Keep Calm and Repair Windshields

Auto glass professionals lend their perspectives on a potential economic recession and what to do about it

Compiled by AGRR Staff

Some say it’s coming, some say it’s not, others say it’s already here. Talk of an economic recession is pervasive in the media, and for business owners who lived through the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, chatter of another downturn gives them something to weigh as they plan for the rest of the year and beyond. But is the specter of recession something to fear, or will all of the speculation prove much ado about nothing? For an industry-focused look on the subject, we asked eight auto glass pros to share their outlooks as well as strategies that can be employed to safeguard shops.

AGRR: What would an economic downturn mean for the auto glass industry?

“There will always be damaged cars. If people hang onto their insurance, the recession might not hurt the glass industry as much as many people think. The insurance industry is going to drive what happens to our industry. If John Q consumer tries to save money by going with a higher deductible or dropping insurance altogether due to rising costs of insurance, it will affect us as cash sales will be the norm, and there is the possibility of the owner waiting due to the higher cost of glass and calibrations.

“Another variable is what the recession does to the supply chain. You have to look at all of the variables that affect your business—the supply chain, the customer, number of customers, miles driven per person. When one of these variables changes, how does that impact your business?

“For glass shops, to be honest with you—people will still drive, cars still get damaged, windshields still need to be replaced—unless everybody stops driving, I don’t think [a recession] affects the shop directly by just the customer. I think the impact will also affect the suppliers, vehicle manufacturers and insurance industry variables connected to the shop.”

—Mitch Becker, director of training, Protech Automotive Solutions, Lewisville, Texas

“The used car market is still pretty strong, and I don’t see it going away. I don’t see them stopping road construction due to a recession because that’s already in the budget and already being spent. I’m halfway between Boston and Plymouth, and it’s almost like every road and bridge right now is being refurbished, so we’re seeing strong potential for business.

“The past year and a half, a lot of people new bought cars that are still under warranty. I’m pretty sure that whatever happens, we’re going to survive—unless we have a war, and that’s a totally different discussion.”

—Peter Brown, president, Tiny & Sons Glass Co., Pembroke, Mass.

AGRR: How are you managing your business amid the uncertainty?

“I’ve started to tighten up, think about expenses and what we can do without. I try not to think about it too much honestly, otherwise it just gets overwhelming. … When you’ve been doing something for 10 years, you’ve tripped over things and now you know you know what not to trip over.”

—Melissa Martin, COO, WiseflyAuto Glass, Chipley, Fla.

“We’re not spending money on superfluous services like paying someone to manage advertising or paying for attorneys just to have one on retainer. We’re managing cash flow, staying on top of accounts receivable and trying to find efficiencies through technology. We maintain good relationships with our suppliers and negotiate when we need to.

“The other thing is, we price ourselves to the market—we don’t try to be the lowest price. We’re not trying to beat other shops’ prices. When people do that, that’s when you get folks running into issues because you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and you run into cash flow issues because you don’t have the margins.”

—Glenn Fell, owner, Wyndshyld Auto Glass, Marietta, Ga.

“I’m watching my expenses a lot closer. I’m trying to manage them a lot closer as far as ordering parts for jobs that are scheduled. I’m holding off on buying that part until the day before I’m going to do the job, because you never know if that job will be rescheduled.”

—Chris Sergent, owner, Coastal Carolina Autoglass, Pawleys Island, S.C.

Messaging Matters

For most small businesses, the marketing budget is usually one of the first things to get slashed when tough times hit.

However, John Quelch and Katherine E. Jocz, authors of Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy, warn that if you cut too
harshly and fail to address the changing needs of your customers, you may jeopardize the long-term health of your company.

As they explain in a Harvard Business Review article from 2009, when the U.S. was still in the throes of the Great Recession: “Companies that put customer needs under the microscope, take a scalpel rather than a cleaver to the marketing budget, and nimbly adjust strategies, tactics and product offerings in response to shifting demand are more likely than others to flourish both during and after a recession.”

Glen Fell, the owner of Wyndshyld Auto Glass in Marietta, Ga., understands the importance of adapting marketing strategies for the economic climate.

“During a recession, people still drive, but we’re promoting lower-cost alternatives and we’re pushing repair,” he says.

AGRR: What specific measures can auto glass managers take to cut costs and stay resilient?

“Invest in your technicians and take care of them, because if they feel respected they’re going to conserve on resources. If they don’t care about their job, they’re just going to blow through paper towels, or overuse products or not have the best practices in mind. So if you take care of technicians, you’re going to better manage costs.”

—James Chapman, technician, Richardson Glass Service, Newark, Ohio

“Just do the best job with the best products and I think you’ll be okay. It’s about quality, it’s about safety, and you explain that to the customer. Everyone who is small and independent in Florida is kind of going month to month right now, but for the rest of the country, keep [customers] safe, keep your integrity, use the best products and I think you’ll be fine.”

—Linda Rollinson, owner, Superior Auto Glass, Tampa Bay, Fla.

“The biggest thing we’re doing is diversifying all of our accounts. It allows us to be able to shift. When one area [of business] starts to drop, another pops up.

“For glass shops right now, there are so many shortages, especially for shops that are doing insurance [jobs] on 2022s and 2023s—there are a lot of parts on back order. We’re trying to keep a good stock of the really common parts that in a month or two we know we’re going to use.”

—Damon Goin, owner, Goin Glass, Mt. Airy, N.C.

Keep Calm … and Join Auto Glass VIP

The eight auto glass professionals that are featured in the previous article are part of Auto Glass VIP, AGRR magazine’s new survey panel. Auto Glass VIP members provide industry intelligence and analysis that AGRR readers can’t find anywhere else. If you would like to join Auto Glass VIP—and be featured in upcoming issues of the magazine—email
editor Jesse Burkhart at with “Auto Glass VIP” as the subject line.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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