Volume 7, Issue 4, July-August 2003

Tint Talk 
Laurence Streidel

Just Starting Out

Editor’s note: New columnist Laurence Streidel is the owner of Interior Guardz in Rockville, Md. He will be writing his bi-monthly column on issues important to shop owners and window film applicators.

One of the greatest aspects of the window tinting industry is the ability to start in the business with very little capital. When I started my window tinting business, all I had was a box of tint, a cell phone and my car. I also only charged $50 for a full tint job. I know, I know— what was I thinking charging that? 

I now own two window tinting companies in Rockville, Md., and charge a lot more than 50 bucks. In this bi-monthly column, I will share my experiences on how starting a window tinting company has great ups and downs. I’d also like to share several business ideas that may help you in your practice and may make working on your projects much more enjoyable. 

When I started out with that first box of tint in my car, I figured out that I had to go out and market myself. I printed up some cheap business cards and headed to the nearest auto dealership. This turned out to be a smart move because I was one of the few mobile tinters in my area. This meant that the dealerships didn’t have to move their expensive cars off their lots to have film applied. Sure, it often took a long time to get paid (the average dealer invoice gets paid every 30 days), but I started charging them more for making me wait. I also found out that each dealership usually has other sales locations in the area. Once I got my foot in the door with several of them, the steady business helped me afford to eat during the slower, cooler months. 

The moral of this story is to get the dealerships on your side. Working for the dealerships honed my skills. While I wasn’t the greatest tinter when I started working for them, I became much better with the practice. This made me want to improve my skills over a larger customer base and I began focusing on the quality of my work more closely. 

I heard somewhere that if a job is done well, your business will get five referrals, but if the job is done poorly, your business will lose 30 potential referrals. I found out this was true because the better my work became and the more I focused on the quality of my work, the more referrals I obtained. Focusing on word-of-mouth marketing means not having to spend much extra time driving around looking for potential customers. If you do a job well, other people will market for you. Never be only partially satisfied with your work—always make sure your work is so good that you will be fully 

Now that dealers and their customers are on your side, you still need to do more marketing because you are still trying to grow. Turn your attention to the local car stereo stores, auto accessory shops, speed shops, custom alterations and auto glass companies. These parallel businesses receive many calls for glass tinting, so make friends with the local owners, who just might want to cut you a deal on bulk tinting, and receptionists who field all the individual calls. 

Once I have received a few referrals from the owners, I’ll send them some basketball tickets, and once I have received a few referrals from the receptionists, I’ll send them a gift certificate for Starbucks® or Ben & Jerry’s®. They get a little treat, and I get paid!

This article has focused on getting started and the importance of marketing both for a start-up and for an established business. However, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t take much to get started in this business, but to stay in you have to let people know what you do, target specific areas and do a good, quality job. Focus on the quality of your work and the bigger bucks should follow. 

My next article will focus on the next step I took in my business, which was to trade in my long hours on the road for a shop with low overhead and good visibility. I’ll discuss the importance of keeping costs low and what you should be looking for in your real estate. In the meantime, keep up the shameless self-promotion, because when the going gets tough, the tough make more than 50 bucks! 


Laurence Streidel is the owner of Interior Guardz in Rockville, Md. E-mail him at laurence@interiorguardz.com



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