August 4, 2015

Listen My Friends and You Shall Hear / The Story of Bill and Bob Baneer

By Paul Bieber

This week, I read a website about an auction house selling a Revere Tinsmith candle lamp, ostensibly one from the pair that was hung in the Old North Church announcing the British were coming to Lexington and Concord in 1775. This reminded me of the famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This brought me to the not-so-famous tribute to the Baneer twin brothers, Bill and Bob. Read on, and you will hear of their story in our glass industry.

Bill and Bob’s father, Buck, started his glass company in Boston in the 1960s. It grew and grew, eventually opening a second shop in the 1990s. Buck passed on, peacefully in his sleep, in 2001. He created a will leaving one shop to Bill and one to Bob. Both shops were profitable and sold the same basic set of products, bidding similarly sized jobs. Bill’s shop was in Boston, and Bob’s was in Brookline.

Let’s summarize so far: We have Boston Bill and Brookline Bob, both owning Baneer Glass shops. Since they were twins, you would expect they would work together to grow each business. And, this my friends, is where the big, black bug flies into the beer. For they did not cooperate, and as we write this note, we’ll see why Boston Bill sank into oblivion and Brookline Bob became the premier glass shop in the area.

In the early 2000s, Brookline Bob started experimenting with the new-fangled internet, and soon became somewhat proficient at it. He would email customers with quotes and follow-up questions. Soon, he hired a recent college graduate to manage his data infrastructure, although he wasn’t really sure what that was. They developed a web page that was very flattering to the business in Brookline, showing shower door installations, storefronts and large glazing jobs that Brookline Bob’s company had accomplished. As 2010 rounded the corner, Bob was sending out weekly emails to current and potential customers. He offered coupons and specials. He also wrote a blog talking about the glass industry. This actually brought him quite a bit of business, as he was being quoted in various publications based on his knowledge of glass.

Boston Bill is another story. Even though they were twins, they did think differently. Bill made it a point to call on every customer in person. He wanted to make sure the customers knew who he was and that he stood behind each quote. Boston Bill’s business bounced along for a couple of years, but then started to decline. He insisted on seeing each customer, and was often two or three weeks late in getting his quotes out. He resisted the internet, proclaiming it just a tool for students to waste time on. When he saw kids playing computer games, he knew he was correct in his position. 

For you see, Boston Bill was following in his Dad’s footsteps. Brookline Bob charted his own course. Boston Bill’s business soon shrank further and further, until the point came when it was not viable. By 2015 he was on the verge of closing, when Brookline Bob offered to combine the two shops and interject Bill’s shop with a strong dose of modernity, using the internet. Brookline Bob knew that most people looking to buy something do their search through the internet, with the yellow pages running a distant second place.

The moral of this story is plain to see. You must adapt your business to fit the culture you are in. Do you have a Spanish-speaking customer service person? Can you comfortably explain low-E glass to your customers? Do you understand the different types of bullet-resistant glazing?  If not, you and your company will become an antique store. Good luck.