Glaziers Speak Out: Working Through an Economic Slowdown
Some economists are predicting an economic downtown is expected
to hit the United States within two to three years and will impact
glass and glazing companies across the board, affecting all regions
of the country and all markets.
Individuals interviewed for this report aren't worried. They say
an economic downturn is just one of the many challenges they face
in this industry. While they may not have control over the economy
they do have control over how they operate their business. All have
diversified their operations and continue to apply strategies to
improve their reputation and operating efficiency in order to compete
and survive in any market condition.
Gary Yamashita, president of Tri-City Glass a full service glass
shop based in Carson, Calif., knows just what to do in an economic
slowdown. "As a full service shop, we have a number of divisions
[auto, residential, commercial, film] that bring in work from the
various market segments," says Yamashita, whose company has
been in business just outside of Los Angeles for more than 30 years.
"When a slowdown occurs in one segment of the market we step
it up in another. When new construction and remodeling opportunities
dwindle we shift our mode to service work. When the rainy season
hits here and work dries up, we send our estimators out to quote
for reseal work on area high-rise buildings."
Yamashita also takes on the mid-size jobs that larger companies
don't want and smaller companies can't handle. "Mid-size jobs
[$30,000 - $40,000] have a way of growing into larger jobs [$80,000-$90,000]
with all the change orders that occur over the course of the project,"
Yamashita points out. "The diversity of our operations and
the caliber of our staff are benefits but being flexible and able
to refocus our talent to areas of need also helps keep a steady
stream of work no matter what changes are taking place in the economy."
Like Tri-City Glass, being diversified has also helped Lakeway
Door and Glass weather the ups and downs in the industry. In business
for nearly 20 years, the company based in Morristown, Tenn., works
on projects from Texas to the East Coast.
"We have built up a solid reputation for our workmanship and
this brings in plenty of opportunities," says Russ Keller,
president of the mid-size contract glazing company. "We aren't
the cheapest on the block and our customers pay a competitive wage
for the quality, dependable and professional work we provide. For
example, a long-term customer in Fort Myers, Fla. has another project
for us and we will be heading there for a couple of weeks to install
glass and a storefront. As a matter of fact, about 80 percent of
our business comes from existing customers. I think that also makes
a difference especially when the industry tightens up. Overall,
having diverse operations, a good reputation and being in a position
to travel helps offset the decline in business during an economic
Admire Glass' Bob Rodriquez is in a unique situation. As a sole
proprietor serving the greater southern San Diego area, Rodriquez
is able to get by in the lean times while enjoying the fruits of
his labor when work is robust. "As a one man shop, my overhead
is low and when the economy takes a downward turn, I exercise self-control
and discretionary spending by buying only what I need when I need
it," says Rodriquez, who has had his own business for 16 years
and been in the industry for nearly 35. "I have also diversified
my operations so I am able to keep a steady workload."
For example, Rodriguez hasn't replaced a windshield in over a month
but he has been very busy with mirrors and tabletops. Rodriguez
also credits the fact that he is bi-lingual as being a key in serving
the large Hispanic customer base in his neighborhood.
"We have developed a business mix of remodels and new construction
work," says Susan Stevens, who along with her husband, Scott,
own and operate SGS Glass, a small glazing contractor, based in
Kent, Wash. "This, along with cultivating strong relationships
with our core customers, helps keep the work flowing in."
"Being versatile definitely has been a plus for our business,"
says Anita Scheidler about Scheidler Glass, the company she co-owns
along with her husband, Dan. The business, a full, complete glass
service in Greensburg, Ind., turns 20 this month. "A key to
our longevity and weathering the cyclical nature of our industry
has been that we continue to add products and services to our operation,"
says Scheidler. "We install residential, commercial and auto
glass. We cut and edge glass and mirrors and our custom framing
department stays very busy, especially during the winter months,
when the glass work traditionally slows for a few months."
"We do not lay our people off no matter what," she continued.
"When times slow we take that opportunity to go through our
equipment and make repairs, take inventory, cut mirrors, re-stock
product, service, wash, wax and detail our vehicles, get our office
and operations organized and prepare for when work will pick up
in the spring. Recently, we added another division, a wood shop,
where we specialize in sawing, cutting, drying and producing wood
moldings. This has been going great and brings in additional revenue
all year round."