Monday, April 16, 2012

Humor me this week, please, as I start off with a quick reflection: It was an e-mail conversation I had with Rodger Ruff of AGC that hit home for me this week. I made a comment that we are living in a crazy world, and his reply was along the lines of: "My dad just shakes his head all of the time at the antics and goings on in our society."

It made me think, as I often do, of my own father, who has been gone for 11 years, the anniversary of his passing actually this week. My dad would never have jumped on the computer to read this blog. I am sure my sister would have printed it out every week and faxed it to him so he could read it the way he wanted to. My dad also would have been amazed--but actually not surprised--at the adventures in the industry. As many old timers can tell you, a lot of what we have seen these last few years is a repeat of the past.

My dad would be beaming with pride over the way his oldest son (my brother Steve) has survived frustrating times and landed beautifully on his feet. He would be tickled but still in awe over the fact that after many years in the glass business, my sister actually found her true calling on the floor at Nordstrom. And obviously, he would be shaking his head all of the time at my antics. And if he was around today and reading this post, he’d tell me to quit it, so I’ll move on, but know that I miss the man pretty badly. He left this crazy world way too soon.


  • This past week, there was a regional glass show in Texas, and I stopped on through. One of the main speakers was from the National Association of Home Builders, and he was very interesting. He noted that many of the economic indicators are moving in the right direction, but just aren't anywhere near where they have to be. The most fascinating stat involved how they track the housing markets. Six months ago, only 12 areas had positive economic indicators. Today, that number is 101. There is still a long way to go, as that number represents only a third of the areas they study, but it's improvement.  
    I also got to see and hear the fiery and passionate Deron Patterson of PPG. That is one dude that can bring it. Jeremy Kaeding of Sage gave an impressive presentation as well. And it was great to run into old friends Greg Oehlers and Jack Wickstrom, looking dapper in their Tri Star Glass gear. I was able to see the great Premier Glass Products team, which now includes Bob Larson, and for the first time in quite awhile, the always classy Larry Long. It was nice to run into Bob Cummings of Trulite. I haven't seen him in awhile, and he continues to be the most optimistic and friendly guy around. Even to me! Last, it was great to see Bob Lawrence in person. I get to e-mail him from time to time, but nothing beats seeing such a good person face to face.
  • I finished the Steve Jobs autobiography this week on the planes (two planes; no Internet; ouch!), and it was solid though not spectacular. If the book could have just been a case study of his business life, it would have been perfect.
  • Last this week, a neat stat on candy. Highest volume candy sales in the U.S. in 2011: Snickers, 470M; followed by M&M’s at 383M; and Reese’s at 343M. Wow, just imagine what those M&M numbers could’ve been if I wasn’t on a diet the first six months of the year! But seriously, those are some mindnumbing numbers.

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

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, April 10, 2012

Have you submitted your nomination for the 2012 Glass Magazine Awards yet? If not, you still have time to make the April 16 deadline. 

The Glass Magazine Awards: The People, Products and Projects will recognize the best projects and products the glass industry has to offer, as well as the individuals behind them.  Categories include:

  • Most innovative curtain wall project
  • Most innovative curtain wall product
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: commercial interior
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: commercial exterior
  • Most innovative decorative glass project: residential
  • Most innovative decorative glass product
  • Most innovative energy efficient glass project
  • Most innovative energy efficient glass product
  • Most innovative protective glazing project
  • Most innovative bath enclosure product 
  • Most innovative bath enclosure project 
  • Most innovative machinery/equipment 
  • Most innovative commercial window 
  • Most innovative website 
  • Most innovative electronic resource (to include apps, widgets, website tools, etc.)
  • Best installer
  • Best project manager
  • Best production supervisor
  • Best sales rep

There is no fee to participate, and winners will be featured in the July issue of Glass Magazine, on, and in e-glass weekly. So submit your nomination today!  And if you have any questions, please contact me directly at

Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine, and e-glass weekly. Write her at

Monday, April 9, 2012

So last week I defended my positivity, and amazingly this week, I start off with a little bit of a negative edge. There are just some things that set me off, and this is truly one of them. Readers of this blog know that I have never really been a fan of the Department of Energy. I have found them weak, feckless and usually smitten with one side of the story, with no desire whatsoever to learn the other. Lately, the DOE has been in the news thanks to adventures in the solar world and loan guarantees gone bad, and this week, they yet again made the wrong kind of news. Evidently, the DOE started a contest for “app” developers to create programs for consumers to measure how much energy they use. This contest offers over $100K in cash prizes. The problem? There’s no need for the contest! There are already several apps out there! In addition, do we really need to spend $100K on something so frivolous? It just boggles the mind. Meanwhile, the DOE blows off legitimate products that could use a bump of cash and support. But, a contest to create something already created makes the cut. Unreal.


  • A pretty wild story this week on Serious Energy and the adventures that might or might not be happening over there. Here’s the link. It's an interesting piece to say the least, and with a title like “Serious Energy in Serious Trouble”, I think it might be worth a read.
  • A few major personnel moves from this week: Dan Plotnick has joined Guardian in the Asia Pacific region. A great grab for the guys at Guardian, Dan is a super-talented guy and one person brave enough to read my stuff in China. Bob Larsen has joined Premier Glass Products, making a good group even better. I have known Bob a long time, dating back to us sharing a board of director assignment together, and they just don’t make 'em much better than him.
  • Also, Consolidated Glass Holding Group named its CEO with the announcement of Tom Ryan. Welcome to the wild and wooly glass and glazing industry Mr. Ryan.
  • If you missed it last week Rod Van Buskirk had his debut blog, and I have to say, it was a great maiden effort. Rod’s work looks to be a “must read” every time out, and considering it will only come quarterly, there’s surely no excuse to miss it. 
  • And speaking of “missing it,” if you haven’t checked out the latest issue of Glass Magazine, you need to. Seriously, one of the best all-around issues I have seen. From cover to cover, great articles, information and advertisements. Congrats to Jenni Chase and the team at Glass Magazine on a job well done.
  • A job well done to the folks at Technical Glass Products; they launched a new website, and it is simply super. Clean, sharp and tons of info. Plus, it looks to feature a great social concept, including a blog from Jeff Razwick that I am holding out high hopes for.
  • Last this week: NHL hockey hits playoff season… I have been warned I am not allowed to pick the Canucks, Capitals or Penguins. Fans of those teams have demanded I don’t jinx them. Sadly, (especially being a Pens fan) I wasn't picking those teams anyway as I am going with a Cup Final of Chicago vs. Boston… for the Hawks I think Patrick Kane carries this team and the Bruins are a solid, well coached team and I think they are going to repeat and hoist the Cup again.

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, April 3, 2012

This week, glassblog introduces “Fenestration hallucination,” a quarterly blog addressing industry, management and sales issues, written by Rod Van Buskirk, president of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co.

“The successful man will profit from his mistakes and try again in a different way.”
--Dale Carnegie

Fear and ignorance have ruled the fenestration industry for decades.  Most companies in our industry don’t do what good salespeople should: follow up with customers to find out what is really happening in the marketplace, in order to maximize profit.  Instead, we’d rather drop price quickly to build sales, and ignore our margins.

Mirror is the same price per square foot now as it was when I came into the business 35 years ago.  Major glass fabricators’ production volume has returned to 2008 levels, but their margins are cut in half.  Glaziers have a long history of marginal profitability. As far back as 2001, an annual surety survey comparing the profitability of all construction segments indicated every segment that year saw a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in profitability, except two trades: excavators and glazing subcontractors.

No doubt you’ve reduced your overhead as far as you can.  It may seem counter-intuitive in this tough marketplace, but do your market research and raise your profit margins now. If you do your homework, you might find the market can bear more than you realize.

You lose when you chart a “break-even” strategy.  Most of our industry is facing reduced long-term sales volume and ever-increasing employee overhead.  The bankruptcies and consolidations in our industry point to the failed strategy of seeking gross-profit volume over per-employee net profitability.

Changing values, changing habits
One key reason why you’re able to raise profit margins is that the downturn has changed the way Americans value their purchases.

We all have less money now, so every dollar matters more to us when we do spend it.  Within three short years, saving and spending patterns in this country have radically changed.  Retailing nationally will never be the same.

Thus, our buying habits have changed. While overall consumer spending is down, when considering a sizeable purchase, Americans are now actually willing to spend more if they perceive that product or service will be better, higher quality, last longer, etc.  When we do spend that precious dollar, we must get more from it. 

So sell ‘up’!  Meet the new demand for higher quality.  Sell quality products and personal service, and your customers will likely pay that extra amount.  You can make more on what you do … but you must deliver higher value to keep that repeat customer.

“Profits, like sausages... are esteemed most by those who know least about what goes into them.”
Alvin Toffler

 Rod Van Buskirk is the third-generation owner of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co., with locations in Champaign and Springfield, Ill.  A past NGA Chairman, Rod looks quarterly 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.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In what could be considered a really ironic twist, I have been getting beaten up lately for being too positive. It’s funny because I used to be seriously negative, but I guess time and circumstance have mellowed me. The latest dust-up stems from when I talked about the fact that most people at last week’s industry get-together were trying to stay positive. I was taken to task by a few folks because they said it’s basically not true, the majority of our industry is not seeing what I am seeing and so on. And while I think I am more positive than most, I am not alone. This week, a few items came riding to my rescue.

First, on the residential side of things, the CEO of major U.S. homebuilder Toll Brothers said he “sees improvement everywhere." Then, in the always excellent WDWeekly, Senior Editor Christina Lewellen had a great piece about the housing industry showing signs of life. Lastly, the AIA ABI continued to be in positive territory for the fourth straight month. These are just a few of the factors I believe are part of bigger push forward. So, I think my optimism is in the right place. I am not overboard like the people I talked about a few weeks ago here, but I am staying on that positive side of the street.


  • Major omission from my BEC post: getting to see the best barrister in the entire land, Mr. Kim Mann. He looks so much calmer now that he doesn’t have to worry about what I might say or do!
  • Really interesting read with the owner of the Empire State Building here. His stance on LEED is absolutely refreshing, and in my opinion, completely correct.
  • You may have seen the interesting story about the lawsuit involving Apple and the person who walked into the glass wall. Here is this great piece on the history of people suing after they run into walls. Amazing.
  • Several weeks ago, I asked for Twitter recommendations and I have gathered a few that I will share with you all next week. So, if you have any that should be added to the list, feel free to drop me a line.
  • Baseball starts up in full this week, so I’ll go on record with my official (wrong) pick. I think the Battling Bucs will win it all. Go Pirates! Oh wait, that is an April Fools Day joke (a dream though really). We’ll go Yanks over an upstart Washington Nationals team in the World Series.
  • Last this week, yet another link…but very appropriate for the audience. This time, a video: Guardian Industries was featured in a very nice piece about “Made in Michigan” on a local TV station here. It was very cool to see it and was fun to hear people talking about glass the next day while I was out and about. Here’s the piece, excellent stuff…

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, March 26, 2012

I recently had the opportunity to visit a prospect in a relatively new European country with a colleague. The lengthy trip from my home in Ohio was made with high hopes of returning with a nice order. Lady luck was not with us on that trip, but I returned with something even more valuable: a renewed perspective that personal relationships still matter in business.

The first person I encountered when I landed in this foreign country was a taxi driver. He quickly discovered by my accent and clothes that I was not a local. After such a long flight, the last thing I wanted was a chatty driver as all I cared about at that moment was a warm shower and a few hours of sleep. The short 15-minute drive to the hotel was filled with a narrative about his city and its history.

The next morning, another driver (the president of the potential customer) picked us up at the hotel. A great amount of time that day was spent on their shop floor and in their offices learning about their processes, machinery, people and company history. At the end of the day, the general manager insisted on taking us to see the historical sights of the region. His passion for his country and its history–like the taxi driver's–was obvious. He could certainly have been a very successful tour guide!

On the second and last day of our visit to this faraway land, I thought for certain that we would leave with an order. As the day went on, I realized that coming home with an order on this visit would not happen, even though the prospect liked our product and admitted that they needed and wanted it. This visit was a social call: an opportunity for them to get to know us and for us to get to know them. The president told us that he could not yet buy, as we had only met three  times previously at trade shows and during one other visit. They wanted someone they knew, someone they could trust: a long-term partner and not just a vendor.

We live in times where almost everything can be purchased with a click of the mouse, without ever a handshake or even a look in the eye. This long-distance social call was a great reminder that people sell to people, and relationships still matter, even in our age of instant gratification.

The author is president of FeneTech, the Aurora, Ohio, provider of software automation products and services to the glass, window and door fabrication industries. Write 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, March 26, 2012
Well, last week was the annual GANA BEC conference, and as I have done for many years, I'm sharing a recap of who was there, how it went and so on. Overall, it was good to see some tremendous industry people in attendance. I think everyone there had a positive attitude about the economy and was pushing forward to keep operations in a good place. So, for the most part, below is a very BEC- and people-centric post. It's much more like “Page 6” than normal.
But before I jump into the BEC recap and sightings, a couple of quick thoughts:
  • First, I am so proud to be an Ohio University graduate. What an effort by the Bobcats in this tournament. The team played with heart and grit and represented the university nicely!
  • Also, the video I ran last week on my blog of Emmanuel Kelly elicited more positive response than any video I have ever posted. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check it out here. Amazing story.

OK, on to BEC….

  • Before we talk people, two comments on the conference. First off, Keith Boswell of SOM was part of a panel on Tuesday morning. His presentation was pretty intense, insightful and relevant; one of the best pieces I have ever seen. On the flip side, there was a speaker on Monday that could have been the worst speaker I have ever seen. His speech was supposed to be about “positioning your business for the upcoming recovery,” and it was nothing close. It was more “how can I drop bizarre clichés and use other people’s words to make a few bucks in front of you folks.” It was disappointing because that title was as misleading as it comes. Put simply, think of a really bad Saturday Night Live sketch of a “motivational” speaker and that’s what you had here. I am still blown away at that catastrophe. He should be sent to interrogate war prisoners. After an hour of that, they’d give up the goods.
  • People-wise, it's time to name drop. Always nice to see Henry Taylor of Kawneer; he puts his heart into this event and I am proud of him. Also chatted with the cool and crisp Jay Phillips of Guardian, who happens to be the incoming GANA president. I was thrilled to get a hug from one of my all-time favorites, PPG legend Jan Rogan. I was also happy to see Stanley Yee of the Façade Group back at this event for the first time in awhile. Stanley is a classy and eloquent voice that this industry is very lucky to have. I always wonder why he even associates with me!
  • Got a few seconds with Greg Carney who is always in demand. He really is the cream of the crop in the consulting world. It was also neat seeing Aimee Davis of Solutia; the fact she jammed in a trip here with her crazy schedule was nice. Making her first appearance at BEC was PR guru Heather West, and getting to catch up with her was a pure honor. Also conversed with guys who are not only great at what they do but also respect and understand the rigors of blogging: Jon Kimberlain of Dow Corning and Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP. It was great to meet in person for the first time a couple of guys I have respected from afar: Oliver Stepe of YKK and John Wheaton of Wheaton Sprague.
  • And more: First time in awhile seeing Alex Kastaniuk and Joe Carlos of TriView. Alex sports a very cool Fu Manchu mustache, and both guys were pretty stoked about their business these days. I'm happy for 'em! Didn’t get to talk to Courtney Little of Ace Glass, but his presentations were strong and impressive. Got to spend a few minutes with Mark Spencer of Sapa, and he looked like he could suit up for Army football right now. Fun to see George Petzen of LinEl. No one gets more out of these conferences than George. Plus, he was showing some really cool BIPV images on his iPad that were impressive.
  • The Viracon contingent for some reason still puts up with me. Good to see the tweeting Seth Madole in person, as well the fashion model Cameron Scripture. I did see Garret Henson for a second, but now that he’s a powerful VP, he really can’t be seen in the company of a guy like me.
  • A major congrats to Mike Stroupe of DM Products, who had a hole-in-one while out in Vegas. Rumors are it was an 85-yard hole and he used a 3 wood: Can that be? LOL. Rich Porayko was also on hand, glad he could take a moment away from doing insanely good promotion for Hartung/Agalite to visit.
  • And last but certainly not least, the spacer world was well represented with guys like Joe Erb of Quanex, Mike Gainey of Azon and Mark Silverberg from Technoform. When I saw Mark, he was talking with Stan Yee and it was a reminder that we have great minds working for us in our world.
  • So that was it. I was bummed that I missed a few people. According to the roster, Julie Schimmelpenningh was supposed to be there, but if she was, she did a great job ducking me.

Next week, the post will return to normal and I have a bunch of items already lined up.

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, March 20, 2012

If you think back really hard, you might recall something called a backlog. Remember that once seemingly ubiquitous term? There hasn't been much talk of backlogs recently. However, I recently took a trip down e-glass weekly memory lane and discovered an August 2006 article, Selectivity helps glaziers control backlogs. The lead reads:

"In the midst of a busy nonresidential construction season, many glazing contractors nationwide face growing backlogs that stretch personnel resources and force managers to more carefully consider what projects they accept."

It was a totally different world back then, when backlogs were a major consideration for glazing contractors. That world was turned upside down by a Great Recession that continues to shake up our industry in some major ways. However, the word "backlog" has returned, albeit tentatively, to the vocabulary of some attendees here at the Building Envelope Contractors Conference in Las Vegas.

"In 2012, we have begun to see backlog," said Gloria Hale, president of Hale Glass. "We have been estimating like crazy. ... There's pent-up demand that's becoming opportunity."

Courtney Little, president, Ace Glass Construction Corp., said his company also is building up a healthy backlog. "Things have started to turn around for us," he said.

However, recovery has not ramped up in full for the industry. "These are still tough times for people," Little said. "Our company has a backlog, but nationally, I think it will be 2013 before we see improvements."

Despite the caveats, and the knowledge that the industry is certainly not out of the woods yet, hearing "backlog" spoken again has been music to my ears this week. Let's hope it once again becomes a must-cover editorial topic for us. 

Devlin is senior editor for Glass Magazine. Write her at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I can’t remember the last time I sat at the computer and didn’t have a lead story for this blog. Well, this week I have a combination of writer's block and lack of story inspiration. The lack of stories is a good thing; we’ve had more than our fair share of drama lately, so I am not complaining. But the lack of action is bad from a writing standpoint. So because of my conundrum, I have decided to clear off my desk and just hit you with a bunch of quick comments and tidbits, so here it goes:

  • Congrats to Bernard Lax at Pulp Studios. He had a good week, announcing the acquisition of California Glass Bending and launching a redesigned website. Bernard is truly a visionary.
  • Can this weather really be true? What a bizarre and mellow winter. I still think an ice storm for Easter is coming, but regardless, this winter has been an amazing event and one that the folks who are on the global warming train will be pointing to. (And the last time I wrote on global warming a year or two ago, I got a ton of comments. Just making an observation here, not presenting an opinion)
  • However, these crazy conditions have had their rough moments, so best wishes go out to the fine folks at Quanex and their TruSeal factory in Kentucky after they were roughed up by the severe weather that ran through their area last week. I think we all thought we dodged the weather bullet in our industry, but evidently not. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for all!
  • As many of you know, I am a fan of LinkedIn. When used correctly, it’s a great source. Anyway, my friends from Thermal Windows had a great link on their Twitter feed about how LinkedIn is a hacker's dream. Check it out here.
  • OHIO! LOVING the Ohio Bobcats. First, my alma mater did me proud with its stunning upset win over Michigan. It was made even better by the fact that I was at a hockey tournament with my son where all of the parents were checking their phones for the scores. Being the only Ohio fan in a Michigan crowd, I stood out like a sore thumb because I was getting fired up when everyone else was depressed. Anyway, a great win, but then winning Sunday night and making the SWEET 16 is beyond explanation. This is just too cool. Ohio vs North Carolina...Friday night in the Sweet 16; it's like a dream.
  • Saw that the end of the printed encyclopedia has come, at least from one major supplier. That is sad but correct. Now, when can we tell the architectural community that the time and need for binders have passed?
  • Thanks to the awesome Steve O’Hollaren of ICD for a great link about a losing coach going all “Mike Tyson” in a fight. I put this one up here instead of in the links because its just too comical not to share. Plus, it was an honor that Mr. O’Hollaren took the time to drop it to me!
  • OK, the desk is still a mess, but a little more clear. I am sure next week we’ll all be back to normal. And with a quick visit to BEC, I will surely have some news!

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, March 13, 2012

Yesterday, we published a special e-glass weekly report, breaking the news that Trainor Glass had filed for Chapter 11. An underlying question arises in these situations. What is important to cover in what is, after all, a bad news story for all involved, especially the former employees and suppliers that are owed money?

In bankruptcy stories, we try not to start by posting whatever financial details we gain access to. Many have told us they appreciate how we handle bankruptcy news because merely listing who’s owed what calls out companies potentially already in difficulty. The true value in covering bankruptcy stories is far deeper and more important.

With almost everyone I spoke to over the last several weeks about Trainor, the first reaction was shock followed by this question: What happened to cause such a large company with a great history, and what appeared to be good management, to fail? 

Other questions naturally follow, such as, are there more to come? What challenges do we still face with tight credit? How will Trainor’s failure affect the industry going forward? What lessons can we learn, for example, about pricing for market share rather than to cost? Will suppliers change their business practices to protect themselves better in the future?  

Katy Devlin’s in-depth report on the ripple effect Trainor’s closure will likely have on the glass industry addresses many of these questions, and there are still more to be asked.  

In these days of “expose-all reality TV” many Americans are riveted by the hyperbolic, often sleazy details such shows produce. I have several otherwise thoughtful, tasteful, discreet and informed friends who watch "Mob Wives." They tell me it’s like driving by an accident; you just have to look.  

Human curiosity is a powerful driver.  It’s what you do with it that counts.

The author is publisher of Glass Magazine and vice president of publications for the National Glass Association. Write her at

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