Volume 8, Issue 2        March/April 2006


F i e l d  o f   V i s i o n                
from the editor


Mighty Small

by Charles Cumpston

Our industry is in a period of tremendous transition. Prices keep falling while costs keep going up.

One effect of this is that the mid-sized companies are being squeezed out of the market. The list in the last year or so is lengthy. There was JCís Glass in Arizona, Elite in Colorado, Auto Glass Service in Tennessee, Auto Glass Specialists in Wisconsin, Settles in Massachusetts.

There arenít many big companies in our industry, but the few big ones are very big. Are they making money? Since they are privately-owned or donít report financial information, itís difficult to be absolutely sure. But based on what facts we do have and the instinct in our gut, the answer is pretty clear.

The industry is made up primarily (in numbers of companies) of small, independently-owned businesses. Are they making money? Again, because they donít have to report financials, it is hard to say for proof positive; but anecdotally, thereís a lot of squeeze going on.

I thought about this when I read an article in the newspaper about how a growing number of entrepreneurs are choosing slow growth or no growth for their companies.

The gist of the story: Privately-held retail operations with owners who were content with one or two locations and just wanted to make a huge success out of that rather than taking the step into mid-size or large.

Most everyone agrees that small companies have distinct advantages over bigger ones. They can be more flexible and responsive to many conditions that come up, good or bad.

There is also general agreement about what the advantages of being big are: buying power, more market control, shared resources.

Which brings us to those mid-size companies. What was the advantage of being mid-sized? Seemingly not much in todayís market. They werenít big enough to have the advantages of the Big Boys and they werenít small enough to be as nimble as the mom-and-pops. They were stuck, so to speak, in the middle.

Is there might in being small? The people in the article I read think so. They talked about the satisfaction they get from their businesses by helping customers and performing what they see as needed services with a personal touch. Yet they also talked about running a thriving business that is profitable.

Thriving. Profitable. Those magic words.

There are those in our industry who are running thriving, profitable businesses, or at least they say they are. And they attribute their success, almost inevitably, to good marketing and customer service. They have clear visions for their companies. They understand that people want to deal with people theyíre comfortable with and who will go the extra mile (or seem like they would anyway). They work hard to reach those people. And they do it day in and day out.

Yes, the industry has become more stark. But the successful shop owner will always find opportunities, or has already found them and will continue to build on them. Remember, Superman came from Smallville. And he sure was mighty.

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