Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Complete GlassBuild Recap

Wrapping up 2018 GlassBuild America… overall the show was very strong and it matches the overall attitude I heard from many on the floor.  People are very busy and doing well.  So I am very encouraged about how things are headed in our world.  I thought the floor was incredible with regards to the exhibits.  Simply blown away at designs and layouts and how many companies went the extra mile to stand out.  The education and demos did not disappoint and I think the networking potential was easily realized- so many people were meeting all over Vegas; it was surely a productive week for most.

So now on to my personal awards and my annual recap of seen and not seen on the floor.  The show does its Best in Show and the winners were great but I wanted to give kudos to a few others.  I loved the carpet in Vitro’s booth.  It was laid out like a piece of glass and then a piece of oversize behind to show the new size capability.  Pure brilliance from Rob Struble and Glen Miner as always.  HHH’s booth caught the eye of many with very effective marketing pieces- it was super- the duo of Mike Synon and Melissa Blank really came through with a win, and I continually love Quanex’s classic booth that is always front and center and a great show piece- just wish I could’ve actually visited the team there, ran out time.  In the end there were tons of others that deserve congrats too- but this blog will be extra long as it is, so I’ll stop there.  By the way in an upset, best shirts went to Tubelite.  Love the colors!  Unique and cool taste choice.  The former champ Salem had great ones again- as always-, but Mary Olivier and company win it in 2018. And best dressed non company division, Chris Fronsoe of ICD- including the most stylish shoe choices this industry will ever see.

As for the folks on the floor, I was so busy this year with Express Learning, GEF and the Knowledge Bar I did not get around like in the past and missed some folks I hoped to see.  I was though happy to visit and meet in person Heather Monroe of Machines and Wheels.  She’s got great products and she brought Cheerwine soda for me to try (I wrote about it a few months ago) – it was awesome and I am thankful!  Also thankful the hospitality of Bill O’Keeffe and Diana San Diego of SAFTI FIRST- so bummed that my schedule got in the way of spending time with them.  Same with Joe Dressler of Tremco- wish I could’ve broken away but just couldn’t pull it off. 

A Happy Anniversary to Heather West!  Heather’s incredible company (best PR in the industry) celebrated its 20th year in business during the show!  Congrats Heather and here’s to many many more years on top!  Speaking of major leaders in their field, getting to moderate a panel with Garret Henson was great, and seeing the guy with Hollywood great looks Cameron Scripture of Viracon is always a fantastic moment for me.  On that panel by the way, it was remarkable to be on stage with Allen Mathis of YKK and Jeff Rende of Guardian Glass as well.  Those guys (including Garret) were OUTSTANDING! (3 really smart, classy guys carrying me for an hour- thank you!)

Because I was busy I missed spending any time with Bill Sullivan, Sam Benowitz, Dan Wright, and Joe Staffileno all of whom I saw on the floor but could not get anything more than a “hello” out. Pretty much same for my pals Ian “Nic Cage” Patlin and Max Hals of Paragon- I’ll see them more at glasstec.  I did however run into a ton of my past life favorites like Jack Wickstrom, Jon Johnson, Cliff Monroe, Bret Summers, Cliff Helterbran, Erik Stumpf, Mike Hossley, the awesome Wardi Bisharat, Jackie Audette, and in a stunner Ashley Charest.  So cool to see her once again!

Work was getting done on the floor- every time I saw Ralph Aknin and his talented crew from Glass 3 Enterprises they had a crowd around them hanging on every word from Ralph’s mouth.  Same also for Tom Donovan of Suntuitive Dynamic Glass/Pleotint, he was flying high after his product was featured on Treehouse Masters last week.  (More on this on my post next week- huge) Tom O’Malley of Clover Architectural is always here and I always appreciate whether I get to talk to him for 1 minute or 1 hour.  Great guy.  I only got a few minutes with marketing and business development virtuoso Andrew Haring.  Such an terrific person, I am a huge fan and it was nice to just catch up without any specific marketing need or video to shoot attached.

I was blown away that this was Chuck Knickerbocker’s first GlassBuild!  Great to see him and catch up and speaking of first time GlassBuild attendees Tessa Miller, the superb marketing lead from Trex Commercial Products (formerly known as SC Railing) was also making her first appearance at the show.  I loved hearing her thoughts on the show floor! 

I enjoyed chatting with Dustin Anderson of Anderson Glass.  He was a rockstar here this week again, every presentation he did just had the crowd completely engaged and enthused.  While we are on the subject of fired up, the team at IGE Glass Technologies fit that bill, packed pavilion to the point where I had to come an hour before the show started on day 3 to even get a chance to chat with them. 

I LOVE meeting new people.  This time I was honored to meet several.  Leading the way was Kahala Knoop of Pacific Mirror and Glass.  She was a huge help to me while I was moderating the GEF session mentioned above and then we had a great talk on social media- really sharp!  Kristin Thomas of Tab Glass stopped by my spot at the Knowledge Bar to say hi and I am so glad she did- really impressed by everything she’s accomplished and Tab is an awesome company.  I ended up talking her ear off and I hope she made her flight in time!

Last to mention, my utmost respect to the entire team at NGA- this is a monumental event to pull off and this year there were more moving parts and pieces than ever before.  The team there is awesome and I am grateful to get to work with them.  They all deserve kudos for an incredible effort!

Obviously I probably missed some big ones, so I may mention a few more next week.  In any case it’s on to the next ones, starting with glasstec in Germany at the end of October and the Annual Conference and the BEC at the start of 2019.  I look forward to it all!


On this one.. one word… HOW?

Amazing commute to work- I don’t get it- but you do what you have to I guess.

You may have seen this story before- women grabs dynamite instead of a candle.  Crazy scary


Some of you may have noticed I was not wearing my yellow vest this year- that’s because GlassBuild brought in an awesome video guy to do the work while I was speaking/moderating etc.  Unbelievable work was done.. here is video from the 2nd day on the show floor featuring Elvis…

Monday, September 10, 2018

GlassBuild Week

Before I start, my thoughts are prayers are out to everyone on east coast with the impending Hurricane.  Very scary times and here’s hoping for the best.

Ok… we are finally here- GlassBuild America.  One year ago we gathered in Atlanta and the hopes and expectations were very high but unfortunately a hurricane timed itself just “right” and changed plans for so many who planned to attend. Now this year, we should see a very strong and excited crowd with the combo of people who missed the event last year and an overall positive energy surrounding the industry right now.

On the floor and in the surroundings here at the convention center there is ton to see and do.  It is exciting to see that not only can you walk the aisles and see the best exhibitors in the world but you have education all over the place including express learning and action demos.  Plus many exhibitors are planning in booth experiences, folks like IGE have a ton going on with their machinery and various demos and Diamon Fusion has gone as far as having a specific meeting room set aside for a presentation on 9/13 upstairs in the hall.  In addition there’s numerous companies having sales meetings, lunches, hospitality events etc. in combination with the show.  It truly is ground zero for everything happening in our world right now and its quite exciting.

Initial impressions on a floor in progress…  I am always amazed how this show gets built up from nothing.  So many people work so hard to make it shine when the doors open.  Plus it’s very hot out here, so this is not the most fun working conditions.  Walking around its good to see the equipment side of the hall on display.  You name the equipment player and they are here.  It’s incredible. And this show is not the big equipment one- usually the Atlanta version is.  No matter what your role in this industry is, there is equipment here to support and advance your efforts!

I am also excited for Fall Conference to be integrated in to GlassBuild.  I know for some of those folks it makes for a longer week but I think this format is worth a shot and quite frankly there are advantages to getting things all done in one fell swoop vs. having individual events.

Also I must give props to the many exhibitors who really brought the best out of their social media game.  This year by far has been the best with exhibitors utilizing the social medium fully to promote what they have going on.  (Note- If you are coming to the showI will be presenting on social media twice at the Express Learning area)   I have to give big credit to the team at FlexScreen.  They had an amazing series using video snippets and their entire sales team helped push it.  Very well done!!

As I always do after a show on my next post I’ll be noting whom I was lucky enough to visit with and also some of my own personal takeaways from the show.   Note if you are coming to the show, I won’t be in my traffic director vest this year- its been retired for now, but I still hope you’ll look for me and stop me to say hi!


My son is moving to Florida for college.  He hates these sort of animals.  Better keep this from him.

Absolutely next level thinking here.

You know just when you think there’s no good left in the world a simple story like this hits.  Nice work young man!


The latest remake out there is “A Star is Born” and its getting a ton of hype.  Will it live up to it?  I’m not so sure- Trailer is below.  Meanwhile I am hoping that the new Jennifer Garner movie “Peppermint” lasts long enough in theaters for me to see it post GlassBuild.  Love Jen in a serious revenge role!

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Learning, Demos and More- Prepping for GlassBuild America 2018

Next week at this time I’ll be in Las Vegas prepping for GlassBuild America.  As I have been talking about on here for the last several weeks I am very excited for this event and all that it has to offer- it’s going to be a good one!  I assume at this point you’ve made your decision to attend or not.  I surely hope you are going to be there as I think the benefits from being there are extremely valuable.  If for some reason you can’t attend, please follow on social media.  I know that the GlassBuild twitter account as well as the Glass Magazine one will be active with details.  I will be posting on mine as well.  So that can be the next best thing to being there.    As for the event itself, I just wanted to reiterate some of the high points to keep in mind.

The Action Demo area- I know many make sure never to miss the hurricane testing and that is back again this year but its also joined by some great other ones including UV Bonding (great for diversity and profit growth) Glass Scratch Removal (speaks for itself) Frameless Shower Installs & Glass Railings (very popular products these days) Glass lifters (safety matters right??) and Glazing seals (an every day item that can be a difference maker) – so all in all there’s a lot to learn- visit the link HERE for times and details.

Of course Express Learning comes back again and I will be doing my piece on social media but there are many EXCELLENT subjects that will be covered including the economic forecast, getting paid on time, cash flow, codes, EPD’s, edge grinding, recruiting and more.  Seriously one of the best line ups of subjects yet.  Times and details =  HERE.

Two other items not previously mentioned by me…On night one of the show, there’s an on floor opening reception… so before you hit Vegas, enjoy refreshments and fun on the floor.  One day 3 of the show, the NGA knowledge bar will be open too- so any questions you may have, experts will be on hand to answer and I’ll be there to provide comic relief. 

Last but certainly not least- the exhibits and awesome exhibitors.  Next week I’ll give you a preview of what I see before the show opens, but I am pretty confident we will have a jaw-dropping floor when it comes to the booths.  Every year the exhibitors at GlassBuild find ways to push their spaces to the next level and I expect the same for this year.  I pity the judges of Best in Show because I am sure it’s going to be a tough call!

Any questions on the show- drop me a note and I look forward to seeing you there!


--  I have covered on here the goings on at the new Kansas City airport and this week there was an update with regards to the design.  With all of the delays, the airport probably won’t open til 2023 now.  Crazy.

--  In some areas of our world there’s been a pushback on the “open office” floor plan.  It surely isn’t for everyone but this piece does sum up its value.   For me, I like the office floor plan that uses lots and lots of glass!!

--  Last this week… there are a few of you who want my football picks… mostly to mock and be mad that I picked your team.  (Since my track record is so bad) So here goes… in College Football, I’m going with the easy choice and Roll Tide Alabama to win it all over Ohio State.  In the pros, I’m going Carolina Panthers over Kansas City.  So since everyone will be in Vegas next week, you now have 4 teams NOT to bet on…lol.


Growing up in Pittsburgh we had 2 daily newspapers at all times…. Now down to one and it’s not even a daily anymore.  Wow.

Busted for stealing.. lemons? 

Gators have been very tough this fall…


This is much longer than any video I normally put up but it’s a wild story of mistaken identities that work out nicely and it has a glass related (minor) angle to it!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Watching the Momentum

Quick looks at the latest forecasts are showing some slowing of momentum on the commercial building side.  The question though is… are we trending downward or is this just a blip on the radar?  One example?  The Architectural Billings Index was positive again for the 42nd time in the last 49 months but I was reading online where some analysts were worrying over the number.  I am not ready to fret yet given all of the other action happening right now and the positive metrics out there, but as always I will continue to keep close watch and see if anything looks out of sort in the next few reports.


--  Congrats to Bill Daubmann and the team at D3 in Florida on their latest expansion news.  Man that company has continued to grow over the years and it’s been nice to follow their continued development.

--  Saw a thread on an architectural message board recently that said architects are seeing less and less LEED projects.  So I have to ask- is that something our industry is seeing as well?  Are you getting less requests than in the past? I know glass is relatively minor in the big picture of LEED, but still a slowing of LEED projects would be newsworthy.

--  And we are now just 2 weeks away from GlassBuild America.  I have told you about GEF, Fall Conference, and Express Learning.  Now what about the awesome on floor ACTION DEMOS.  Seriously worth your time.  Check out the line up HERE.  These demos are moneymakers for you as a business owner or as a manager.  Check them out.  There is still time to register for the show and grab a room in Vegas.  You want to be at the show and quite frankly you NEED to be at this show!

This week’s interview- Dan Plotnick, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Solar Seal

I have known Dan for many years, but until I got the answers from this interview I really never knew him.  My gosh his path to this business is a fun and wild one. (His wife compares him to Forrest Gump with the travels/people etc.  She’s dead on!)   We are lucky to have him in our industry.  I enjoyed getting to communicate with Dan no matter where in the world he was stationed and always appreciated how he kept up with my posts.  Now its great to have him in North America and in the commercial fab business!  It’s a long one but well worth the read in my opinion!

Am I reading your past right- you were a history major?  If that is correct, how in the world did you end up as such a high powered sales and marketing executive?

Max, you are correct – my major was history with a concentration on the Middle East and a minor in political science.  I went to a small liberal arts college with 1600 students in Los Angeles and my average class size was 15 people.  In class, there was nowhere to hide.  While on paper I’m a history major, in reality, I was a communications major.  Every exam was essay based, I didn’t have one “scan-tron” test and certainly didn’t need a #2 pencil. 

With 15 students on average per class, all lectures were discussion based with open debate based on assigned reading or current events of the day.  If you went to class unprepared, you were embarrassed by the Professor and other students.  You had to digest large amounts of information, have a clear point of view and defend it.  In short, it was analogous to sales: take in large amounts of information, ask a lot of questions, listen and understand other people’s points of view so you can come up with solutions to their problems. 

After university I was in film and television production in New York City -- communications.  Oddly enough, my old babysitter and family friend opened the door to get me into the business and I worked on feature films and commercials.  I didn’t like the industry.  I got into the business because a friend put in a kind word to her contacts and helped me get interviews.  I quickly understood that to move up in the film industry it was all about networking and ultimately, nepotism.  I enjoyed the networking and was too idealistic at the time to appreciate the nepotism!

One successful film producer who liked me took me aside and we had a heart to heart talk.  Basically, in a kind way he told me that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t.  Chasing film work destroyed 2 of his marriages, his family life was in shambles and he had no free time.  Being an idealistic 22 year old who was on the fence about film, this talk reinforced my beliefs.   I have no doubt I could have worked the system and been successful, but I didn’t want to sell my soul in the process to get there.  An interesting aside:  my family friend who introduced me to the business was an accountant on motion pictures.   She has been incredibly successful and has produced the “Sopranos” and “Girls” for HBO amongst other projects. 

With film in my immediate past, I had to look for something else to do.  I was an athlete and I played tennis for my college team.  I wanted to be involved with tennis and I got a job with the largest tennis court and running track surfacing company in the West.  It was Denver based with offices throughout the Rocky Mountain Region and Far West.  This is where I learned specification-based selling and where I really started to develop a career.  One thing that has been consistent is that I had a lot of decision making power and autonomy at a young age.  I was able to make mistakes.  At 26, I ran a sports flooring division and was able to create a distributor network of installers in multiple states. To keep this from running 30 pages, the company was eventually purchased by the same group that owned Astroturf.   After the sale, I didn’t think the company had a future as Astroturf had lawsuits pending for patent infringement and subsequently went bankrupt.   My wife had a great job opportunity in Seattle and we decided to move to the Pacific Northwest. 

I had a career in construction specification-based sales and wanted to continue with it.  This led me to Pilkington. 

You’ve had a heck of a career already and you are still pretty young too… can you walk me through what its been like working for the biggest companies in our industry in roles that took you overseas for years at a time?

I started in the glass industry at Pilkington as a territory Manager in the Pacific Northwest, covering that part of the country, the Rocky Mountain Region and Western Canada.  My work history in glass is clearly marked as entering companies during internal transitions or seeing through major economic booms and busts.  I got used to living in a blurry world and have always been able to cope well with change.  As a newcomer to a company, change is easy to deal with as you aren’t defined by historical constraints or enamored with certain totems from the past. 

When I joined Pilkington, there was major restructuring right before I started.  There were employee layoffs in many departments, a new CEO was hired and my boss, Steve Weidner was transitioning back into a Sales VP role.  I was hired because of my sales and specification experience.  At this time the PNA sales reps had a role change and were being asked to make sales calls and architectural presentations. 

Our North American division was successful under Steve’s guidance.  As a result, PNA was asked to send people to attend a 2-week Pilkington global management identification training program in the UK.  I was picked.  This was a turning point for me.  At this program I was identified as someone with leadership skills and the temperament to work and lead people from other cultures. Working for a multi-national, these were desired traits.  Steve Weidner was an excellent person to work for and he took my career development seriously.  In late 2004 he gave me a chance to work in another culture to help grow our overseas sales efforts.  The Country?  India.

I was one of the first North American employees to be sent to India for the architectural business.  I had a simple mandate, which was: “figure it out.”  At the time, we had one direct sales rep and an independent agent.  India was booming and figuring out a sales and marketing plan was easy once culture shock wore off.   I visited 5 cities over 3 weeks, met with glass processors, architects, glaziers, took part in a trade show in Bangalore and subsequently went back to India to work with the team 2-3 more times for similar durations in 2005.  Because of our efforts, we restructured sales and marketing and divided the country into 4 zones with direct sales coverage as well as establishing a central office in New Delhi.  We established new routes to market, created a team of sales people and technical reps – in other words, duplicate what made us successful in other parts of the world and localize it appropriately.  It was an amazing experience.  The team was our new local employees, our export manager from the UK and myself running a program comprised of enthusiastic people, all in our 20’s and 30’s, running around India like a bunch of headless chickens.  We got our glass specified in projects, sold tons of glass into premier buildings throughout the country, while upsetting a global competitor who had major operations in the country.  We were a small focused machine with a narrow highly profitable target segment --  a nice position to be in.   Working overseas we had a lot of autonomy, which continues throughout my career.  I always end up in positions where I must “figure it out.” 

What was exciting for Pilks in India is that we were identifying sites to build a float line in the country and my team and I were establishing routes to market once we had a float.  As I stated earlier – I enter companies during transitions. NSG bought Pilkington.  The float project was scrapped.   

From the success of the Indian experience, Pilkington was looking to extricate from our Hong Kong Office and I was chosen to lead our Commercial efforts based in Shanghai, China.  I was the first commercial employee based locally new office in 2006.  My role was to help grow sales in China to a broader customer audience, learn more about our JV partner, SYP, and sell products from our global facilities throughout all of Asia. 

You asked what was it like working overseas with large players in our industry? 

It truly accelerated my learning curve because I had access to our global leadership team, took part in presentations to the Board of Directors and was part of the decision-making process at the highest levels for our efforts in Asia. Coming from flogging float in Seattle to understanding the dynamics of working in China where one city, Qinghuangdao has more float plants than the whole of North America really tested my strategic abilities, helped me put convoluted routes to market in perspective, and understand channel strategy/segmentation as a very small player in such a complex and ever changing environment were our keys for growth.

In addition, being close to Japan, I had the pleasure of taking part in the first commercial interactions between Pilkington and our NSG counterparts.  I was our commercial face to the market in Asia.  My intellectual curiosity helped me learn and understand as best I could an ancient culture.  I asked a million questions, learned the language, experienced many other points of view and synthesized the information overload into action.  Bringing this full circle, my “history/communications” major uniquely helped prepare me for these roles.   

One of the most interesting, challenging and rewarding roles was the National Sales Director for Pilkington China.  I was in charge of sales and marketing from our Changshu float and coating factory.  Without getting too specific, I was the leader of a domestic Chinese sales and marketing team who were technically employed by SYP but worked with me.   Fortunately, China wasn’t really affected by the financial crisis, or as the NSG employees in Japan called it “the Lehman shock,” whose 10-year anniversary is today. It was an amazing time to be living in Shanghai – a true economic powerhouse that was undergoing a tremendous rate of change.  To be involved in many prestigious projects in the country, working with the major Chinese domestic and foreign curtain wall companies was eye opening and humbling.  For people involved in the building industry, China was candy-land.  Working with our JV partner certainly wasn’t without major challenges, such as training a domestic Chinese sales force about corporate compliance and anti-corruption as expected by a multi-national company.  I’m proud that I was the “bridge and shield” between our respective organizations and that we had cultivated a local team capable of working anywhere in the world. 

I was in China for over 6 years and was going to transition back to the USA with Pilkington in 2012.  The Guardian Asia team found out about my role change and contacted me – they were looking to buy a large float and coating company in China and they offered me a role I couldn’t refuse.  Sales and Marketing Director for all of Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong.  We lived there for four years.  I was specifically tasked with growing the coatings business in the region as well as helping qualify new investment opportunities.   Guardian Asia had a traditional sales link to our UAE facility for coatings, but my team helped to further open sales from Europe and the USA.  We were involved in hundreds of very large jobs, some we won – the new Abu Dhabi airport terminal, Apple’s R and D headquarters in Japan, as well as some we lost – the 2 spectacular buildings at Changi airport in Singapore, to name a few. 

In addition, there was more change to work through – within 3-4 months of starting this role, Koch Industries became Guardians partner.  I remember being in one of our Reps cars in Perth, Australia huddled around the speaker on his mobile phone to listen to the global announcement about Koch.  Again, change management and flexibility were required skills.  I joined Guardian post Russ Ebeid and I had the privilege of working under Scott Thomsen through the start of the Koch transition.

This role was interesting because we had teams from New Zealand through all of Asia and I was truly a road warrior.  If you saw the George Clooney movie, “Up in the Air” that lifestyle wasn’t far from my work life at the time.  From this role, I was asked to eventually move to Bangkok, Thailand to take the lead for all sales in Asia Pacific, including float from our Thailand factories, managing the inside and outside domestic Thai sales teams as well as the architectural teams throughout the region.  This gave me a broader industry view as we had a challenging Thai domestic market to work through as well as exports to all the countries throughout the region.  I got to make sales calls in diverse economies, like Myanmar, where tinted glass was a big purchase to promoting and writing code for the most sophisticated triple silver coatings and laminates to the governing energy departments in Singapore.

What I liked the most -- it was a different challenge every day.  On Monday I could be in Seoul specifying triple silvers for the Hyundai headquarters curtain wall and the next day we would be at the Hyundai auto factory negotiating the tinted auto glass buy for the new Genesis.  The glass industry has a myriad of challenges, a lot is self-inflicted.  Yet, there are so many applications for the product, every sale presents its unique aspects, therefore it never gets boring.  Moreover, I had interactions with key Guardian leaders, including Kevin Baird, Chris Dolan, Joe Butler and Bruce Milley, whom I’m still friends with today. 

I was very lucky those eleven years abroad – I lived in (3) of the world’s great cities: Shanghai, Hong Kong and Bangkok, traveled to over 30 countries for the role;  and because I was always with local people, had an open mind and enjoyed travel, food and karaoke in different cultures, my life was like an Anthony Bourdain episode of “No Reservations” every day I was on the road.  My wife and I could have been “lifers” in Asia, but I lived away from family and friends for almost 30 years and it was time to come home. 

How has the transition into the commercial fabrication world with Solar Seal been- this is newer territory for you correct?

My transition to VP of Sales and Marketing for Solar Seal has been fun.  The role change takes me from working with the major float companies calling on processing customers to going to work directly for a processing customer.  While I understand the industry, products and how the parts fit together, learning the personalities, the challenges of working downstream, and our operational constraints is certainly difficult.  That stated, my approach to leadership and how we treat customers remain the same.  The over-riding theme for me is to project to the customer that we are taking an outside-in approach to their business – trying to be the best solutions provider for them in their marketplace that we can be.  Which really is the essence of marketing and what being a true partnership supplier is all about.


Rough things happen when you abandon a dog.

Sorry.  This is idiotic and a waste of time by so many

Drunk man goes to parents home and sleeps- except it wasn’t his parents home anymore.  Uh Oh


This is a compilation of some crazy sports endings.  Amazingly I did not see or do not remember a bunch of them.  Good stuff…