Branching Into Alternative Markets

By Tyler O’Hara

Branching into alternative markets is something to consider as your paint protection film (PPF) business starts to grow. I’m a firm believer in mastering one product at a time. When I started American Wrap Company we only offered PPF. Although I’ve been tinting for years, as a small business it’s sometimes better to focus on one thing and do it very well. Then as your business grows and you can add employees, it will make sense to add more products and services.

Extra Help

The first thing I want to focus on: you cannot do it all by yourself. Believe me, I speak from experience, so before you consider adding new products you need to make a plan and look to add new team members who possess the skills required to perform these new tasks.

I think one person is capable of mastering two to three skills or product installations. In our shop we have one team member who can do phenomenal paint correction and ceramic coating installations along with PPF. Two of our other team members are PPF and vinyl installers. Our window tinter can also install clear Plex. Then we work as a collective team to perform all of the tasks each job calls for.

I realize not every person in this industry wants to have a large shop. If you are a oneman band, my best advice is to add products that have high profit margins in relation to the amount of time required to perform the installation. Include high margin low material services like paint correction and ceramic coating. Then master those skills and become the best in your area.

Vinyl Projects

If you are currently a PPF installer it’s almost inevitable that someone will want you to do something with vinyl. It’s a fairly inexpensive material in comparison to PPF, therefore, you will have better margins.

My number one frustration with vinyl is the amount of time projects can take to do a proper installation. Make sure you feel out the customer and lay out very clear expectations so they understand what you are providing for the agreed upon price.

When doing a full color change wrap on a new car you can get yourself into hot water quickly if you try to take a bunch of stuff apart. Disassembly will eat time if you don’t know what you’re doing and it can be risky. Again, my whole point is to be smart, don’t be the hero, manage customer expectations and allow yourself extra time for hiccups.

Windshield Protection

I considered windshield protection products for more than 10 years before I started offering them. All of the available windshield films have their own pros and cons. Branching into this field has not only been one of the most profitable things I’ve done but it’s also one of my favorites. Windshield protection films aren’t perfect and some even have a short life span. Make sure you set the expectation level with your customer and you’re honest about the product. These films are difficult to install and may take some time and practice to master.

High Profit

I like windshield films from a business perspective because you can make a high hourly profit. The second reason I like windshield film is because it works!

This product really becomes a no brainer on super cars that may have extremely expensive glass. And don’t rule out even basic drivers. I recently did a windshield skin on a Toyota Camry because the customer was on his second windshield and apparently the first one cost $2,000. We don’t market this super heavy online but 90% of the time people ask me “is there a film you can use to protect the windshield?’’ That opens the door to talking about a windshield skin. I lay out the facts for them and they make the decision about whether or not it’s worth it.

I also encourage a growing PPF business to add paint correction and ceramic coating. In the last five years these have taken off.

Seek out some form of professional training if you want to be proficient at paint correction.

Managing Time

To me, profit always directly correlates to time. The longer you spend on a project the lower your hourly wage is. My best hint on managing time is to do a very thorough consultation/inspection of the car looking for swirls, wash marring and holograms before locking in a price estimate.

Time and profit also tie into expectations. Before installing a ceramic coating, you need to do paint correction. Every eye is different. Don’t sell someone a two- to three-step correction if they’ll be happy with a one step. Warranty and maintenance are also critical discussions to have with each customer. They need to be educated to proper washing techniques. It’s your job to arm them with necessary knowledge to make their investment last.

Paint correction is a very dusty process. If you have more than one employee, make sure the person doing paint correction is far from the film installers. Try to blow out your pads outside to prevent airborne dust in the shop. Then clean out the shop space really well after paint correction each and every time.

Seek out any training available. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling a customer you are still learning this new skill and set an appropriate level of expectation. People will always respect your honesty. Under promise and over deliver. Until next time … Wrap On.

Tyler O’Hara is the owner of American Wrap Company in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He won the gold in the 2018 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ PPF competition and has also competed and placed in the last four WFCT competitions.

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