Volume 11, Issue 5 - September/October 2009


Behind the Champions
How Employers of Auto Glass Olympics Winners Have Contributed to
—And Benefited—from Their Success

Behind every Heisman Trophy winner or Most Valuable Player award, there’s always a supportive team. And so it is with industry champions—those who’ve won past Pilkington Classic Auto Glass Technician Olympics (AGTO) and the Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics (WRO). Behind each and everyone one of the competitors—and winners—there has been a solid team or support system that has assisted them in training for victory.

And, in most cases, the teams behind them have benefited as well.

Initial Preparation
One particular team that has been involved in the AGTO (and later the WRO) since the beginning is Glasspro in Charleston, S.C. The company has not only produced two AGTO winners, 2005 champion Jeff Olive (who went on to become a judge) and 2008 winner Randy Chadwick, but also recognized early on that the competition would be helpful to the company as well.

“I just thought it was a great idea to have a competition like that,” says Glasspro owner Paul Heinauer. “I thought it was a great opportunity for technicians and I thought it also was a great opportunity for our company as it helped market the champion and one that performed excellent work.”

The first year, preparation was more difficult than it is today—as technicians now have past competitions from which to draw experience. But that didn’t stop Glasspro.

“Our plan was to go to win,” says Heinauer, “so we talked about what makes a quality installation and we went through that. I remember we had a couple of conference calls and then [representatives from] Dow [Automotive] actually came down and worked with most of our folks going through the competition.”

At that point, Heinauer says he doesn’t even recall if there was a point system to go by, but the company developed its own checklist at least. The company recognized both Olive and Chadwick early on as potential winners, and both competed in the first competition.

“Obviously, we talked about the full-cut method, protecting the car, pre-inspections, and doing a very good job at the customer service end. We thought it crazy to lose on those,” says Heinauer. “We had people evaluate their work so they could get prepared in terms of fixing this and that.”

Obviously, Glasspro hit the mark—as Olive emerged the winner of the first AGTO and Chadwick placed third.

Will Brandt, president of Novus Auto Glass of Saskatchewan, also has coached a competitor, Brendan Picard, to near-victory (Picard placed third in 2008) but he started as a spectator at the event.

“I heard about the AGTO and went down, but that wasn’t the first thing on my mind,” says Brandt. “The latest tools were the first thing on my mind.”

But, watching the competition made him curious about how his technicians would fare.

“First seeing it, I thought, ‘gosh, we’re not good enough,’ but I thought we should try it out,” he says.

Picard was chosen initially as the winner of the Glass Dealers Association of Saskatchewan’s windshield replacement competition—which was judged based on the AGTO guidelines, Brandt says.

In preparation for the actual AGTO, Picard studied the AGTO score sheet, and he used his everyday training as shop foreman.

“We made sure we had all our tools packed, and we decided we’d just do what we do here and see where that places us in the event,” Brandt says.

Picard didn’t place in that particular competition. When he returned in 2008, after again winning the GDAS competition, the company changed its training method.

“We have laminated the points system and it’s hanging near our work area bench,” Brandt says.

Last year, Picard placed third in the competition, and he plans to return this year for a third attempt at the gold.

While all the AGTO and WRO competitors spend a good deal of time in preparation for the event, with their teams behind them, one question sometimes comes up among those less familiar with the competition: why?
“We saw it really as being something fantastic for the people competing,” says Heinauer. “We also saw it as a great way to market our company. It was a great verification of who we are.”

Today, Glasspro features both Chadwick and Olive in its company ads. And customers have taken notice of these as well.

“You’ll have people who will call in and say, ‘I want that guy—the guy who was on TV—to do my job,” recalls Heinauer.

Dave Casey, president and owner of SuperGlass Windshield Repair, the franchise company that produced the first-ever WRO winner, Tee Thompson, uses a similar method.

“It’s on our website, right on the front page for sure,” says Casey. “We’re most proud it was the first ever and, in the only [competition] we’ve ever entered, we won gold.”

The gold-place medalist’s company is awarded not only the use of the Olympics winner logo on stationery, business cards and in ads, but also a congratulations ad in AGRR magazine, and extensive media coverage and press releases sent on its behalf.

Brandt also promotes it, especially among its customer base—which mostly comes from insurance claims.

“It assures them that they’re dealing with a company that cares about doing their glass replacement properly,” says Brandt.

He adds, “[We promote that] even more than just replacing your windshield, we’re interested in doing it right.”

Likewise, the company’s Olympics training has changed the way Glasspro trains technicians.

“If someone joins our company, we train them to the Olympics standards and to install [in accordance with] the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard,” says Heinauer. Both Olive and Chadwick assist in the company’s training efforts.

“Even when we have someone who joins us with experience, they still go through one or two weeks with Jeff to make sure they’re doing it in the Glasspro way,” adds Heinauer. “When we hire someone, we want to show them, ‘This is how we do it.’ As much as we want and need technicians, it’s important that they want to do it our way. We’re not going to compromise.”

Other Techs
Of course, not every technician from a winning team is able to compete in the championship. So, does this cause strife among team members? Not according to Heinauer.

“Everybody in our company is very, very proud of [the winners],” he says. “Those two guys have done a nice job of including the rest of the company as being part of their victory as well … I think they’ve done a good job of challenging people to say, ‘you know, you can be a champion too.’”

Worth It in the End
While most teams benefit from the success of an individual, is all the extra training, the expense involved, worth it? Brandt says it’s a resounding “yes”—even despite the additional expense his company incurs as Picard travels across international borders to compete.

“You have no idea how complicated it is to bring a tool system to Las Vegas [from Canada]. Just the tools themselves are more than $1,000 to transport,” says Brandt, “but how do you put a price tag on quality workmanship?”

Heinauer agrees.

“Yes, yes, yes—it’s absolutely worth it,” he says. “We look at it as a very nice thank-you to our folks, and it lets them know we have confidence in them as well, and once again that we value what they do.”

And, for Glasspro, it’s become as much of a necessity as a benefit.

“What a great way to differentiate yourself,” he says.

This year’s AGTO will be held November 6-7 and the WRO will be held November 5. Both events will take place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas as part of Auto Glass Week™ in Las Vegas.

Solo Training
While a team is helpful, not every player has the luxury of having one. One such past competitor is Brian Fenner of Safe Glass Technologies in Easton, Pa. Fenner, who owns his own business, took second place in last year’s Walt Gorman Memorial Windshield Repair Olympics. Though he obviously practiced and brought his skill to the competition, it was his own drive and determination—not the encouragement of a coach/company owner—that led to his success.

Though Fenner’s supplier, Delta Kits in Eugene, Ore., was supportive of his participation, the credit goes to him, says Brent Deines, Delta president.

“Brian is a very intense person and a bit of a perfectionist,” says Deines. “He asks lots of questions and challenges anything that
does not seem quite right to him.”

Fenner also had the support of his family.

“Although I train all year long with customers unbeknownst to them, the real honor goes to my wonderful and patient wife, Kelly, [who] also [is] Delta Kits-certified, who did endless, and I mean endless, dry run drills with me acting as the customer,” Fenner says.

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