WFCT Kicks Off With Energized Educational Sessions in San AntonioSeptember 14th, 2022 by Chris Collier
Day one of the 21st Annual International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center featured an insightful slate of seminars and the honoring of Maxpro Window Films president Joe Cobbe.
Nick St. Denis, the director of research for Key Media & Research, a leading information provider to the window film and paint protection film (PPF) industry and related markets, kicked off the day with a market update.
According to St. Denis, auto parts and accessories spending increased from 3.3% in 2020 to 18.6% in 2021. It’s a result of pent-up demand and the rise in prices for parts. St. Denis also said that new vehicle registrations dropped in 2022 from 2021 with the Toyota RAV4 leading the charge for new vehicle registrations in 2022.
Other market updates include news that the body finishing products market and specialty-equipment retail sales have shown steady growth. Manufacturer revenues have also witnessed growth in recent years, mostly due to organic growth and acquisitions.
St. Denis added that PPF is the strongest prospect for the next five or more years. That’s because it is becoming easier to sell as consumer awareness increases.
During Attracting the Next Generation of Installers: How to Train an Apprentice, Kyle Fuller, the owner of Tint Pro in Bonaire, Ga., and Matthew Yelle, the owner of Palmetto Protection Films in Myrtle Beach, S.C., discussed the best ways to hire, train and keep an apprentice.
Fuller talked about the difficulties his company has had retaining employees. He recounted a time when a newer employee stopped showing up just months after starting. The loss was hard, Fuller says, because of all the time spent training the employee only to be burned in the end.
Yelle says that when he looks to hire someone he looks for employees who are respectful. That’s because his business works in multi-million dollar homes that need to be respected. Skills can be taught but respect cannot, per Fuller.
“Attitude over skill,” Fuller says.
Fuller said that his shop ensures that the apprentice knows that everyone works for the same goal. If somebody needs help, a team member will come along and give a hand.
“I want that new person to learn the systems,” Fuller says about his company’s philosophy on training a new employee or apprentice.
WINDOW FILM magazine publisher Debra Levy kicked off the Opening and Hall of Fame Induction, where 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, manufacturer of SunTek Films, in 2013.
Cobbe’s roots are in the military, but his public service is expansive. Drafted into the U.S. Army, Cobbe served from November 1966 to September 1969 and earned the rank of First Lieutenant. Cobbe, a Certified Public Accountant, served as the mayor of Martinsville, Va., from 2004 to 2006. He helped create Maxpro in 2012.
“It’s a surprise and an honor,” Cobbe says. “There are a lot of folks that have been in this business a lot longer than I have and are probably more deserving. I am flattered for it to happen; it’s a great industry with a lot of great people.”
Breaking Out and Breaking Into New Markets saw Nick Blek, the owner of Premier Armor in Corona, Calif., Brian Brown, principal at Exclusive Detail in Charlotte, N.C., and Jay Ka, owner of Modern Elix in West Chester, Pa., 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 is not cheap,” Brown says.
Despite the difficulty with breaking into the business, PPF is worth the investment, Ka says.
“It has transformed our business and it has provided us resources to grow and move us forward,” Ka says.
However, if your goal is just to make money, then you are in for a long ride. PPF is a hard business, Ka says. The people who want this film are inclined to be perfectionists. They’re going to come and find some reason not to pay you for your job.
“It’s a lucrative business though,” Blek says. “Keep that in mind as a reward, a goal. But it’s a hard hustle.”
Ask Your Suppliers Anything saw the following C-Suite executives hit the stage for a Q/A session: Adam Cote, vice president of Ceramic Pro’s Elite Dealer Program; David Kratz, chief operating officer at Huper Optik USA; Jeffrey Plummer, senior vice president and general manager, window film for Madico; Harry Rahman, director of architectural films for XPEL Inc.; Darrell Reed, commercial director, Eastman Performance Films; and Mariana Rodriguez, the vice president and GM 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 tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection and ceramic coatings. In How to Become a Business Super-Power, Burke spoke on the importance of delegation.
“You’ve got 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 is powerful. You know why? My team.”
Panelists for the session Selling 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 notice with respect to the sale and popularity of the segment.
Maldonado told those in attendance that through the sale of security film, his company recently posted figures that were “better than ever.” Mott says his company is in a similar boat, as his business has seen more growth in the past two years than ever before. In fact, last year, half of Sunmaster’s business was in security film. His company has seen that growth not only across the commercial end, but residentially as well.
For the panelists, much of their success has, at least in part, resulted from keeping a finger on the pulse of not only the industry but society as a whole.
For example, Campbell says his company was able to “read the tea leaves” when it comes to the shift toward security film. Seeing those societal changes, in particular changes to acceptable behavior versus unacceptable behavior, Campbell Corp. began to narrow its focus. And while some manufacturers recommend diversifying, Campbell noted the importance of not splitting attention to the point of lessening the quality of all products and services.
During Going Decorative and Gaining Business from Custom Projects, Matthew Sandherr, owner of Naples Tint Company in Naples, Fla., and Marcello Becchi, vice president of sales and marketing for Vetrilite in Coral Springs, Fla., spoke to the “symbiosis” between the companies with respect to custom designs and tinting, as well as tips for selling in a complex market.
Sandherr’s company realized new solutions were needed with the construction of new homes with clear, front doors and clear, bathroom windows. But with slow turnaround 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 needed to make connections, such as with Sandherr and Naples, in order to advance in the industry.
Vetrilite approaches its design process using a home-specific style, as homes are built in specific time periods and with specific designs. The company uses that process for a number of reasons, including customer appeal and a general lack of offerings in the market on which it could capitalize.
Selling the products, however, can be a complex process seeing as how visual and physical samples are required. The recommendation from 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, discussed what architects are looking for when it comes to projects during the What Architects Want session.
According to Durand-Hollis, architects need products to meet local codes, be applicable to the situation and be cost-effective.
“People need to understand that we are under multiple mandates,” Durand-Hollis says. “We are in good faith trying 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. The placement of windows is also important depending on where you live, Durand-Hollis says. The amount of sunlight let in can determine how hot or cold a home will be. Architects also need to pay attention to local obstacles, where the building faces and the types of windows installed.
That’s because “each window is oriented differently and has different shading,” Durand-Hollis says.
WFCT continues through Friday and attendees can sign up to attend the in-person event at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center registration area. Stay tuned for WINDOW FILM magazine’s coverage of the various products and services at the show.