A Way Out: Owners Detail Exit Plans

LaCross’ next goal involves window tint expansion.

It’s a scene straight from a horror movie. Invoices, film cores, worn squeegees, unread emails, and a crammed calendar surround your field of vision. You’re a business owner, and it’s time to bail. What’s your exit plan?

Where’s the Off-Ramp?

“I would love to get a key player on the team that I groom for management and to take over eventually,” says Brad LaCross of Legendary Auto Salon in Queensbury, N.Y. “But if that situation never arises, the next option would be building the business to be appealing in structure and [employee] numbers for acquisition.”

Leroy and his wife display the winnings.

Tyler O’Hara of Newbury Park, Calif.’s, American Wrap Company entered the industry 14 years ago at 17 years old. The owner found continued success at the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT), winning gold in the Paint Protection Film (PPF) Competition in 2016 and 2018. His successes drummed up dominance, but the champion also leans on his squad.

“Everyone wants to deal with just me,” O’Hara says of his WFCT winnings. “I’m focusing on branding the team. Customers will realize I lead it; I may not be the one doing the work, but the work is always done to my standards.”

Zac Leroy signed a 10-year building lease at the end of 2019. The 18-year veteran owns Tri-State Elite Window Tint in Wexford, Pa., and told his wife, “That’s the last lease I’m signing,” during the transaction. “I was working 120 hours a week, and my youngest child will be 18 at the end of the lease. Me and my wife will be in a position where we can walk away,” he adds.

Leroy tried his hand at the Pennsylvania Lottery on September 17, 2020, snagging $3 million from a scratch-off ticket. He invested the after-tax total of $1.8 million into his retirement efforts, which project him signing out of the industry in November 2029.

Strategizing Today, Selling Tomorrow

LaCross has owned his business since 2018 and manages three team members. PPF generates 60% of sales, with ceramic coatings, paint corrections, and window tint comprising the remaining transactions. “I designed my shop where we have a window that you can look into and see work performed on your vehicle,” he adds. “We want it to be experience-based for the client first, so we’re not seen as a commodity.”

O’Hara emphasizes team building.

O’Hara aims to upgrade from his 2,200 square-foot location, adding value to a potential sale in the future. The current site allows his team to work on four vehicles simultaneously but he desires more expansive space; specifically, a 5,500 to 6,500 square-foot headquarters for purchase.

“I’m looking to streamline efficiency and break my team into individual [units],” O’Hara explains. “The PPF installers will only apply PPF—they won’t have to worry about prepping cars or cutting kits. They’ll be handed the kit, a cleaned and prepped car, and go. I want to set it up like an assembly line to maximize efficiency with as few employees as possible.”

On the Horizon

LaCross, O’Hara, and Leroy’s roadmaps are detailed, but many owners are at the starting line. Leroy says newcomers can take steps to ensure financial freedom down the road.

“You need to start looking long-term,” Leroy says. “Especially in today’s market—the car shortages, demand, and supply issues. I’ve been there. Years ago, you made money, and you went out and spent it. Start putting money away and getting out of debt.”

O’Hara says he wishes someone would have warned him how challenging business ownership would be. But the owner of four years echoes the importance of driving away from excessive expenses, not towards them.

“Don’t incur a lot of debt,” says O’Hara. “I didn’t learn with Kranzle pressure washers. I started with a Home Depot pressure washer and a 2½ gallon Husky air compressor. Scale everything a little at a time. Prove you can make this work before you scale up everything.”

LaCross says it’s vital for newcomers to center their scaling efforts with a customer-centric rather than a competitor-centric focus.

“There’s a reason your client is there,” says LaCross, who aims to ramp up the tinting portion of his business. “Understanding and listening to them will give you a clearer path to where you need to head.”

Helping Hands: FilmDirect Distributes Relief to Ukraine

FilmDirect of Brieselang, Germany, finds itself doling out more than industry products this spring. The Legend Paint Protection Film distributor is a mere 882 miles from Kyiv, Ukraine, a country under siege and in need of humanitarian aid. Owner Owen Lloyd and his team answered the call for help.

FilmDirect’s initial operation outgrew the company’s warehouse.

“Ukraine is about a seven-hour drive from where our company is located—we’re pretty close,” Lloyd says. “I was thinking, ‘There’s nowhere in our local area where people can donate essential items.’ I posted a notice on a local Facebook webpage: ‘If you want to donate, you can come to our company and drop off stuff at the warehouse.’”

Locals turned up within hours, with distant philanthropists delivering unannounced care via Amazon. “We did that for a week until it got to the stage where it was too much to manage and do our daily jobs,” Lloyd adds. “I then went to the local city hall [for coordination]. They gave us an empty building, and I organized 50 volunteers on Facebook for management. We’re open every day; so far, we’ve sent two lorry [truck] loads to Poland and Ukraine.”

*FilmDirect’s Collected Items

Sleeping bags, blankets, sleeping pads
Baby food
First aid kits
Hygiene (child/ baby)
Underwear (ladies/children)
Hygiene items
Baby equipment
Disposable tableware
Walking aids, rollators, wheelchairs
Pet food
Batteries, flashlights

*Depending on the needs, the donations are sent directly to the Ukraine/Poland border region.

According to the United Nations, 3.6 million people had left Ukraine as of March 27. Poland has taken in 2,293,833, or 63.7%, of all refugees. “We found a local transport company that puts a trailer in a yard, and once it’s full, they take it free of charge into Poland for us,” Lloyd explains. “It’s quite incredible because the price of gas has gone up worldwide.”

FilmDirect’s delivery arriving in Poland, a country in dire need of assistance.

Legend Paint Protection Film’s Kyiv-based distributor is also making an impact—on the battlefield. “They are using their vans to deliver food and medicine to people in Kyiv,” Lloyd says. “They’re also wrapping military vehicles in camouflage. We bought them bulletproof vests and helmets; while they’re delivering [aid], they could be caught in the crossfire.”

Lloyd says 10 Ukrainian families are located in the area, and all are welcome to pick up supplies if needed. His country is partnered with a NATO alliance that includes 30 independent member countries, but uncertainty abounds.

“It’s a feeling we’ve never had—something you would never foresee happening,” he says of Russia’s February 24 invasion.

Huntsman Celebrates Surface Solutions Investments at Elastomers Production Plant

Global specialty chemical manufacturer Huntsman marked the completion of strategic investments in its thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) manufacturing capabilities for end applications in security glazing and paint protection film (PPF) at its facility in Ringwood, Ill.

Steen Weien Hansen addresses guests at the company’s celebration event at its Ringwood, Ill., plant.

Over the last two years, Huntsman has constructed a purpose-built TPU manufacturing facility for protective film technologies at its Ringwood site. This investment has helped increase the output of products within its KRYSTALGRAN® and KRYSTALFLEX® TPU portfolios, according to a press release.

During the event, which was attended by associates and federal, state, and local political leaders, Steen Weien Hansen, vice president of global automotive and elastomers for Huntsman Polyurethanes, formally commissioned the facility with a ribbon-cutting.

“Demand for surface protection solutions … has accelerated in the last few years,” says Trent Shidaker, global director of marketing at Huntsman. “This event was a chance to thank the team involved in the construction, installation, and commissioning of our new surface solutions assets at Ringwood.”

Paint Protection Film Magazine Nominated for ASBPE Award

Chris Collier’s work in PPFMag was named a finalist in the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Award Competition in the category of Group Profile. Collier was selected as a finalist for his article Installers Assemble: PPF Veterans Rally Rookies Forward, which appeared in the magazine’s Fall 2021 issue.

The article featured Brian Brown, principal of Exclusive Detail in Charlotte, N.C.

“This is our first nomination for PPFMag, and I couldn’t be more excited for the magazine and for Chris Collier’s hard work to be recognized,” said editorial director Tara Taffera.

Key Media & Research, parent company to PPFMag, was nominated for seven additional awards for USGlass, the Architects’ Guide to Glass & Metal, and Door and Window Market magazines.

Tinting, Protecting, and … Replacing?

Dwight Lopez Sr. opened Dwight’s Auto Glass in Southern Arizona in 1986. Today, his son Dwight Lopez Jr. runs the same company, which has expanded to four locations in the 36 years since it opened.

Dwight’s Auto Glass has more than 21 team members.

“It’s good to do both so that we keep the business in-house,” says Dwight Lopez Jr., of his company, which offers film and auto glass repair and replacement services. “That’s what started us. My dad was doing window tinting when he started, and people came in with broken windows. He taught himself [the trade].”

Dwight Lopez Jr. oversees stores in Green Valley, Tucson, and Marana, Ariz., managing a team of eight film installers, eight auto glass technicians and several customer service representatives (CSR). The company’s film mix is an estimated 80% tint and 20% paint protection film (PPF). For Gilbert Quesada though, the owner of All Star Glass in Bosque Farms, N.M., it’s a 50-50 split.

“I’ll tint a couple windows, and down the road, you get a rock chip or need glass replacement,” says Quesada, who estimates that more than half of his jobs feed off each other. “There’s a lot of returning customers here for tint and glass replacement.”

Customers mix and match at All Star Glass.

The multi-skilled installer says repeat glass customers often become repeat window film clients. “A customer will schedule a windshield replacement, and see all of my film and XPEL advertising,” Quesada adds. “It turns into a replacement and film job at that point.”

Quesada’s company has been in business for three years and surpassed $200,000 in sales in 2021. His crew includes his mother, father, and sister. “Sometimes we’re stretched thin trying to do replacement and tint, but it has boosted our business,” Quesada says. “It’s not just one type of income; I’m replacing door glass, replacing a windshield, and then tinting a full [vehicle].”

Auto glass work accounts for 75% of business at Earl’s AutoGlass in Cozad, Neb., with tint comprising the remaining 25%.

“There are not many costs involved with tint,” says Tyler Earl, installer at Earl’s AutoGlass. “You can make a profit quickly by tinting windows, but if you were only doing window tint, you’d have to be pretty busy.”

Tyler is considering competing in the Automotive Tint-Off™ at the 2022 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT), Sept. 14-16 in San Antonio. He works alongside his parents John and Beth and says the company’s offerings keep him on his toes. “You’re working on different vehicles every day,” Tyler says. “I’ll help my dad put a piece of glass in, tint windows, or detail a vehicle. What I’m doing varies.”

Dave Cotter has offered auto glass and tint from the jump.

The tinting combination at Dave’s Glass & Tint in Pocatello, Idaho, is 50% automotive and 50% flat glass (commercial/residential). Commercial film jobs often include substantial tickets, but auto glass projects bring in 75% of the company’s sales. The business reached an estimated $900,000 in sales in 2021 and is projected for $1.2 million in 2022.

Dave Cotter founded the company—which celebrates its 30th anniversary in August—in 1992 and has offered both auto glass and film services from day one. “We have a Toyota Camry where we did paint protection film (PPF), tint, and replaced its windshield.”

Dwight’s Auto Glass reached $3.8 million in sales in 2021 and is projected for $4.2 million in 2022, but Dwight Lopez Jr. isn’t satisfied. The owner plans to take his team to this year’s Auto Glass Week/International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) in San Antonio from September 14-16.

“New products and tools excite me—to see what’s out there,” he says.

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