2012 Columbus Smart Leaders: Tom Feeney, President & CEO, Safelite AutoGlass

Tom Feeney, President & CEO, Safelite AutoGlass

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

When I took over as president and CEO five years ago, the country faced difficult economic conditions and to some degree, continues to do so. Yet, I challenged our company to double its business by 2012, and I’m happy to say we’ve done so. To do that in a low-awareness, low-involvement, low-need service category required Safelite AutoGlass to differentiate itself in the market. And, it required us to undergo a transformation, both as individuals and culturally as a company. We needed to re-energize ourselves. We accomplished that through two key focuses: our people and our customers.

First, we developed an integrated talent management program and truly began to consider “people” as a key part of our business strategy with the goal of driving business performance by having an obsessive focus on having talented people who are inspired to deliver great results.

This is a comprehensive HR program that clearly outlines the behaviors and actions expected of our people and now aligns with hiring, training and rewarding.

Along with this shift in focusing on people first, we created a culture of feedback and implemented an internal survey to measure employee engagement and to ensure we were delivering on our promise to our people.

At the end of 2011, our overall engagement increased by five percentage points reaching the top 25 percent best-in-class industry result compared to a country-wide average decline of 2 points.

The most pleasant surprise in our journey was the openness of the organization to accept this challenge and do what was required to double our business.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Safelite places a premium on customer delight and we have revolutionized the auto glass industry by focusing on the customer experience.

For example, consider the majority of customers who are served at their home or place of business. For at-home customers, we provide them peach of mind about the mobile technician coming to fix their car by emailing them a Technician Profile containing the name, brief bio, credentials and photograph of the technician who will perform the service. The email, which is sent the night before or the morning of the service, also provides the estimated time of service and location as a confirmation. To our knowledge, Safelite AutoGlass is the only one in the industry (and similar mobile service providers for that matter) to offer the Technician Profile Email.

In addition, Safelite is the only company in our industry to partner with auto glass R&D leaders. As a result, we have the best cutting-edge tools, including a cutting wire and lifting tool, designed to reduce risk of damage to the car during service. We also have a repair solution proven by an independent lab to be the strongest, longest lasting available.

We are continuously on the forefront of bringing innovative solutions into the vehicle glass industry. As a result, our customer satisfaction ratings have skyrocketed — our current Net Promoter Score is 88 percent to-date. That’s something of which we are very proud.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Safelite is committed to being a socially responsible company. That includes following a strict code of ethics in how we live and work, being aware of our impact on the environment and caring about the communities around us by giving back. We employ roughly 1,000 to 1,400 people in central Ohio, depending on the time of year. We hold a number of fundraisers including two signature annual events and ongoing volunteer opportunities.

For example, the company holds a National Giving Campaign every year during which employees hold a variety of fundraising events to raise money charity. Through Safelite’s partnership with the United Way of Central Ohio, associates may elect to make donations to a charity of their choice. The web-based program makes it easy for employees to offer a one-time or donation or to even set-up ongoing electronic donations taken directly from their paycheck. The 2011 National Giving Week raised more than $216,000 with had 15.58% of our associates pledging to give in 2012. The results of those pledged funds will raise $205,770 through payroll deduction over the coming year. An additional $10,425.02 was raised for local charities all over the country.

In fact, Safelite sets aside a percentage of its profits to fund our charitable foundation, donating an average of $1 million annually.

More individualized options are available through the Safelite Associate Volunteer Day, which is a paid day off work to volunteer a full 8-hour day at a charity of the associate’s choice. Safelite Community Days are a coordinated effort by a team, store or market, to spend time volunteering together for a local charity. With nearly 10,000 employees nationwide, this is the equivalent of a possible 80,000+ hours of community service.

Finally, many of our company leaders volunteer on the boards of local nonprofits — currently 13 boards positions in central Ohio are filled by Safelite leaders. We feel that not only is it important that we bring our experience to the table, but to continuously learn from the other great minds in our community.

Tom Feeney is the president and CEO of Safelite AutoGlass