In early February, Tom Feeney was basking in the reception of a lifetime as he spoke onstage at Orlando’s luxurious Rosen Shingle Creek hotel to a jubilant audience of his 600 top managers. “2020 will be a year to remember, by far the greatest in our history,” declared the CEO of Safelite AutoGlass. Feeney reminded his troops that he had addressed them at another resort in Orlando in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis, and on that occasion he had pledged that his radically new “Take care of your employees” mindset would power the enterprise to heights they had never dreamed of.
Now, Feeney intoned, that had happened, lauding that the numbers for 2019 smashed all records. In the decade since his team last met in Orlando, Safelite had multiplied sales fivefold, to $2.4 billion, greatly strengthening the 71-year old stalwart’s dominant position in what’s mainly a mom and pop industry with 40,000 players. Safelite was notching double-digit margins—no need to mention that his managers were reaping all that bounty in the plodding, no-growth world of replacing windshields.