June 15, 2009

Do You Have a Polaroid Camera?

By Paul Bieber

Yesterday I was at a party for a friend’s son who just graduated college and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. There, we were talking with a gentleman who had worked for Polaroid for over twenty years. He was telling us about a company that, at their peak in the 1970’s, had over 30,000 employees. Polaroid instant cameras came out in 1948, and were the technological wonder of the 50’s and 60’s. Imagine, an instant copy of your picture…no longer waiting a week for your pictures to come back to the local drug store. What an invention. What a stock. What a company.

Oops. Bankruptcy in 2001, and again in 2008. 30,000 people working there.

Knock Knock…didn’t anyone see that digital cameras and home printers would take over the industry? Where were the leaders and future thinkers of this once great American success story?

Let’s go to our industry.

What is our Polaroid. Is it the single glazed residential window? Is it the jalousie? Is it the glass shop that doesn’t do heavy glass tops?

Knock Knock…what is our future? Plastics will replace glass? (I don’t think so.) Portable tempering machines you can bring to a job site? (I’d buy one) Ten years ago would you have believed the windshield repair market would be so big? (I laughed when I first heard it) Glass that will generate electricity (you better bet on this one) or what…?

If I knew for sure, you can be sure I would be investing in it. Right now the only glass investment I have is the new windows I put in my house which have saved me thousands of dollars in their first year. So, that means energy-savings is the future. Whether you bet on vinyl or aluminum for windows, make sure the glass is high-performance low-e.

People who sold their Polaroid stock at its peak made a killing. If you sold Google at 600, you were a hero. It is easy to look back. What you should be doing is: take some time, read magazines, go to trade shows, talk to your customers and you vendors, and make your predictions about the future.

Your business depends on it.