An Interview with All Star Glass President Bob Scharaga
By Tara Taffera
We were on the phone for about 50 minutes or so and it quickly became clear where Bob Scharaga’s passions lie: ensuring a safe windshield installation and as a staunch supporter of technological innovations. Oh—and he loves his auto glass family. The 64-year old president of All Star Glass has worked at his family’s auto glass business for 42 years, and has been at the helm as president for the last 12. The company now has 33 locations across four states and plans for more.
The words technology and safety came up more times than I could count, proving just how much these issues mean to Scharaga. Regarding safety, he has served on the board of directors of the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC) for two years. In the area of technology, he is definitely leading the charge, as All Star Glass is seen by many as the leader in recalibration services.
Though a powerful force, he doesn’t love the spotlight. In fact, he says this is the first interview he has ever granted, after which he checked, “Did I give you any info you think would be helpful to people?” He definitely did.
AGRR: Tell me about your back-ground with All Star Glass and how you got your start in the industry?
Scharaga: My father Sam and I started the business 42 years ago. I did a significant amount of the sales work. Shortly after, my sister Jan Scharaga quit her teaching job and joined in marketing and sales. She ended up marrying our operations manager, Mark Van Doren. We started with one location in San Diego and it was a family endeavor. Over the years we have grown to 33 locations in four states and our family has grown to include many very talented and hard-working employees.
AGRR: What does the future hold for the company?
Scharaga: We are currently in California, Nevada, Texaxs and Arizona with 33 locations and our plans are to grow in these states and other states.
Many people don’t know that we have been a Third Party Administrator (TPA) for over 25 years and we are rebranding our TPA name to All Star Glass-Auto Glass and Calibration Network. That is in the works as we speak. This coincides with all the technological changes of the new vehicles, ADAS and the direction of the auto industry overall. And it draws on our experience of what differentiates us. We pay our providers fairly and timely. We used to be a small company, so we understand the importance of that. We maintain great relationships with insurance companies and with auto glass providers across the nation. We help identify industry fraud and bring awareness to insurance companies while helping both sides minimize risk and liability.
AGRR: after you came in as president in 2008 much growth happened. Can you take me through some of that?
Scharaga: The main thing I have achieved is that now we are in other states. The recalibration part of the business all started since I was president as well. There are so many things that have changed and we had to make sure we stayed ahead of the curve. we are expanding and investing heavily in technology.
AGRR: I know All Star Glass has a very strong core philosophy that is very committed to safety. Tell me more about that and how technology plays into it as well.
Scharaga: We adopted our core philosophy which is: making our customers happy and keeping them safe. We are now the leaders of the calibration industry. We embrace doing it right in all aspects of our business, which not only separates us from the others, but is often times more costly. We maintain safety by taking the extra steps and extra costs to do the job right, as this will reduce risk and liability for our employees, the insurance companies we work with and for the customer.
AGRR: What markets/locations are the most challenging and why?
Scharaga: In California we have the challenge of the highest costs in many areas-fuel rates, labor and real estate. And we have heavily populated areas with challenging traffic patterns, road conditions and other situations that are particularly challenging to the calibration side of the business.
AGRR: The auto glass industry is a challenging one. How does All Star Glass combat and thrive among these challenges?
Scharaga: We don’t spend on radio and television ads. We spend on training and more training. We also invest in new technology and education. We continually pursue coverage for 100% of vehicles for calibration. And above all we feel the most effective form of advertising is a happy and safe customer.
AGRR: Why did you think it was important for All Star Glass locations to join the AGSC?
Scharaga: We joined back in 2000, and it has been one of the best things we have done. It makes perfect sense with our core philosophy of making customers happy—and safe. The AGSC and our company work hand-in-hand, educating the customer to provide a safe install and now in calibration as well.
In unregulated fields such as ours, it is important for us to join forces with an organization that has the same goals and commitment as we do—to safety! It is one thing to say we will abide by the AGRSS Standard™, but it’s another to be part of their organization. We opened all our locations to random audits to ensure we are doing everything the right way.
AGRR: Do you feel that being an AGSC-registered company serves as a real selling point? That it’s kind of the “cherry on top,” so to speak, for some customers–ultimately leading them to select your business?
Scharaga: Yes, because we have educated our customers that we are part of such a great organization. We refer them to the AGSC website for further education.
AGRR: I heard you have a compel-ling story about losing a government account and getting it back because you are an AGSC member?
Scharaga: Yes, it was a contract and we lost the account over price. We mentioned to them that they should put membership in the AGSC certification programs in the RFP and contract. So we were the second lowest in price and, at first, we lost it. Then I brought it to their attention that the one they chose wasn’t part of AGSC and, as a result, we got the contract. They never would have known about AGSC if we didn’t refer them to the Council’s web-site, so we were able to educate them.
AGRR: What do you want to see for the future of AGSC?
Scharaga: I am especially proud to be part of the AGSC recalibration committee and on the board of directors. I see continuity and standardization of calibration and new technology as extremely important to our industry. I see that we will help control the risks and liabilities that face us all and I encourage all auto glass companies to review those insurance limits to ensure they have adequate coverage and operating procedures in place.
AGRR: How do you promote this message of safety to All Star Glass employees and how hard is it to get everyone’s buy in across so many locations and employees?
Scharaga: One of the ways is through monthly safety meetings with pertinent topics that allow flow and feedback and from the team. We strive for documentation and improved awareness. Every employee has watched the Fran-sway video on the AGSC website. John Fransway is an insurance agent and safety activist whose sister was killed by a faulty auto glass replacement. His bravery and courage to bring life to this flow has inspired change in our industry. It is so impactful that we refer back to it often. Our continual training and certification, which are so very important to every level in our company, play a very integral role in our safety program.
AGRR: Were you prepared when you started doing calibrations for everything it entails? What would you do over, if anything, when getting started?
Scharaga: We did a great deal of research early on to be best prepared. We took an active role in learning as much as we were able in the latest developments. we didn’t want to take a backseat to others when it came to knowledge and investment. We developed our place as a leader in the industry and we have tested all the devices. we have become members of the various committees. We have kept up with the innovators. It has been a challenge that continues every day, but we are most proud of our accomplishments.
The current challenge in calibration occurs when the car camera isn’t functioning due to age. As vehicles age, the camera and other electrical issues deteriorate, and the steering wheel or vibrating seat may not function properly. Who pays for wear-and-tear and how does the company performing recalibration discover this? A pre-scan doesn’t always show the Diagnostic Trouble COde (DTC) if a camera is running hot. Our company policy is to road test the vehicle before we work on it to verify the ADAS features are working properly. Then a pre-scan is performed. We further post-scan and road test after calibration to verify that it was done successfully. We want to ensure that the customer leaves us with everything working as it should be. This can reduce exposure to problems that can affect All Star Glass, insurance companies, or even fleet companies. Some of these cameras cost approximately $1,000.
These are just a few examples of current challenges we face. To stay on top of challenges we have weekly team meetings about recalibration. We have a team of those who research and encourage continuous learning and we listen and respond to what the installers out in the field run into daily. Recalibration is such a moving target that we are involved from bottom to top in this industry.
AGRR: I know you are on the Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) Committee on behalf of AGSC, which is tackling the topic of calibration. Can you tel me about their work and the role you play there?
Scharaga: The CIECA committee was specifically designed for calibration and issues auto manufacturers, makers of calibration devices and body shops. For the past six months there have been many meetings of which All Star Glass has participated in-all from which we have learned a great deal and contributed our experiences and industry perspective.
Part of the committee’s goals include developing and documenting standardization and continuities of processes, especially as they related to the auto glass industry. We intend to bring CIECA’s recommendations to the AGSC for approval and adoption that will further our businesses. We are getting close to its completion. Some may not want to adopt this recommendation, due to all the extra steps, and potentially higher costs. but for All Star Glass this goes back to our commitment of doing it the right way and making customers happy and safe.
AGRR: How does All Star Glass find qualified installers for all your locations?
Scharaga: First, I have to give a shout out to our extraordinary staff who are all part of a family now. We find the most success with home grown training and with encouragement, systems and support to develop learning and growing.
AGRR: What do you love most about this industry? And, hate the most?
Scharaga: I hate shops that don’t pay their employees properly. Or who pay their employees under the table or who avoid following best practices. Many offer cheaper pricing, but at the cost of employee wages and benefits. They may under-insure or avoid paying proper taxes.
I love the people I work with every day. Our team is extraordinary. There are several that have been with me the entire 42 years, many more are at 30-plus or the 20-plus year level. Our wonderful team has embraced new technology, developed new skills, trained their newer coworkers, taken pride in what they do and continue to be shining stars. We started as a small family business and today all of those employees are our family.
Tara Taffera is the editorial director for AGRR magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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