Summer musings: sea glass and tipping points

It’s not quite like being a kid, but I still enjoy this time of year. A trip to the beach, a good book, even sweating in the lawn. Summer always seems to be a good time for reflection, learning, planning...

For example, the other day I spotted a piece of sea glass. Yes, sea glass.

You know, those irregular shards of glass that, after years of pounding and molding by the ocean, eventually wear into smooth collectibles. Indeed, one man’s trash truly becomes another’s treasure.

Time does just that. It changes the mix and shape of things. And much like shards of glass cast about by the sea, businesses are shaped and buffeted by the relentless forces that surround them. Change is inevitable.

I recently watched a video interview in which a leading industry CEO proclaimed that the auto glass industry is in crisis. He went on to make a number of poignant observations that, no doubt, can all lead to such a dramatic conclusion.

So while I hesitate to disagree with such a notable senior executive – whose experience and knowledge of the industry dwarfs my own – I’d like to offer a slightly different take: The auto glass industry is not so much in crisis as it is facing a "tipping point."

You know well the immovable forces shaping your business:
· Shrinking insurance reimbursements, which now force you to work with
two penny-pinching customers: Joe Consumer and Mega Insurance Co.
· Networks
· Unstable pricing
· Tighter margins
· Competition from other market segments
· Mergers and consolidations
· And sadly, in many cases, outright business closings

While all of the above might reasonably be classified as presenting a “crisis,” I believe these transformative developments are simply accelerating a natural weeding-out of winners and losers.

Which brings me back to my summer reading. You won’t be surprised to learn that I just finished a terrific read called, drumroll please ... "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference" by Malcolm Gladwell.

Gladwell defines tipping points as “the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable.”

He discusses how messages and behaviors spread like viruses, starting as a series of small movements. They cut through the clutter, and eventually stick, creating a new context to which the winners will adapt. Those who are unable or unwilling to adjust lose.

In my travels, I have visited a number of successful auto glass companies. These firms are adapting to the changes that envelope them. They are winning, not just with hard work and persistence – traits that always define winners.

They are rising above the competition with superior quality (supported by a commitment to employee training) and best-in-class marketing. (Shameless, but relevant, plug: You can see many of these companies at the National Auto Glass Conference next February in Orlando.)

Here’s a question to ponder: Are you facing a tipping point? If so, you’re not alone. It’s time to invest in the things that can push you into the winners’ category. Quality … top-notch marketing … training …

While you’re at it, you may want to pick up "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Difference." After all, it’s the summer!


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