Viewpoint: Earnest Thompson

In an interview with Glass Magazine contributor Max Perilstein, Earnest Thompson, director of corporate marketing and brand management for Guardian Industries, discusses what surprised him about the glass industry, and where he sees it headed.

Thompson

Max Perilstein: You came to our industry after a long and prestigious stint at Siemens Corp. What surprised you about our industry as a whole when you first started at Guardian?

Earnest Thompson: The product complexity surprised me, as well as the varied nature of the value chain. I've worked in enough industries to know [that] things are never as they seem. From the outside, for example, people tend to say things like "glass is glass." From the inside, we see the myriad variables in performance and configuration. The industry's challenge is to communicate the value that's added along the way―features and performance that should really make a difference to the end user.

MP: Coming into a company like Guardian, you had to work closely with two absolute legends: William (Bill) Davidson and Russ Ebeid. How was it working for and with them?

ET: I've worked much more with Russ than with Mr. Davidson, coming in when I did five years ago. Mr. D's primary words to me – and he said this more than once – were: "you sure have your work cut out for you." I took that as motivation to learn the glass industry and Guardian culture in a hurry and not bring in any preconceived notions. Russ has been a great mentor and "professor of glass," introducing me around the industry, around the world. By the way, Guardian has a great bench. There are many other "legends," and legends in the making.

MP: Guardian is so diverse, with so many product lines and brands to manage. How do you divvy up your time to make sure everyone is getting the best treatment from you and your staff?

ET: I have an excellent team―small, skilled and focused―and great colleagues who are all willing to go the extra mile, the extra hour. We have annual and monthly plans, of course, and keep on track by closely working with segment solutions teams: our SunGuard, ClimaGuard, EcoGuard, Electronics and Interiors folks. But in this 24/7 world, we re-calibrate every day.

MP: Fun one. Martin Scorsese comes to you and says he wants to make a movie about your life. What actor do you want to play you, and what musical group does the soundtrack?

ET: The second part of the question is easy: Scorsese always uses a few [Rolling] Stones tunes. So I'll go with "Start Me Up." As for an actor, I don't know. I used to get Stacy Keach of Mike Hammer fame a lot, but we've both outlived our commercial potential in movie land.

MP: Fast forward 10 years, where do you think we are as an industry? Do you think our advancements will be appreciated and respected more than they are now?

ET: I fully expect that glass will be better appreciated and more valued in 10 years. We're kind of in our Starbucks phase, going from commodity product to branded solutions and experiences. Our product developers and marketing directors keep their fingers on the pulse of what both our customers and their customers want. And the industry keeps coming up with new ways to delight end users (think iPhone, touch screens, interiors, solar energy, electronics, lighting and so on). I can only speak for Guardian, but I'm sure the best is yet to come. 

Read additional interviews in this article series with Guardian Industries' Russ Ebeid, Sage Electrochromics' Helen Sanders, PPG's James Bogdan, and Trainor Glass Co.'s Tom Trainor,