Coast to Coast

August 10th, 2021 by Nathan Hobbs

Like-Minded Tinters Prove to be Colleagues not Competitors

By Tara Taffera

‘‘We are focused on helping each other grow … We sell different films … We don’t compete against each other … We don’t bicker … We are focused on how we can make ourselves better,” says Kyle Fuller, owner of Tint Pro in Bonaire, Ga.

First, some background on the afore-mentioned “we.” When Sid Maharajh, co-owner of California’s Genesis Window Tinting, and Fuller met at the International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) in 2016, they immediately formed a bond that benefitted both their businesses. The twosome were then the subject of an article in WINDOW FILM magazine a few months later highlighting the value of networking (see May-June 2017, page 18). From there, the idea-sharing continued, most notably when Michael Martinez, from Precision Window Tinting in Casper, Wyo., read that article and sought out Fuller. When Fuller recognized how invaluable this exchange of support and ideas was, he continued to add additional members to what was then a text message group. Now the group includes seven owners/operators in states across the U.S., many of whom describe it as an invaluable cohort of “like-minded” individuals—all wanting to grow their businesses.

“Having a group like this is having the best business coach in your pocket at all times,” says Fuller. “There is a different dynamic that every person brings to the table. I want to always surround myself with people who have the same mindset and want to do great things.”

Martinez describes Fuller as “honest, hard-working, kind, well-liked,” and says he was impressed by his willingness to help him.

“A lot of people are protective of their industry experts and don’t want to train the competition, but he was really great about sharing the information,” says Martinez. “The network has been awesome.”

That group, which expanded from phone calls and text messages, into conference calls, all gathered at Tint Pro in February to celebrate the grand opening of Fuller’s new shop, an expanded space right next door that grew from 1,800 to 5,000 square feet.

“Not Your Competition”

Kyle Rehatchek, owner of Black Diamond Tint in Pottsville, Pa., met Fuller through an online group when they were both Panorama dealers, and says he was really excited to spend the weekend with the crew, because he was self-taught and therefore eager to learn from other professionals. “Some of these guys bring such knowledge, experience and [WFCT] competition accolades,” he says. He says he also learned that some things that seemed “small, but were really worthwhile.

“I thought my website was great and then I sat down with Maharajh who gave me some tips and showed me another tinter’s website,” he says. “It led me to revamp some stuff on my site.

Ricky Miller, of Green Valley Window Tinting in Henderson, Nev., is part of the group with his brother Josh—both second-generation to their dad’s business. They connected with Fuller around the time of the first article in WINDOW FILM magazine. Fuller came out and visited their shop and it took off from there.

Ricky says this group proves that tinters don’t need to fight with one another; there is enough business to go around.

“There is enough glass in the world that we can all be tinting a house and a few cars a day, so why put everything into putting that company out of business,” he says. “We need to think, ‘How can I make my business better?’ Kyle getting us all together like this has given me a great outlook on our industry—knowing there are people out there all thinking the same way who want to learn.”

His brother Josh agrees.

“What I like the most about this and WFCT is it opens people’s mind that we can learn from each other,” he says. “I could care less about the shop around the corner.”

How Did You Do That?

Instead, what does the group care about? Sharing ideas with their like-minded peers who all believe you should never stop learning. Still, even Ricky Miller wasn’t sure what would happen at the in-person gathering, but says it was invaluable.

“I don’t think you can put a price tag on that kind of experience and seeing all the different tricks people use,” he says. “You see it in the tint off and you try talk to them as much as you can, but standing next to them and being able to ask them anything? You can’t put a price tag on it.”

Maharajh traveled to Fuller’s shop with his brother, and business partner, Josh, and many of the tinters in attendance say they learned a lot from the pair. In fact, Josh ended up doing an impromptu training session.

“Josh Maharajh showed me a bunch of stuff on clear bra and PPF, and installing a bumper, and laying it back down and avoiding stretch marks,” says Josh Miller.

Sal and Michelle Hurtado, from Sal’s House of Tint in San Marcos, Texas, were also in attendance, and learned valuable info about PPF, for one. Their friendship with Kyle started with Michelle when she met Fuller in the registration line at WFCT in 2017.

She says the company had previously decided against offering PPF but after this trip they are rethinking it.

“Sal was able to get some hands-on time and solved some problems, so when we came back Sal felt like we can do it,” says Hurtado. “We are thinking about adding it in. He felt like the one day of PPF that he got in was super valuable.”

Everyone was learning new skills, in fact.

“Josh Maharajh was able to get up close and watch me bottom load, while I installed film on a door,” says Ricky Miller. “Before I went to the competition I only knew of a few people who did it, but then I saw other people do it, which helped me,” he says.

Josh Miller also talked up his brother’s “mad plotter skills,” which were put to good use that day. “Ricky has gotten really proficient at fine tuning techniques on the plotter, and Kyle had the same one, so they went through some of Kyle’s questions and he fixed his plotter for him,” says Josh Miller.

It was the little things that counted as well. Imagine traveling from Utah or Wyoming to learn from a guy in Texas a quick means for extending the life of an everyday tool.

Back to Business Basics

It wasn’t all cutting and filming, and checking out each other’s van setups, though they did that, too. The group had time to share valuable business advice with each other.

“Our employee compensation program was important to share as well as our use of YouTube in our marketing,” says Sid Maharajh. “None of the guys were doing that.”

A week after Michelle Hurtado returned to the office, she implemented a new scheduling software that one of the group members told her about.

John “MadCow” Hembel of Sun Tamers Window Tinting in Hurricane, Utah, is a 33-year veteran who sold his high-end residential business in Colorado recently to focus on commercial film in Utah. He met Fuller when they were both Panorama dealers, and says they have been bouncing various ideas off each other for years. Even for a self-professed “old-schooler,” he says talking to other business owners is extremely valuable.

“Some are larger, some are smaller, and hearing about the different avenues they utilize for say digital media, is very helpful,” he says. “It’s great to find out what is working in other cities and really sit down and discuss ideas with someone.”

“We talked about things like CRM, employee compensation methods, and the way we view managing employees,” says Sid Maharajh. “All those things were discussed in a very open and honest manner, and it was a very safe area to discuss issues and be brutally honest of what is working and what is not.”

Embracing New Perspectives

Several group members want to make this a yearly event.

“We are in the middle of an expansion now,” says Ricky Miller. “I would love to keep this going. It’s great to be able to talk about how our year went, were we saw successes and failures while out of the shop. Just sitting there and talking to other owners/operators at dinner and lunch and bouncing ideas around such as sales techniques is so helpful.”

“We would definitely come back,” says Hurtado. “We look forward to keeping this going and making this a regular thing.”

“I Do Not Sell on Price”

Not selling on price is the mantra at Sun Tamers Window Tinting in Hurricane, Utah, and its owner John “MadCow” Hembel. Hembel says he always strives to be the best, in fact, he was a World Champion downhill skier in 2003, and he takes that competitive mentality on the slopes to tinting as well.

“Your services are valuable,” he says. “Don’t sell on price—don’t even try. You need to set yourself apart. Look at Kyle—he has the $99 tint shop right across the street from him and he doesn’t care because he is a go-getter, and focused ion quality rather than quantity.”

He does realize it’s easier said than done, particularly as Hembel sells a high-end luxury film, but when the tinters got together he gave them some tips.

“We discussed how to sell the high-end product,” he says. “Some guys are afraid of that price point. I find if I lead with that product I can almost always sell it.”

Kyle Fuller Tells Why Networking is so Important

WF: Tell us who came to your grand opening and some of the hands on work you did.

Fuller: Everyone was able to make it except Michael Martinez from Precision Window Tint. We all got together at 8 a.m. on Saturday. A lot of us just wanted to know what people are doing. For us, we are big into paint protection and ceramic coatings so I explained everything that goes into that, for example, where the profit margins are. We allowed them to grab the polishers and try them out on a truck and get their hands dirty. After lunch we put PPF on an SUV. We put it on a lift so you are not breaking your back. We installed auto film on a car and truck.

We had guys pulling gaskets and using any heat shrinking method you can think of. We were trying everything whether drop rolling or side rolling. It was amazing to see everyone saying, “Hey try this,” without pushing any particular brand.

Josh Maharajh is legendary in clear bra and he was showing my detailer techniques which is better than any training I could ever pay for.

We didn’t leave there until 9 or 9:30 at night. We had people who wanted to stay, and one guy changed his flight so he didn’t have to leave as early.

WF: How great was it to be able to get everyone together in one place?

Fuller: It was an amazing experience to get all that talent under one roof, whether you are a $500,000 shop or in the millions. Ricky and Josh Miller have taken first and second at WFCT. Sal has won as well [first in auto and third in architectural] so I have all these champions in my shop—numbers one, two and three. They were all tinting my office window together (see page 12) and I was watching them all use different methods which was really cool. Watching Jon Hembel share his knowledge with them with no one arguing and everyone learning was amazing. We had the brothers from Green Valley and the brothers from Genesis swapping up styles … You watch people’s head explode when they try something new. We would rip off a piece of tint off and do it again so others could try.

WF: What types of film did you use?

Fuller: We had Llumar, Global and Solar Gard guys here. Everyone had the opportunity to use a competitor’s product to see how they liked it. We were using higher end films that I can’t even get my hands on so that was amazing. I told them to use their competitor’s product so they know what their competitor has. The car that left my shop had Llumar and Solar Gard film on it. I figured, why not?

WF: What are some of the big issues you talked about?

Fuller: The biggest thing we all talked about was finding employees and what systems are working best for all of us. We had some really eye opening conversations. One of the guys is newer to being an owner so we just had the best discussions. Someone would share something they are trying to do and then another would tell them they had tried it and how it worked out for them.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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