Women In Window Film 'Rock and Roll'
Women's Careers Advance To The Top In The Window Film Industry
Women In Window Film Crash The Glass Ceiling
Two women who have broken through 'glass ceilings ' and powered their way to successful careers in the window film business share their insights with the International Window Film Association.
Terri Fair, 58, and Tammy Lanovaz, 51, started out with little or no knowledge of the window film industry. Today they are leaders in their respective markets and communities.
Part One: Terri Fair is CEO of SAGR Products International, based in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The Early Days
Fair had some experience with the early window films, since her father Glenn Myers was a dealer and installer starting in 1979. At that time some window films were first sprayed-on as liquids, and Fair recalls the early products came with many challenges and were quickly replaced with advanced window film technologies. Later on her father Glenn got out of the dealer business and opened SAGR Products International as a distributor of window films.
Meanwhile, Fair graduated from college as a geriatric caregiver and worked as a hospice nurse and in an adult daycare center. After a few years, she had decided the geriatric field wasn't for her, so she moved into a sales role with another company that involved significant travel away from her family. As she had young children at home, it wasn't an ideal career either.
By 1984, her father may have noticed the challenges she faced and suggested she try her hand in a marketing and sales role for his company. She was somewhat reluctant to work in the family business, but decided to take the plunge.
"Well, the marketing role lasted about two weeks because some staff in the warehouse left and it left a big hole in the business, so the next thing I knew I was in the warehouse
, pulling film orders for dealers, invoicing them and learning everything I could about the different types of window films," said Fair.
Then the business began to grow and they moved locations several times until they built an 8,000 square foot distribution facility. "Now when we need more space, we can just add on, since we own the building and land," said Fair.
Being A Woman In Window Film
Asked if she felt like the 'odd woman out' in a male-dominated field, Fair said, "I was definitely out of the norm at meetings, as there were way more men than women. But, I enjoyed the technical side of the window film business, and I put 110 percent into it, so I knew all about the products. As a result, my customers had a tremendous amount of respect for me“
"I was familiar with being out of the norm, since I’ve been an avid motorcyclist for the past 28 years and I had ridden with several of my customers over the early years. I believe this also helped me bridge the gap within the window film industry," said Fair.
"Of course there were a few men who didn’t feel women belonged in business, but in general the customers that worked with me, the national window film manufacturer representatives and manufacturers treated me as a peer," said Fair.
Fair's father was a constant source of inspiration and support. She often bounced ideas off of him and experienced his steady hand as a mentor as she gradually took on more and more responsibility of running the business and becoming its general manager. Her father passed at the age of 81 in 2015.
Secrets of the Business
A key secret to SAGR's success is the total focus on the needs of the customer and anticipating new trends in window film that can be passed on.
An important factor in SAGR's growth is they represent multiple manufacturers of windows films and tools. Fair says, "we are uniquely seated in the market, we carry multiple manufacturers. Years ago a dealer would stick with one brand and that was it, but that has changed and now no one brand can offer everything."
Using her technical knowledge, Fair has carefully thought out their strategy. "We select high quality products with good warrantees, strong manufacturer backing and the smallest amount of problems," said Fair.
Another differentiator for the business is they offer training courses for installing automotive, safety, flat glass and paint protection films. This helps a window film dealer to keep up with the latest installation tips and learn about new types of window films and how they perform. In addition, it helps SAGR to get to know their customers better. If a business wants to diversify, such as from automotive to flat or architectural glass, they can get training from SAGR.
Fair believes in training so much, that she uses a business development coach to help her in her newer role as CEO. "I really wanted to slide back into the general manager role, but my business coach has helped me on many levels - such as communications, how to delegate, how to be an owner and even to help me overcome the loss of my father.
The Future of Window Film
Fair sees good things ahead for the window film industry. She says it's one of the few industries that has very few prerequisites to get started and that is very entrepreneurial. She points out however, "while it doesn't take a lot to get into the window film business, it does take a lot to stay in it and be successful."
"It is a great business for women to get into, but there are so many film brands it can be overwhelming at first for a new dealer. The upside is that this industry never stops evolving; there’s always something new to learn," said Fair.
Fair said SAGR has always been a Distributor Member of the International Window Film Association (IWFA). "Sometimes I don't think dealers understand the value that the IWFA delivers. The IWFA is so busy making things happen behind the scenes and working on behalf of the industry to help ensure we have a level playing field, that information and performance claims are accurate and working with lawmakers on legislation that supports the public and the industry. Its window film Accreditation Program is fantastic and everyone should take advantage of it.
Part two: Tammy Lanovaz, president of SuperTint
The Early Days
In 1988, at age 22 and fresh out of Red Deer College located between Calgary and Edmonton, Canada with a degree in Recreation Administration, Lanovaz was hungry for work. She was offered a job with SuperTint, an automotive window film installer business that opened in Edmonton in 1979.
"I knew nothing about window film," said Lanovaz. Her first assignment in 1988 was to go to a trade show and work the SuperTint booth. Her supervisor told her how to quote on prices; 'if the car has four doors say it's this much and if a car has two doors it's this much'.
"Well one of the first guys that came to the booth said he had a Camaro and wanted to know how much we'd charge to tint his car, said Lanovaz. "I asked him, does it have two or four doors?" Lanovaz jokingly recalls that she didn't know too much about cars either, as all Camaros are two door models. "When I saw that I had made a big error, I just smiled and he laughed and on we went to the next price quote!"
SuperTint had a number of car dealers as customers, so I was sent over to the dealership to get the cars and drive them to the shop. "It was the best job ever, as there I was driving all these brand new cars. I also had to deal with the used car lots, and the sales managers were a little more challenging to keep at arms length, but we made our way around fine," said Lanovaz.
She started tinting cars herself later in 1988 and the first one was a Suzuki Swift. "I was using a heat gun and watching the squiggle of the film on the curved glass go away and become smooth and it was a thrill," she said. For the next six years, until about 1994, Lanovaz was what she describes as a 'hard core installer'. The company offered architectural window film as well, so she was climbing ladders and standing on staging installing window films.
Over the years Lanovaz has been guided by two key principles: 'always be prepared' (semper paratus), and bringing a positive attitude to the office.
In the late 1990's and early in the 2000's Lanovaz was more involved in the sales and technical side of the business. She was keeping up with the many changes and looking for ways to diversify the business so it wasn't focused too much on one service - such as automotive tint.
By 2006, she was ready to leap into the owner's chair and made an offer to buy the business, which was accepted.
Today the business has 11 staff members. When SuperTint is looking to hire new staff, Lanovaz is directly involved. "One of the first questions I ask is are you afraid of heights?" she states. It is also important to Lanovaz the new hire gets along with everyone and especially her. "All I ask is that they complete their work, have fun and get along with us as the job is casual, but demanding."
Being A Woman In Window Film
Lanovaz said, as woman she ran into what she calls 'nonbelievers and bullies' who didn't think women should be in the automotive window tint side of the business. The culture of Edmonton is also closely linked to the oil industry and hockey. "Everyone has played or follows hockey and usually both," said Lanovaz.
Lanovaz has a number of women on staff and she is laying odds on favorites that her two women installers who will enter the flat glass competition at the 2019 Window Film Conference and Tint-off event will come home winners. "Those two will take home trophies for sure."
In giving advice to other women who are in, or want to enter the window film business she says, "as a woman in this industry it's challenging, but it's so much fun. You have to have confidence in your own decisions and live with the ones that don't turn out well. We have had failures along the way, but if a job turns out not as expected, then you have to be honest with the customer and make it right.”
Secrets of the Business
One her secrets for the success of the business is getting involved in the community and building relationships with architects, specifiers, purchasing agents, building managers and government officials. “On a part-time basis we have a semi-retired glazer on staff that we call the digger and the farmer. His role is to go out and connect with the right influencers that will benefit the company and eventually lead to a sale. In addition, she has two salespeople on staff.
The Future of Window Film
Lanovaz made a strategic decision a few years ago to move the business out of the automotive tint service and focus on architectural and decorative window films. "I was listening to a conversation at our front counter where the customer was seeking a price reduction on an automotive tint job which was about $200. I thought about the time we were spending to accommodate him versus the margin we would make on the job, and in the end it wasn't worth it, so we got out of that business."
She says that flat or architectural glass is a slower sales cycle, but the jobs are much larger and pay better. Recently they have been installing lots of 8-mil safety shield, especially in schools where many of the doors and windows have wire mesh glass that is seen as a liability and potential safety hazard.
Another nice thing about installing flat glass and decorative window films is that much of the work takes place indoors, she adds. This fact should not be overlooked in market where winter temperatures are often 20° Celsius or lower.
Lanovaz does a lot of binder presentations to business prospects and is involved in community benefits and charity events. The company has consistently won the Consumer Choice Award in their division and is a member of Construction Specifications of Canada, among other associations, such as BMI Energy Services, a trusted energy auditing company.
"It's important to keep your profile out there in the community. We do our own marketing and even have a graphic designer on staff, so what we put in front of the community always looks professional," she said.
"I believe in belonging to any credible organization that can also improve your business prospects, and the IWFA is high on that list. They offer accreditations for knowledge of window film, and in window film there is only the IWFA. They are listed as one of our top ten reasons to choose SuperTint.