In this exclusive interview, we talk with Mark Liston, President of Glass Doctor. Mark joined Glass Doctor as the vice president of operations in April 2010. Today, we discuss about the reasons for choosing the Glass Doctor as a franchise. Mark's experience in franchising began in 1981 when he joined Kinetico Incorporated and worked with Kinetico dealers throughout the world. He is also very involved in the International Franchise Association (IFA). He currently serves as chairman of the Board of Governors for the Institute of Certified Franchise Executives having earned his CFE in 2005.
We have franchisees that are glad to help other franchisees coming in.
- Mark Liston
Welcome to Franchise Talk, the engaging go-to information resource for franchise owners, including those interested in buying or selling a franchise. Franchise Talk is brought to you by Morgan & Westfield, a nationwide leader in business sales and appraisals. Visit morganandwestfield.com. And now, here's the host of Franchise Talk, Emery Orosz.
Emery: Hey, Mark! Emery Orosz of Morgan & Westfield [here]. How are you doing today?
Mark: Oh great, Emery! I'm good…
Mark: Thank you.
Emery: Good to catch you on the phone. For those of you who don't know Mark, he is the president of Glass Doctor. His last name is Liston, L-I-S-T-O-N. Mark, I just want to spend a couple of minutes with you this afternoon talking about the Glass Doctor. I guess my first question is—why choose the Glass Doctor over . . . I know you've got a main competitor out there. Why choose the Glass Doctor over some of your competitors?
Mark: Emery, the biggest reason is our main competitor handles auto glass. They're a great competitor. They are the 800-pound gorilla. I'm not trying to be bigger than they are. I respect them tremendously. But they only handle auto glass. And the glass world today, if you're not handling a full composition of glass, meaning home,business, light commercial, shower doors and auto, I think it already restricts what a person can make in being in this business.
Emery: Okay. So that's . . . when you mentioned all those things, Mark, that's flat glass. That's . . . when we heard that term thrown around—flat glass—that's what you're referring to, right?
Mark: Absolutely! If we go back in time, Glass Doctor ten years ago was about 80-83% auto glass. Today, we're 47% auto glass and 53% flat. So, what we’ve seen is the world's changed a great deal, part of it because of our competitors, who are so big and just so massive and very controlling for several reasons. But, you see, you’ve got this whole other area though. The Glass Doctor is the only national company that handles all those things. There's a real niche there that—our largest niches are in there, in fact—that's good for franchising.
We do anything from the shower doors, like you're saying, to the windows, to mirrors, to sliding glass doors. Anything at all to do with glass, we can do it.
Emery: Okay. Now, that naturally brings up another question, Mark. A lot of folks that inquire about the Glass Doctor, they say "Emery, I don't have any experience. I don't know anything about putting in a windshield . . .[Laughter] I don't know about shower doors . . ." So, how do you overcome that objection?
Mark: There are a couple of ways. We've got great training, fabulous training. We've got our technical service contractor who’s been in the glass business for fifty years. He gets about four hundred phone calls a month from our franchisees . . .
Mark: And from their specialist technicians. We've got great training here, and there's follow-up training here. We're partners with Cardinal Showers. Cardinal Showers has training in Louisville, and someone goes to Louisville for the training, and we go ahead pay for a hotel for one night and all the food. There's ways of learning all those things. I think that the other thing is just there's people out there that are looking for the right company to work with. They have their expertise. So, for instance, if I became a franchisee, I am the most non-handy person in the world. I would hire somebody. I’d want to learn it myself, but to get going, I'd hire somebody with some experience.
Emery: Yes. All that makes sense so that…
Mark: And we can guide them and we, Emery, throughout the whole process.
Emery: Yes. And you mentioned that everything happens here. So, I'm assuming that everything is at headquarters in Waco, Texas, right?
Mark: Yes. Yes.
Emery: Okay. So that's where the training…
Mark: Wait. A week from now, we're having our Glass Doctor conference in San Antonio. We'll have about 200 people there, and we're doing all sorts of different training there, 27 vendors are coming in. So there’s different things we do throughout the year to allow people to grow. The other thing is that we got great franchisees. We'd been in business fifty-two years. We have franchisees that are glad to help other franchisees coming in. They know what it was like when they were new. They remember.
... there’s different things we do throughout the year to allow people to grow.
Emery: Yes. Yes. Well, the support is… that's number one on my list when I look at any franchise opportunity—what's the support like? And if the support's not there, then, you're just hung out to dry. I've been dealing with the Glass Doctor for well over a year now . . .
Emery: And what I've seen is just… I'm impressed with the level of support. I can always get somebody on the phone, you know, in dealing with the folks that are doing the resales. So, just kind of going back to what we've been talking about. How difficult is it to start up a start-up? I mean, what are the requirements for a start-up as opposed to a resale opportunity?
Mark: I'm not sure which one is easier, quite frankly. In theory, you want to think that a resale is easier…
Mark: Because you've got people that already do it on the staff. But you don't know if they’re any good or not. I'll give the best example.
My vice president, who’s been with Glass Doctor about 11 years now both as a franchisee and then coming to corporate, Mike was in Seattle. When he got in the business, he bought an ongoing Glass Doctor operation, had five employees… he fired three of them. [Laughter] And subsequently, he began the fastest-growing franchise in the history of the company. Now, when he sold his business—and he sold because he could—he sold on a win-win situation not because he had to or anything like that, he moved to Waco. So, Mike's the guy that's in charge of our operations now.
We've got other franchisees around the country… And you know, what always I suggest as a person, any buyers looking to buy a franchise or invest in a franchise, call some people that came in from the cold, that have never done this before. And we're glad to help and support that.
Emery: Do the validation.
Mark: I've been in this business now, in the franchising world, about 33 years. When I joined Glass Doctor, I had zero glass experience whatsoever…
Mark: Well, my staff had some people had 30 years. Frank had fifty years. All my support people have been in the business an average, in glass business, an average of over 15 years. So, we can help.
Emery: Yes. What would you say… Mark, let's just talk about the average Glass Doctor franchise. How many trucks do they have out there? How many technicians do they have? What can each technician be expected to bring in per year? Just a little bit on the numbers, if you can share some of that with me.
Mark: I don't think I can. [Laughter] I think the FTD prevents me from saying some of those things.
Emery: The FTD on average is okay.
Mark: Yes, I wanted to…
Mark: But again I suggest… I know exactly, based on our FTD, exactly, we have an Item 19. So, a person can see,
Emery: Right. Alright.
Mark: Exactly, you know, from what range to what range . . . We'll talk about it. There's five rules in the Glass Doctor operation. There's the owner and they set the tone, alright?
Mark: There is someone in ISR—Inside Sales Rep. They answer the phone, and they say yes. They talk to customers. They quote on auto, and they set appointments, figure out… we do free appointments… figure out and measure to make sure what we're quoting is the right thing to fill. There's a scheduler. That scheduler is often the person… the Inside Sales Rep. And the reason being, the work to get going, they can do that. Now, if someone's not good on the phone, we've got a phone answering service we've worked with now for over 10 years. They take 25,000 calls a month for us, the Glass Doctor alone. They're great. If I was new, I'd probably turn over my phones, just to have them answer my phones for me. . .
I think more of our business, quite frankly, is the people who are already in the house and need repairs or replacements.
Mark: And there’s the technician specialists. The technician specialists' job is going out, and they're actually doing the work. That's the person that's in the house. Then, there's an Outside Sales Rep. The Outside Sales Rep often is the franchise owner. If you start to look at how many people do I need to start with, it depends on the skill level of the franchisee coming in, and so often, it's that person and two more people….
Mark: It's pretty easy to get started.
Emery: Yes. So, let's say I've got a crack in my windshield. I'm driving down the highway, stone hits my windshield…
Emery: It cracks. I call the Glass Doctor. Can I get an estimate right over the phone, or does somebody actually have to come out and look at my windshield?
Mark: No. No. Absolutely, we can do it on the phone…
Mark: And we can also typically do with the job in that afternoon or the next day depending on…
Mark: How easy it is to get glass. And usually, we get all of our glass from two major people, from PGW and also from Pilkington. We also have a program with them that no one else has in the industry, that no one else has in the country. It's called our G-12 Windshield Guarantee Program, where it's free for a franchisee to get. We provide a free windshield within a year if a person has another cracked glass or it just can't be repaired. That's transferable to every franchisee it happens to, in Florida, if you’re on vacation in Seattle, they’ll do that for free there.
Emery: Does your competition offer anything similar to that? I mean, that's a great advantage to… to go on to the Glass Doctor, in the first place, but what about the competition? [Do] They offer anything like that that you are aware of?
Mark: No. In fact, I've seen…
Mark: In fact, I’ve seen people try to match it but within the same city! [Laughter] So we’re talking about when you’re on vacation or doing anything else…
Emery: Sure. Sure.
Mark: And you're away from home, and it's such a wonderful thing. And the franchisee doesn't pay for it, and the consumer doesn't pay for it. The people we buy glass from buy the insurance policy. So, there's nothing match to at all. We've had that about seven to eight years now.
Emery: Oh, definitely an advantage for the consumer. [I] Just want to spend a minute on flat glass. Let's take a scenario. I'm building a house…
Emery: And I need shower doors, I need windows. How could the Glass Doctor help me building my house?
Mark: We do anything from the shower doors, like you're saying, to the windows, to mirrors, to sliding glass doors. Anything at all to do with glass, we can do it.
Emery: So, the estimator would come on out?
Mark: Yes, we can do that.
Mark: But I think more of our business, quite frankly, is the people who are already in the house and need repairs or replacements.
Emery: I see. I see. Okay.
Mark: A good example… In a house you have, usually, an insulated glass unit, alright? Think about this. Its two pieces of glass with a space running between and we all have [that] in our houses. At some point, usually within seven to ten years, that goes bad and you start to see there's fog or this mist inside that window…
Mark: All it means is [that] the seal is broken and needs to be replaced. A person doesn’t have to buy a whole window or case or anything else like that. We can just replace the glass. And people just love that. Much more affordable.
Emery: Yes. Good… good service.
Mark: We're seeing a lot of people upgrade to the heavy glass shower doors. They are just beautiful. We're seeing people do decorative mirrors, table tops, glass table tops now. So, you just start thinking about all those different things. It's a lot more than just fixing the rocks flying out of the lawn mowers, or kids playing catch the ball [that] goes to the window.
Emery: Yes. It's like [what] you said earlier, anything glass you guys do.
Mark: Yes, absolutely!
Emery: Yes. Well, I think we've given the folks a well-rounded view of what the Glass Doctor does and the product offering. I appreciate you getting on the phone this afternoon with me, Mark. It was a good conversation. Hopefully, we can do more of these in the future.
Mark: Yes, and there's one more thing. Let me add, can I?
Emery: Sure! Absolutely!
Mark: Alright. From the training standpoint, when I became president three years ago, what I did is I handed, I had eight employees that were field reps to support our franchisees. And I said to them… "Do me a favor. Write down on a scale of 1-10 how a franchisee can make money."
It came back with 22 different answers. [Laughter]
Emery: Well . . .
Mark: That was nice.
Emery: Overkill. [Laughter]
Mark: But the bad thing was I wanted ten, and it also showed me that my people thought different things. So, I put a group of people together, a group of franchisees—I had 23 franchisees that had 271 years of Glass Doctor experience—and I asked them the same question. I said, "Here's 23 things we came up with, or 21, I guess, things we came up with. Do me a favor, on a scale of 1-10, give me your answer on how you can best make money."
Once I got that back, there were fourteen that stood a head above the rest, alright? What's nice about that, we’re the only company that I'm aware of that… it's called the Fab 14. [Laughter]
I want them to be the Ten Commandments. I can see Charlton Heston coming down and as Moses, and he's given the Ten Commandments. [Laughter] "Here's Glass Doctor's Ten Commandments." But what happened… it didn't work out that way. Ten was close to eleven, eleven was close to twelve . . . twelve was . . . on the fourteen. And a big space between fourteen and fifteen. We called it the Fab 14.
We're the only franchisor that I know that have put these in order of points, and we teach the Fab 14. Our system is much more. But we teach franchisees exactly what successful franchisees tell me that is the right thing to do. And it’s huge! For a new franchisee, that's huge. I've worked… I've been a franchisee, I've worked for a franchisor throughout the 33 years, and I want to hear what the people, the franchise owners, are saying about how to make money…
... we teach franchisees exactly what successful franchisees tell me that is the right thing to do.
Mark: Not what the guys at corporate say. And that's a huge thing for someone to understand. That's what I’ll learn as a Glass Doctor franchisee. Not what the guys in Waco say.
Emery: Exactly. Yes. The boot's on the ground . . .
Emery: And that's a great idea for our next podcast. Maybe [we'll] talk about the Fab 14 a little bit, how's that sound?
Mark: I'll be glad to.
Emery: Alright. Awesome, Mark. And again, folks, this is Mark Liston, president of Glass Doctor. Mark, thanks so much for spending some time with us this afternoon.
Mark: Enjoyed it. Thanks so much.
Emery: Alright. We'll talk to you next time.
Mark: Yes, that's good.
Emery: Okay, bye-bye.
You've been listening to franchise talk with Emery Orosz, Morgan & Westfield's expert in buying and selling franchises. If you'd like more information about selling or buying a business franchise, call Emery at Morgan & Westfield at 928-793-3000 or send in an email to emery, that's E-M-E-R-Y@morganandwestfield.com [email@example.com].