For this small business owner, loyalty is best
After 30 years of running his company Best Glass, Bob Hittenberger knows that navigating the challenges of business ownership often comes down to who you can count on — and who can count on you.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, Bob Hittenberger has a deep appreciation for the people who work for him. Like many small business owners, Hittenberger views them as a part of his extended family. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to take hold of the U.S. last spring, Hittenberger made it his top priority to keep his staff at Phoenix, Arizona-based Best Glass employed through the economic downturn.
“It was frightening — obviously everybody was caught off guard by the virus — and when they started shutting things down, we immediately saw a decrease in the business and we realized the gravity of the situation,” said Hittenberger. “We’ve got 23 employees at Best Glass, and about half have been with us for more than a decade. It was just as critical for each of their personal well-being as it was for the business that I wrap my head around what this really meant and react quickly.”
“Glass glazing is a trade, and it is really difficult to find qualified, experienced people that fit into our company and the kind of service and integrity we want to provide. When you’ve got great people like that on your team, you don’t want to ever lay them off because you know how difficult it will be to get them back.” — Bob Hittenberger, owner of Best Glass
Fortunately, Best Glass — which provides glass and installation services for autos and trucks, homes, businesses, and general contractors — was designated an essential business during the early months of the pandemic. While that meant Hittenberger could keep Best Glass open, the demand for the company’s services fell. With revenues down, Hittenberger worked with his Wells Fargo banker, Sam Mecham, to secure a loan through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.
“The PPP loan took a lot of weight off, knowing we’ve got the finances to keep everybody working,” said Hittenberger. “Glass glazing is a trade, and it is really difficult to find qualified, experienced people that fit into our company and the kind of service and integrity we want to provide. When you’ve got great people like that on your team, you don’t want to ever lay them off because you know how difficult it will be to get them back.”
A banking relationship you can depend on
When discussing how he has managed to successfully run his full-service glass and glazing company for the past 30 years, Hittenberger repeatedly points to loyalty. You hear it in his voice when he talks about his longest tenured employee, General Manager John Anguish. “John’s wealth of knowledge has been invaluable,” Hittenberger said. “His ability to work with vendors and staff has kept us on an even keel, not just during the pandemic but for the entirety of the three decades he’s been with us.”
Hittenberger also points to his banking relationship as an example of how loyalty can make all the difference in navigating the twists and turns of owning a business — from the need for a business-critical loan to the unprecedented nature of a pandemic.
“We went to Wells Fargo, and even though we were a new customer, they were happy to make the loan for us. So, I am loyal — once somebody takes care of me I’m going to stay with them. I’ve received much more personalized service from Wells Fargo than I ever did from the small banks.” — Bob Hittenberger
“When we first got started in business, I really wanted to work with a small, local bank. My thinking at the time was as a small business I wanted that same experience you might get with your local CPA,” recalled Hittenberger. “Everything was fine, until I needed them. We were trying to expand and I needed to purchase and refit a truck to transport glass, but the bank just wouldn’t approve the loan.
“We went to Wells Fargo, and even though we were a new customer, they were happy to make the loan for us,” he added. “So, I am loyal — once somebody takes care of me I’m going to stay with them. I’ve received much more personalized service from Wells Fargo than I ever did from the small banks.”
For Mecham, a Wells Fargo regional business relationship manager in nearby Chandler, Arizona, checking in regularly with his customers like Hittenberger not only helps strengthen the relationship, it often generates conversations on topics that identify new ways to help the customer.
“Because of their desire to stay out of debt, Bob and his wife, Julie, had self-financed Best Glass for many years,” said Mecham. “While that is a positive position to hold on the balance sheet, it did also limit their growth. So we discussed the benefits of a having a line of credit and the flexibility that it provides for both planned and unforeseen events with the business.”
As Best Glass celebrated its 30th anniversary on Feb. 21, 2021, Hittenberger said his approach to managing his business continues to evolve — even in the years not marked by a global pandemic — and that is probably how any successful business should operate, he adds.
“For a long time I was reluctant to do much financing to avoid carrying any debt. But there have been several times we’ve used the line of credit since, and looking back, I don’t know what we would have done without it,” said Hittenberger. “Over the years, having someone like Sam that actually calls me and checks in how things are going has been great.”