Volume 13, Issue 4 - July/August 2009
Leading From the Trenches
The term “for the people” is a common tagline among political candidates. And John Parker never used this phrase—in fact, he never even hit a campaign trail—but one could argue that such a phrase suits his new position as president of the International Window Film Association (IWFA).
Though it includes everything from manufacturers, to distributors, to installers, the IWFA is largely comprised of window film dealers; and Parker, a dealer himself, intends to lead the association to new heights. He is the owner of National Security and Window Filming in Oak Forest, Ill. He has been a member of the window film industry since 2002 and previously served as IWFA’s vice president and secretary. He replaces Tom Niziolek, who recently stepped down after three terms.
Parker granted Window Film an interview recently in which he shared his background and some of his goals as the IWFA’s new president.
WF: First, I would like to thank you for speaking with us today. I know that those of our readers who are IWFA members will appreciate the opportunity to “meet” their new president. Why don’t you begin by telling us a little bit about your background?
Parker: Well, I’ve been in the window film industry since 2002. My son got me involved in it actually. He’s been working as an installer for 16 years and has always wanted to be in business with me; so I examined it and realized there was potential. Eight years later, here I am.
Just prior to film I owned a trucking company, which I sold. I owned several businesses, including a freight brokerage, the trucking company and a bar.
WF: Was becoming president something you had considered previously? Did you set your sights on this position and work your way up to it?
Parker: No, not really. I mean, Tom Niziolek always did such a great job, that initially I had no inclination of becoming president. I’m one of those folks who feels that, if you believe in something, you should do it and go all the way with it. He stepped down, and no one was jumping at the opportunity at the time, so I volunteered.
I absolutely believe in this association. One of my goals as president is to not only gain members, but to explain to people in the industry what the IWFA does for its members and the industry as a whole. The benefits are much greater than what most realize.
WF: When dealers do join the association, what do you think their primary reasons are for doing so? And what do you think they expect of the IWFA?
Parker: Most dealers, and I don’t mean this negatively, but they join with the mentality of “What’s this going to do for me now?”—as in right now. And if it doesn’t make their phone ring, they don’t think it’s worth it.
If the phone doesn’t ring with a customer on the other end saying, “I called you because I got your number from the IWFA,” then they don’t think the IWFA is doing anything for them. But we have a number of dealers who have quit renewing, yet continue to use the IWFA logo [which they’re no longer entitled to]. This is confusing to me, because, if they don’t think the IWFA is worth it, why would they want to continue making use of the logo?
WF: In other words, you feel that some view it as a sort of lead-generating system, rather than an association?
Parker: True. They’re not realizing a lot of the background involvement the IWFA has—such as code hearings. You have 20 to 25 states each year that want to change codes that would make it almost impossible to use film. And if the IWFA wasn’t participating in these hearings and standing up for the film industry, a lot of filming wouldn’t be getting done right now. Darrell Smith [IWFA’s executive director] for instance, is the one who sat down with the IRS attorneys to help us get the tax credit. Dealers wouldn’t be getting those calls from customers who are interested in getting a tax credit if he hadn’t done that. There’s just so much that goes on behind the scenes that I’d like to expand on at a future date.
WF: What would you say to those who are on the fence about joining, or those who have opted not to renew their memberships?
Parker: Almost every manufacturer out there is a member of the IWFA. Dealers should realize, if the people from whom they’re buying film believe in the association enough to become members—and trust me it costs the manufacturers much more than it costs a dealer to become a member—then there shouldn’t be any question that they need to be members. They [dealers] are the ones benefitting the most from this [association].
WF: Lets talk a little bit about the role of the president. Entering your first term, how do you view your role? What would you say are the primary duties of the IWFA president?
Parker: Mainly, it’s about directing dealers in the right direction and making them aware of what the IWFA is doing for them. And that’s not just the president’s job, because obviously this is a mission of the IWFA in general, but it’s my job to be there for the dealers, answer questions for them and help them.
WF: Do you feel the members may respond well to you, because you are a dealer yourself?
Parker: I am hoping so. I’m not with a manufacturer; I’m not a distributor; I’m out there trying to make a living the exact same way they do. I’ve experienced the ups and downs that they have, so I know firsthand what most of them have gone through. And that’s where many of the issues I’d like to address come from.
WF: What are some of those issues? Are there any “John specific” things that we can look forward to?
Parker: First and foremost to grow the industry, partly by making the consumer more aware of the benefits of film. I’ve been to a code meeting already, representing the IWFA, and I have others coming up at various times throughout the year. I’d like to get that across to the dealers—that those things are going on.
WF: I imagine this role could be quite time consuming. Do you think that will present a challenge for you as a working dealer?
Parker: Well, it’s somewhat [time consuming]. I mean, I’ve already begun to do some travelling. For example, I was just in Illinois, meeting with state police and various representatives in an effort to get film approved for use on the front windows of cars, which would be great for all the auto dealers out there.
WF: The industry has dealt with its fair share of stigma over the years. Do you think it is getting beyond this? What is the association doing to help in this regard?
Parker: Yes, we are getting beyond this. A prime example of how the IWFA and Darrell in particular are helping the product gain credibility, is in how we helped film earn a National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) rating. This only adds credibility and helps clarify what film can and can’t do.
WF: Where do you view the industry in its overall development?
Parker: I think it’s advancing almost day by day. Window film, especially in the last ten years, and even more so in say the last five, has developed into a much better product. And in the next five years, I foresee even greater development from all the manufacturers into other areas of energy savings.
WF: And what about the role of the IWFA? How has that evolved with the product?
Parker: The IWFA has helped the industry as a whole to answer the question about what film can and cannot do in an honest fashion. The key is not to have people working out of the trunks of their cars and telling customers things that aren’t accurate. Negative [impressions] hurt more than positives [help]. We all know that.
WF: Well, I’d like to thank you, once again, for your time John. And we thank you for the opportunity.
Parker: It was my pleasure.