by Bob Beranek

Since I started my career in the auto glass business, I have seen some serious changes over the years.  Some of them we might label as good and others as bad. However, what do those definitions really mean?

Consider the word “good.” Is it good for profits? Is it good for the technician? Is it good for the consumer? Or, is it good for the industry? Over the years, I have had many a debate with others in our industry on these issues but have never come to a consensus of what is good for all concerned. What might be good for profits, may not be good for the technician. What might be good for the technician, may not be good for the consumer. And so on.

Like any industry, when new vehicles are introduced, problems are identified and solutions are found.  Unfortunately, the solutions may very well satisfy one problem but cause another problem somewhere else. Rarely do the problem solvers take into consideration all of the aspects involved with the big picture. Their only duty is to solve the problem presented.

Case in point, recalibration. Who would have foreseen this issue coming ten years ago? Yes, we saw technology progressing. But could we see that those of us in the aftermarket would need to be involved with the tools, software and expertise necessary to recalibrate an entire vehicle after glass replacement? I didn’t.

When asked to estimate the cost of tools for auto glass replacement by my clients, I could estimate the hand tools, the power tools and specialty tools and come up with a price at retail of about $2,000 to $3,000. Now, with the necessity for recalibration, you may spend five or six times that amount. When asked to estimate the cost of starting an auto glass business, I was able to estimate the cost of a “bricks and mortar” business to be around a $10,000 to $20,000 to begin business, day one. Today, you must consider the infrastructure of the building and size of the service bays to have level floors and thirty feet in front of the vehicle for recalibration. This could double or triple that startup investment.

Now that this technology is here, decisions are being made to deal with this new challenge. Owners are asking, “Will my technicians need additional training and learn new skills sets?” Will my current way of doing business need to be changed to accommodate the new demands of technology? What about the future? Will my investments in the current technology pay off, or will new upcoming systems make them obsolete?

None of us can see the future. We can only use our experience, research future trends and act on what is best for our immediate needs. Owning an auto glass business isn’t always easy. In the short term, at least, it has become even more difficult. Successful business owners have to be realists as well as fortune tellers. Embrace the changes caused by recalibration because this need is going to “cull the herd” so to speak. The need for a professional auto glass shop is greater than ever, and those who pay attention to what that means will come out on top.

It is that time of year again when the college football bowl season begins and the NFL starts their road to the Super Bowl. During the season, our teams raise our hopes through inspired plays and then deflate some of those hopes with bad performances (with the possible except of the Carolina Panthers). We have cheered when our teams played well and cried when they fumbled the ball. We understand that wins and losses are part of the game.

We have been part of another competition lately that many of us didn’t even know we were in—“The Recalibration Bowl.” The™ article on Monday reporting that Belron has found a way to calibrate Advanced Driver Assist Systems in the shop has brought ambivalent reactions. On one side, we as an industry have found a way to provide our customer a way to drive a safe vehicle immediately after their windshield is replaced. That is a good thing. On the other hand, of course, the provider of that valuable service is our industry’s biggest competitor, and that presents a dilemma that may put some of us behind the eight ball.

We have to give credit where credit is due. Belron used its ingenuity, vision and action on an issue that concerned us all. They did the job. Like in football, the team with the better players and game plan usually wins and “Team Belron” won this one. Team Belron, with its global presence, financial resources and dedicated research and development team, put together a game plan that looks like it might be a winner. The consumer thanks you and congratulations.

However, sometimes when the chips are down and the game is on the line, the smaller team (call them “Team Independent”) develops competitive advantages in their own right, and still win.

What does your replacement team do better than the competitors in your area? Maybe your system of supervising and managing your team provides better quality control. Do you excel at scheduling efficiency? Are your customers aware that your technicians are certified, and what that means to the safety of their families?

Team Independent may be smaller, but that may allow for better and faster reaction times than the behemoth they compete with. Team Independent are local and usually the fans’ favorite—the crowd noise can be deafening. They are there when you need them and can provide service when others won’t or can’t.

Just like the football games coming up this Holiday Season, the “Recalibration Bowl” will be fun to watch but don’t bet on the results. As Tony D’Amato said, anything can happen “on any given Sunday.”

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas from my family to yours,

Bob Beranek