I have been reading a lot of articles and blogs about leadership lately. We have had the privilege of hearing from AGR’s most influential in the latest AGRR™ magazine. My fellow bloggers often times write about leadership values. With all of this mentoring available, why is this industry sinking under the weight of mediocrity?
Let me enlighten my readers about my attitudes about leadership. I will always appreciate a sergeant far more than I do a general. Generals delegate from afar while a sergeant has to deal with the real thing. I have observed far too many CEOs and politicians on fact-finding missions being told what someone wants them to hear under sterilized conditions. What we need are more undercover bosses and fewer cocoon-style leaders.
I deplore metrics. There are far too many decisions in auto glass (and elsewhere) that are being made solely on what numbers may indicate. How many gut decisions are being made these days on instinct, overall knowledge and experience?
People cost money. People with experience should cost an employer more money. AGR, like so many other industrial sectors, has embraced the concept that less is more. The industry cuts expenses by cutting manpower or hiring cheap untrained employees. Pile on the work for the little guy below while Wall Street is rewarded as is top management. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. However, if you want a rocket to actually get off the ground and stay aloft, one may very want to pay a rocket scientist his due instead of an accountant.
Take a long look of what has transpired to AGR over the past two decades. One company has captured a significant market share of insurer and fleet business. Our wholesale replacement sector has literally disappeared offshore, along with what used to be construed as quality. We are also infected with the curse of the untrained and unethical that panders to the public, who all too often mistake low price for value.
Market penetration or domination is the most highly prized metric for corporations. How many glass brands are available to an installer these days? How many distributor choices exist for an owner anymore outside of large metropolitan areas? Each year, those numbers as well as independent installation companies dwindle as the pressure to exist and grow is impaired by factors that many of us cannot control.
I’ve observed one large auto glass conglomerate being taken over by a private equity company. The company closed manufacturing plants as well as distribution centers and cut or outsourced labor. While I am sure the bottom line is more in line with someone’s hopes or projections, the question I will ask is, “Is the company and its products better or worse than a decade ago? What about service?”
I see another wholesaler on the cusp of becoming a national presence. When you have three corporate distributors that for the most part hawk their own manufactured products, it is nice to have an independent company that has the power to stock high quality brands like Carlex and AGC. Instead, when given the choice, their warehouses have been filled with Chinese brands. It is a sad fact of being led instead of leading.
Leadership is a quality that I would expect to come from our number one installation company. Using its bully pulpit, it could have widespread influence on the AGR industry for the good. Sadly, I see little effort or desire to do so. Instead it continues to repeat its mantra of metrics internally while it tries to manipulate its image as professional towards the public. Take its latest round of TV advertising as it touts its “factory quality installation” abilities by its use of setting tools. To any knowledgeable cynic, the purchase and employment of this tool is more of a labor saving device than a consumer-driven decision. Also, don’t let the rolls of generic moulding the company uses hit you as it falls out of the vans. Could its CEO work in the trenches for a year, much less a month and produce to the level he himself mandates for installs and earning a bonus? How many of the district managers of his, or any large installation company, stays close enough to the “action” to retain respect of the troops they lead?
How do we define success? Is it merely bottom line profits or does quality ever enter into that equation? I just do not feel hopeful about the future of this trade when I see the cheap, the inferior and the incompetent forming the basis and driving force of this industry.
When will we in AGR stop groveling to please market forces and raise the level of our services?
Leadership means people follow you because they are motivated to do so. In some militaries, the low level officers are in back ready to shoot deserters, which is not exactly an ideal situation. One should be in front, setting examples and providing direction.
My personal philosophy includes the word “honor.” In the reading I did for this blog, I never saw that word used by any of our most influential in the industry. Perhaps I need to fall off a turnip truck but that word should be front and center when trying to define leadership. Instead, we see complaints that the industry lacked revenue-producing weather. Is this what we have lowered ourselves to? Wishing for golf-ball sized hail storms to hit our neighborhoods?
AGR on the whole needs to respect itself along with the consumer we work for. We need to demand better products and to tighten professional standards for all. If not, we might as well open the zoos and start using monkeys and apes to ply our trade for the cost of bananas. When that happens, I am quite sure some smart corporation will hire King Kong to provide leadership. He won’t work for peanuts, however. Babar will, but that might violate diversity policies.