Learn How Businesses Progressed Through COVID-19

“As a business we’re pretty much functioning as we were [prior to COVID] with a bunch of modifications,” explained Jeremy Dobbins, CEO at Climate Pro. “We’re here, doing well and thriving.”

Chris Robinson, CEO at the Tint Guy, had a different experience with the coronavirus in the beginning, as he pointed out that Atlanta, Ga. didn’t have as many restrictions early on.

The pair along with Jeff Franson, president and CEO at Window Film Depot spoke about how their businesses were impacted by the coronavirus, some of the changes they implemented and what they see going forward in a COVID session. The session was moderated by Window Film magazine’s editorial director, Tara Taffera, and was included in the WFCT Preview Day held Tuesday January 14. The event gave its virtual attendees the opportunity to get a sneak peek of what to expect during the live show in June.

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Hitting Home

Although all of the panelists said they had safety procedures in place, COVID still found its way into their businesses. Two even contracted it, which changed how their companies were run.

“I contracted it [COVID] back in October on my 50th birthday,” explained Robinson. “I had it for a couple of weeks and I made light of it. I had flu symptoms and headaches, but never lost [my sense of] taste and I continued to run the business.”

Over the past few years Robinson has taken a back seat to a lot of the company’s day-to-day operations. Because of this he said it was easy for him to continue running the Tint Guy remotely, but things started to change as he remained sick.

“At about two weeks in I started having respiratory problems, and long story short, my oxygen level got really low, I passed out, my wife called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital where I stayed for seven days,” said Robinson. “It took me about a week to get over that, so it was about six weeks of me being sick. I don’t think the business was affected though.”

According to Robinson, he contracted the global virus from his sales manager, and with that employee being out of work it impacted the business, as more remote bidding had to be done.

“We never experienced anyone contracting the virus, but we’ve had a lot of close calls, and had to have testing done, along with having to take people out of work so that they can get testing done,” explained Dobbins.

Planning Ahead

Chris Robinson

“I don’t think anyone has a contingency plan for a pandemic but I think I automatically had a contingency plan for myself because I always wanted the business to run on its own,” said Robinson.

“I never really thought that I needed to plan for pandemics,” echoed Dobbins. “In the area that I live in we do have a lot of experience with wild fires and our team is experienced with sudden changes and having to reschedule work and dealing with the effects of a disaster. This [pandemic] showed me that [my company] does need to have contingency plans.”

Franson said his company has been very fortunate and hasn’t had anyone [employee wise] contract the virus, but he and his family contracted it but everyone was asymptomatic.

Customer Reaction

Dobbins said that in the beginning of COVID’s impact he shut his business down for about five weeks and then started to see which clients were willing to let his company work. “We started to analyze what kind of work we could do,” he explained. “Then we started putting feelers out on the residential projects we had to put on hold. For the most part most customers weren’t really fearful in the beginning, most wanted us to finish what we started and it was positive, but we had to be careful.”

Jeremy Dobbins

Dobbins came up with a safety plan, put it on his website and alerted his customers so they were aware. “Our policy are our policies and we had no issues with customers, but we did have a line in there where if the employees felt unsafe at a job they could excuse themselves,” said Dobbins.

Franson found customer responses to be varied, as his business operates in a variety of markets and each had different state restrictions. He mentioned that Atlanta, Ga., was pretty open relatively speaking. “We had maybe two to four weeks where there was a pullback but nothing like what Jeremy experienced,” said Franson. “The guys in our Southern California office are having a completely different experience than what we have experienced in Georgia.”

Robinson said his company immediately pulled teams out of vans and didn’t let them ride in the same vehicle, as well as communicating with his customers early on. “Some [customers] even vacated their homes so we could work,” explained Robinson. “We disinfected everything, everywhere where we came in contact with and we did the best we could. For a while we didn’t let customers wait in our waiting rooms.”

He also said he and his employees tried not to touch anything that they didn’t have to, like keys, but if they did his team would disinfect it. “We did the best we could and we made it to October before anyone got sick,” said Robinson. “I think that was because we started to let our guard down. Pretty much everyone here in Georgia thinks it’s [COVID] is a hoax and they stopped wearing masks and we weren’t going to demand that they wear a mask in our waiting rooms.”

Looking Ahead

“I’m really bad at making predictions, but I think there will be people who will still have concerns and we will still have certain procedures in place,” said Dobbins.

XPEL Acquires Veloce Innovation

XPEL, Inc. (XPEL) announced its acquisition of Houston, Texas-based, Veloce Innovation (Veloce), a provider of architectural films for use in residential, commercial, marine and industrial settings, today. The acquisition closed on December 31, 2020, according to the company. The terms of the acquisition agreement were not disclosed.

“We’re pleased to welcome industry veteran Harry Rahman [founder of Veloce] and his team from Veloce to XPEL,” said Ryan Papa, XPEL president and CEO. “Harry brings a wealth of experience, extensive knowledge and deep relationships in the architectural window film industry. We look forward to leveraging Harry’s expertise to accelerate revenue generation in this key product segment for XPEL.”

“XPEL has a premium brand and increasing recognition in the architectural film marketplace,” said Rahman. “With XPEL’s vast resources and global infrastructure, I look forward to this opportunity to help drive the continued progress and strong growth of XPEL’s commercial and residential window segment.”

The Lessons and Changes Film Businesses are Bringing into 2021

The New Year is just getting started, and there are a few lessons from 2020 that window film businesses are still holding onto. Window film magazine reached out to a number of shops to see what changes they made temporarily in 2020 that will become permanent in 2021.

One thing that is for certain is the importance of strong leadership. “2020 taught us a lot and Steve Pesce [president of New York Window Film Co., located in Farmingdale, N.Y.,], especially never gave up in keeping the company going,” said Jennifer Haynie, New York Window Film Co. marketing manager.

Michelle Hurtado, co-owner of Sal’s House of Tint, located in San Marcos, Texas, said 2020 was full of lessons, mostly of the back-to-basics type. “We immediately learned the importance of having a diverse product offering,” said Hurtado.

An essential government project kept the company busy in April when the phones were otherwise quiet, explained Hurtado. Although she says the company saw an overall decline in its architectural flat glass revenue in 2020, its automotive sector made up for the loss. “We were reminded why ‘rainy day funds’ exist and how being prepared for the unexpected can make all the difference,” said Hurtado. “The PPP loan application process reinforced the value of good bookkeeping and why it’s smart to know your commercial banker.”

Haynie explained that the company is a part of the construction industry and some jobs and projects were scheduled but not at the company’s usual amount.

“We continued staying patient while following all of the precautions from government and health officials,” said Haynie. “We are adapting as we transition to the New Year ahead. We are still targeting commercial/residential markets, but we give our customers the lead on what they feel most comfortable with in proceeding the install.”

George Atkinson, sales and marketing vice president of Source One Digital in Norton Shores, Mich., said that having more and having more open and honest communication with customers was a lesson the company learned in 2020. “Be closer to your customer and make sure you have their back when they are in trying times too,” said Atkinson.

2020 also taught the team at Sal’s House of Tint just how much they love their careers and the business that they’ve built. “During the uncertain times of mandatory shut-downs and shelter-in-place orders, we realized how suddenly our lives could change,” said Hurtado. “We were grateful to get back to work, and for our sustainable industry. Business lessons aside, we learned to treasure our health, happiness, and our tribe.”

Changes Made

One of the more common changes industry companies had to adapt to was socially distanced or virtual meetings.

“We are very personable company so to reduce in person meetings and estimates was a change,” said Haynie. “Zoom calls became our new normal and we relied on our customers to provide more if not all of the sizes and pictures to get a proposal in the works. We did adapt and have tried our best to move forward.”

Atkinson noticed that his staff adapted well to the company’s changes throughout 2020. “They adapted to new products, changes in staffing plans, and really anything we asked them to do,” said Atkinson. “They all banded together to make sure we all got through this.”

According to Hurtado, adapting to new safety guidelines has been a process that feels a bit more ‘normal’ every day. “Wearing masks, contactless appointments, not shaking hands after a business transaction, sanitizing to the max … it’s all taken some time to get used to,” she said. “But at least we’re all going through this awkward phase together and I’m excited to see what 2021 brings. I’m hoping for steps toward health, economic growth, and the return of consumer confidence on a global level.”

Jordan Campbell, vice president of Fusion Tools in Maryville, Ill., said her employees were somewhat prepared for the company’s changes. “We all had plenty of groceries at home,” said Campbell. “We keep our shop well stocked with paper towels and alcohol for PPF installations by general practice anyway. My warehouse manager is extremely clean because she has a high risk mother she cares for at home so the few changes we added to increase sanitation were well received and easily met by my entire staff.”

And there are some changes that were eye-openers and will be staying.

“I think the attention to upgraded sanitation, cleaning surfaces as well as washing hands, etc. will be around or a long time to come,” said Tommy Silva, CEO and president of T&T Tinting Specialists, Inc., in Honolulu, Hawaii. “The world was pretty lax in that department for a long time and COVID opened our eyes…”

The Future

“We are looking forward to actually having some live events next year so that part of our business returns,” said Atkinson.

According to Haynie, the company’s employees are staying hopeful for better days in the future. “We had a couple of jobs on hold since some of the buildings were vacant, so the plan is to close jobs almost a year later in the spring,” said Haynie. “Overall staying healthy and taking care of each other is what we will carry into 2021.”

Maxpro Window Films Expands in Europe

Maxpro Window Films (Maxpro) recently announced the addition of two new global distribution partners – Tintlook in France and XWrap in the Netherlands. The new distributors support Maxpro’s efforts to expand distribution channels throughout Europe, increasing its global footprint, according to the company.

“Maxpro’s European expansion is on the heels of a solid year of growth for top-quality automotive film products,” said Joseph Cobbe, Maxpro CEO and president. “In the last year, we have introduced and released two new product options, including the latest window film, XCL Pro, and our innovative Max Armor Paint Protection Film.”

Tintlook, based in Chambéry, France, has been in business for over ten years. The company reports over 3,500 vehicles tinted and is well-known for its top-quality results, according to the company. Maxpro noted that Tintlook is motivated by research, consistently evolving applications to balance beauty and performance.

XWrap is a modern wrap, tint, and trade store based in Groningen, Netherlands. The company has over 20 years of wrap experience and 12 years in distributing window film, car wrapping film, and application tools. XWrap also provides wrapping training and invites customers to peek behind the scenes and learn, according to the company.

2021 Forecast

Maxpro secured distribution in Germany with STS Window Films and has since noted a significant rise in customer base beyond the States. “We are hoping for and anticipating similar results with our new distribution partners, Tintlook and XWrap,” said Cobbe. “As 2021 approaches, Maxpro intends to continue widening our global product reach by closing distribution channels in other countries.”

WFCT Preview Day Offers $100 Gift Card to Top Leaderboard Winner

Plan to be a part of the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ WFCT Preview Day on January 14. Get a preview of what you will see in Orlando in June—free and online by attending WFCT Preview Day.

When attendees login to the virtual platform they will have a chance to play a game within the site. Simply visit exhibiting sponsors in their virtual booths, view educational sessions and points will be tallied for your actions. A leaderboard will keep track of each participant. The attendee that holds the most points at the end of day on Jan. 14 will receive a $100 gift card!

Register for free today to be part of this experience and get a preview of what the June WFCT@Home experience will be. Sign up to join in the fun and for a chance to win at https://zoomexpos.6connex.com/event/veevents/agwwfct/register.