Volume 9, Issue 2 - March/April/May 2007

Field of Vision
from the editor

The Bel(ron) Ringer
by Charles Cumpston

Itís happened. Belron has purchased Safelite and now has approximately 20 percent of the auto glass replacement market. That is more than any other company has.It does not mean that opportunities in our market for well-run independent shops to continue to operate successfully and profitably will disappear. As Belronís Gary Lubner says in his interview in this issue, ďThere are 18 million pieces of glass installed in the U.S. every year. This leaves a huge market to go for.Ē

Many independent shop owners have been very happy to hear Lubnerís statements about quality and getting a fair price for work done. They see this philosophy as mirroring their own approach to the market. 

Whatever Belronís acquisition of Safelite ultimately means to the market and the impact of one company having such a large market share, it should be pretty clear what every other company (with the exception of perhaps Diamond Glass Cos. and Glass Doctor, which have their own unique challenges because of their size) has to do.

Branding, always important, remains king. A cursory examination of other industries in which small, independent businesses were confronted with a consolidating market show that the formula to success is to be known as the best provider of service. When the consumer needs auto glass replaced or repaired, if they think of your company, as well as any of the larger operations, then you have a 50 percent chance of getting the business.

But what about insurance business steering by a third-party administrator? Fair enough, but every conversation Iíve had with anyone in the insurance industry has stressed that customer choice is always honored. The insurance company wants the policyholder to be a satisfied customer. If you are the company to do this, then the work is yours.

It is up to you to be sure that the insurance companyís policyholder is your customer. If the third-party administrator plays tricks or seeks to influence the policyholderís decision, you have to be prepared and take whatever action is necessary. It is your customer and your responsibility to see that your customer gets what he or she wants.

Business under a capitalist system is not for the faint of heart. Itís a tough world. 

Things can happen in markets which make it easier to operate in them (such as was the case in the auto glass replacement market 20 years ago) but in todayís fast paced, globally oriented economy, you have to learn how to deal with the market you are in. No one, not even Belron with its 20 percent market share, can wield power to make a market bend to its wishes. Can it influence the market? Sure, just as Safelite influenced the market. But it was influence, not domination.

Think about that difference and the opportunities that are in the market for you. Every company in the industryóbig and smallóhas to think about this. For the bigger companies, there is more to think about because they cover more than one market area. But the opportunities are available in every local market. Itís just a question of who seizes them. 

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