Monday, July 6, 2009
Anybody who knows me knows I am easily enthused. Let's face it, sometimes the little things, even the most trivial, matter. And I am excited as I pen this note on this beautiful July 4 weekend.

True, my mood was just brightened as I listened to the Brewers walking in the Cubs’ winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Sorry, fellow Domer/Brewer Craig Counsel. Them’s the breaks.

But my excitement today goes beyond another Cubbie win.

As Dutch might have said, “Well … we made it.” The worst is behind us. The economy has bottomed out. And not a moment too soon. So the economists tell us.

Monday's headline news affirms this: "U.S. service industries--from retailers to homebuilders--contracted last month at the slowest pace since September, a sign the worst recession in half a century is easing," said economists at the Institute for Supply Management.

Indeed, while many businesses and individuals are still struggling mightily, many manufacturers, suppliers and glass shops have gotten through the worst in decent shape. A few are even flourishing. All is not well--by a long shot--but the proverbial light appears to be flickering at the end of this very dark and dreary tunnel …

The first half of this year was akin to drinking ditch water on a hot summer day. It’s all we had, so we had to drink it; but it sure tasted awful. Hopefully, we've buried that ditch once and for all and that gorgeous, sparkling oasis we see in the distance isn’t a mirage.

As we soldier on, several interesting threats--aka, opportunities--remain.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt was quoted this week as saying that our country needs more manufacturing. We know how true that is; especially in the glass industry.

But China remains a major player in the manufacturing arena. A few months back, I was impressed when Ford Motor Co. announced that it now has the same labor cost structure as Toyota, at some $50 per hour. I was equally shocked to learn that Chinese firms can produce cars at $13 per hour of labor. So the competition is there.

But so is the opportunity.

Indeed, if Immelt’s challenge is to be met, we as a nation must make some important, tough decisions. We need policies that support job creation, without being protectionist. Now more than ever, our unified involvement is needed.

The Obama administration is already talking about a second stimulus package, based on last week's abysmal job creation numbers. What shape it takes, who knows? But we all know that government can only do so much. At some point, the private sector must step up and make the real difference.

In speaking with NGA board member Kevin McMahon last week, he indicated the local association meetings he attends are brimming with business people doing just that. These tough times are clearly prompting people to reach out and connect, network, and yes, create their own economy! It seems we’re all tired of drinking the ditch water.

We’re seeing this play out with GlassBuild America too. If early registrations are any indication, we could be on pace for a wonderful year! In fact--all things being equal--we’ve seen equivalent, if not higher, registrations for this fall’s show than we’ve seen over the previous two years.

You know what I’m going to say here …

It’s time to network, build your business and create your own economy! And there’s no better place to do that than at this fall's GlassBuild America expo. Register today to attend. I promise: We won’t be serving ditch water. After all, ditch water is for dogs; it’s time to drink from a better source.

And if you're looking for a book to add to your summer reading list, try "Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World," by Tyler Cowen. Just released, this quick and timely read focuses on how you win by innovating, sharper thinking and working harder.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association
Friday, June 26, 2009
How much involvement should the federal government have in the personnel policies of U.S. business owners? That is a question at the heart of the debate surrounding the Healthy Families Act (H.R. 2460/S.1152). If passed, it would require employers with 15 or more employees to offer paid sick leave to their staff: about seven days per year for full-time employees and one hour for every 30 hours worked for part-timers.

In an industry that has shed nearly 1 million jobs in the past year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, construction companies and their suppliers have had to come up with creative ways to avoid layoffs. The introduction of mandatory paid sick leave could mean the difference between making payroll or not, argue Associated Builders and Contractors officials. "Small businesses across the country are struggling to keep their doors open in these trying times and mandating paid leave will only aggravate this already fragile situation, they stated in a June 10 letter to the House of Representatives. "At a time when employers are struggling to avoid layoffs and business closures, imposing paid leave mandates on employers is unwise policy that threatens jobs and the viability of many of the nation's small businesses," they stated.

Proponents of the act, however, point out that many Americans feel forced to go to work when sick for fear of losing their jobs or a day's pay. "There's something wrong when people have to choose between their jobs and taking care of themselves or their families when someone is sick," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut in a New York Times article

I think we can all agree that employees should be able to take a sick day if they or their family members are ill. The question is, on whose terms? Should sick day policy be up to the employer or the government?

—By Jenni Chase, Editor, Glass Magazine
Thursday, June 18, 2009
On June 10, the ConsensusDOCS coalition published 11 new contract documents and forms to help make bidding, negotiating and managing construction projects easier and more efficient for sub-contractors.

At a time when the stimulus and other federal construction programs are rapidly expanding, general and specialty contractors will benefit from using the first standard subcontract to address new complex contractual rules and regulations for federal government projects, according to a June 10 release from the AGC of America.

“With America looking to the construction community to rebuild our economy and restore our hope, the last thing we want is contractors being excessively burdened by complex rules and regulations,” said Tom Kelleher, senior partner in Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP and chair of the national coalition of associations who wrote and endorse the new standard contract, in the release. “The new ConsensusDOCS federal subcontract will keep needed construction projects from getting tangled up in red tape.”

The new document, known as ConsensusDOCS 752 – Subcontract for Federal Government Construction Projects, addresses the terms and conditions needed for subcontractors and contractors to comply with Federal Acquisition Regulations, Kelleher noted in the release. The contract also addresses new legal and ethical requirements pertaining to the legal status of employees, complying with ethics rules, as well as federal Prompt Pay Act requirements.

The document was written, reviewed and approved by a team of professionals representing every part of the construction process, including contractors, subcontractors, owners and sureties.“There is no need to reinvent the wheel every time someone wants to engage a subcontractor or work as a subcontractor on a federal government construction project,” Kelleher said.

ConsensusDOCS contracts are the first and only industry standard contracts written and endorsed by 22 leading construction organizations, according to the release. They offer a catalog of more than 90 contract documents covering all methods of project delivery, and utilize best practices to represent the project’s best interests. Endorsing organizations represent designers, owners, contractors, subcontractors and sureties.

Take a look, and let me know if the new contract documents will make life easier for you to bid on a federal or stimulus-funded job.

—By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Friday, June 12, 2009

Glass companies have been forced to make some drastic and painful cutbacks during this recession. However, one business area that has remained fairly unscathed during the downturn at most glass companies is research and development.

According to the May 19 e-glass poll, only 21 percent of respondents reported cutting R&D; during the slower economy. Forty-seven percent said their activities had stayed the same, and 32 percent said they were increasing activities. The industry as a whole will greatly benefit from this collective innovation, and the individual companies dedicating themselves to R&D; will come out of the recession poised to gain market share and stand apart from the competition.

“Research and development can be expensive, there is no denying that. But without it, your business, as well as the products or technologies that you provide, would grow stagnant. Without R & D you could even be missing out on new opportunities in industry sectors that are still thriving,” wrote Courtney Wilson, consultant at Northbridge SR&ED; Consultants, in a March article.

Glass companies investing in R&D; could receive an additional boost from the federal government, if a recent proposal from the Senate Finance Committee goes through. The committee, in a move to further support companies’ R&D; efforts, unveiled new legislation June 8 to make it easier for companies to receive the R&D; tax credit, according to a same-day article from RTTNews.

"In this global economy, research and development by American companies is critical to our economic recovery and the long-term global competitiveness of our country," said Max Baucus, committee chairman, who sponsored the bill (D-MT), according to the article.

So, what are some of your R&D; activities at your company? Post a comment, or e-mail me at

Katy Devlin, commercial glass & metals editor, Glass Magazine

Monday, June 8, 2009
Matt Rumbaugh, division manager, Education, Training, and Certification, National Glass Association

One of my first projects when I started at the NGA was to work with Mike Burk of Edgetech IG to get his presentation on Glass Handling Safety onto I traveled to Cambridge, Ohio, with a video crew to watch Mike demonstrate the proper use of personal protective equipment, two-man carries, and what to do if glass slips out of your grip while you carry it. The result is one of the more compelling (and popular) courses on There’s a reason that’s the case. Mike eloquently and clearly makes the case that good safety practices not only save lives, they save your business money.

The National Safety Council estimates that the average cost of a disabling injury on the job is approximately $43,000. The cost of a death on the job is well over a million dollars. That’s a tough figure in any economic climate, but even more so today. With so many glass businesses struggling, an unexpected financial hit like that could be devastating. Yet, these are the businesses that need to give extra attention to these matters. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, construction-related trades such as glazing make up about 8 percent of the U.S. workforce, but account for 22 percent of work-related fatalities.

Besides the injury risk to your employees and the financial risk, how would you feel if OSHA knocked on the door one day? Would you be ready for an inspection? In Connecticut, it’s mandatory for any licensed glazier to take an OSHA 10 course, a trend that will likely find its way across the country. Plus, many general contractors require that any subcontractors working on their projects must be OSHA 10 certified and many require at least one to be OSHA 30 certified.

To help our members with this important issue, the NGA has partnered with a group to bring OSHA training online via If you’ve been looking for a convenient, affordable way to get your employees OSHA-certified, this is a great opportunity for you. You can find out more detail at To celebrate, we’re offering a special deal on all our safety courses all through the month of June. If you purchase any of our new OSHA training, we’ll also include access to our safety course bundles (either flat or auto, including AGRSS information), which is a $45 value.

Safety is important anytime, of course. Beyond the financial risk, no one wants to lose a valuable employee. But in today’s economy, there’s more at stake than ever. A little prevention can save your business a lot of headaches and a lot of money.
Friday, May 29, 2009
I know all you folks out there are proud of your rides. Sure, they carry your product from point A to point B, but is that all they do? I bet, no. Your trucks are little pieces of you. They reflect the personality of their owners and their companies.

For instance, I heard of a guy at one GBA who outfitted the inside of his sprinter van with a full set of decorative glass and a tile floor to take to homeowner shows and unveil the possibilities. There was another guy who covered his truck with tarp and displayed his customer’s logo in giant lettering on the tarp along the side of the truck.

Trucks can be moving billboards for your company. You can use them as a canvas to paint your company's brand personality and to impress your target audience. A lot of you are doing that already. In the July/August issue, we want to put your trucks in the magazine and up on the Web in a photo gallery, so everyone can see how you are using them as a marketing tool. Some of you have already heard from me, soliciting images of trucks that tout your company; for the rest, this is your opportunity to display your rolling billboards in the magazine. E-mail the pictures to me and show off your rides to all your peers and customers. The images need to be high resolution, 4X6, 300 dpi, and the deadline is June 5. For caption information, we need:

Name and location of company submitting truck photo
Name/model/type of truck
Name of truck supplier
Name of company that provided signage
Favorite feature of the truck

Let's line up those babies for all to admire!

—By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
Monday, May 25, 2009
--By Chris Mammen, president, M3 Glass Technologies, Irving, Texas

I am a big believer in what my friend Bill Evans preaches in this same blog: a positive attitude can and will drive our economic recovery. Most of the time I do have a positive attitude, and when I don't, I'm pretty good at faking it. So I had a real conflict going on inside of me last week after spending just three days in Washington, D.C.

I guess that I perceive negativity emanating from D.C. for two reasons: first, most of the news reported out of D.C. these days is either negative on its face, or is contrary to my own fiscally and socially conservative views. The negative press has been well-documented and at this point is just "a given," and my political differences with the "powers that be" are really a personal problem to be remedied through the democratic process. So, there's no reason to let them get me down. The real reason I get a bad attitude soon after arriving in D.C. is disillusionment.

This was our third year in a row to attend the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Summit in D.C. The first time, I was excited and had grand visions of sitting down with my senators and representatives to discuss the issues facing small business. After all, I was there with the U.S. Chamber and thought they would want to hear what I, their constituent, had to say. (At this point, you are laughing at the typically naive first-time visitor to The Hill, right?). Well I wasn't laughing, I felt pretty small after getting turned away at every office I visited, without even getting to talk to a staffer. That's right, I relinquished my control over my own attitude to people I didn't even know, and I "let them" turn me into a cynic with a bad attitude.

I regained control of my attitude pretty fast, though I did remain a devout cynic in regards to our representative form of government. When we returned the next year, we had strength of numbers--a small delegation of award-winning companies, rather than one lone voice. While we did rate a private tour of the Capitol from a congressional staffer (it was her third week in D.C., and I think she found the tour to be educational), we again realized how important we are in Washington's eyes as we were leaving. We had been told that the Congressman was not in, but when we left his office, we saw him leaving through another doorway! Props, however, to Senator Hutchison--she took time to speak (ever so briefly) with us and pose for pictures. Of course, the newfound cynic in me wants you to note that this could have been somewhat self-serving, as she is about to run for governor ...

Last week, our third visit in as many years, saw mixed results again. At least this time I wasn't surprised. The Congressman that dodged us last year made up for it with a lot of special attention, devoting a couple of hours to personally give us an after-hours tour around the Capitol. He seemed sincere, and he does have the best pro-business voting record around, so he somewhat redeemed himself. Our other senator, on the other hand, pretty much blew us off. I had to just laugh. Actually, I had entered the week with a sarcastic attitude toward the whole thing, but I ended up with a net improvement in my feelings about our Congressional delegation.

In the end, I did leave D.C. with a positive outlook. The U.S. Chamber puts on an excellent summit, full of experts and well-known personalities. They are a good resource for small businesses, and (as I discovered first hand), they do have clout on the Hill, and they exercise it on our behalf with much success. They also offer first-class business seminars, but the best part of the summit is the opportunity to meet and interact with other business owners from around the country--this is where meaningful learning takes place. Don't be tempted to cut out professional and personal development when times are difficult, this is when we all need to be growing, learning, and looking for that next opportunity. This is when we need to be setting an example for others in our business community, and even for our employees, by investing in ourselves, our businesses and our economy. It's really a win-win opportunity to improve ourselves and our businesses while helping others to do the same.

Everyone reading this should take at least one such opportunity in 2009: The Glass Build America show in Atlanta Sept. 30-Oct. 2. I personally guarantee* that your benefits in attending the show will come back to you 10-fold. See you there.

*Chris Mammen's personal guarantee only applies if you bring a good attitude and make a bonafide good faith effort to learn something. Does not apply if you already think you know everything. Any claims against this guarantee must be made in writing and must include the correct answer to this question: What is the original source for the title to this blog, "The Captivity of Negativity?" Eligible claims will only receive an e-mail from me telling you that you must not have had a positive enough attitude and stop being a victim! No monetary guarantee is made or implied. Guarantee void in D.C.

Monday, May 18, 2009
During a recent staff meeting, I was reminded just how many important initiatives are underway here and pleased by the forward momentum we are making in spite of the current economic situation. I decided to share a few quick highlights on GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window & Door expo with you in hopes that they will both encourage and inspire you to increase your involvement with your association.

Registration for this fall's GlassBuild America is now open for trade show attendees and education track participants. The program will feature a strong lineup of high-level sessions covering the solar panel industry, energy efficiency and an economic forecast for the window and door market. I encourage you to join us in Atlanta for the largest and most important annual gathering of the North American glass industry, Sept. 30–Oct. 2.

Speaking of GlassBuild America, we continue to receive positive indications daily that our members are resolved to confront the economic headwinds straight on. One tell-tale sign is that new exhibitors are signing up steadily, including some that had previously planned to skip the 2009 show due to budget cuts (see recent press release). We are obviously encouraged by these moves, and believe we are starting to see the initial stirrings of a recovery as companies return to investing in their long-term growth.

We’re introducing a new Innovations Pavilion to GlassBuild America, which we believe will spark additional interest in the show both within and outside the industry. And registration is now open for our 4th annual Glazing Executives Forum, one of the most popular and successful events on the NGA calendar. The one-day event is held the first day of GlassBuild America.

We are well aware that this remains a challenging time for most of our members, and I thank you for staying with us. Together, we will prevail.

--Phil James, president and CEO, National Glass Association, McLean, Va.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Making a profit is vital to a business. That is obvious to all. Getting paid is even more important. At my company we concentrate on getting paid quickly and creating positive cash flow. We have regularly scheduled meeting, every Wednesday morning, which includes all salespeople and our bookkeeper.

The bookkeeper gives a report of all accounts that are at least 30 days old. Each respective salesperson must report to the group the actions, if any, he/she has taken to collect the account. This permits all of us to learn which accounts are slow pay and which accounts do not pay. We have worked diligently at this and our collection period is currently averaging 32.3 days from the date of invoice.

A “third party” approach to collecting works well. We use a “third party” approach to help collect debts. For example, I say to a debtor “My dad always said that people that stay in touch with you will always pay you, but those that do not will always bat you out of it.” By referring to a third party, in this case my father, the message is clear, but not taken as a direct attack. Invariably the response is “I won’t beat you out of it. I’ll pay you.” This response allows you to set deadlines for payment without appearing attacking. The debtor has already promised to pay you. You are merely asking when they will pay you.

Another tool we use to increase our cash flow and reduce our days outstanding is to get deposits when taking the order and collecting the balance immediately upon completion of the job. Most customers are prepared to pay upon completion. Ask for the money.

Good cash flow allows you to pay your vendors within a discount period and take a discount from them. Ask you vendors for better terms. They will increase the discount amounts if you just ask. Two percent 10 days, 1 percent 30 days, net 45 days are all available in these times.

Creating good positive cash flow is a cycle that is vital at all times.
—Bill Evans, president, Evans Glass Co., Nashville
Friday, May 1, 2009
It's that time of the year again. Give us your best, the most innovative and out-of-the-box products and/or projects, and you might just get to be a proud winner of Glass Magazine's 2009 Crystal Achievement Awards.

For 2009, we’ve added several new categories for the commercial, retail and fabrication markets. Review the instructions for submissions, categories and judging process below; then fill out the nomination form.

The deadline for nominations is May 14, 2009.

Here's how to submit your nomination: To give the judges a fair idea of your product/project, please describe your entry in 400 words or less, with a focus on the unique or innovative elements. For the “most innovative application” categories, only projects completed between May 2008 and May 2009 qualify. E-mail corresponding electronic images to me. The photos must have a resolution of 300 DPI or higher and be in JPG format.

A panel of judges that represent a cross section of the glass industry decide the Crystal Achievement Award winners. Judges are not allowed to vote for their own companies, or in categories in which their companies are competing.

Once nominations are received, Glass Magazine staff members prepare a judging packet consisting of descriptive information and photographs of the entries for the judges to review. If you would like to be a judge for the 2009 Crystal Achievement Awards, please call me at 703/442-4890, ext. 150, or write

If you have questions or require additional information, please feel free to give me a jingle.

Review the 2009 Crystal Achievement Awards Categories. Submit your nomination today.

Get on the ball now, you don't have a whole lot of time left. May 14 is less than 10 days away. Good luck!

By Sahely Mukerji, news editor/managing editor, Glass Magazine
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