Volume 43, Issue 7 - July 2008

A Minute With...

Alan Leonard Trainor Glass

After 40 years in the glass industry, Alan Leonard, vice president of business development for Trainor Glass Co. in Alsip, Ill., has seen a lot of changes. Now he’s ready for another change as he prepares for his retirement from Trainor at the end of the year. 

Paul J. Rowan, the company’s vice president and division manager, notes that he has benefited from Leonard’s knowledge and experience for more than 20 years. 

“He has been involved in everything from estimating and take-offs. He’s in there upfront with the architects in the design stages of projects, just because of his knowledge and experience,” Rowan says. “He shares his knowledge with everybody, not only in-house at Trainor, but with our general contractors and to the architects and the designers.”

During an interview with USGlass, Leonard explained that his expansive knowledge might well have been the result of coming into his job there with little knowledge of the glass industry, a lack that he made up for in a hurry.

Q: How did you get started in the industry? 
A: I started at Amarlite … I was there for seven years. I started at the truck loading dock and I ended up being the assistant office manager. Trainor had heard about me through the grapevine, that I was a pretty decent worker over there and that I might be interested in taking a position at Trainor Glass … 

I had no experience in glass whatsoever; I didn’t know a piece of glass from a piece of cardboard, to be honest with you. And I was immediately sent out into the field. It was a struggle. I had very little experience reading plans. I gave two weeks notice at Amarlite that I was going to go to Trainor, and in those two weeks, my brother, who was very well versed in take-off plans, taught me how to do take-off plans.

Q: So how did you gain your sales experience? Would you have any tips for up-and-coming salespeople in this industry? 
A: Sometimes, if you don’t have the knowledge, you have to put in more hours to do what the other person can accomplish in a shorter period of time. That’s actually one of the reasons that I was able to perform as well as I did, I gave up my weekends and my evenings—my average week was 60 or 70 hours. It paid off in the long run because I was able to accomplish what I wanted, even though I wasn’t that well-versed in it. I just had to put in more time. As I gained more experience, of course, it wasn’t as necessary to put those many hours in, but then I got in the habit of doing it. I’m here every morning at six o’clock—I’m the guy who turns the lights on and starts the coffee. I just can’t get out of that habit so I continue to work at that level. 

Q: Forty years is a long time. What would you say has been the most significant change to the industry you’ve seen during that time? 
A: The glass industry has become much more sophisticated, much more complicated. We had very minimal types of glass when I first got into the business, but now the array of products is just unbelievable, both here, produced in the United States, and in Europe. We have to be re-educated as to what’s out there in the marketplace constantly in order to be competitive, and to be able to direct our architects and the clients to the right product for the job. It’s a constant education process as far as glass is concerned. The evolution has been phenomenal. What I was selling 40 years ago is almost like the Stone Age compared to what we’re doing now. 

Q: What do you suspect you will miss the most about the industry after you retire? 
A: I will miss my customers who I consider my friends. I don’t have a lot of friends outside of the industry because of the amount of time I’ve devoted to the business. Some of my clients I’ve had for 30 years and I socialize with them. I go to dinner with them. I know their families. I know their kids … I’m going to try to make an attempt to stay in touch with them even after I retire, but sometimes that’s difficult. 

Q: What’s next for you? 
A: I have nine grandchildren who I have not been able to spend as much time with as I’ve wanted. I’m going to devote a lot of time to that. I’m going to do a lot of traveling, which is a very high priority for me. I like to travel a lot, and I know my wife and I are going to take at least three or four trips a year. We’ve already got four trips booked up through next March so that’s what we’re going to devote time to, the grandkids and traveling. 

Q: Sounds wonderful. Any exciting destinations in your plans? 
A: We’re going to Cozumel, we have a timeshare in Cozumel and we’re going to go there in November. We’ve had a timeshare in Aruba for about four or five years and we’re going there in March, and I think we’re going to Las Vegas in August. And the Trainors gave me a travel certificate [in May] at my 40th anniversary dinner and we’re debating where we’re going to go with that. I think we’re going to go on a cruise. 

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