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USGNN Original StoryAfter 40 Years, Alan Leonard of Trainor Glass Makes Plans for Retirement

After 40 years in the glass industry, Alan Leonard, vice president of business development for Trainor Glass Co. in Alsip, Ill., has seen a lot of changes.

"The glass industry has become much more sophisticated, much more complicated," Leonard says. "We had very few types of glass when I first got into the business but now the array of products is just unbelievable, both produced here in the United States and in Europe. We have constantly to be re-educated as to what's out there in the marketplace in order to be competitive and to be able to direct our architects and the clients to the right product for the job.

Leonard is now in the process of educating the two salespeople who will take his place once he retires fully at the end of this year.

Paul J. Rowan, vice president and division manager of Trainor, says he himself has benefited from Leonard's knowledge and experience for more than 20 years.

"He has been involved in everything from estimating and take offs, to he's in there up front with the architects in the design stages of projects, just because of his knowledge and experience," Rowan says. "They pick his brain the same way I do."

Rowan says that Leonard's emphasis on education and knowing the industry has been a boon to both the company and its customers.

"He just shares his knowledge with everybody, not only in-house at Trainor, but with our general contractors and to the architects and the designers."

Leonard admits that that emphasis on learning may well have be the result of coming into his job there with little knowledge of the glass industry. He recalls starting after a seven-year stint at Amarlite, where he moved from the loading dock to a role as assistant office manager.

"I had no experience in glass whatsoever-I didn't know a piece of glass from a piece of cardboard, to be honest with you. And I was immediately sent out into the field. It was a struggle," Leonard recalls. "I had very little experience reading plans. I gave two weeks notice at Amarlite that I was going to go to Trainor and, in those two weeks, my brother, who was very well versed in take off plans, taught me how to do take off plans."

Leonard may have started with no experience with the glass industry, but he is the first to advise up-and-coming salespeople as to the importance of knowing your industry.

"If you don't have the knowledge you have to put in more hours to do what the other person can accomplish in a shorter part of the time," he says. "That's actually one of the reasons that I was able to perform as well as I did, because I gave up my weekends and my evenings-my average week was 60 or 70 hours a week-and it paid off in the long run because I was able to accomplish what I wanted, even though I wasn't that well versed in it."

Of course, putting in those extra hours early on means that after 40 years, Leonard is left with the habit of being the first one in the office.

"I'm the guy who turns the lights on and starts the coffee and I just can't get out of that habit so I continue to work at that level," he says.

It's a habit he'll be moving away from soon enough as he eases into a part-time role next week, which will last until the end of the year when his retirement takes effect.

"They hired two salesmen to take my place," Leonard explains. "I'm trying to wean them into our system as to how we want to approach our clients and exactly what is the philosophy of the company."

After that, it's on to working hard at retirement.

"I have nine grandchildren who I have not been able to spend as much time with as I wanted, and I'm going to devote a lot of time to that," Leonard says of his future plans. "I'm going to do a lot of traveling, which is a very high priority for me. I like to travel a lot and I know my wife and I are going to take at least three or four trips a year."

Among his planned destinations in the next year are Cozumel, Aruba and Las Vegas, favorite spots for this avid traveler.

"The Trainors gave me a travel certificate last week at my 40th anniversary dinner and we're debating where we're going to go with that," Leonard adds. "I think we're going to go on a cruise."

Not that he'll be leaving the industry without a glance back.

"I will miss my customers who I consider my friends," Leonard says. "Some of my clients I've had for 30 years and I socialize with them, I go to dinner with them, I know their families, I know their kids, you know what I mean? I'm going to try to make an attempt to stay in touch with them even after I retire but sometimes that's difficult. But that's what I would say the most difficult part is going to be pulling myself away from the relationships that I've developed over the years."

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