The first day of the 21st Annual International Window Films and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) Conference at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio featured an insightful seminar series and honor from the President of Maxpro Window Films , Joe Cobbe.
Nick St. Denis, Director of Research for Key Media & Research, a leading provider of information on the window film and paint protection film (PPF) industry and related markets, kicked off the day with a market update.
According to St. Denis, spending on auto parts and accessories has increased from 3.3% in 2020 to 18.6% in 2021. This is the result of pent-up demand and rising prices for parts. St. Denis also said new vehicle registrations fell in 2022 compared to 2021, with the Toyota RAV4 leading the charge for new vehicle registrations in 2022.
Other market updates include news that the refinishing products market and specialty equipment retail sales have shown steady growth. Manufacturers’ revenues have also seen growth over the past few years, primarily due to organic growth and acquisitions.
St. Denis added that the PPF is the strongest prospect for the next five years or more. This is because it becomes easier to sell as consumer awareness increases.
During Attracting the Next Generation of Installers: How to Train an ApprenticeKyle Fuller, owner of Tint Pro in Bonaire, Ga., and Matthew Yelle, owner of Palmetto Protection Films in Myrtle Beach, SC, discussed the best ways to hire, train, and retain an apprentice.
Fuller spoke about the difficulties his company has had in retaining employees. He recounted a time when a new employee stopped showing up just months after he started. The loss was difficult, Fuller says, because of all the time spent training the employee only to end up being burned.
Yelle says that when he’s looking to hire someone, he looks for respectful employees. That’s because his company works in multi-million dollar houses that need to be respected. Skills can be taught, but not respect, according to Fuller.
“Attitude trumps skill,” says Fuller.
Fuller said his shop makes sure the apprentice knows everyone is working towards the same goal. If anyone needs help, a team member will come and lend a hand.
“I want this new person to learn the systems,” Fuller says of his company’s philosophy on training a new employee or apprentice.
Debra Levy, editor of WINDOW FILM magazine, launched the Hall of Fame Opening and Inductionwhere Maxpro Window Films President/CEO Joe Cobbe was inducted into the Window Film Hall of Fame.
Cobbe founded Commonwealth Film in 1985 and Commonwealth Laminating and Coating in the early 1990s. Eastman completed the acquisition of Commonwealth Laminating and Coating, maker of SunTek Films, in 2013.
Cobbe’s roots are in the military, but his public service is broad. Enlisted in the U.S. Army, Cobbe served from November 1966 to September 1969 and achieved the rank of first lieutenant. Cobbe, a certified public accountant, served as mayor of Martinsville, Virginia from 2004 to 2006. He helped found Maxpro in 2012.
“It’s a surprise and an honor,” Cobbe said. “There are a lot of people who have been in this business a lot longer than I have who are probably more deserving. I’m flattered that this is happening; it’s a big industry with a lot of great people.
Breaking into and conquering new markets saw Nick Blek, owner of Premier Armor in Corona, California, Brian Brown, manager of Exclusive Detail in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Jay Ka, owner of Modern Elix in West Chester, Pennsylvania, tackle the rise of PPF and ceramic coatings.
“How much patience do you have and how much money do you have to burn because PPF isn’t cheap,” Brown says.
Despite the difficulty of breaking into the business, PPF is worth the investment, says Ka.
“It transformed our business and provided us with resources to grow and move forward,” Ka says.
However, if your goal is simply to make money, you’re in for a long journey. PPF is a tough business, says Ka. People who want this movie tend to be perfectionists. They will come and find a reason not to pay you for your work.
“It’s a lucrative business,” says Blek. “Keep that in mind as a reward, a goal. But it is hard work.
Ask anything from your suppliers saw the following C-Suite executives take the stage for a Q&A: Adam Cote, VP of the Elite Dealer Program at Ceramic Pro; David Kratz, COO of Huper Optik USA; Jeffrey Plummer, senior vice president and general manager, window films at Madico; Harry Rahman, director of architectural films for XPEL Inc.; Darrell Reed, Business Manager, Eastman Performance Films; and Mariana Rodriguez, vice president and general manager of Avery Dennison Graphics North America.
Mike Burke has worked in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has more than 63 locations in 19 states and offers residential and commercial tinting and decorative film services as well as automotive tinting, paint protection and ceramic coatings. In How to become a trading superpowerBurke talked about the importance of delegation.
“You have to rely on a team,” he says. “My business went from $1 million a year to $10 million as soon as I started letting go. We dominate. Sun Stoppers are powerful. You know why? My team.”
Panelists for the session Sell security film included Brad Campbell, CEO of Campbell Corp., Daniel Maldonado, President of Prestige Window Solutions and Peter Mott, owner of Sunmaster, all located in California. The world is changing and the window film industry is taking note of the sale and popularity of the segment.
Maldonado told those in attendance that thanks to the sale of safety films, his company recently released “better than ever” numbers. Mott says his business is in a similar boat, as his business has seen more growth in the past two years than ever before. In fact, half of Sunmaster’s business last year was in safety films. His business has seen this growth not only on the commercial side, but also on the residential side.
For the panelists, much of their success has, at least in part, resulted from keeping a finger on the pulse of not just the industry, but society as a whole.
For example, Campbell says his company has been able to “read the tea leaves” when it comes to switching to safety films. Seeing these societal changes, particularly the changes in acceptable versus unacceptable behaviors, Campbell Corp. began to narrow its scope. And while some manufacturers recommend diversifying, Campbell stressed the importance of not dividing attention to the point of diminishing the quality of all products and services.
During Become decorative and win business with custom projectsMatthew Sandherr, owner of Naples Tint Company in Naples, Florida, and Marcello Becchi, vice president of sales and marketing for Vetrilite in Coral Springs, Florida, spoke about the “symbiosis” between the companies when it comes to custom designs and dyeing. , as well as tips for selling in a complex market.
Sandherr’s company realized that new solutions were needed with the construction of new homes with transparent front doors and transparent bathroom windows. But with slow turnaround times and less-than-stellar designs, Naples Tint Company knew it had to outsource its graphic design and printing. On the other side of the equation, Vetrilite knew it had to make connections, like with Sandherr and Naples, in order to advance in the industry.
Vetrilite approaches its design process using a house-specific style, as houses are built in specific periods and with specific designs. The company uses this process for a number of reasons, including customer attraction and a general lack of offerings in the market that it could capitalize on.
Selling the products, however, can be a complex process given the need for visual and physical samples. The recommendation of those in the know is to catalog all work with photos.
Gabriel Durand-Hollis, President of DHR Architects, a full-service architecture, planning and interior design firm, explained what architects are looking for when it comes to projects at What architects want session.
According to Durand-Hollis, architects need products that are compliant with local codes, applicable to the situation and cost effective.
“People need to understand that we have multiple mandates,” says Durand-Hollis. “We try in good faith to balance good ideas.”
When it comes to designing a building, architects focus on a variety of factors, including heat gain and loss, U-values, climate-responsive design and more. Window placement is also important depending on where you live, says Durand-Hollis. The amount of sunlight let in can determine how warm or cold a home will feel. Architects should also pay attention to local obstacles, building faces, and types of windows installed.
That’s because “each window is oriented differently and has different shading,” says Durand-Hollis.
WFCT continues through Friday, and attendees can register to attend the event in person at the registration area of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Stay tuned for WINDOW FILM magazine coverage on the show’s various products and services.