NOVUS Glass is the company that invented windshield repair. For over 40 years, they have been an industry leader in research and development and have led the world in fully guaranteed automotive glass service.
The origins of NOVUS can be traced back to the early 70s, when Dr. Frank Werner founded Origin, Inc – a testing laboratory and commercial-physical research company. After replacing three windshields due to small breaks caused by his local Wyoming terrain, Werner set his mind on finding a way to fix windshields without having to dispose of them entirely. His determination – combined with help from chemical engineer Bill Wiele – led to the discovery of windshield repair.
In 1972, Werner partnered with Gerald Keinath. The pair acquired the patent rights to windshield repair, and strategically designed a business plan that would bring it to the general market for the first time. The company was founded as Keinath Incorporated, located in the basement of Keinath’s home. Soon after, it was redubbed NOVUS – the Latin word for “new” or “innovative” – and in 1985, NOVUS Glass became a full-fledged franchise company.
Before Franchise Development Co-ordinator Jim Olsen joined the organization, he was a high school teacher in Minneapolis schools with a contracting business on the side. He was always looking for a new gig outside education, and left his job to become the Director of Training with NOVUS in 1980. “Thirty-two years later I’m still here and I’m still enjoying it. They call me the historian,” he says.
Olsen started out working in training, national accounts, insurance and fleets, before later moving onto the development program, where he helps new people come into the business.
Franchise Development Co-ordinator Adam Peterson had a background in advertising sales prior to joining NOVUS. After working for a number of different organizations, he was looking for opportunities to help people start their own business and found NOVUS. “I was attracted to the opportunity here, so I hopped aboard and have been working with Jim for about two and a half years now,” he says.
Repair first, replace when necessary
Buying a franchise means owning a business, which is something people can be extremely proud of. When franchisees join up with NOVUS, they become their own local president. When customers work with their local franchise, in most cases they’re working right with the owner and president, which makes the brand quite unique, Olsen says. “That’s one of the many things that set us apart.”
The company slogan at NOVUS is ‘Repair first, replace when necessary.’ That approach attracts a lot of franchisees to the business. “That’s given us a tag as more of a green company than most windshield companies that are just looking to rip it out and throw the old windshield in the dumpster and get a new one,” says Olsen. “We’re actually looking to repair it and keep all the parts in place.”
Whatever they do with glass, repair or replacement, NOVUS is always trying to be the best and most scientific company. They do not cut corners – and that’s an attitude they work hard to instil in franchise owners, because safety can be a significant issue when dealing with a windshield on a car. “Do it safely and do it right,” says Olsen, describing the company’s philosophy.
The entirety of NOVUS’ repair process is in-house – they have their own chemist who makes their own resin, which has a “fabulous index” of refraction, Olsen says. “When it goes into these breaks in your car, there’s a good chance you will have a tough time finding where that repair was because it masses it so well,” he says.
Another key factor that sets NOVUS apart from the competition is the industry recognition they have consistently received throughout their life. In Entrepreneur Magazine, they’ve been ranked as the number one franchise in the windshield repair category for over a dozen years now. Being known as the best goes a long ways for NOVUS, says Peterson. “The rankings help us and tell people that we’re not a fly-by-night company,” says Peterson. “We’re a 40-year-old organization that’s been around for quite some time. The rankings show that we know what we’re doing.”
Also setting NOVUS apart is the corporate culture they have worked hard to implement from the top down. Vice-President of Franchise Development Ted Andersen says one of the notable things about NOVUS is their staff size – they think of themselves as being quite “lean and efficient,” he says. “Owners are often in the field all the time with franchisees, travelling and spending time with them.”
With approximately 1,800 franchises worldwide and 45 corporate employees, NOVUS offers an affordable franchise with plenty of opportunities. A number of factors go into making NOVUS such an appealing opportunity, including their recognition and reputation, as well as their investment range.
“We fit the investment range of most people,” Peterson says. “They feel comfortable with our range – it costs less than 50 grand to get into business with us. That’s because we’re a mobile franchise business, we don’t have a need for a physical shop location, which a lot of people like as well.”
The opportunity to run a home-based business, without having to lease or own a building, is an appealing one for a lot of people. Being a mobile-based, low-cost franchise is one of their strengths. “There’s more flexibility and more freedom involved in our franchise opportunity than with most. A lot of people like the idea of working on their own schedule, working out of the house and going out on a mobile-basis directly to the customer,” Petersen says.
Because it is low-cost and mobile-based, franchisees have minimal overhead costs. In addition to not having a physical location with a lease to pay, they’re also not required to hold a significant inventory of glass because NOVUS Glass suppliers deliver product to the franchisees as needed. “It’s typically same-day delivery, so our guys don’t have to have a warehouse full of glass to hold onto,” Petersen says.
One of the main attributes NOVUS looks for in a franchisee is social skills. Franchising is about finding the right owner who enjoys working with others, Olsen says. They will teach them the know-how’s of windshield repair and replacement, but the franchisee must have the knack for building and sustaining work and public relationships.
They also want someone not afraid of getting their hands dirty. NOVUS is not the type of franchise where someone can make the investment and sit back and let their business run itself. A typical NOVUS owner wants to get involved in every aspect of the business on a daily basis. “We want people that aren’t afraid of going out there to work hard and get their hands dirty at the same time,” Petersen says
“We’re looking for people that have a dream or working for their dream. Part of the dream is working for yourself and not for someone else,” Olsen adds.
Before they apply for a franchise, potential owners are invited to attend the brand’s Discovery Day for a visit and tour. Later, after they’ve joined, they have access to different levels of training. The first level is a six-day course in Minneapolis to learn operations, how to run the business, and windshield repair in a classroom setting. They also gain hands-on experience working on a car.
The next phase of training is spending two weeks at one of their seven regional training facilities to learn windshield replacement. “They’re working right in the shop on cars and trucks, and working in the office. It’s fabulous,” Olsen says. Within a month afterwards, NOVUS Glass sends a regional manager to them to make sales calls, and assist owners face-to-face in any way needed for a week. “As long as you’re a franchisee, you’re fully supported,” Olsen says. “That never stops.”
The biggest and the best
Now and for the foreseeable future, NOVUS Glass continues to expand their business throughout the country. While the company is significant in size, every state has territories that are available with new market opportunities. Their main focus is also franchise development and driving sales to the point where they will be the biggest glass company in the U.S.
“Our goal is franchise development and growing this business to becoming the biggest glass company in the country,” Petersen says.