Jim Charles Talks Retirement with USGNN

Jim Charles, the former director of sales and marketing for Vitro America in Memphis, Tenn., was eager to share his plans to buy a small boat when he spoke with USGNN.com™ today about his recent retirement.

Prior to his retirement, Charles was responsible for sales and marketing for Vitro America's subsidiaries. An active member of the National Association of Mirror Manufacturers (NAMM) and the Glass Association of North America (GANA), Charles is now staying active with fishing and golf. With a view of a nearby golf course, Charles answered questions from USGNN.com about some of the changes he has seen over nearly 40 years in the glass industry.

USGNN: How'd you get started in the industry?
JC: My brother-in-law was in the glass business--he worked for Ford--and he introduced me to Carolina Mirror, the president of Carolina Mirror, in North Wilkesboro, N.C.

USGNN: What would you say has been the most significant change to the industry during your career?
JC: There are a lot of changes. I think probably one big change is the greater influence [of] imports in the United States in the glass business. They've always had a presence here, but I think especially over the last four or five years with China it's been rather severe. I don't know what the outcome is going to be …

Another thing I think that has changed over the last five or ten years, probably maybe even ten years more than anything, is ownership of your bigger distribution [companies]. There are not that many privately-held companies that have big influences … You've got ACI, you know, that's got foreign ownership and is outside the country, and a big outfit. AFG's the same way. And there's fewer of the family-owned [companies] that are still a significant factor--you can just about name them over one hand or two hands, really.

And, overall in all of the glass industry, I think there's a lack of relationships. Prices become too big a factor … PPG used to have a world of people you could call. There [was] always someone at PPG that you could call and get a lot of good information, and factual information. They went out and did a lot of market surveys. They used to come through to all the mirror people and talk to everybody every year looking for: "What's the potential for next year? What do you see in the warranty? What are things that important to you?" They'd interview every customer. LOF used to spend a lot of time with their customer base. Take customers on trips to sit and have conferences with and promote their business.

You just don't see a lot of that anymore.

USGNN: What will you miss the most about the industry, after you retire?

JC: The relationships that I've developed over the years. There's a lot of friends that I've got out there. I miss seeing those people-people I worked with and the people that I called on for years. To me that's the business, that's where you get business, by having good relationships with people. You don't have to fall in love with everybody. You've got to respect people, and you've got to see people and be seen. And that's the thing I think is lacking a lot of times, by [corporations]: a lack of involvement.

USGNN: What's next?

JC: Golf, fishing, and just enjoying the things I haven't had time to do over the last few years.

CLICK HERE to read the announcement of Charles' retirement.