Volume 13, Issue 4 - July-August 2011

Auto Addition
Auto Glass Retailers Explore Add-On Services

by Katie Hodge

Standing out among the crowd can be a lifelong challenge. Auto glass companies constantly seek ways to set themselves apart and, for many, that has meant adding new services.

“We have to be diverse to survive,” says John Kachnik, owner of Fox Valley Glass in St. Charles, Ill., whose company has added residential glass installation as a service.

David Zoldowski, owner of Auto One in Brighton, Mich., has discovered how add-on services can help level out the business throughout the year. Likewise, many auto glass companies experience lulls in business during certain seasons and to counteract this many have added additional services.

“[Diversifying] has dramatically helped out business because it tends to level out the seasons,” says Zoldowski, whose company offers remote starters, cell phones and detailing in addition to auto glass repair or replacement. “Auto glass is very seasonal. What we have tried to do as a corporation is find things that match the seasons.”

Making the Decision
If your company plans to diversify, finding the right time and the right product is key, and some say choosing what service to add in can be simpler in the off-season, when business is slower and there is time to research options.

Many industry retailers have added items such as window film and residential glass to provide additional revenue.

Diversification Additions
A wide variety of services are being used as add-ons for auto glass repair and replacement businesses and a selection of examples are included here:
• Detailing;
• Headlight restoration;
• Mirrors;
• Paint protection film;
• Paintless dent repair;
• Remote Starters;
• Residential/commercial glass;
• Shower doors;
• Side mirrors;
• Vinyl repair; and
• Window film.

Have you been successful at diversifying your product line? Please e-mail information about your successful add-ons to pstacey@glass.com.

“I think it’s about identifying the services [shops] want to bring on in the off-season,” says Rory Most, general manager for Glass Technology in Durango, Colo. “As a whole, the [auto glass] industry tends to slow down a bit in the winter time, so I think during those slow months it is great to find out what you are doing and what’s making you money and where you can possibly expand or move into some other service-oriented sectors to help your business increase its bottom line.”

Once timing is selected, it’s time to choose a product or service your company can offer and manage successfully.

“Obviously you have to have the capacity and the capital to support it,” Zoldowski.

“I don’t think there is ever a bad time as long as it’s the right service,” adds Brent Deines, president of Eugene, Ore.-based Delta Kits. “It’s interesting because you can go into a glass shop that is really successful and they are too busy for another service. If a shop owner is struggling, then he feels like he can’t afford it. It’s like advertising. There is no bad time to advertise. It’s part of running a successful business. If it’s the right kind of advertising then you should do it and I think it’s the same thing with adding on to a business.”

“We have to be diverse to survive.”
—John Kachnik, Fox Valley Glass

Based on location and what your company has the man-power to accomplish, choosing the right product also is of course crucial.

“When someone is looking at doing this the most important thing is to find a product that can accomplish what they need,” adds Most.

Choose Your Adventure
Once the decision is made to shop around for a new service or add-on, the difficult choice of what service to add looms.

Some of the more popular add-ons include traditional services that go hand-in-hand with auto glass, such as window tinting, detailing, commercial/residential glass and replacement side mirrors. With the constant changes in technology there are many new options, too—such as remote starters, headlight restoration and scratch removal.

Kachnik added residential glass installation to his auto glass business two to three years ago because his employees were familiar with the service and some had experience with it.

“It was a slow rollout. We do have a very good glazing team out there, and we have two glaziers on board,” says Kachnik. “We had to learn the business. We knew it and had experience, but we had to make it work for us by getting advertising out there to promote that we do commercial and residential. Now putting our money where our mouth is becomes the challenge.”

About 15 percent of Kachnik’s business is now residential glass and he has a couple of “seasoned installers” working on the residential projects. He expects to see the add-on business grow more.

“We’ve talked to people about doing trim work, but that’s a huge ball of wax. We’ve talked to people about doing window tinting. The feelers are out there,” says Kachnik.

While Zoldowski’s company has implemented add-ons such as detailing and remote starters, he views tinting as a great addition.

“It varies by state and locale, but window tinting becomes a very nice add-on because you can get half-pregnant with this service,” says Zoldowski. “What I mean is that you can contract out your window tinting and still make a good margin. You would schedule it and find a tinter that you know is good and you develop the relationship with him and you can still deliver quality.”

Deines agrees that there are some add-on services that just make sense for an auto glass business to implement.

“If you are an auto glass shop owner or a windshield repair technician you are seeing vehicles every day that need things done,” says Deines. “It’s kind of a no-brainer to add something like headlight restoration. It is very inexpensive to add and you can make your money back very quickly. It doesn’t take a lot of time to learn the craft where other things might.”

For some auto glass shops the benefit of time saved coupled with the low cost for the shop makes an add-on like headlight restoration or scratch removal valuable.

“Headlight repair is a great service and the reason I say that is that the average auto glass repair or installation is 45 minutes to an hour,” says Most. “So if you have a car in your shop and are doing a replacement you can do a headlight repair in roughly 25 minutes.”

David Kozlowski, owner of Glass Doctor of Southeast Wisconsin, added headlight restoration to his business about a year ago.

“I haven’t had the chance to really market it well yet, but it is up on our website,” says Kozlowski. “We have done a few jobs, but for the most part we haven’t seen big results yet. However, the more you can diversify the more you open up the door for sales.”

On the Fence
Diversifying a business and adding potential revenue streams has its challenges, of course.

There are some businesses that just want to stick with what they know best. Diversifying does come with some risk, financially and in reputation. The addition of a new service does take effort and a new line of business can have different results than what an auto glass shop is used to.

“I don’t think it’s a very easy transition. You have to have experience in it and feel comfortable doing it. It is difficult,” says Kachnik about his residential glass add-on service.

Protecting the reputation of a business also is an important factor.

Don’t hurt the reputation of your core business by trying something and not doing a good job at it,” says Zoldowski.

Katie Hodge is an assistant editor for AGRR™ magazine.

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