March 22, 2009

Some Sage Advice from Gene

By Paul Bieber

Who the heck is Gene? Why should we listen to his advice? What is it going to cost us to get his advice?

Gene is Eugene Negrin of Galaxy Glass and Stone, Fairfield, N.J. Yes, you should listen, as he is one of the most successful owners of a glass shop in the Northeast. His advice is free, as long as you read on.

When you read articles like this, there is sometimes a disclaimer on the part of the author, if they have a private interest in what is happening. I do. Every year Gene sends his vendors and his customers a tin of rugelach (a traditional Jewish food eaten on Holidays). Gene promised me a tin this year. So, I can be bought for a tin of cookies…and in fact, I have been.

But, Gene has good advice. A little background first. Gene started his business and focused strictly on quality. He did auto, flat glass, and nurtured the fabricated/furniture glass part of his business. Gene’s attention to detail and quality are legendary. He just did not deliver bad glass to his customers. Gene once told me that he spends more up front on every piece of glass, checking and rechecking, but makes up for it by reduced or even zero callbacks. His word-of-mouth referrals drove his company to greater success each year. Gene was not satisfied with the quality of the fabricated glass he was receiving, so he started edging and beveling in his shop.

Gene then looked in his crystal ball and saw that granite and marble were growing as a design feature in homes and offices. Gene also saw that handling slabs of stone was no different than handling lites of glass. In fact, many of the stone edging and griding machines are made by the same companies that make glass edging equipment. So, Gene became Galaxy Glass and Stone and saw his business grow further. He kept his strict attention to high quality, and grew a reputation as the go-to guy for intricate and complicated high quality glass and stone work in the New York City area.

Gene kept training his people to think quality and to think neatness in customer’s homes and offices. This was the key to Galaxy’s success. Oh, along with hard work, long hours, and feeding the troops the rugelach helped.

I was speaking with Gene in January when he passed on these words of wisdom. We were talking about what we were seeing in the economy as relating to the glass industry. Here, roughly, is what he said:

Don’t go into panic mode and start giving work away. It is destructive to your business, further eroding any chance at profitability. You have to know your costs of doing business, and selling below your costs will fatally hurt you and the entire industry. Don’t give GC’s and building owners a window into your costs.

Someday, (maybe for two tins of rugelach), I will do a longer interview. But here is the good news. I bet Gene will be attending the Glass Expo coming this week on Long Island. If you see a handsome man, dressed in a jacket and tie, with polished shoes, it is Gene. You should print a copy of this blog, ask him to autograph it, and place it on your wall. Someday, maybe, it will be worth something.

When you see chubby, bearded guy walking around the show, it is me. Print a copy of this blog, and ask for my autograph. It will be good for a laugh. By the way, wasn’t this a great way to plug the Glass Show North East coming up on Wednesday and Thursday? See you there.