Volume 12, Issue 2 - March/April 2010


Save the (Wind) Shields
Florida-Based Repair Company Has Committed
to Saving the Customer Money and Helping the Environment

by Penny Stacey

“If we don’t save the windshield, we don’t make money.” These are the words of SuperGlass Windshield Repair founder and president David Casey of Orlando, Fla. Though this is not an official company motto, the company instills the same concept within all of its franchisees. And the franchisees don’t just learn how to repair the glass, but they actually are trained to serve as “repair specialists.”

It is this focus on repair—with replacement not even available as an option from SuperGlass—that has helped the company serve its customers (and its customers’ customers) over the years and has made SuperGlass into a multi-million dollar worldwide business.

“If you save a customer’s windshield, you’re going to make him/her happy,” says Casey. “It’s our marketing point.”

And Casey, a staunch environmentalist, takes issue with any company that might replace glass that could have been repaired.
“Any company that replaces glass that doesn’t need to be replaced has a moral issue with safety and with the environment,” he says.

To make sure all franchisees remain committed to the environment as well—and are aware of the positive impact their work can have—Casey continually provides them with reports on cost savings and how much they have saved customers by repairing their windshields.

“We’re in business against a concept,” he says. “This gives us a mission.”

The Mission’s Origins
Together with his business partner, Bill Costello, vice president of marketing, Casey got into the windshield repair business in 1981—almost 30 years ago.

“It was before networks and insurance came into play,” recalls Casey, who has long served on the Board of Directors for the National Windshield Repair Association and is a founding board member of the Global Glass Conservation Alliance.

When Casey got his start, repair was hardly known as a service. “There weren’t many people doing it at all,” he says.

The two used the Kier System, and eventually founded a company called Star Technology Windshield Repair,
which they operated until 1991. They founded SuperGlass Windshield Repair in 1992.

Their initial goal was to open two stores. Franchising wasn’t originally part of the plan. “It was my lawyer who at one point told me to start franchising,” says Casey. “It was an evolution. It wasn’t something we planned.”

The fact that repair was so unknown also helped this progression. “It was literally like magic,” he says. “People would get excited quickly.”

Though the two got their start in Boulder, Colo., where Casey had gone because of the music and rock scene there, they eventually moved to Grand Junction, Colo., and then later, in the early 1990s, transferred the company to Atlanta.

“We were in a small town and we wanted to move to a metro center,” he says.

Just a few years later, in 1996, SuperGlass moved its headquarters to its current location in Orlando, Fla.

The mild climate there has been a boon for the franchise part of the business, Casey says. “People really have enjoyed coming here for the training,” he says, and notes that Orlando also is a good international hub, and this definitely has come in handy. Today, the company has 220 franchise owners, spread across the world. Though the majority of these are in the United States, SuperGlass also has franchises in South Africa, Spain, France and Germany.

Working for the Man
One of SuperGlass’s claims to fame is the attention that it pays to its franchisees. As you walk through the halls of SuperGlass’s main office, Casey points out several people along the way—Costello, his business partner; his daughters, Fawn Moore and Meghan Casey, both of whom have been working with him for the last several years—and he’ll tell you that, though they each have a different specific duty, they all have one common goal: “getting business for franchisees.”

“We just try to help our people make money,” says Casey.

Once a franchisee joins the company, he/she travels to Orlando for a five-day training course. “We use every single minute of it,” he says.

Training includes not only technical repair skills, but also marketing and business skills.

“Any aspect of running a business—that’s what we want to give to them,” Casey says.

While the training is occurring, Costello is working to set up appointments with local companies for the following week for the franchisee, and a SuperGlass official will then travel with the franchisee to his/her location during the following week to accompany him/her on the first of their appointments.

“The most important reason we do this is we’re showing them how to get business,” he says.

Fleet work—rental car companies specifically—has become a niche for the company at large, so most of these appointments are of this sort.

“With the independent motorist it is hard to make an impact,” Casey says. “Fleet work is like a friendship or marriage—you can prove yourself over time.”

Casey says there are two major reasons the company spends so much time on helping franchisees get started in the business.
1 – “It’s the right thing to do.”
2 – “It’s good for business.”

Lastly, once SuperGlass signs a new franchisee up, Casey feels a responsibility to them. “I have to make money for my people, because they’re family now,” he says.

Making the Cut
But not everyone is qualified to be part of that family, according to Casey. “You’re going to find that just because someone wants to [run a franchise] doesn’t mean they should be doing it,” he said.

SuperGlass looks for a few simple requirements from its franchisees. One is communication. “We fix glass, but we also deal with people,” Casey says. “You can’t fix the glass if you can’t talk to people.”

But the quality of the repair also is, of course, important, and an enjoyment of working outdoors also is a plus. The company also looks at the town where a franchise is located and what potential there is there.

For locating new franchisees, though, Casey points out that the company’s work mostly markets itself. Many SuperGlass franchisees started out as customers of other franchisees.

“If we do 15 to 16 [franchises] a year, that’s fine with us,” he says. “We’re happy; they’re successful.”

More to Discover
When Casey and Costello aren’t training a new recruit, they’re looking for the latest products and services to offer their franchisees as add-ons.

Among these are headlight restoration and scratch removal for both architectural and automotive glass.

Its latest addition is called Super Virus Shield, and it’s a coating designed to kill germs mechanically. Franchisees can sell it to dealerships for used vehicles, but it also works for hotels, gyms, radio stations and office buildings, and can not only kill germs—but also can prevent the spread of the germ for up to six to nine months.

In addition, SuperGlass also has launched an addition business in recent years, Aerospace Transparencies Repair and Restoration Inc., to restore windows for the airline industry (see sidebar at left).

Looking Ahead
Though the SuperGlass franchise agreement is a ten-year one (and can be renewed for 10 years at a time), most stay for longer.

“No one has ever walked away,” Casey says.

And its commitment hasn’t gone unnoticed, even outside the auto glass industry. Entrepreneur® magazine ranked SuperGlass No. 47 on the 2009 low-cost franchise list, No. 55 on the list of top home-based franchises, and No. 149 on the list of America’s Top Global Franchises.

The company has 22 franchises that have exceeded sales of $1 million with their franchise, and two franchises that have exceeded $2 million in sales—all doing repair only. As a chain, SuperGlass has surpassed $92 million in repair sales since its inception and expects to exceed $100 million (since their founding) this year.

And, despite a continuing down side in the economy, Casey says the future looks bright.

“I feel good about where repair is in this economy,” he says.

He adds, “A lot of companies have moved backwards this year, and we’ve had some decent growth and remain stable.”

Saving the Airways
Though SuperGlass Windshield Repair puts a large emphasis on saving windshields, for both environmental and economical reasons, there’s an even pricier type of glass out there it’s now looking to save. Just last year, the company launched an additional business, Aerospace Transparencies Repair & Restoration Inc., to focus on restoring jet windows. SuperGlass became a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified repair location in April 2009.

“It would cost $115,000 to replace the windshields on a Lear jet,” says Casey, offering some insight into the service it provides.

The business requires extreme precision, and, because you must become an FAA-certified repair location to work on jet windows, the service isn’t one usually offered by SuperGlass franchisees. Becoming an FAA repair station required the SuperGlass staff to conduct a specific anti-drug and alcohol program and more. It has 22 technicians available to complete the aircraft polishing.

“When you work in the aircraft industry, you are never allowed to guess,” says Casey. “If you don’t understand the job 100 percent, you’re not touching the glass.”

And “little mistakes” aren’t an option.

“With the airlines, they replace everything two years before it’s going to break—if only everyone would do business that way,” he says.

The company has done a number of notable jobs already, including the jets of both the Miami Dolphins and Orlando Magic, Professional Golf Association chairperson Timothy Finchem’s jet and even Donald Rumsfeld’s Gulfstream jet.

Penny Stacey is the editor of AGRR magazine.

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