BSF Interview -Christophe I hear ya but there is more to add…

Window Film Magazine July/August 2008 what an issue! Two interviews of major industry manufacturers and an article on the Dade County Test, now I’ve got all kinds of things to blog about…

In yet another interview, WFM talks with Christophe Fremont the president of Bekaert Specialty Films (BSF). He believes that the window film industry is at a crossroad. I couldn’t agree with him more. There is an opportunity to do things right which would lead to a prosperous future but my question is “A prosperous future for whom?”

Before I elaborate on why I ask that question let me say that I also agree that the bar of professionalism must be raised industry-wide. Yes, this industry is one of contradictions and suffers from a lethargic mindset of thinking that “this is a ‘specific industry’, we’ve tried it all and we know what won’t work so don’t even try and get us to change…” That thinking has flourished from the top of the production ladder where commodity-based thinking rules all the way down to the dealer who still writes his invoices on carbon paper receipts and leaves his bids on the back of his business card.

The energy crisis has basically given this industry a second chance at changing its ways but we cannot be selective we must be all-inclusive. If we miss the boat, it will sail off for good and no one will be on it. Everyone needs to unify to promote and grow the market on the architectural side. In contradiction to Mr Fremont’s observation, I believe that the industry has been market driven in the past but it was automotive specific. Now we need to readjust, but we also need more than just a mass-awareness campaign to set us on a course to a bright and prosperous future.

Mr. Fremont described dealers as “ambassadors of the industry” when it comes to selling the product and he expressed that there exists a need for a high level of professionalism so that everyone can capitalize on the opportunity that is set before the industry. This is true and the analogy is a good one but I strongly believe that manufactures need to do more than just see that the remedy is to equip the dealer with the right tools and information and let them loose to represent an entire industry an ambassador. If a country sets out to find a good ambassador do they appoint the person who is completely unqualified and incompetent or should they look for the best qualified persons to represent their country? (I know what happens in real life so no one needs to bring to my attention the fact that we should not follow any government’s example of selecting representatives. This is Mr. Fremont’s example, I’m just going with it…)

In my own local market there exists a dealer (ambassador) who is notorious for selling a certain manufacturer’s premium window film for the same price per square foot that we were selling flat glass films for back in the early 1990’s. It becomes very apparent that he has no use for the extensive marketing materials because he gives out scraps of film in various shapes and sizes as his samples. A grease pen is used to identify the film and its performance specs. Perhaps, this is due to this dealer not being able to understand that a business needs to make a healthy enough margin so that it can afford to buy marketing materials and so forth. If he cannot afford to purchase specification cards or other marketing materials, can he afford to implement other tools designed to bring accuracy, impact, and measurement such as Specularis™? Or should I say will he ever implement these tools? No, he will not. Why? He is a window tinter, not a businessperson. Is that his fault? Not necessarily, he was trained to install window film but was he ever trained on how to run a business? These types of dealers have no use for tools because the only way that they know how to sell window film is by offering the lowest price even to the point of hurting their company and markeplace.

I am not trying to pick on any specific dealers who sell a specific brand of window film. This is an industry wide problem and I see an opportunity to bring the issue to the fore here. Mr. Fremont is right, all manufactures should strive to educate and empower dealers with the tools that can make them the best ambassadors that they can possibly be. But they should not ignore the fact that they have chosen to do business with some people that have little or no business skills whatsoever. Would BSF or any other window film manufacture want to hire these kinds of people to run their company? Of course not! So why do they do business with companies who damage the market rather that keep it healthy? If we are going to be market driven, we must have a healthy marketplace to do business in. This involves educating the dealer base to incorporate healthy business practices into their own companies. It also involves only doing business with companies that are law abiding. If a company has disregard for laws and safe practices, will they have any regard for the health of the industry and the direction it travels in? And in answer to my very first question, it most certainly involves creating an industry that does not compete against its customers (the window film dealers) but rather it partners to help its customers achieve success which in turn runs upstream to the supplier. How can anyone expect exponential growth based on the current practice of turning your dealer into an installer? In my opinion, that is a backwards practice and the logic and reasoning behind it is no different than the mindset “this is a ‘specific industry’, we’ve tried it all and we know what won’t work so don’t even try and get us to change…” This is a way of doing business that only brings prosperity to one side of our industry, namely the manufacturing side. True, some manufactures have made changes as of late but more of a course correction is needed.

Until we as an industry collectively turn full-circle and change our ways, we will continue to struggle with inconsistency, inaccuracy, and all of the other corrosive practices that have prevented us as from reaching our full potential. This year a major milestone was reached by two manufactures namely, the achievement of NFRC certification. Yes, as you encouraged… let’s partner as an industry and all take the step for 3rd party performance verification by the NFRC. This will root out the “trick information” produced by some companies and leave us with standard forms of measurement. I would like to see BSF’s films on the NFRC list along with the other companies that have yet to get their products certified.

In my estimation this was a great interview. I really appreciated Mr. Fremont’s response to a competitor when he said “the greatest risk we can take as an industry is to remain where we are.” I believe that is all-inclusive and not just case specific so I challenge you and your counterparts in manufacturing Mr. Fremont to change the landscape completely by not only addressing the issues the you brought up but also the issues brought up here. Yes, “tomorrow starts today” so let’s take it to the next level and not wait for someone else to do it!



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