An Interview with City Auto Glass-President Mike Schenian
By Tara Taffera
It’s not often that you come across an executive like Mike Schenian. The 59-year old is president of City Auto Glass, which is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. The same was likely said of his father, Dale, who started in the auto glass business in 1960, and respected by many. It’s also not common to find companies in this sector that are 100 percent employee-owned, but City Auto Glass checks off that box as well. And in an industry that is swarmed with challenges, it’s refreshing to see someone who embraces the changes and rolls with the punches—the whole lot of them. Find out what else is unique about City Auto Glass and its president in this interview.
Q:Tell me about your Dad who has a long history in the auto glass industry. I am told he is very well liked and respected by his peers.
Schenian: My Dad started Twin City Glass in 1968 and sold it to Safelite in 1985. He worked for them for five years then started City Auto Glass in 1990. He is not afraid to confront any challenge he faced in business or in life during some tough times. In the 60s at Twin City Glass he was advised by many people to file for bankruptcy. He said he wouldn’t do that, and look how he persevered. He is very resilient.
He was also very involved in the formation of the Minnesota Glass Association, and was their first president. I served as president as well and served on the board for 20 years.
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be involved in the family business?
Schenian: Not really, but I started on the glazing side first repairing windows and screens in my teens. When I graduated high school in 1978, the very next day I was on a truck installing auto glass. I went to Windshield University if you will. It is one of those things that seemed like a natural segue into the working world. It’s what I knew, and in 2000, I took over as president.
Q: You are similar to your Dad in that you are very involved in associations, particularly the Auto Glass Safety Council (AGSC), where you serve as treasurer. Why do you think it’s important to be involved in associations like AGSC and be AGSC certified?
Schenian: In 2014 I was invited to take over a board position that was vacated, and ever since then I continued to say yes to staying involved. I think all shops should be members and techs should be certified. It elevates the level of performance and raises the bar. In fact, the top performers should be rewarded that they are ensuring public safety—shops should be held accountable.
Q:Your company is one of the few remaining family-owned businesses, and is now employee-owned. Why aren’t there more companies like this in auto glass?
Schenian: It truly is in your blood and you are instilled with a real passion for the industry. It’s a business you helped create, and you don’t want to just abandon it.
We had 11 owners in 2015, and we needed to format an exit strategy as many people were in their late 60s or early 70s, so the responsible choice for us was to sell to the employees as they are the ones who made it successful.
Q:What has made you stay for more than 40 years?
Schenian: I am re-energized with the employee ownership segment because now I get to bring everyone else along and get to see everyone prosper and I want to make sure that the past continues into the future. It would be irresponsible to leave at this point.
Q: Do you have a next generation involved in the business?
Schenian: Yes, my son, Ryan is a sales rep who has been here for five years. He has a Masters degree in psychology, but I think he just fell into the family business though I don’t know his long term pursuits.
Q: What are the biggest changes you have seen in the auto glass industry?
Schenian: It is definitely the recalibration segment that is in front of us today. It is such an opportunity for those who em-brace what it entails and for those who do what is necessary to perform a calibration.
Q:How long have you been offering recalibration services, and take me through how this has changed your business model?
Schenian: We have offered dynamic and static recalibrations for just under two years. First of all, I had to convince everyone that this was the right path to take. The responsible approach is that auto glass shops have contractual obligations that they have to restore that car to its pre-loss condition. For us to not be a one key solution for insurers wouldn’t be viable.
Q:What does a typical day look like?
Schenian: I always have an agenda in mind but as soon as you walk in that whole list is gone. It’s often reshuffling priorities as events require it of you. You have to have a plan but you also have to be prepared to ditch that plan on a moment’s notice—that’s true for life in general. You have to embrace change. So many people in our industry, and others, aren’t embracing these changes.
Q:What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment for your company as a whole?
Schenian: Our latest net promoter score [a tool from an independent third party that measures customer experience] was 93.6 and, for me personally, that is so rewarding. Our goal is to always provide the high-est customer experience possible.
Q:Is that what sets you apart from your local competitors—your customer service?
Schenian: Yes. The people I work along-side each day win business for us as a result of their efforts daily.
Q:What do you love most about this industry?
Schenian: I have so many peers across the country who have such high passion and when you get together you can feel the energy. Those who don’t have the passion aren’t embracing changes such as recalibration. I wish they saw what we see: It’s sad to see that they are afraid to change. Those that recognize the need to add calibration to their business see the opportunity to really distance themselves from their competitors. A limited number of our competitors are offering it but we are forcing them to do it because of what we are doing. As an early adopter you get to raise the bar and then the others have to try to measure up.
Q:What keeps you up at night?
Schenian: Third-Party Administrators that don’t treat people fairly. Also, I have my own high standard that I set for myself, and I have about one hundred people I work alongside. That is one hundred people I am responsible for so that weighs heavily on me.
Q:What do you like to do when you are not working?
Schenian: I like to spend time with my family, golf and hike. In addition to my son, I have my daughter Meghan.
Q:Is she in the industry?
Schenian: No but she would be so good at it. She is a wonderful RN, and her semester abroad was spent in Uganda helping the residents there. She is something else.
Q:Do you have a wish list of things you would love to see in the industry?
Schenian: I know the AGSC is creating a standard for recalibrating properly and that should be handled the same way as the AGSC safety standards were.
I would also like to see an industry where the insurers and TPAs recognize and funnel work to those top performers who are hitting those key performance indicators and elevating the customer experience.
It is hard to contain costs and get the right parts. It gets more challenging and daunting every day but you have to have the resolve to keep at it.
Tara Taffera is the editorial director for AGRR magazine.
To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.