July/August 2001

Independent's Day
an iga viewpont



Basement Fears 
by Donovan Trana

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t have a discussion with some glass shop owner who is wondering about his or her future and what it’s going to take to have one. The future is scary stuff for some, an unlimited opportunity for others. I explain to them that the bottom line for any business owner is to find the keys that will unlock the doors of success for tomorrow. But, what if this business owner doesn’t search to find the keys? 

I remember when I was a little kid and we lived in an old house that had one of those big doors that led to the basement. The door was too heavy for me to lift and, of course, it was closed all of the time. One day my dad had to go to the basement for something and he accidentally left the door open when he went to work. I happened to walk by the door and to my utter shock, it was wide open! The opening seemed to drop into some hell that I could not or did not want to comprehend. Yet, it had an attraction that puzzled me. It would have been so easy to just let myself fall and explore its depths. Slowly I moved toward its gaping mouth, drawn by its power. I moved closer and closer, took a step down and then another, as my knees were knocking all the way.

“Donny, get up here right now!,” my mother yelled. I jumped out of the stairway, ran to her arms and never looked back. Needless to say, it was a long time before I went into that basement!

But back to the keys, the analogy is that it’s easy to find failure. Usually the door is wide open and beckons for us. And rest assured, ‘Mommy’ isn’t going to be there to keep us from plunging into its depths. You have to plan to become successful. The solution is to find out what the keys to success are. Here are a few:

• Embrace the concept of discontinuity, the idea that everything you have always done is now irrelevant. For instance, if you are a second-generation owner, don’t get caught into the mindset of, “But, it’s our family business for crying out loud! Gramps and Dad always did it this way!” Your business is a money-making or money-losing machine—no more, no less. 
Don’t look to the established powerbrokers in the old auto glass industry and its parasitic partners to find the keys for you. Look in the back alleys for fresh ideas that can set you apart from your competitors. If you don’t make your business obsolete, your competitor will be happy to do it for you! 

• Shed the natural tendency for denial. “Sales will pick-up … I think.” or “Did you hear what our competition is doing? Boy, are they stupid!” or even “What? That idea will never work. Let’s stick with the program.” Remember the basement steps—it’s so easy to fall. You must become informed and aware of what is happening around you. Analyze trends and then attack! 

In their book, Creative Destruction, Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan explain that in war the advantage lies with the defense, but in our new economy it belongs to the attacker. Time, energy, planning and tactical maneuvers should be based solely in the attack mode. 

It’s like boxing. When one attacks, his opponent’s game plan falls apart because he’s spending all his time trying not to get hit. His body language reveals everything. Notice his arms shielding his face and upper body, his elbows pulled in tight to protect his abdomen and his chin tucked into his chest to make it a lesser target. Then look at his movements. They are ones of retreat, just to get out of the line of fire. 

• Evolve. The auto glass market is ripe for revolutionary, evolutionary entrepreneurs. Become one right now! The clock is ticking. By the time our boxer friend decided that defense was his only option, he was already beat—a loser. Don’t get caught in the undertow of a sinking ship. We may go on, but profits and dreams end with a sinking ship. 

So, you don’t have the time or energy to look for the keys to success? That’s fine, but just remember the cold, damp basement is waiting. 


Donovan Trana is president of the Independent Glass Association and owner of Express! Auto Glass in Muscatine, Iowa.



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