Sharing is Caring

Tara Taffera wrote this blog:

I don’t know why this headline popped in my head, or why it reminds me of a kindergarten slogan, but it somehow seems appropriate. I have heard many variations of this theme recently: why can’t we all just get along in the PPF and window film industries? Or put another way: Why can’t we just help our fellow tinters? I mean, I get it: no one wants to give away the secrets to the details of their perfect wrap to the guy down the street. But if a guy in Florida can give some general tips to a gal over in California, doesn’t it make the industry as a whole better? Some resolutely say yes, while a few just as adamantly say no—let them fend for themselves.

The Case for Yes

All of this has been on my mind lately, and then I received a column for the summer issue of PPF magazine from Jamie Werner, PremiumShield. It’s chock full of easy, useful tips for installing PPF, and I thought about how helpful this is for both new and long-time installers alike. Then at the end, Werner addressed that do-we-or-don’t-we question in the industry. Do we share our tips or let the newbies just figure it out as they go? He resoundingly said yes, but of course that ultimate decision is up to you. I encourage you to lift each other up, however, no matter what you decide.

If you are one of those in the yes column, and you want to meet and share ideas with your fellow installers, I encourage you to attend the International Window Film Conference and Tint Off™, to be held September 27-29 in San Antonio. Many of the industry’s Facebook groups will be having meet-ups right on the show floor, and it’s a great way to get to know your fellow tinters.

And in that vein, I will leave you with one final piece of advice from Werner.

“I’ve learned that there is so much more we as an industry can be doing shop by shop, but also as manufacturers. The awareness of PPF is getting better so that consumers push installers, who push manufacturers to make better products for the future. That includes both film and patterns. Since the bar is being set higher every day from the installer to the consumer, the bar is being raised all the time from installer to manufacturer. The installer is the backbone of our industry, and they are finally being heard.”

So here’s to you, the installer. I hope you enjoy this issue and I look forward to seeing you at the show.

Tara Taffera is the editorial director for PPF magazine.

Ready, Set, Go?

This blog was written by Jamie Werner:

Throughout my travels and time in the PPF industry, I’m always asked about training and how to go about getting into the business. In my early years it was all about trying to get that prospect at our facility for a 3-day course and run through the same platform that had been done years before I even came into the business. I quickly learned the success rate of someone just paying for training was super low and there is no incentive for them to actually go back and practice what they just learned. You just paid for 3 days and walk away with nothing in return. Putting success rates aside, they were never even led through a discussion on what type of investment it would take to even get into the business, let alone how long it would take for their return on investment (ROI) to start being significant. Today we are going to open the book, lay it out there, and let you know what to expect. Ready, set, let’s go!

First chapter after opening the book is the actual financial investment. When you add up all of the necessary equipment, tools, supplies, and time, you should expect to invest around $10-15k in your first few months. Keep in mind I’m coming in with a partisan opinion in the matter as I am an advocate for patterns. There are instances that I do recommend bulk, but most of time a pattern is preferred. With fitment and coverage being much better than the early days, along with more available pieces per car, your risk and cost is much lower than if you were to try and learn bulk from scratch. Cutting on a car is a skill that is learned, not taught and comes with time and experience. It’s like asking a doctor fresh out of med school trying to perform surgery before they’ve done their residency, which is at least 3 years. Just like anything, you can’t expect to go through a basic training and leave being able to pump out quality work at top notch pricing like a 5 plus year veteran in the clear bra world. Like anything new you learn, it takes practice in order to hone in your skills. Even then, we are always learning and trying to get better since new cars come out all the time.

Now that we’ve gotten the toughest part of the book out of the way, let’s dive into the next chapter, applying what you learned. Now that you have inventory to use and practice with, let’s make it useful. You know the phrase, crawl before you walk, walk before you run? Same applies here. Don’t over sell what your skillset is. If you just learned how to do bumpers and partial hoods, don’t rush to sell full cars when that’s beyond your skillset for that moment. It takes about a dozen cars to get comfortable with installing film and about 50 cars to get proficient. If that means offering installs to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc.… for free or for a steep discount, then do it. You’ll need the practice so you can be exposed to different cars. That kind of variety will cause you to learn when you use the tools and techniques that were taught in training. Once you get that kind of experience under your belt, you should be in a good position to start charging market price.

Once your skillset is where it needs to be, you’re in the driver’s seat for where you want to take the business. Your ROI should be very healthy once your skills and pricing match synergistically. That leads us to the last chapter, selling the very product and service you made your investment in. If you can’t sell, find someone who can. Selling is not easy and you have to be willing to talk, educate, network, and grind to create opportunities so that in the long run, good word of mouth will spread over time. Marketing and selling go hand and hand. The best way to market the product is being active in promoting it. That means gathering content, sharing it, doing local car shows and events, talking with local dealerships and body shops, heck even doing a tech session so you have the chance to educate and network with consumers who would buy this very product if they knew more about it. Most consumers aren’t as familiar with PPF for automotive purposes like other aftermarket products so you can sit by the sidelines waiting for customers to call and inquire.

Taking this approach is not a guaranteed ROI, but it certainly is the path of least resistance and also most success. Well-fitting patterns, supplier support, a good network of fellow installers coupled with hard work and a good work ethic will set you up for a great revenue stream. Exceed expectations everyday!

Jamie Werner is the sales manager/corporate trainer for PremiumShield.

Why PPF?

Before I get into my first post, I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Chris DiMinico, one of WindowFilmMag.com’s newest bloggers and president of AutoNuvo in Holliston, Mass. You’ll see my posts, which will mostly be about paint protection films (PPF), once a month. I’ve been in the adhesive tape/film business in one capacity or another for more than 20 years. I’ve seen the PPF business grow from its virtual inception, having held assorted positions from product manager/product development to executive with OEM manufactures, PPF distributors and installation companies. It’s been an interesting journey from what PPF was 20 years ago to its current market which has numerous OEM manufactures, types of films and pattern choices.

AutoNuvo, a division of Protective Solutions, has been installing PPF as a company for more than 18 years, and we preach the importance of your vehicles’ appearance. A vehicle is one of the largest investments the average person makes in his or her lifetime; why not protect it?

What is PPF?
PPF is an ultra-durable, non-yellowing thermoplastic film coated with an ultraviolet (UV) stable pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) that is virtually invisible when applied. It’s designed to protect a vehicle’s painted surface from everyday road-rash and debris, as well as staining and micro-marring, while preserving the original appearance of a vehicle’s paint. The material was originally used by the U.S. Military to protect carbon fiber helicopter blades from debris that is stirred up during the landing process.

How Does PPF Fit a Vehicle?
The film is applied directly to a vehicle’s clear coat; this is a wet application typically using a slip solution (soap/water) and a tack solution (IPA/water solution). The PSA bond to the clear coat will be achieved as the installer squeegees out the tack solution. It typically takes 24 to 48 hours for the PSA to fully cure and achieve its full bond.

To Plot or Not?
Today, there are numerous companies offering pattern software for PPF installers to “pre-cut” a specific vehicle pattern. This is done by the pattern/cutting company mapping the actual vehicle and then creating a 2-D pattern in its software. An installer can then plot out a “kit” on the film, creating the kit for the exact model he’s installing with PPF with the use of a plotter.

Depending on the pattern/cutting software, the installer will have the ability to make adjustments to the pattern. As for customizing the kit, installers will cut to suit their own techniques and personal preferences. There are many that will hand-cut the entire kit on a vehicle or use some hybrid of both methods to achieve the most coverage and cleanest install. After all, it’s about achieving what will make the customer most satisfied.

Thank you for taking the time to read my first blog and If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out at chris@autonuvo.com.

Stop Dabbling in PPF

I recently got into indoor rock climbing. It’s a unique and tough sport that challenges you mentally and physically to overcome obstacles and fear. Now that I’ve been a few times, I’m getting better and more confident in what I can do. I don’t let certain limitations stop me from taking more difficult paths—and you shouldn’t either when it comes to your business and adding paint protection film (PPF) as a profit center.

Too often I hear installers complain they have a hard time selling the product or they only do a few kits here and there. Frankly, most of the time they’re just dipping their toes into their PPF segment instead of making the true investment it needs.

That’s the wrong approach. You’re either in it or you’re not. In many instances, there’s room for gray areas but frankly, I feel this is a black and white situation. I might be an outlier, but this point is to provoke the way you look at your own business and the industries in which you operate. There’s something to be said of the phrase, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In layman’s terms, you do a lot of things, but you’re not really masterful at any of them. When it comes to business, that’s not good. You hear businesses like restaurants trying to offer too many things and therefore sacrifice quality. Dipping your toes into too many things causes a loss in quality and overall, a loss of opportunity.

When it comes to PPF, many aftermarket installers want to add it to their revenue stream but don’t put in the investment needed to make it a realistic profit center. Most places start with subbing the work out which starts out pretty well for all parties. But eventually the business owner wants to offer the service themselves rather than sub it out.

That’s the right step, but do it right. If you don’t go all in, you not only will waste your money, but customers will suffer—and so will your reputation. When I climb, I try to reach for that difficult piece to step on or grab with my hand, or else I’ll just be stuck in the middle of a wall with nowhere to go. I might fall, but I can always get back up, try it again and learn from my mistake. It might take a little longer than I want, but if I’m all in, my chances of success are greater than if I only go a portion of the way.

It’s the same way with PPF. If you add a dedicated clear bra business, you better be all in. That means you buy a plotter, get some software, buy some rolled stock and actually sell the product proactively. You can even take a training course to speed up your learning curve to the industry. Business isn’t just going to come to you. Not enough consumers know about it. With promotion and education, the consumer will understand the value and be sold on it just like window tint or remote starters. This product requires a proactive approach, not a reactive business strategy.

As always, exceed expectations every day!

Prime PPF Procedures

Having such a large sales territory, I have the gratifying responsibility to travel North America and see shop owners and installers in all different regions and territories. It’s interesting to see that every market has something different to offer or a set standard for paint protection film that varies from other areas.

Colorado’s Success

Take Colorado, for example. Installers there have a set standard of doing uppers (partial hoods, partial fenders and mirrors) with 18-inch or 12-inch material. Dealers there don’t do a ton of bumpers but find a lot of success selling uppers. Colorado also has the best penetration rate at the new car dealer level than any place in the U.S. Clearly, whatever they’re doing there is working. That’s just one state, though.

A Common Disconnect

With all the success out there in Colorado comes a lot of competition of varying shop sophistication. Some guys are freelancers, mobile installers and some have brick and mortar companies, but when broken down piece by piece, there’s typically a disconnect between operations, sales and customer service of those businesses. It’s very difficult for a one-man operation to juggle all his hats efficiently and successfully without a little help. Even small companies with less than 12 staff members deal with the same issues. Let’s look at the three major “food groups” of the PPF business structure: sales, operations and customer service.

Start with Sales

Sales is the toughest part of the business. Leads or prospects can be generated in a number of ways, but what do you do once you have that lead? Not everyone is a salesperson but you can fake it to make it with some simple procedures put in place to allow for anyone to fill in that role temporarily. Asking leads questions gets them to talk, let their guard down and develop rapport with you before you get to the last stages of the sales process. Come up with a script so you or an employee can repeat the same questions each time. Ultimately you want to lock them in for an appointment and possibly a deposit to seal the deal, which I recommend highly on the retail side. Streamlining things doesn’t work for every lead, but it will bring a consistency to the process so the prospect’s experience is similar every time.

Prime Pricing

Another good part of the sales process is standardizing your pricing model. Have a few packages to offer and set a price for each one no matter what size or type the car is. It makes quoting so much faster and easier. The overall goal of this is to get the customer to lock in with you and not take the worst of their two other options: going to a competitor that offers standardized pricing standard or waiting for you to call them back with a quote. Consumers would like to get their answers when they have you on the phone. If they have to wait, they’ll call your competitor.

Optimizing Operations

Operations is the next important business aspect. It is essential to have a standard operating procedure (SOP). Put a SOP in place that not only works but also fills the needs of every aspect of the business. This makes it easier to run the business efficiently and as a whole, even while trying to accomplish several tasks at once. A SOP covers everything from booking the appointment, cutting the film and even collecting payment or a deposit. Create a structure that gives a smooth experience not just to your customer, but you as the business.

Here’s my SOP for preparing a car for installation:

  1. Shampoo the car;
  2. Remove any hard-caked on contaminants with adhesive remover;
  3. Clay bar the surface; and
  4. Rinse with Alcohol, 70 percent IPA.

I do this every time and it makes the surface clean consistently.

Servicing Customers

Last, but certainly not least is customer service. This is where a lot of business owners miss a few steps, though not on purpose. Installers by trade and by habit are juggling a lot of things at once and can sometimes forget some of the details in the customer service department. Sometimes it’s not going over the actual install to make sure they’re happy with it. It could also be sending a follow-up email to check on the car after a week to make sure everything cured out. How about filling out the warranty card for them and giving it with the invoice and care instructions? It could even be as simple as shaking their hand and thanking them for their business. The best recommendation I can give you is setup an experience for your customer so that they not only want to come back to you for their next car, but also refer their friends, family and co-workers. Word-of-mouth marketing is best.

I know we’re scratching the surface with this discussion, but that’s the point. Think about how you can spruce up your procedures. Challenge yourself, tweak some and come up with some ideas to make it better. Exceed expectations every day!

-Jamie Werner
National Sale Manager and Head Trainer, PremiumShield