Mama Said

One of my mother’s favorite sayings, often said with a crisply cryptic voice, is one you have no doubt heard before. “You know, Debbie,” she would say knowingly to me when I was in college, “the farmer won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” This was usually accompanied by raised eyebrows and emphatic shaking of the head up and down that let me know Mom was absolutely, 100 percent sure she was correct.

Being the naïve sort of girl that I was, I pondered this saying often and wondered why she repeated it with regularity. “Why would the farmer want milk for free anyway?” I would think, “Isn’t he going to sell it anyway?” And what if he didn’t want milk at all but it was meat he was after? The saying was very confusing to me. And since my Mom was arching her brows and nodding her head every time she said it, I knew she figured I knew what she meant. But I didn’t. I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t until now, anyway. And it took Ed Zaucha of APG International to help me understand it.

Now before you get the wrong idea about Ed or he reads this and faints, or both, let me explain. Ed runs APG International, a very large and robust contract glazing company based in New Jersey. He was kind enough to respond to my blog posting last week and raise some very thoughtful questions about how our industry operates.

“Deb,” he wrote, “as usual, very well written and very well said.” (Blogger’s note: Thanks Ed, I really liked that line). “I agree that we need to offer more ‘design-build’ and ‘design-assist’ services,” he continued speaking of the industry as a whole. “Unfortunately, we still quite often experience projects where they are the stated goals – and then they give the work to Mr. Low Bidder who benefits from all of our input. The industry just isn’t ready to pay for these services – and, they cost money.”

Ed is right, of course. How many times have contract glazing companies provided design-assist, value-engineering and re-engineering work on a promise from the general contract or architect that the job would be theirs … only to see the job go elsewhere? The GCs, it seems, are experts in the art o construction seduction. They are able to get their milk … I mean work … for free. And not only do they get it for free, but they turn around and buy the buckets from a cheaper competitor. Now I don’t blame the GCs. If this practice didn’t work they wouldn’t engage in it. But it does and it’s really hampering the development of our industry in the technology trajectory.

To Ed’s point, we as an industry need to offer more in the way of these services, but we have no security that there will be any engagement letter or partnership. Some companies are beginning to combat this. They charge design-assist fees only if they don’t get the job or they rebate any such fees back to the job once they get it. But a few will barely cover the lost opportunity. If a contract glazing company has spent man hours developing a procedure or a change or re-engineered something that saves the GC thousands of dollars, that GC benefits even if the glazing contractor doesn’t do the work.

There has got to be a better way, and I, for one, am anxious to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Wow, I thought, after all these years I finally understand what Mom was saying and it’s all thanks to Ed. My Mom is one of the smartest people I know but on this one she was truly prophetic. Who knew, all those years ago, that she was really talking about the glass industry?

On a Happier Note

This time a note of congratulations to both our editorial and digital media teams led by Tara Taffera and Holly Biller, along with editor Katie O’Mara and video producer Chris Bunn, for winning the Gold Award for Video Webcast from the American Society of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) last Friday. It’s an awesome achieving for a group that produces four regularly scheduled video newscasts for four different magazines each month. We are very proud of them. You can see some of the winning work at Have a great week.

3 Responses to “Mama Said”

  1. Max Landrei says:

    Thanks Deb, always enjoy your blogs. You and Ed are right that we as an industry have a problem, but the solution involves discipline and agreement, two things we don’t have a lot of in the glass industry. Tough to effectuate change but you have given a lot people milk, er food, for thought.

  2. Charles Michie says:

    I hope your mom is alive and reads your blog. She will probably laugh even harder than I did.
    I have to differ on one thing…”Now I don’t blame the GCs”. I do. We all give information, advice, sample testing, etc. because we want to maintain or establish a good relationship with our customer or sometimes just because we want to help. The customer knows when he is going beyond what would be just good will. To take advantage of that makes one question his ethics…just as I would question someone taking milk for free.

  3. Jerry Anderson says:

    Deb –As always you hit the nail on the head. Over my 40 plus years in the business I personally and lead my employees to work closely with architects on their design needs and use creative solutions to make it difficult for competitors to low ball our design solutions.

    Sure you lose a few to low bidders but in the long run you will win far more than you will lose as intimate knowledge of the job enabling you to convince the General Contractor you know what you are talking about and it will be easier to have you as his sub and the GC will find a way to work with you and to award you the contract.

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