Monday, June 9, 2014

Are you familiar with the EPA’s lead paint rules? If not, it’s probably time to get up-to-date, as the lead paint rules that have been in effect for residential renovation projects for several years could be coming to the commercial segment.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule was issued in 2008 and went into effect in 2010. The rules require that any firm performing renovation, repair or paint work on homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 must be EPA certified, use certified renovators and installers, and follow lead-safe work practices. Now the EPA is investigating plans to extend the lead paint rules to commercial buildings.

Since its launch, the LRRP has been under scrutiny from the building industry, as contractors working in the residential and school renovation segments grappled with the requirements of the rules, the steep fines for noncompliance, and the costs for certification. The cost, in particular, has been a matter of concern. The EPA estimates that more than $10.3 billion will be spent on the residential LRRP by December 2016, and many in the construction industry forecast costs will exceed those estimates.

The LRRP was a focus of the Regulatory Affairs Committee meeting during the American Architectural Manufacturers Association Summer Conference last week in Indianapolis. “The EPA has agreed to either sign a proposed rule covering RRP activities of public and commercial buildings, or determine that these activities do not create lead-based paint hazards by July 1, 2015,” says Maureen Knight, AAMA government affairs/product stewardship manager. The proposed rules include public buildings built before 1978 and commercial buildings that are not child-occupied facilities.

Costs of the lead paint rules are expected to "skyrocket if commercial contractors are forced into RRP rule compliance," Knight says. "These fees are extremely detrimental to renovation firms. Many won’t be able to shoulder the costs and will cease to conduct renovations on impacted buildings or be forced to charge a substantial premium to building owners. Others will simply ignore the rule and cause a significantly unfair playing field."

It seems the EPA is working hard to minimize push-back from industry with the commercial lead paint rules through extensive communication with stakeholder companies and trade associations. The agency established a Small Business Review Panel, is gathering data about the OSHA construction standard for lead, and is surveying contractors.

Industry companies can get involved and make sure the construction industry's voice is heard by reading through the proposal, officially called the “Framework for Identifying and Evaluating Lead-Based Paint Hazards from Renovation, Repair, and Painting Activities in Public and Commercial Buildings,” and commenting. The deadline to comment is June 30.

“It is very important to keep an eye on this, and to continue to issue comments,” Knight says. "We’ve already witnessed home renovation contractors withdrawing their services from impacted homes. Compliance costs have significantly increased the cost of doing business and ultimately the cost to homeowners, which subsequent stifles home retrofits and reduces the number of home improvement products purchased. The same circumstances will likely happen in the commercial renovation market."

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at

Monday, June 9, 2014

Later this week the World Cup kicks off and soccer fans from all around the world will be glued to their TVs and computers following the action. With all the hype around this event, it made me think: If we had a World Cup of the glass and glazing industry, what country would be the winner? Obviously because of homegrown bias, I would probably join many others and say the United States wins that sort of approach in a landslide. But does it? Is the United States that dominant when it comes to technology or efficiency improvements? How does it stack up versus Canada, Mexico, Germany and China (yes China). And obviously Finland, Italy, Japan, Spain and Israel are among countries really active in our industry, too.

So given all of that, which country is the best in our industry?  Over the next month, as the World Cup of soccer is playing out, I will be determining the World Cup of Glass. I’ll be using the parameters of innovation, quality, products and industry support as the guidelines. And let me know your thoughts, too--via e-mail is fine; I always love learning and I’ll appreciate the insights as I determine the champ. And yes, right now I am sure the Chinese contingent is preparing a protest that there’s no way I’d judge them fairly, but I promise I will!


  • As for the actual World Cup, I don’t know enough to say who will win, but I have friends from all over the world who have their rooting interests. And when those teams win, like my pal Joe Staffileno’s Italian team did a few years ago, the euphoria is real.
  • Congrats to my old friend and co-worker Bob Cummings on his new position at Hartung Glass. Bob is one of the best around, classy and hard working, and he’ll do great within that super organization.
  • I had to make a trip to Omaha this past weekend, and while preparing for it I looked at the weather and saw a forecast I had never seen before. It said “Mostly cloudy and humid, storms expected, with large hail, damaging winds, and a tornado.”  Ummm “…and a TORNADO”? That just blew my mind. Luckily that forecast was wrong, but never before did I actually see a forecast predicting one!
  • With Kuraray acquiring the DuPont Glass Laminating Solutions, will that signal the end of the name DuPont in our industry? Will we be living in an industry where the long-time classic names Solutia and DuPont don’t exist?
  • I have to admit I am very bummed that California Chrome did not win the Triple Crown. I am not sure I’ll see another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime.
  • Last this week, AIA is a couple of weeks away. This year it will be interesting to see how the show does. It is tough timing for sure. But it's in Chicago, a city everyone loves to visit, and the trade show scene is very hot right now. Funny thing for me is when I started to research the show, five of the seven largest booth spaces (not including AIA spaces) taken at the show are companies in the glass and window industry. I guess that never-ending desire to gain love and acceptance from the architect continues. I swear, when it comes to this scenario we as an industry act like the awkward boy in high school pining over the homecoming queen. And you know how those stories always turn out…

Read on for links and video of the week... 

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Photo courtesty of NBC Chicago’s Twitter, @nbcchicago


My Twitter and Facebook feeds exploded last week when the news broke (pun intended) that the glass floor cracked on one of Willis Tower’s 1,353-foot-high ledges. Heart-stopping: yes. Dangerous: no.

The headlines were sensational: “The Ledge Cracks and Shatters During Family Visit;” “Tourist tells of ‘this-cannot-be-it type of moment’ during Willis Tower incident.” And the comments were hilarious: “Chicago, Chicago! New attraction: Fall from the 103rd floor or 1,353 ft!” However, anyone familiar with glass floors knows that they are made to withstand breakage and remain structurally safe.

I called Ludek Cerny, who was the glazing project manager for The Ledge glass boxes when they were installed in 2009. Cerny explained that The Ledge’s glass floors are made up of three ½-inch lites of low-iron glass, laminated with DuPont’s Sentry Glass Plus. The laminated floor is topped with a ¼-inch sacrificial layer of fully tempered heat-soaked glass. It was the sacrificial glass lite that broke underfoot of the tourists last week.

“The sacrificial layer is there to protect the main structural glass floor against minor impacts and scratches. It did exactly what it was supposed to do,” Cerny said. “It can be replaced relatively quickly. If the glass is stocked in the building, it should only take 4-6 hours.”

A statement last week from the Skydeck Chicago echoed Cerny’s explanation. “The Ledge was designed with a protective coating that covers the glass surfaces to protect against scratches. This coating does not affect the structural integrity of The Ledge in any way. Occasionally, the protective coating will crack, as it is designed to in order to protect the surface of the glass. We are replacing the protective coating on the one affected Ledge.”

Photo courtesy of The AP

Cerny went on to explain the incredible testing that was performed on The Ledge system prior to installation. For the structural load test, “we created a Ledge box with all the fittings used in the actual construction and loaded it with steel weights, 500 pounds at a time, measuring the deflection throughout the process,” Cerny said. “Several thousand pounds of steel weights were loaded. And, when the entire load was on, we broke the top [laminated] lite. The deflection increased, but not tremendously. We then went ahead and broke the second lite. There was a little more deflection, but it still held several thousand pounds.”

At that point, the system went beyond the requirements of the structural tests, as it supported several thousand pounds of weight with two of the three laminated lites broken. However, out of curiosity, the team decided to see what would happen if the final third laminated lite was broken. “After the third lite was broken, we walked across it. We were easily supported with just the structural interlayers,” Cerny said.

After having walked on The Ledge just a few months ago, I can certainly understand why it would be an alarming experience to see and hear the glass beneath you break, while looking down more than 100 stories. However, it’s nice to be reminded of how safe and strong those systems really are.

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at

Monday, June 2, 2014

Our industry made national news this week when "The Ledge” at Willis Tower in Chicago had a busted piece of glass. This now famous all-glass overlook suffered a breakage on its sacrificial layer, and to us glass people it's no big deal. But to the worldwide media, it was the opportunity for hysteria.

Usually the media only pays attention to us during ratings months when they do the classic—and overdone—investigative reports on mysterious glass breakages in your shower and patio table glass. So, this gave them something new to bring to the table and allow the mis-education to fester. After a couple of days, the folks writing the stories finally hit upon real experts to explain no one was in danger and so on, but by then it was too late. Maybe one of these days we’ll get proactive stories on things like our energy-efficient glass; dynamics; or hurricane-, safety- and fire-rated glazing. You know, products that make a REAL difference. I can dream, can’t I?



  • Thanks to the always classy James Wright of Glass Coatings and Concepts for some of the heads up on the above adventure. Always great to hear from you my friend!
  • The neatest story in a long time may be the one from Western Window Systems where one of their employees got company logo tattoos. Loyalty is tough anywhere in this world, so seeing someone care enough about the company he works for to make it permanent is a pretty cool thing.
  • Another industry retirement this past week. Phil Blizzard of YKK AP is hanging it up. Phil spent more than 30 years in the industry, and my interactions with him were always memorable. Simply, Phil is just a good guy. Enjoy your new life and catch lots of fish.
  • Check out this story about a giant bear taking a nap on a utility pole. It is surely clickable, because it’s not something you see every day!
  • Good luck this week to the folks in Canada at the Glass Connections Conference. From all indications, this show is primed to be fantastic, and I still remain bummed I’m unable to attend. Once again though, it continues the hot trend of trade shows and their effectiveness. 
  • On that note, registration is now open for GlassBuild America. Last week I noted the phenomenal new education set up, and this week the show is now open for business. With the floor loading up with innovative exhibitors from all over the world, it’s going to be epic!
  • Last this week, it’s now June. Soon we will be halfway through this year; it’s flying by for me. Maybe because we had no spring. Though I am thrilled to say I have not yet had to turn on my air conditioning. As someone who prefers to be cold than hot (theory being I can always add layers, love sweatshirts etc.), I usually jump to get the AC going. Now that I probably jinxed myself, it will be 90 here and when I do click the cold air on, it probably won’t work!


Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I recently received an email from Tim Casey at Jockimo telling me about a fascinating collaboration for his company: Solar Roadways. I think the developers explain it best in their now viral YouTube video, as “technology that replaces all roadways, parking lots, sidewalks, driveways, tarmacs, bike paths, and outdoor recreation surfaces with solar panels. And not just lifeless, boring solar panels. Smart, micro-processing, interlocking, hexagonal, solar units.”

And, they are topped with glass. Jockimo, in conjunction with Solar Roadways, has developed a cast textured glass surface that can handle heavy traffic while allowing sunlight to pass through to solar cells beneath.

“It’s estimated that if all roads in America were converted to Solar Roadways, the country would generate three times the electricity we currently use,” according to developers.

This technology is still in its infancy. (The company is five days away from completing an already successful crowd sourcing campaign to bring Solar Roadways beyond the prototype stage.) But imagine the impact of just converting even just a fraction of our roadways (big box parking lots, perhaps?) into electricity-generating surfaces.

Perhaps the most innovative aspects of Solar Roadways are the “extras.” The panels stay slightly above freezing, melting any snow and ice. LED lights can easily be incorporated into the panels, allowing for any necessary surface signage (lane markings, warning signs, parking lot configurations, etc.). The surfaces are pressure sensitive, warning drivers of debris or even animals in the road ahead. And the roadways contain two corridors: one is a cable corridor, to replace the necessity of overhead power and telephone lines; the other is a water runoff corridor.

Could the future of our roads lie in solar panels?

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at
Monday, May 26, 2014

Huge news broke last week with the announcement of a new program and how it relates to you and your educational “must haves." Express Learning will be held on the floor at GlassBuild America. There have been education sessions in the past, but they were usually in a conference room a few floors above the exhibit hall. These sessions will be on the actual trade show floor and will be short, 20-minute sessions—the perfect length for learning. And did I mention it’s FREE? If you are an attendee or exhibitor at the show, you can come to as many sessions as you want, free of charge.

Some awesome subjects are on the docket as well—subjects that can make a significant difference in your business and approach, such as “Solving our Workers Shortage” and “Help Architects Help You.” “Solving our Workers Shortage,” should be front and center on everyone’s mind. This is basically a crisis right now, so any insight and education is a must.

I’ve always said those who don’t come to the show get left behind by their competitors. Now with this Express Learning program, it's even more crucial you attend and get involved.


  • An industry classic, Jim Roesing, announced his retirement this past week. President of Super Sky, Jim stepped down after leading that company since 1987, with 47 years total in the business. I had the honor of working for a short time with Jim, and it was a tremendous experience. This is a guy that changed the way the modern commercial skylight was developed and installed. He was a true pioneer. Plus he looks just like the most interesting man in the world (the one from the Dos Equis commercials), and easily can tell stories that would make him eligible for that title if it were real. Our industry will miss him for sure. Enjoy the retirement, Jim!
  • Katy Devlin's blog from last week on Las Vegas was excellent reading. The stories behind the whole City Center project would make an amazing book. I wish I had the time, money and talent because I’d love to do it. So much fodder—from the planning, the financing, the building, the problems, etc. It would read better than any thriller on the market today. Or, at least a fun book for construction geeks, like myself.
  • The Dodge Momentum Index had a nice jump in April after a couple of down months. I think people are now getting busy in every region. The worry now is two fold: finding workforce (as noted above) and dealing with cash flow. Both issues really have a serious way of dampening the enthusiasm of a busier stretch.
  • Last this week, I find myself rooting hard for the gang at the Green Building Initiative, and I believe you all should as well. I have been outspoken against LEED for its various issues, but I dislike nothing more than a monopoly for services or ratings. LEED right now is the biggest and baddest on the block, but the Green Building Initiative is making inroads. The Green Building Initiative had two interesting releases recently, one showing a diverse list of new projects that received their certifications, and a second comparing their cost on a project to that of LEED. The second is worth the read, especially when you see LEED’s cost in the six-figure range, while Green Building Initiative comes in at less than $10,000. Competition is a very good thing folks, let's hope this gets embraced because green building is only going to grow. We need good and logical options to rate and certify it. 

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Las Vegas economy and construction market is showing signs of new life, with unemployment on the decline, and new building on the rise. But as home building improves, and construction cranes begin to populate the strip in increasing numbers, I have to wonder if the rebounding Las Vegas has learned from the sins of its past?

The Great Recession hit Las Vegas hard. Very hard. In fact, Las Vegas’ economy during 2008 and 2009 was the fifth-worst among 150 metropolitan areas worldwide, according to a Brookings Institution and London School of Economics study, as reported in the Las Vegas Sun.

The ramifications of the city’s withered economy were brutal, particularly to the local construction industry. When the economy tanked, the Las Vegas Strip was littered with halted cranes, stalled projects, and abandoned plans. In 2007, an additional 51,000 hotel rooms were expected to come online by 2012. By 2009, only 19 percent of those rooms were on track to be completed.

Las Vegas is known for its overindulgence. But, that overindulgence stretched developers in the city to overbuild. In the rush to build, the quality of work suffered. (See a mid-recession glassblog, “All’s Quiet on the Vegas Strip” for details on both the stalled projects and construction problems).

The Harmon hotel tower is one of the most infamous examples of Las Vegas’ building boom, and subsequent bust. (Read a 2010 GreatGlazing feature to learn about the project itself. It is pretty spectacular from a glass point of view).

"More than anything, the Harmon, designed by the noted architects Foster & Partners, stands as a symbol of overconfidence and an overextended construction industry rushing to keep pace with a boom of building and profits that gripped Las Vegas 10 years ago: an era when few people could foresee a day of too many hotel rooms and gambling tables, of an economic downturn so severe it could keep tourists away," described Adam Nagourney in a 2013 New York Times article about the project.  

Last month, a judge approved the floor-by-floor demolition of the never-occupied Harmon—or, Las Vegas' most expensive billboard, as it has become known. (The only use of the $275 million building since its construction has been its high-profile advertising real estate, with giant banner ads hung across the front façade.)

The dramatic story behind the now notorious Harmon tower could occupy its own glassblog series, from its celebrated beginnings as the cornerstone of the iconic CityCenter project, to the discovery of major construction defects, to the release of findings that the tower was too unsafe to occupy, to the quagmire of legal challenges and financial problems, through the final decision to demolish.

The Harmon is perhaps Vegas’ greatest construction catastrophe of the Great Recession. But it is one of many, evident in the shells of unfinished buildings still lingering on the Strip that will “mar the skyline for years to come; their decay a testament of false hopes,” said columnist David G Schwartz in a 2013 Vegas Seven article. For more examples, see the $3 billion Fountainbleau, expected to be demolished before it was even completed; the unfinished Echelon (though word has it that project will be revived as part of a resort); and the dozen or so others listed here.

I am delighted to hear about the pick-up in the Vegas economy—it is good for construction, and good for glass. And it’s just in time for the industry’s largest show, GlassBuild America, where new products and building solutions can redirect for stronger, longer lasting construction and communities. A smarter, more sustainable building boom could keep the city's economy jumping for a long time to come.  

Devlin is editor of Glass Magazine. Write her at
Monday, May 19, 2014

One area where the glass and glazing industry is a true leader is in hurricane glazing products. Time after time, when a hurricane hits, buildings that use hurricane protective glass and metal come through with flying colors. So it's no secret that this industry follows closely the annual hurricane forecasts put out by various weather agencies ahead of hurricane season starting on June 1.

Right now, the United States is on a record run with it being nine years since a major hurricane (one that is classified as a 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale) hit landfall. As an example, “Super Storm Sandy” last year was only a category 1. The last major hurricane was Wilma in 2005. For this year, the forecasts are once again calling for the season to be below average, but the experts are worried since this nine-year streak is now the longest on record since 1878.

Among the weather experts, there’s a gut feeling that our luck is about to run out and we may see that major hurricane this season. Given the absolute craziness of our current weather patterns, I for one would not rule that out. The clock starts in a few weeks; we’ll see if we once again dodge the major bullet, but if not, at least we know the products this industry provides will once again be doing their jobs well.


  • A friend of mine this week sent me a copy of the wildest specification they have ever seen:

"Items listed with no substitute manufacturers have been requested by Owner/Architect to match existing for continuity and/or future performance and maintenance standards or, because the owner just wants it that way.” 

Gotta love that last line. I was not told which product that this was for, but man I wish I had that sort of protection back in the time I was in manufacturing.

  • A major congratulations to Chris Dolan of Guardian Industries on his newest position at the company. Chris is now Director of Marketing- North America Flat Glass and the promotion is well deserved. Chris is the “MegaTron” of the industry (see my past fantasy football article) because of his ability to be in so many areas and do them all extremely well. He’ll absolutely do a great job with this new challenge!
  • Not only are the people at Google interested in the world of “glass,” but they’ve also developed a self-driving car. Seriously. After reading this article, I can tell you there’s no way I could ever sit in a vehicle and trust it the way Google expects you to. It’s a computer after all. And my luck would be, while the car was speeding down the road, the computer would get hung up like my home one does on random e-mails or websites. To me this may be scarier than anything else Google is developing.
  • Oh, and speaking of Google, if you have an account with them for Gmail or Youtube etc. you may want to check out this article about Google using your face and name in their ads. If you don’t want to be in them, the article does give you instructions on opting out.
  • If you are a manufacturer and you have not checked out Katy Devlin’s article on the new, serious wrinkles to LEED version 4, you need to do so. The issues she brings up in the piece will affect you and your business. You really do need to start understanding them.  
  • With Memorial Day next week let’s remember those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in protecting the United States at home and abroad. And as always, please keep all veterans and currently serving military folks in your thoughts as the jobs they did and continue to do are truly heroic.
  • Lastly, great comments left on the blog last week, and thank you to everyone who left them. I appreciate you all taking the time and adding to the flavor of the blog. Please keep them coming!

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I was fascinated this week about some energy efficient stats that the excellent John Wheaton posted on his twitter feed. The information made it pretty clear where our major issue is from an energy efficiency standpoint. Our problems are not as much with the buildings we are constructing now (though some are not good energy-wise), but with the existing building inventory that is outdated and guaranteed to be not even close to the energy standards that everyone wants/needs to achieve.

John posted stats from a conference he was attending, including: 93 percent of the current commercial building stock was constructed before 2003; and 74 percent before 1989! That is simply mind blowing. While many of those buildings have at least insulating glass (in the regions where it makes sense), many likely have outdated (or no) high performing glass, spacers and aluminum in them. So, while the push forward to build “better buildings” continues, we really need to examine the ones that are already up…


  • I was very happy for the fine folks at ICD on the announcement of the groundbreaking of a new facility. The Vockler family is pure class, and is flanked by great people like Steve O’Hollaren and Jim Butler, that just make them even better. This new step I am sure is very exciting for them and I know great things will come from it!
  • I do start to wonder what’s in the water in the Pacific Northwest. Every week I am congratulating someone from that area—Garibaldi, TGP, Hartung, ICD, NWI, Bill Coady, Rich Porayko, Chris Ketchum, Darand Davies, Washington Glass Association etc… What an area for solid companies and people.
  • Just a reminder on a great tool that I had to use this week for a friend. The Efficient Window Collaborative has a window selection tool on their website that is simply awesome. It’s great way to determine the best windows to buy for your home and the tool continues to become easier and easier to use.
  • Speaking of really helpful tools, for the first time I was able to use PPG’s “Glass eView,” and it was really strong. It offers lots of different options and uses. I was on there for a lot longer than I planned.
  • To me there’s nothing more frivolous in our economy than spending on political campaigns. While I realize it does help some aspects of the economy (TV Stations and Graphic Artists/Ad Agencies) the money spent is downright insane. In Michigan, it’s expected that $50 million will be spent on the senate campaign. $50 MILLION. Something is seriously wrong with this picture. I am sure 2016 Presidential campaign will break the BILLION dollar mark. And really, for what?  
  • Last this week… I got my new issue of Glass Magazine this week. Awesome as always. (And a special kudos on the graphic layout. Really impressive!) And, like I have been doing each month, I’m noting the ad in there that jumps out and impresses me. M3 Glass Technologies did it this month with a clean and catchy piece that made me stop and read. Nice job!

Read on for links and video of the week...

The author is founder of Sole Source Consultants, a consulting firm for the building products industry that specializes in marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management, as well as website and social media, and codes and specifications. E-mail him at

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

Monday, May 12, 2014

“Finding the really outstanding companies and staying with them through all the fluctuations of a gyrating market proved far more profitable to far more people than did the more colorful practice of trying to buy them cheap and sell them dear.” – Philip A. Fisher

It’s come to my attention that at least three commercial window manufacturers in my region are selling windows direct to general contractors and building owners. This is nothing new.

Many commercial window manufacturers are still recovering and are desperate to build back the volume they had pre-recession. Some commercial window manufacturers never did develop good sales teams and don’t understand the value of an effective window dealer network or how to build it. In each case the desperate manufacturers and their regional representatives try a time-worn quick fix—they sell direct to general contractors and building owners.

Here’s the typical pattern: Executives are hired by desperate manufacturers to help turn around a slow sales pattern. These inexperienced and hungry manufacturer’s executives know they need sales quickly. They and their reps get the brilliant idea to sell product direct to general contractors and building owners and the manufacturer lands some big jobs quick.

The manufacturers are delighted at first to get some jobs…they then see their sales plummet. The manufacturer’s national window dealers eventually find out about the manufacturer’s direct sale practices, so the dealers stop representing those manufacturers. The manufacturers then realize they do need the dealers to consistently generate sales, handle sales effectively within their regions, and guide the sale, purchase and installation process to completion. The manufacturer then stops selling direct and comes back to the dealers asking forgiveness. But it may be years before the manufacturer regains a presence in that marketplace. Which brings me to a business fable…

Once upon a time, long ago, in a prosperous United States, there were strong and respected fenestration manufacturers. Many of them were old, great companies, who developed great products that became widely used throughout the land. New manufacturers came along, and they copied the products of the old, great companies. But there was enough business for everyone, so the people built nice buildings and all were happy.

One thing these manufacturers had in common is they had great sales teams. These executives knew their products, understood sales cycles, fixed problems, and above all, they built dealer networks and worked closely with their dealers.

Yes, I know it sounds impossible, but the manufacturers of old took their dealers by the hand and trained them in the business. The dealers learned about the manufacturers’ products and services, and in turn the dealers sold and serviced the manufacturers’ products. In many cases, the manufacturers had high standards for who could become their dealers. Not just anyone could be a manufacturer’s dealer, and manufacturers awarded loyal dealers geographic territories to roam around in and sell. And all was good.

And then dark clouds covered the land. The old, great manufacturers changed. The newer manufacturers changed. Greed, inexperience, and fear blinded all the manufacturers. In their zeal to cut costs and look only at the short term profits, the manufacturers forgot how their sales teams controlled the industry and had built great dealer networks who brought them wonderful, consistent business. So it was then that the manufacturers cut their sales teams back, forgot how to build their business for the future, and cast their dealers adrift. And the manufacturers shrank, and became victims to the changing economy.

After many years, one of the manufacturers became tired of being small, having an erratic sales pattern, and unreliable dealers. This manufacturer learned of the past, prosperous years with consistent sales volume. And so the manufacturer decided to build back a strong sales team. They took the time to learn about dealers and build a loyal dealer network. Their dealers were each given a specific geography to cover. Those dealers were trained, and the manufacturer’s sales team worked hard to please the dealers. And the manufacturer became great again. Their dealer network shined and built the business for the future. The other manufacturers saw this, and began to follow the example. And so everyone became prosperous again, and joy reigned throughout the land. And they all lived happily ever after!

The Moral of the Story: Invest in your sales team. Carefully select strong dealers for your network. Train your dealers. Give your dealers geographic exclusivity. Build for the future. And live happily ever after.

“If you don't have my back when I'm struggling for success, you can’t be by my side when I eventually succeed.”– Rashida Rowe

Rod Van Buskirk is the 3rd generation owner of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co. in Champaign & Springfield, Illinois. A past NGA Chairman, Rod looks at the industry from the middle of nowhere, steals ideas from anyone he can, and pretends to know what he’s talking about. Rod invites your comments as you are certainly smarter than he is.

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Glass Association, Glass Magazine editors, or other glassblog contributors.

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