Mike Williams shares his routine managing three NOVUS Glass franchise locations
By Joelle Kidd
Experience often breeds invention, and that was true for the founder of the NOVUS Glass brand. The company started in 1972, after Frank Werner had to get three windshield replacements in a short period of time. He set out to find a better way to deal with windshield repair, and ended up developing a resin that has a better structural integrity and is clearer than any other competition.
Today, NOVUS Glass still holds the patent for this special resin, which gives the brand a huge edge in the glass repair industry. Unlike most competitors, which can only fix windshield cracks and chips about the size of a toonie, NOVUS’ technicians can fix a 12-inch crack on a vehicle’s windshield.
“The philosophy, back then as now, is really ‘Repair First, Replace When Necessary,’” says Mike Williams, regional manager for the Skidmore Group, which owns three NOVUS Glass locations. “It saves the customers money, helps the environment [as it prevents windshields from ending up in landfills]—there are a lot of different advantages to doing it that way.”
Williams manages three franchise locations in B.C., in Vancouver, Aldergrove, and South Surrey. Williams has found that working in glass is a community-minded, people-first profession, one that has turned out to be—clearly—the right fit.
The road to NOVUS
Williams’ journey to his current position was a winding one that began in a different industry: the world of quick-service restaurants. Williams spent 11 years at McDonald’s, working his way up from a crew member to management. From there he moved through operations positions in a variety of industries, from telecommunications to retail.
It was this experience managing complex operations that prepared him for joining NOVUS last year. Williams says he likes that NOVUS operates using the franchise model. “Here at NOVUS, every location is independently-owned and -operated. So, we’re very much a part of the community.”
Williams’ management background has proved to be a great asset for his position. When first stepping into the industry, “I knew nothing about glass,” he admits, adding with a laugh, “I’m not even that handy of a person—if my wife asks me to hang a picture on the wall, it’s an all-day event.” But he had honed sharp operational and coaching skills to bring to the position. “It’s similar to [the role] of a coach of a hockey team. They’re not out there with their skates on.”
While Williams knows the basics of windshield repair and is happy to roll up his sleeves and help as needed, his main role is “supporting the technicians in being able to get their job done easier and more efficiently.”
It’s certainly a hands-on job, from helping out technicians to dealing with customers to building connections in the community. “Very little of my time is actually sitting behind a desk staring at a computer … It’s having fun with the team, looking for better efficiencies, taking care of our customers, taking care of our people.”
Drive a mile in his shoes
For Williams, every day looks a little bit different, but he does follow a routine to efficiently manage the three different locations.
A typical day “really starts the day before,” he notes. “That’s when [I] and my three store managers [look at] the schedules for the following day.” Around two to four o’clock in the afternoon, Williams and his managers assess the staffing plan for the next day, how many jobs each location has, the complexity of each job, and which technicians will be in each store, and matching which staff will be the most suitable for each job.
Each morning, Williams has a 15-minute virtual “morning huddle” with the managers of the three locations. “We’ll talk about the previous day’s performance, the sales, if we hit our goals, what today’s goals are going to be, any other successes that we’ve achieved.”
Typically, Williams will have an admin day each week and split the other days between locations, “basically coming out to the stores, interacting with customers, getting feedback … Having one-on-ones with the staff, the technicians, and the customer service representatives to really understand what their challenges are and what their frustrations are, and listening to them about different things we can improve on, efficiency-wise.”
He also sits down weekly for one-on-one meetings with each of his managers, during which time they review individual development plans and strategize ways to overcome challenges.
Beyond this loose structure, Williams says every day really is different. Among the tasks that he might find himself pursuing on a given day are resolving difficult customer situations, getting out in the community to look for business opportunities, or connecting with current fleet customers or local insurance brokers.
“A lot of times, if a customer needs their vehicle’s glass fixed, they don’t know where to go, so they’ll call their insurance broker … we want them to refer us because we have a good relationship with them,” Williams points out. He’ll also reach out to service businesses that rely on their vehicles. “Electrical companies, plumbers, that sort of thing—maybe they were broken into the day before, maybe they have a cracked windshield in their van … they’re an essential business and they can’t be out of service. So what can we do to make sure we’re coming to them and helping them get back up and running ASAP?”
Williams characterizes NOVUS Glass as a “really people-driven” company.
“We want to make sure that our teams are being challenged, motivated, and inspired to learn,” he says. The brand’s franchisees are a tight-knit community, Williams says, and often reach out to each other for advice. The brand also emphasizes ongoing training, with both a technical trainer and franchise business partner visiting the locations several times throughout the year to refresh and update knowledge and keep the business on track with its goals.
This culture is for the benefit of the customer as well. “Nobody wants to come to a glass repair or replacement centre,” Williams points out. Customers’ vehicles have usually been unexpectedly damaged or broken into, which means an unforeseen cost and even the loss of valuables. That’s why “it’s really about being able to create a culture of the best hospitality and comfort that we can for our customers,” Williams says.
“It’s all about empathy,” he adds. The key is listening, hearing the customer out, identifying their needs, and clearly communicating how the process works—“reassuring them that we’re going to get them back on their feet.” On the positive side, they get to be a part of the solution for someone in a difficult situation. And they must be doing something right. “Amongst the three stores, we have more than 500 five-star Google reviews,” Williams notes.
NOVUS Glass offers customers the option to bring in their vehicles, or a mobile service where they can do repairs on site, as long as there’s an area where the technicians can work. The brand’s emphasis on repairing rather than replacing has made an impact, not only for customers’ wallets, but the environment—Williams says the brand has saved more than 44 million windshields from the landfill.
When asked his advice for prospective entrepreneurs looking to invest in a franchise, Williams touts the importance of doing your research and picking the right brand. “It should be … a brand that you believe in and you feel passionate about, and that you’re going to want to work and grow [with].”
It’s clear he feels this way about NOVUS Glass. “The two big things that really motivate me are developing my team … [and] learning new things myself. I want to feel challenged every day, and working at NOVUS lets me do those two things, every single day.”