Australian Auto Glass Association

The Australian Auto Glass Association

As unusual this is my own opinion based on open information obtained online. It’s in depth, however I make no apology, this blog has too much information for a summery post. Whist I’m at it, anyone with a hive mentality may want click the back button now. I encourage critical thinking in my writings so those who like to blindly follow may be disappointed. Right, that leaves you, so buckle up let’s get into it.

The Australian Auto Glass Association (AGA). What is it? What does it do? Who does it represent? Is it necessary?

I published a Blog about the AGA in 2015 not long after the AGA was formed, at that time I was curious about it’s values. Six years have passed so I have decided to take another look to see if there has been any progress.

What is the AGA?

The AGA is an “Association“. The definition of an association is as follows. “An incorporated association is a legal entity separate from its individual members“. The Auto Glass Association is registered under the Australian ABN. 97 140 551 892 and operates as an “Other Incorporated Entity“. Should you require more information about the AGA and how it conducts it’s business you can download detailed information for a fee from ASIC.

The AGA Committee

Since my last assessment in 2015 the AGA Committee has reduced it’s size and now accommodates 15 committee members as opposed to 21, a reduction of 28.5%. At the time of this writing the committee consists of 8 members who represent industry related products (53%). 4 representing national windscreen service providers (27%) and 3 that represent small local windscreen services providers (20%). It’s unclear why the committee has been reduced in numbers. So let your own mind ponder this… Not enough interest? High committee fees? Easier to manipulate nominations?

Further, one should note that some companies have two members on the executive committee, National Auto Glass Supplies & National Windscreen Group. These duplicate members carry the same title of “Full Member Representative”.

Again, it’s unclear why some are able to have multiple representatives on the same committee whilst others have none. Why would one want two members on the same committee since both share the same ideology. Diversity would surely be the preferable option for an association rather than organisations having multiple representatives, since differences of opinion are more beneficial.

To be fair we could give the AGA the benefit of the doubt and assume the duplicate members may be the result of them unable to find suitable or submissive committee candidates. Perhaps there are many wallflowers at the AGA that believe if they simply support the association they may get chucked a bone.

Don’t laugh, associations and the like attract many types, especially those who are unable to stand on their own two feet. There are many old executives still in this industry and they require you to perform their donkey work.

Anyway, regarding the duplicate members, alternatively, it may be due to expensive executive membership fees. This is unclear since their membership page reveals only the fees required to become an “Associate Member”, which at the time of this writing is $295 AUD.

One can confirm the old pricing of an AGA Executive Membership using the “Way Back Machine” search engine. This confirms Executive Committee Membership was 8.8k based on AGA application data from 2014. If the fee still exists today it may have increased since the price of an Associate Member has risen 7.2% during this time.

Members Elected By Default?

The AGA claims to have a membership of 122 companies, down from 155 or 22%, which was claimed in 2015. However, of the 122 there are a few individuals that re appear on the Executive Committee year on year.

Another trip back in the “Way Back Machine” assists us in observing these changes in the Executive Membership over time. Although it appears there has been influx of product suppliers on the Executive Committee there has not been much change during a seven year period. In fact, five of the original members still sit on the committee, that’s 33.3% unchanged year on year. This is the committee from 2014 and this is committee of 2021. From this observation one may assume these re-elected individuals are the founding members and more importantly controllers of AGA agendas.

As a foot note, it’s interesting that two of the largest corporations RACQ/Glass Assist and Sika have parted company from the association altogether. Perhaps they did not see any benefit, but this is unclear.

Associate Members

I had a look at how the voting system works and it appears that Associate Members (The rank and file small business) are unable to nominate representatives onto the Executive Committee. Associate Members are eligible to apply for executive membership, however, only those who currently sit on the committee can approve their application. This is the wording exactly “An Associate member shall be entitled to speak and be heard at all General Meetings of the Association, but shall only be entitled to be a member of the executive committee or hold an office in the association if agreed to by the executive committee”.

Did I read that correctly? Just in case here is the link to clause 5.1.2 for you to decide. On a positive note, it does state that an associate member is entitled to “speak and be heard”, so one should be grateful for that. Whether the committee takes notice is another matter altogether.

That said, we could say with confidence if you had ambitions of joining the AGA in the hope of influencing future agendas you would want to be sure your opinions are in line. More importantly you would want to be sure your opinions are in line with the current committee, especially those who’s names seem to be a permanent fixture.

Professional Member (Affiliate)

A “Professional Member” is another phrase for an industry related product supplier. Examples of these would be windscreens, adhesives, tool suppliers, etc. These members are not eligible to vote on industry related affairs, however unlike an associate member they can nominate representatives on the committee, so they do have more voting privileges.

As a condition the “Professional Members” must meet the eligibility standards as agreed to by the Executive Committee. In other words, their products must meet a required standard. This is an interesting condition since there is no mention of “Australian Standards”, only “Committee Standards”. Further, the persons most qualified to judge the quality of a windscreen product is the end user, the associate members (Technicians). However, it appears these opinions are excluded.

So we have a situation were product standards are to be authorised by executives who are unqualified and inexperienced to pass judgement, or may have a conflict of interest since they are on the committee. Further, associate members are excluded from this decision making altogether.

As technicians we know first hand how the market has been flooded with sub standard products in recent years. If we are serious about “lifting standards” these decisions should not be left in the hands of those who may have a conflict of interest. In other words, individuals who make a profit from these products.

So What’s In It For Low Level Members?

Most small business owners with limited time and funds could likely only afford an associate membership. So what’s in it for you? It’s not selfish ask, after all you’re running a business not a charity, so there has be benefit either directly or indirectly for you.

The AGA claim there are many incentives and a visit to their website home page reveals some of these. The incentives you will receive are listed as “marketing, information, training and tools” etc. So, slicing through the corporate speak, what exactly are you getting? Benefits apparently… Meaning you will not receive anything, but being a member of the group will protect you and the industry in the future. A bit like a Trade Union, strength in numbers and all that.

I’ve decided to hold my tongue here and not share my full opinion regarding the membership benefits. Furthermore, only you can decide what’s beneficial for you. However I will say this. You should not expect too much benefit if the highlights of becoming a member is a “business listing” on the AGA directory and “professional social media coaching”.

The AGA Facebook consists of mostly random posts plucked from Google News and it appears anything with “windscreen” in the title will do. One would hope that the professional social media advice you receive as part of your package is not from the same guy who advises them. I’m not being unkind here as the truth be told our FB is no longer, but then again I’m not trying to sell you a membership based on how I can help your social media.

Speaking of membership fees, it’s $295 for associate members and if it still exists today 8.8k for executive members. If we use the AGA claimed membership numbers of 122, then the annual revenue could look something like this.

15 Executive Members x 8.8k = 132000

107 Associate Members x $295 = $31565

Total annual contributions = $163565

A handsome annual contribution I think you will agree. Not being a member of the association I’m unsure what the contributions are used for. However, if you are a member you should be informed where and how these funds are spent. Spending should be transparent and data should be available to those who request it.

Common expenses would be website development, a part time salary for the admin, tea and scones at meetings perhaps (strippers should not be included)… It’s rumored that individual meeting expenses such as flights/travel are also paid for by the Executive Members themselves, which is very generous on top of their 8.8k contribution. However, this is not confirmed.

What’s The Purpose Of An AGA?

The AGA mission statement has not changed since its introduction and here is a snip “The Independent Auto Glass Association (AGA) was formed in 2013 to give all sides of the automotive glass industry a unified voice, becoming a central conduit for communication, training and representation operating in the interest of the industry as a whole”.

So what does this statement actually mean? In my opinion, apart from a very loose sentence of buzz words, not much at all. Further the statement reads like it was custom designed to not say anything specific (Corporate Speak). My guess is it was drafted by the executives as it doesn’t read like the words of an independent auto glass specialist. In any event, let’s take a look at some of the claims.

The AGA claim to give “all sides of the auto glass industry a unified voice“. Now I’d like to point out that I didn’t come to any quick conclusions. My post’s are rarely written in one sitting and I gave this some thought before I concluded this is a misleading statement. Mainly because the AGA doesn’t represent all sides of the auto glass industry, it represents a small percentage of the industry and below I’ve built a strong case to prove this.

Shell Games With The Membership Numbers

According to a paper published by the Australian Auto Glass Industry Alliance (AAIA). It’s said that the auto glass industry in Australia consists of over 500 windscreen repairers. For those who don’t know know the AAIA is similar to the AGA, but free to join and less corporate.

I’m unsure how accurate and how current the numbers are, but I think we could agree there would be at least 500 independent auto glass businesses in Australia. If so the AGA and it’s 122 members represent only 24.4% of the businesses and that’s assuming there are only 500 windscreen companies, any more and they dilute further.

Not being satisfied with this number I counted the AGA members again. However, this time I counted the businesses in an unbiased manner by counting companies once only and not counting multiple branches of the same company. Let me explain below.

As I have mentioned in previous posts a branch/outlet works to the orders of it’s head office so a national company should count as one member since it is one company and has one CEO. Other outlets of the same company are simply a part of the hierarchy, they’re not independent companies. If a company conducts it’s business out of 100 different buildings it doesn’t become 100 companies. One company has one ABN and pays one tax bill, therefore it equals one company and one AGA member.

Who ever is in charge of statistics at the AGA believe some members should be counted multiple times. Nation Auto Glass has been counted 10 times & Instant Windscreens 36 times. So if we use my preferred method and count these companies once only the AGA membership total is slashed from 122 companies to 76, or 15.2% of the auto glass industry.

Based on these new figures it’s evident the AGA does not represent the auto glass industries view at all, only a small percentage. However, if you scroll to question 15 on a document the AGA submitted to the NSW Government regarding the review of the Motor Dealers and Repairers Act, the AGA claims their members represent 80% of the industry. This is grossly overestimated according to my sums by a massive 64.8%.

It’s often said “you can’t argue with the math” but actually you can and you should. The thing about numbers is they’re often massaged to say whatever people want, so it always pays to look and ask for the data supporting the claim.

What’s going on? Why is the AGA artificially inflating membership numbers? Have these companies paid membership fees multiple times for each branch too?

Why stop at counting branches. Here is a genius idea, why not count mobile workshops too (vehicles), I reckon they could boost the membership stats into the thousands. After all those windscreen fitters are a bunch of dick heads anyway aren’t they? Who’s going to notice.

It’s misleading statistics like this that place subliminal messages (misleading data) into the minds of those who don’t know any better and are too lazy to research for themselves. This includes Government officials and stake holders of the auto glass community. In turn, this gives the impression that the AGA is a large institute representing almost every independent windscreen business in Australia when this is far from true.

What Are The AGA Goals?

In 2015 a news clip published by AGA strongly suggests the AGA are about lifting standards. The President of the AGA at the time is quoted as stating “The auto glass technicians have been crying out for a standardised training program to keep them on the front foot of industry developments”. He went on to say “lifting the standards is the AGA’s mandate”.

A strong statement, it’s clear the AGA is very passionate about industry regulation, training programs, licensing and the like. In fact, from the AGA Presidents statement it’s their “fundamental goal”.

Unlike the AGA, I’ve never once witnessed a technician begging for more regulation and red tape as we have enough already, especially today. Further, the statement suggests that auto glass technicians have been crying out for training to keep them on the front foot of developments. However, I’m not aware such a program exists. Currently only Cert II and Cert III TAFE programs are available and both are best suited for trainees. Further, these programs are so far outdated they are teaching butyl kit installs from the 70/80s.

You will say “well we have to start somewhere” Personally, I’m getting a little tired of this argument that suggest sloppy, lazy workmanship is a training issue and it will be better when we get licensed and certified. This is utter nonsense, with zero evidence to suggest this. We will rid the industry of poor practices when people are held accountable with consequences.

An example of this is like being aboard an express train heading for the edge of a cliff and someone suggesting if we all put our hands out of the windows it will make a difference. In reality the tiny difference it may make will not change the outcome, we are going over the edge regardless? Applying the brakes is the solution here.

Most other industries have been regulated for decades. If the training fixes the cowboys then there would be no such thing as a dodgy builder, mechanic, plumber or used car sales man. But we already know it’s not good logic, it’s simply an idea that’s been placed in your mind by people looking to take further control of who enters the industry.

National Business Differs From Local Business

I’ve mentioned many times that large national businesses differ from small local business. This is why it’s difficult for all business national and local to be united.

For example, during the process of the Review of the Motor Dealers and Repairers Act, submissions were open for businesses to have their say. There were several dozen submissions, however only a few were from auto glass businesses.

The AGA submitted a response (Q7) which included a request of flexibility in regards to licensing and certification in NSW during disaster events such as hail storms. If accepted this request would enable unlicensed/uncertified technicians to fly in on a temporary basis to assist with the repair work.

I can understand why national businesses would request this flexibility as it’s good for their business. However, as a small independent I would not be aligned with this idea. For example, if a hail storm fell on a post code near us the last thing we would want is an army of uncertified auto glaziers without licenses flying in to steal all the work on cheap insurance contracts.

So whilst it’s understandable that national networks would request this flexibility. Personally I believe the AGA is not representing the interests of it’s independents and stakeholders.

Further, and more importantly this does not fall in line with what’s best for the customer. Whilst we all argue over market share, the quality of what is being distributed is often ignored. It’s the customer that ends up with a compromised product. I say this as a very experience technician, manager and business owner of 28+ years. One who has participated in 5 hail storms, so I am qualified to pass comment.

Wrap Up

I’m not a member of the AGA or any other group for that matter as I’ve always found such groups to be self serving. I’ve always believed strong forces don’t require assistance, they much prefer to stand on their own two feet rather than on the shoulders and fingers of others. It’s clear the AGA requires the support of the independents rather than the other way round. However, in my opinion they only require you to make up the numbers, they are not so interested in your input.

So what are their intentions? One can only speculate unless you are one of the founding members. One thing you could be sure of is the association started with the idea of a single person. That idea was shared with another who also though it was a good idea and so on until a basic foundation was formed. This idea was likely related to control of the auto glass industry.

Unlike technicians who will soon require a certificate to demonstrate they know stuff, politicians know very little about the jobs in which they work. For example, the Minister of Health doesn’t have any medical qualifications and knows little about health. This means when his team looks to make changes to an industry they look for an industry group/lobby group for advice. If I had to guess this is what the AGA, or it’s self elected individuals wants to be. The industry group that advises Government on industry changes.

Is this such a bad thing since someone has to be in charge, right? The problem is there is a danger of centralising decision making into the hands of a few. Members of the AGA Committee already posses much power since some control supply chains, insurance contracts and more. The more control individuals have, the more risk of a conflict of interest. Further, one can’t expect an association to represent the industry in an unbiased manner when it’s committee has been self appointed and has no intention of loosing control via an open vote.

Finally, I don’t believe the AGA founders are intentionally looking to directly dupe the independents and I say this sincerely. However, I do believe they are too focused on what they want, rather than what’s best for the majority they supposedly represent.

It’s fair to say that the corporate executive, or large business owner is accustomed to a hierarchy system in which there would be few occasions were they are challenged. If one is used to this kind of authority it’s easy for ones ego to loose touch. However, one should remember members of an association are not part of a business hierarchy, they are equals, or at least they should be. I believe this may have been overlooked or forgotten, especially by founding members.

One final point is this post is not intended to whip up a left vs right, us vs them debate, although some may read it this way. On the other hand, my comments could and should be taken as constructive criticism. My views are not targeted at any individual, rather the association and it’s structure as a whole. So if the AGA is genuine in their efforts in uniting independents for whatever reasons then it’s paramount they are able to take some thoughtful independent feedback whether they agree or not.

The ideas and purpose of the AGA have to date not been readily received by the vast majority of independent auto glass businesses and until we are able to openly discuss problems, then they never will be.