glassblog

Monday, August 1, 2011

Well, the time has come to finally introduce my new venture, or more aptly put, my new AD-venture! I have founded a new consulting firm for the building products industry called Sole Source Consultants. The mission of this new organization is to help businesses prosper by offering expertise in virtually every aspect of their operation. My specialty is the marketing, branding, communication strategy and overall reputation management side, as well as website and social media, and of course, code and specification assistance. To make sure we can meet any need out there, however, I have also been working with some of the best independent consultants our industry has to offer. So, that's the basic pitch. For more information, e-mail me at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com and I'll gladly provide specific details.

Also, I will note that after this post, I will not promote my business in this space. This blog will remain the popular industry observation point that so many have flocked to since 2005. I am humbled by that and thank you for reading. I will have a specific blog for the new company on the Sole Source site that will cover issues pertaining to that business, but I have no desire to ever mix the two.

Finally, as I have worked to put this together, I have been repeatedly asked why I am going in this direction. What was my thought process and so on? For companies in our industry, I believe now is the time to attack, business-wise. It is time to step up, get ahead of the pack and be a market leader as the economy continues to evolve. Smart companies are making the moves necessary to be at the forefront, and they will be in the market for the services that a group like mine can provide. But this is also about my family. My great grandfather, grandfather, Dad and brother Steve all started businesses and did extremely well. I want to see if I can measure up to their awesome legacy. I also wanted to create a vehicle that my kids (along with my wife, brother, sister and Mom) can look at and be proud of: a venture that sets the tone for the future, provides positive services and helps people achieve and reach their goals.
Plus, rumor has it that if I do well, I might move up the rankings of the favorite people in my Mom's life. Right now I am perking around #17... so there's that.

Anyway, thank you for reading and supporting the blog and my career over the years. Please know I truly appreciate any and all consideration you send my way.

Elsewhere...

  • Since this blog was so long, we'll save the posts for next week, when I will have a piece on a very scary and discouraging story about glaziers getting cut out of the food chain by generals, and  the mistakes that come with it. So come back for that next week! 

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

Write Max at MaxP@SoleSourceConsultants.com.

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, July 25, 2011

You have heard it before: Relationships are everything. And in today's market, this all too familiar saying holds more weight than ever.

We have seen the economy affect the industry in a multitude of ways, some more difficult than others. However, one aspect of the business that has not slowed down – and in fact, I venture to say has increased – is aggressive project schedules. Each and every job that comes through is important, and if a vendor or contractor cannot meet the strict timeframe, it runs the risk of losing the project.

We're seeing many factors contribute to this trend. Although times are tough, code development has not slowed down. And with that, there is an ever-increasing need for higher-performing glass products to meet strict codes and regulations. Because these codes are changing quickly, this can and has affected the timeframe of many projects. Capital expenses are also limited, so if a project is prolonged, it runs the risk of actually running out of capital. So better, faster, stronger is the name of the game.

What's the connection between this trend and the ole' saying, "relationships are everything"? Well, providing the customer with ways to quickly expedite a project takes customer service to a whole new level. At the end of the day, it enhances that customer relationship. So the more we can work together to meet this increasing need, the more successful we will be, independently and collectively as an industry. 

Turner is vice president of marketing for YKK AP America. Write him at miketurner@ykk-api.com.

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, July 25, 2011

Last week, we saw yet another rough batch of results from the AIA's Architecture Billings Index, featuring the third straight underwhelming month. The fear now is: when you string three months together, that can constitute a trend. according to experts. On the positive side, at this time last year, the ABI was just as bad. Yet, current business levels have been solid to very good. A majority of the industry is busy right now, so possibly the attention paid to the ABI is not what it's cracked up to be, and maybe it's not that accurate of a metric. No matter how you slice it, we all know there are holes in our economic world right now and that even with current increased business levels, no one is confident they can be sustained long-term. The fundamentals have to come back, and hopefully, that happens sooner than later. Until then, we'll track everything and anything we can to get a vision of what is still to come.

Elsewhere...

  • Congrats to my friend Dr. Helen Sanders of Sage. All in one week, she appears in front of Congress and is featured in a story in The Wall Street Journal. Excellent. Just remember us little people Helen, and remember the little blogger that did one of the first Q&A's with you. I guess that is the rightful path though: Glass Magazine to Congress to WSJ. I love it!
  • GlassBuild America is coming up, and when I made my travel arrangements, I was very pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive the flights to Atlanta are. Trust me, I know how tight everyone's budgets are (mine basically doesn't exist!) so seeing the deals for Atlanta was pretty awesome. So, if you are on the fence, go check the rates and book. For those prices, you can't afford not to be there!
  • Speaking of GBA, one of the seminars I am looking forward to is the BIPV one. Solar is something so many people are curious about in our world, and the lineup for this seminar  is very good, moderated by the esteemed Richard Voreis. If you have any curiosity at all about this emerging technology, this seminar will be a huge help.
  • Flying as much as I have in my past, I thought I had seen it all, but this week I saw something new. I watched as a flight attendant had a serious verbal altercation with what had be an 80-plus-year-old lady. They went at it for at least 10 minutes and the flight attendant almost walked off the plane! The argument was as we were loading. I have no clue what started it but talk about watching a wreck happen. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed. You had to be there...
  • Looks like we'll have football on time this year... so why am I so unenthusiastic about it?
  • Last this week: How about a hand for all of the folks who are working in the field or in the plants right now during this massive heat wave? Those folks are the real heroes of our business anyway, but especially during conditions like this. Stay cool and safe folks! 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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, July 18, 2011

JD Williams When I retired as executive vice president of United States Aluminum Corp. in 2001, the annual sales volume was approximately $120 million. In 1980, we had three small factories, and by 2001, we had five large factories, plus 13 service centers located throughout the U.S. We struggled through some tough business cycles, but as a group, USAC and parent company International Aluminum Corp. maintained profitability.

After IAC was sold to Genstar Capital LLC in January 2007, the corporation went through additional ownership and reorganization. The International Architectural Products Corp. that recently filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy was a completely different company than the one that owned USAC from 1964 to January 2007.

It was sad for me and other long-time USAC employees to witness the demise of IAC, International Window, International Extrusion and United States Aluminum. I certainly understand how former USAC customers felt betrayed when Chapter 7 bankruptcy was filed. It was extremely difficult for me to see the US Aluminum name tarnished.

Going forward, my hope for USAC was for the future buyer to meet three criteria so that former employees could rebuild the company and re-establish customer confidence:

  • Financial strength
  • Understanding of the architectural aluminum market
  • Top management with strong product knowledge

Don Friese and CRL meet all three criteria. CRL has grown its business very successfully over the past few years by adding many innovative new architectural product lines. That CRL will be expanding its product offering with additional storefront products is not a complete surprise to me. I was only surprised that its entry into the arena was by purchasing USAC.

Some architectural metal companies catering to the smaller glazing contractors may see this as a negative. Personally, I am not of that opinion. I only see this as a positive move. When YKK started its operation in the United States, many architectural aluminum companies were very vocal about YKK coming to the U.S. and only saw gloom and doom! YKK is a good competitor and forced some companies to cease taking things for granted. A business can be compared to a vegetable garden: "When it's green, it is growing; when it gets too ripe, it begins to rot." YKK forced all of us to remove the weeds from our garden to keep it green and growing.

Personnel at storefront manufacturers would be better served to concentrate on pointing out the good features of their products and service; and it does not hurt to point out the financial strength of their business. It is a poor business person who finds it necessary to criticize the products of the competition, their service or anything else to do with their performance. A prudent business person should wish that all of his competitors are profitable and growing their business. 

--JD Williams is a former president of International Aluminum Corp. and was executive vice president of US Aluminum operations from 1981-2001. 

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, July 18, 2011

This past week, I found myself discussing the value of the "green" movement. A few years ago, slapping the word "green" onto your materials gave the then-unknowing masses the impression that your company had the golden key to success. But as time progressed and people became more knowledgable, "greenwashing" (yes, it has a name) became out of style and distasteful, and those who did it were somewhat ostracized. So now, there's not as much of a "green" push. But has the lack of promotion hurt the cause?

I say yes and no: Yes, from the standpoint that the more light you shine on a subject, the better coverage it gets. No, because more and more people are grasping the idea that energy efficiency means taking action--doing your part, your green duty as it is. At the end of the day, doing the deed is better than just talking about it. The bottom line is that we, as an industry, still have to keep pushing the pedal to the floor to create and advance our technology as it relates to "green." energy, "sustainability" or any other heading you want to throw it under.

Elsewhere...

  • Want to know something that is probably not green these days? The color of the grass in parts of the drought-riddled South and Southwest. I swear, I was looking at the national map one day last week and it looked like there was a dome covering the state of Texas that wasn't allowing a rain system in. Mother Nature continues to be cruel, and this historic drought continues.
  • With all of the talk in DC about the debt limits and budgets, how come no one gets upset that the bogus chase and trial of Lance Armstrong, professional bike rider, will cost our government more than $100 million? How is that sane?
  • An interesting Top 10 this week from CNBC: the Top 10 Cities least affected by the housing crisis. The survey notes that declining home values have touched every city, but these 10 have weathered the storm best. If your city is on here, congratulations, as I bet when the list of most affected cities comes out, mine will be on it. Here goes:
    10. Greenville, SC (Awesome place by the way)
    9. Knoxville, TN
    8. Durham, NC
    7. Rochester, NY (shocking to me, actually)
    6. Pittsburgh, PA
    5. Yakima, WA
    4. Little Rock, AR
    3. Tulsa, OK
    2. Oklahoma City, OK
    1. Fayetteville, NC
  • I mentioned books last week while propping Bill Evans' wonderful recent post, and here's one if you are looking for a quick, breezy read on the greatness of a company and marketing plan: "First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon." It is the story of Gatorade and how it was developed, but more interesting is how its marketing evolved. At only 280 pages, you can finish it quickly, or in Scott Surma time, one treadmill session.
  • Last up this week: a great site to get around the whole automated operator systems that many mega-sized companies have in place. Click here, and the site will give you tips to follow so that you can talk to a real live human being! Imagine that. And no worries, I have no plans of adding an automated phone system here at From the Fabricator Blogging Inc. or at my next venture... coming soon.... 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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, July 12, 2011

Well, that slow cycle of news in our industry didn't last very long did it? Last week, two big stories hit. First was the news that C.R. Laurence acquired U.S. Aluminum. CRL has been a force in the industry for many years, and this maneuver continues to solidify that fact. The interesting part starts now for the gang at CRL, as they rebuild USAC and put the pieces back in place. They made a great first move by getting Tom Harris back in the fold. Also worth watching will be how CRL puts USAC back in the game. Will it be nationally, or more on a regional basis out of the gate? And how will the return of this capacity affect that side of the industry? Seemingly never a dull moment around here. Also to note, a lot of the props for this deal will automatically be directed to Don Friese and family--and they deserve them no doubt--but without question, CRL doesn't keep growing without the steady hand and influence of President Lloyd Talbert. That guy is the straw that stirs the drink there, and a brilliant businessman.

Elsewhere...

  • The other major deal reported last week was the sale of gigantic glazier Permasteelisa to JS Group out of Japan. While Permasteelisa is a massive player in the world of glazing, this story is nowhere near as big as the one above. Nonetheless, still fascinating to follow.
  • I really enjoyed Bill Evans blog post from last week. I'm afraid with how crazy last week was with the holiday, people might have missed it. If you did, you can click HERE to read it. The best part was his item at the end with the value of a book vs. lunch. Now that is truly food for thought!
  • The glass industry, and specifically Guardian, got great coverage this past weekend with an article in the Indy Star out of Indianapolis. The home décor writer of the paper wrote a piece on how glass really is great and gave some serious love to the folks from Guardian and their products. Any time our world can get positive mainstream coverage like this, it's a major victory.
  • Fun one to think about: the start of bread coming in slices hit 83 years ago this week. So that was the beginning of "sliced bread," which begs the question, what was the greatest thing BEFORE sliced bread? And comically, the younger generations are totally lost on the whole "better than sliced bread" concept...
  • Well, the big Seattle-Portland MLS game was Sunday afternoon and the atmosphere was really electric, even watching on TV. If you took the graphics down and just listened to the crowd, you would have thought you were watching a game being played in Europe. Great second half, and Seattle came back twice from deficits to win. So for my Seattle friend Chuck Knickerbocker of TGP, a sweet victory for his town. I am sure a "told ya so" email is coming my way!
  • Last this week, how can you not salute the greatness of Derek Jeter? The guy has been a clutch player his entire career and has lived in the most glaring spotlight possible, yet has never had anything close to a mis-step. From all accounts, he is just a solid citizen. And he also knows how to please a crowd: a homer to get to 3,000 hits as part of a five-for-five day! I think Jeter right now sits as the next unanimous Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, without question. 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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, July 5, 2011

Last week I had noted that despite the falling ABI score that optimism was in play and that in my own informal polling, people were reporting that they were busy. Well this week some tangible proof of that came through when the Institute for Supply Management reported that June factory activity rose nicely in June. That good news from the manufacturing sector also helped fuel a great week on Wall Street. No doubt it is nice to see positivity in more of a real format compared to a feeling! The hope now is that this momentum can be sustained. Many of the people I talked to had concerns that come fall we could be back to where we just came from and I believe there will be some softening, because there always is in our cyclical world, but hopefully not dramatic enough to make a major case.

Elsewhere…

-- Hope everyone had a good holiday weekend! Canada Day and the 4th of July all fitting nicely into a weekend. Gotta love the way the calendar fell this year… won’t be as lucky next year sadly.

-- The story surrounding the W Hotel in Austin is becoming more and more fascinating by the day. For an industry guy like me I get a kick out of seeing who is being called on to comment and provide analysis. In the article from Saturday’s edition of the Austin Statesman, you had whole run of guys mentioned, from Chicago legend Mark Meshulam to Paul Beers and Bill Lignell. Plus even a piece written for Glass Magazine by Tony Leto was noted. I have a feeling this story is nowhere near done and should be an interesting watch.

-- Outside of the W story, it really was a slow week in the industry, which is probably welcomed since we’ve had more drama in the last 8 weeks+ than I can really remember. I am actually pretty happy that I have little to write about this week!

-- Congrats to Butte College for going off the grid- going all solar. Story is here and shows that there are some people really thinking out there.

-- How about the new twist on an old internet scam…. Remember the whole “I am a Prince and if you send me X dollars to release my fortune, I’ll share with you” angle? Well now the scammers are doing a wild one. They are sending out notes that they are the authorities in these countries and that they have arrested said scammers and there’s money to be paid back to anyone who was approached by the scammers. All you have to do is send them some cash to get your “settlement” released. Absolutely amazing. I swear the people that come up with this stuff, if they used their powers and creativity for good, our world could be so much better.

-- As some of you know I am a soccer guy- usually more national games than league games, but this coming weekend in the MLS is a huge game between Portland and Seattle. An incredibly fierce rivalry and passionate crowds. Will be a must watch. And I believe for a birthday gift for my friend Kris Vockler of ICD, Portland will deliver a win.

-- And speaking of Kris, she is due to facilitate a seminar on trends in the Decorative Glass world at GlassBuild America. Decorative is a prominent and healthy product segment and this seminar will be a must if you have even the slightest interest or dealings in that world. GlassBuild America as a whole is coming along nicely- I am sensing a lot of enthusiasm about it as people are realizing to keep up and to get ahead of the market, this is a show you have to attend.

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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, July 5, 2011

My company has been in business for 55 years. My father started it, and I have been hanging around since I was 5 years old (I am 56 now). During the lifetime of the business, as well as my personal lifetime, many relationships have been built that have stood the test of time.

Recently, Sun Capital bought two of my primary suppliers. We have been a customer of TGI, a UGC company, and its predecessors for 40 years. During this time, their salesmen have become friends. I know the names of their spouses and children. I know where their kids go to school and their hobbies. We talk about business occasionally; we talk about family often.

Sun Capital also bought Vitro America. We have been a customer of Vitro and its predecessor for 15 years. My children and the children of one of its salesmen are the same age. We have enjoyed sharing the adventures of our respective kids. The branch manager is from the area of the USA where my son currently lives. We enjoy talking Cajun cuisine and favorite beverages. (I am still waiting for him to cook crawfish for me.)

Will Sun's acquisitions impact these relationships? Through eliminating job duplication and streamlining the business, I am concerned. Change is difficult and, quite frankly, I have reached the age where I prefer to maintain comfortable relationships in lieu of developing new ones. I am worried that Sun's purchases might impact our industry much like Wal-Mart changed small town America. Will our industry, and by that I mean the small traditional glass shops, become viewed as a commodity to be taken for granted by a large conglomerate, or will relationships still matter?

I am open to new relationships that understand the values that matter to me. Regardless of how my old friendships may change, I will be proactive in developing new ones that benefit my company.

Recently, a new potential vendor called on me. His company competes with one of the Sun Capital firms. I am a book giver who keeps a stack of small books in my office that I give out frequently to visitors. So, I gave him a book during his first visit. Upon his second visit, he returned the favor and gave me a book. I love to read, and books go straight to my heart. Wow, what a great gift! A book is far superior to lunch. A book lasts forever; lunch only lasts until it's digested. Maybe this guy is worth the effort required to build a trusting relationship. Long-term relationships DO matter to me. 

—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville   

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 27, 2011

When it comes to economic conditions, the past week hit both ends of the spectrum; the spectrum being "hopeful and worrisome" vs. "good and bad."  On the worrisome side was this month's release of the Architecture Billings Index. The numbers were not pretty and indicated that the positive momentum from earlier in the year has dissipated. The most disappointing was the new project score, coming in with its lowest total in the last 18 months. But at the end of the day, the ABI is not the "end all, be all,," and its momentum can quickly swing back to the positive.

On the hopeful side was the news out of Apogee this week that it has a better backlog and expects positive trends as the year proceeds. The bottom line is we knew 2011 wasn't going to be easy and we all hoped for the second half to be the start of a solid rebound. Now, there's evidence of that possibility.

Elsewhere...

  • And in my own non-scientific poll of industry folks this past week, it sure sounded like places were busy and seeing some nice forecasts. At the end of the day, it's the reality of what businesses experience that really matters, not the reports from the various groups.
  • The guys at Glassopolis are known for creating great ads. Well, this past week, one of the Glassopolis guys had a part in creating something really great. Rob Botman and his wife welcomed their third child to the fold. Jasper joins the team now (love the name!), and I am sure is already working Dad over about what the next great creative campaign will be. Congrats to Rob and family!
  • Not sure if anyone caught the crazy Gold Cup soccer final between the U.S. and Mexico. That's the type of game the casual fan could enjoy. Mexico came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the U.S. 4-2. I believe Alejandro Sanchez had a big part in the win for Mexico, making it the second time this year that he broke the hearts of many Americans. Great game nonetheless.
  • Congrats to the gang at Holcam on the launch of their new marketing initiatives. Very well done and smart to get out there and bang the chest a little bit. They also added some very smart pieces to their approach that I believe will make a difference. Well done folks!
  • My iPod on shuffle continues to be like Tony Robbins. The first two songs on my run yesterday were: "Seize the Day" and "(Don't Fear) The Reaper."
  • And last this week.... I was very honored to get the full transcript of the speech Guardian's Russ Ebeid presented at Glass Performance Days, and I must say after reading it, I am blown away. Just a tremendous piece and tons of takeaways... One of the big ones for me personally was this line:

    "In challenging times and rapid change, companies must be smart, nimble and wise, focusing on their customer's needs. It is not the time to be hesitant or timid – it is an opportunity to prune for future growth. It is time to have the best people. It is time to be the best at what you do and make sure your customers know it."

That incredible and very true line will serve as inspiration for me in my next steps... coming soon.

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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 20, 2011

Tying up loose ends and cleaning off the desk once again with short and assorted subjects...

Big news for the industry last week when I heard that marketing superstar Christine Shaffer was leaving Viracon to go to Apogee sister company Tru Vue. I'm very happy for Christine; the folks at Tru Vue pulled a coup (sorry for the cheesy rhyme, too easy.) Its tough news for our side of the industry as no doubt Christine was a shining light, but at least she'll be close by.

  • Christine was listed on this blog back in 2007 as one of the superstars of the industry, and it was fun to go back and re-read that. The others in that inaugural class are all still plugging along at high levels: Greg Carney, now on his own as a world class consultant; Brian Craft, still not reading my blog but doing great for Guardian; Mike Gainey, still a force at Azon; and Julie Schimmelpenningh at Solutia, who is always on the top of everyone's list. Only Scott Surma is missing from our industry now, but he is still kicking tail and taking names. I believe he still follows the drama here when he has time.
  • I hated missing Neocon yet again last week, but heard tons of buzz from my architectural friends about it. Congrats to the fine folks at General Glass. Evidently, they made a tremendous impression on the show goers because I heard about them specifically from one of the premier interior architects in the U.S. Also heard positives on the gang from Walker (and their "Dance Fever" floor) and Guardian's big splash, but judging from the action, GGI took the cake. And to think my brother wasn't even there to take it all in!
  • Went out for a run on Saturday and the first song shuffled to my iPod was "Eye of the Tiger" followed by "The Good Life." Wondering if that can be some sort of omen; the run ended with the classic Aerosmith tune "Dream On." Hmmmm....
  • Congrats to the Bruin fans out there, and my condolences to the fine Canuck fans (the non-rioting ones) on their loss. The Bruins were so good they were able to get past my prediction skills.
  • Speaking of the riots, did you see that the shops damaged by the riots can't put the losses to their property insurance? Evidently, this would fall under something else and they would need actual "riot" insurance. It's amazing; do insurance people ever pay anything out?
  • Getting excited for GlassBuild America, and I am not alone. More than 40 first-time exhibitors have joined in so far, and I know for a fact that there are more still to come. The timing is right for show this year, and the people that want to get ahead of their competition will be there. I plan on having much more coverage on this as it creeps closer, because it will be the place to be.
  • And finally this week, as most people who followed the situation expected, I am no longer employed. It is what it is. At the end of the day, it was a pleasure and honor to work with some unbelievable people over the last 10 months and I am sorry we didn't get to finish what we started. I am thinking and praying for all of them. As for me going forward, we'll see. I am getting excited over some possibilities, and as soon as there's something to report, I'll bring it. Until then, I'll be plugging along working on the manuscript for Groundhog Day 2. 

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

Write Max at maxbcat@aol.com.

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.

Page 33 of 61
 << First | < Previous 31 | 32 | 33 34 | 35 Next > | Last >>