evening, with a reception held at the Harley-Davidson Café, featuring roadhouse food and plenty of drink and rides on a number of famous bikes.
Saturday: The Last Day
Peppering his presentation with clips from The Simpsons and even handing out cold hard cash to the audience, Hart illustrated his points about the future of doing business electronically.
"You can put up the spiffiest website in the world, but it will do you no good if no one knows how to find it," said Mainstreet Computers' Mark Haeck. He explained that making sure that search engines know how to find you is even more important than the content of your website.
State Farm team manager for glass claims services Melissa Kern and national glass manager Bob Bischoff then took the podium to explain some of State Farm's practices. "We believe in customer choice," Kern said. "When our customer expresses a preference we honor it. When the customer expresses a preference for a shop that we do not have a relationship with, we do try and educate them as to what this means," she allowed.
Kern also tried to address one of the most difficult situations shops are faced with today. "Who pays for fixing rust?" she asked. "If a customer comes to you and you take the windshield out and find rust, who should pay to fix it?" she asked, using an example. "We recognize that most rust comes from glass improperly replaced in the past, but is that State Farm's liability? We may not even have insured the customer at the time."
"Yes, but it's not ours," answered a member of the audience. "I've got the windshield out already and [State Farm] doesn't want to pay for it [corrosion correction], and the customer doesn't want to pay for it, and I've got his windshield on the ground. What do I do?"
"There's no good answer at this point," said Bischoff.
"That company in San Diego," as Ralph Nader called it, took the stage next to answer the question, "what if there were no NAGS?" NAGS director of operations James "Bud" Oliver and director of product management James Patterson led the audience through a variety of scenarios about how the industry would change if NAGS no longer existed. Glassbytes.com will cover this session in depth later this week.
This presentation was supposed to be followed by a Chicago Auto Glass Group (CAGG) Update, but the group had notified IGA a few weeks prior that it would be unable to accept its invitation. Instead, Zoldowski provided an overview of the new "Jobs4You" Internet marketing program that the association had premiered for its members the day before.
Back by popular demand, David Carnahan of Mainstreet Computers led a session about understanding the true cost of doing business in the auto glass industry. It included discussions of key measures, how to insure profitability, etc.
"This session was most helpful to me," said one attendee. "It helped me realize some things that I should be tracking but wasn't.
The program closed with a two-hour open house where members and prospective members could ask IGA's attorney Chuck Lloyd questions and discuss strategy.
And Throughout the Days
Ira Turner, president of the Glass Shop in Syosset, N.Y., said the trade show was especially helpful for him.
"It was the type of show where every booth had some interest to me," he said.
Diane Meyer of ABC Auto Glass Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., was a first-time attendee at the show.
"We've been in the business for more than 14 years and decided to go this year," she said. "Hopefully we can go to many more."
Exhibitors also found the show successful.
"It was great having both together," said Robin Donker of Unruh Fab. "We really like the concept."
"We had a fabulous show," said first-time exhibitor Larry Bachman of fixmywindshield.com, whose booth garnered a lot of attention for its uh appearance.
Many companies offered new products at the show.
Among these, ADCO Products Inc. of Michigan Center, Mich., offered its Titan® UP100 Universal Urethane Primer, which is a one-step formula designed to adhere to provide urethane adhesion on all auto glass installation surfaces.
Likewise, Gold Glass Group of Bohemia, N.Y., introduced its new logo, offered more than 500 moulding options and introduced its new line of rain sensors.
AEGIS Tools International of Madison, Wis., also offered its new leak-detecting system.
For more information on these and other new products unveiled at the show, see the upcoming June-July issue of AGRR magazine.
"The event was a homerun," said Tompkins. "The education was great, the show was excellent, it was a real winner." "I am very impressed by what the independents are doing," said TCGI's Allan Skidmore, while visiting with Keith Beveridge of Novus.
Though the show as a whole received high marks, attendees' reviews of the Cashman Center's food service was dismal (a total disaster, said Tompkins, among others).
The association should be glad that its attendees came with a bigger hunger for education than they did for food.
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