Riding the (Automotive Glass) Range

A few weeks back I wrote a post called Setting the Standard for Safe Automotive Glass Installations. I talked about Auto Glass Safety Council™ Registered Member Companies that were frustrated with the quality of automotive glass work in their market. One took it to his state government for licensing possibilities, and the other owner was frustrated when their competitor passed their AGSC audit but reverted back to bad installation habits immediately after the auditors left. This blog post had several comments and they centered on beliefs that I thought should be discussed.

The first comment was,”… the cost of entry into the industry is too low. Anyone with a van or pickup truck can call themselves a glass shop.” This is not a new observation. You have probably been hearing this for years. Anyone with any experience in automotive glass installation can start a business in a matter of days, if not hours. A phone call to the right person can have an installer putting in glass the next day as a 1099 employee. For those not familiar with the term 1099 employee, it means that the installer works for himself but contracts out to one or more companies. They usually get paid by the job, and supply their own tools, truck and insurance. The 1099 comes from the tax form needed to report their earnings.

Alternatively, a technician can use his or her garage, truck and toolbox, create a business name and use his Social Security Number to start a sole proprietor business with very little financial outlay. A term used in the past for these types of installers were “cowboys.” Lone installers riding the range of automotive glass that will do what is necessary to survive. They only need a glass supplier, a place to buy supplies, a few customers, and viola, they’re in business. How long that business will last is up to the new owner. Will the new owner look for help in running a business, or just undercut everyone else and ruin the local market until they go bankrupt? That is the question.

It is easy to blame our woes on these types of entrepreneurs, but I can’t blame someone who is looking to make a better life for their family. The problem occurs if these new entrepreneurs don’t know the ANSI/AGSC/AGRSS™ 003-2015 Standard. If they learned their craft from a guy they rode with and he knew nothing but to slap some glue and set the glass in the hole, that is what they will do. It is all they know about automotive glass, right or wrong. However, if an installer takes the time to learn his craft correctly and practices what he learned in that pursuit, what better way to start a business than an easy-to-enter industry.

So, how can we be assured that the technician knows what he is doing? I believe that credentials should be attained and checked before hiring or contracting work. When we look for mechanics, plumbers and electricians to provide us a service, we look at their training and certifications to ensure quality work. Why don’t our customers do the same, and why don’t we advise them to look for the credentials that count? Everyone who has a stake in the results of an installation is responsible to fact check what they’re told. Insurance companies that ask for training and certification should check for proof of training and certification. The owners of shops or businesses that offer glass services should check their technicians’ credentials. And the customers who want their work done correctly should ensure their service providers are trained, certified technicians.

It can be a benefit that our industry is relatively easy to enter. We need no inventory, we need no buildings to do our work, we need no employees, (at least at first) and we need no expensive machines to deliver our service. All these factors insure new blood and fresh ideas as well. Employers, insurers and the motoring public should all simply fact check the statements made to us to protect our own safety and that of our friends and family.