Volume 8, Issue 3        May/June  2006

Expert Advice
pros who know


How to Grow Your Business
by Kerry Wanstrath

How do you grow your business in the face of competition?

This is certainly a valid question considering the state of the auto glass industry. With pressure on the small shops coming from all directions, one might wonder why they’re in business at all. If what you’re doing is working and you have all the business you want, then perhaps adding additional services is not for you. But if you want different results, you must do things differently; this is a simple truism of business. If you want to expand your business and services and add customers, then you most likely need to add additional services that are compatible for your business.

What Business?
First, ask yourself what business you are in. Are you in the auto glass replacement business, the auto glass repair business or the auto service business or, even more broadly, the glass business? If you think in terms of your business as something only narrowly defined, then that is what it will remain, until you change something.

I am always looking for new products to add to our company that allow us to help our customers expand the scope of their services to their customers. Being in business you must do the same to expand; without that, competition will eventually swallow you whole.

A perfect example of expanding the definition of your business is the quick lube business. Years ago that is all they were—a 10 minute oil change. Now these companies perform transmission and radiator flushes, detailing, lubes, air filter replacements, windshield repair and wiper replacements and the list goes on and on.

Because they saw themselves as more than an oil change they morphed into an auto service center.

Whose Loss?
If you are a replacement-only shop and have not started performing other services such as repair, you have lost customers. And you may never get them back if you do as you have in the past. You have also contributed to helping validate your competitor’s decision to start adding auto glass replacement to his business. 

There are several reputable repair companies that offer free training and support that makes adding repair simple. Repair should not be viewed as a lost leader. With some networks paying $60 for a 20-minute service on a per hour basis, it is more profitable then most replacement jobs. An average investment to get started in the repair business is about $1,000; that’s about 17 to 20 repair jobs. 

Here are a few tips in selecting a vendor. Number one, look for a partner that is going to be here when you need support or equipment warranty issues. Check how many years they have been in business. Cheaper isn’t always better. Perhaps selecting a vendor that knows something about the replacement business will add a level of comfort to your decision. Many vendors offer training in person or via a DVD and manual.

There are other options in addition to repair. I recently learned of new technology that makes a windshield practically crack-proof or crack-resistant. This add-on service allows the customer to minimize the risk of the windshield from future damage. This service is about the cost of a repair. With a major insurance company dropping repair and raising deductibles, this becomes very appealing to the consumer. I view this not as a threat to replacement but as an opportunity to up-sell after a replacement or repair is performed. 

On the other hand, if you are a repair-only business, certainly you have considered adding other services to complement repair. There are many options to consider. Many of our customers have grown their business from repair-only to a full service glass shop. Others may branch out into services such as auto detailing, simply because it is less of a leap for them.

Whatever you decide to use to grow you business, remember that if you keep doing the same thing you will get the same results. 

Kerry Wanstrath is the vice president and chief operating officer of Glass Technology, which is based in Durango, Colo.

© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.