June 1, 2009

Let’s Open the Mailbag

By Paul Bieber

I am showing my age…it is not a mailbag, but an email account…does anyone in the glass industry Twitter? Why?

Here are some of the questions recently received, and my wonderful, absolutely dead-on answers. (Yes, I am still on those wonderful pain medications from my surgery…can’t you tell?)

Question from Pete in Cincinnati: “What should I be doing now to get ready for the turn around in the economy?”

Pete, the single best thing you can do is upgrade your employees. There are many GREAT people out of work, all looking to show an employer how valuable they can be. Take a serious look at each of your employees, and if they don’t measure up, talk with them, lay out a short-term path to improvement. If they do improve, you win. If they don’t improve, then swap out employees. Your other employees, those that do their job well, will appreciate your actions to improve or change the laggards. Don’t feel bad about putting a person out-of-work in this economy. You gave a chance to improve, and now you are hiring a person who does want to work.

Question from George in St. Louis: “Shower doors have been great for us–but what is the next big thing in glass?”

George, if I knew this for sure, well…you know. But my gut feel says energy-savings is the best course for any glass shop to specialize in. Whether it is building a LEED building, or installing low-e in every job, green construction is the next big thing. Study the trade magazines to learn more, read bid documents carefully and read every article or web site about energy savings and glass that you can get your hands on. This is the future…the only question is when does the future become the present. Probably a year or two more, but start getting ready now.

Question from Louise in Texas: “My husband and I own a medium size glass shop, with six glaziers and four shop workers. We have downsized in the last year and feel we are now at our core of employment. We can’t afford to give any raises, but we want to do something for our workers. Any suggestions?”

There are a couple of things you can do. First, communicate to your crew about the situation. The fact you are retaining them and they get a paycheck should be enough for most people right now. With raises out of the picture, let’s look at your benefits. Do you offer a ‘Flexible Spending Account’ for your people. This costs you nothing, once the set-up is done, and gives both you and the employee a tax savings. You both benefit. Talk with your insurance broker or labor attorney to learn more about this, and also ask about a section 125 cafeteria plan. There is not a single employee who does not like this benefit, and again, it costs you next to nothing, and can even save you money.

A question from Sandy in Brooklyn: “Somebody told me that next year a new glass cutting system is coming out that will cut tempered glass. Is this possible?”

Sandy, you live in Brooklyn, go buy a bridge; there is nothing that I have heard of like this.

A question from Elaine in Fitzwilliam, NH: “Hey, Paul, when are you going to get off of that computer and help me around the house?”

Oops, I’ve got to go now. Keep those cards and letters coming.