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March/April 2002

Independent’s  Day     an iga viewpoint

The Times Are A-Changing
by Donovan Trana

The future—it’s exciting, fearful and, if nothing else, uncertain. Since it is now official that our economy has been in a recession since March of 2001, let’s peer into the crystal ball and see what the future holds for independent auto glass shop owners over the next several months.

As we gaze into the crystal ball, it will reveal how independent shop owners will react to the deep price cuts and the practice of client steering, both of which were established in the booming economy of the 1990s. 

Only one thing is certain about the future—change is coming.

The Outsiders
In the book Paradigms: The Business of Discovering the Future, author and futurist Joel Barker writes, “In any industry, meaningful change almost always comes from an outsider.” They are the ones who change the prevailing modes of thinking or, as Barker describes, they are paradigm shifters. He identifies four categories of outsiders:

    Category 1—A young person fresh out of training and new to the industry. He has studied the existing paradigm or system, but has never practiced it.

    Category 2—An older person changing fields and careers. This person may have been involved in an entirely different field.

    Category 3—The Maverick. This is a person who is an insider but sees the problems and understands that the present system will not work to solve them. Then, he leads the charge to change the system.

    Category 4—The Tinkerer. A tinkerer doesn’t completely understand all the facets of the problem. He just knows that this particular problem is in his way and his life really can’t go on until he solves it. 

Predictions for “Dino” and the Independents
The independent glass shop owner will order, encourage and create change in the established status quo. Why? Because the independents are the outsiders, and outsiders attract outsiders! They have nothing to gain by continuing to support the existing system. Dinosaurs became extinct due to a sudden change of only a few degrees of temperature caused by a paradigm-shifting asteroid that impacted the earth. The dinosaurs, in the form of networks and claims-handling companies that control commerce in the auto glass industry, will also become extinct due to a paradigm shift soon to be established among independent shops owners. Dino’s future lies in the hands of the independent glass shops.

As a result of a softening economy and the increased pressure of the networks and claims-handling companies, independent shop owners will begin to react in a very unpredictable manner. They will develop administrative systems that will make it easy for them to act unpredictably. They will explore unorthodox ways of dealing with the establishment. Nobody will tell them how to install auto glass or price their products and services. They will begin to try novel things like observing their unique service offering levels and geographical market considerations and set their prices accordingly. They will not set them by some take-it-or-leave-it offer that comes through the mail or across a fax machine. The legal and justice system will become arenas for battle, used to enforce state laws and administrative rules that guide interstate commerce and insurance payment practices. 

The outsiders are emerging as a result of the socioeconomic forces that are on a collision course with the established system. 
Move over, Dino. The times they are a-changing. 

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


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