Listen to this episode to learn
- How to use Big Box stores to grow your business
- How to grow your word-of-mouth business and depend less on Big Box stores
- How to hire the best people – especially installers
- Why to give your people the best tools
- What it will take to do more in-home sales
If you have stories or insights that you’d like to share with other fabricators, please reach out to Patrick.
Patrick: Welcome to Stone Talk, the podcast for countertop fabricators. Brought to you by Moraware, makers of JobTracker scheduling software and CounterGo estimating software for countertop fabricators. I’m your host Patrick Foley. Today I’m speaking with Jordany Nunes, from NF Granite. Let’s give him a call.
Jordany: Hey sir.
Patrick: How are you doing Jordany?
Jordany: I’m doing very good.
Patrick: All right, so you’ve done a lot of different things…
Jordany: Yes sir.
Patrick: …in the stone industry. How did you wind up at NF Granite? And what are you doing for them now?
Jordany: Well, I had some very different background. I used to manage retail stores. Actually, I was a customer service manager for a grocery store chain before joining Granite. Nothing to do with Granite.
Jordany: But back then, I used to be in Atlanta. My brother and I used to do templates, and I kind of decided to move to the construction field, and he brought me to the granite business. I was an installer for about a good four to five years and after that we crossed paths with the two owners that are in Granite. They are two brothers actually, Edmund and Francisco. And then about 2008, they were coming off a partnership that they had before with another person. And they asked me to jump up with them and see if I could help them on how to improve their business. And now everything has been great since then.
Jordany: We’ve picked up a lot of things, and we’ve opened a second location. Both shops are doing very well. I mean we are doing very high volume work for the area that we are at. I think we are very happy at what we do.
Patrick: Nice. So you are running one of those locations, right?
Jordany: Yes, I run the second location that we just opened in, I want to say October of 2013. That’s when we opened this location.
Jordany: It’s now a branch in Mississippi. We kind of serve the masses area.
Jordany: It’s well located. I mean we’re able to serve a few metropolitan areas around here. We’ve kind of call very good. And up to three hour radiuses and we kind of meet with the other shop halfway down. They come in north if we go south. We kind of split territory right there. And it’s been great. It hasn’t been steady yet. I mean every week we pick up a little more work, and we are very happy with the amount of work that we are doing right now. And then they still set my goals pretty high. I think that’s kind of one of those keys we never have to worry a week on that. And I set aside yet.
Patrick: Where do you think growth is coming from? Where does your new business come from? Is it word of mouth? Is it advertising?
Jordany: Well I’ve been to many different granite shops. I know a lot of granite shops, and I want to say that granite, everybody has their own clientele. Some shops they have more builders, some shops they work better with designers, and some shops are more high volume boxster based. And my installation background came from high volume shops that are running off box stores. It was just busy, busy every day. And that’s kind of what I brought to the table was good relationship, and then actually jumping in with bigger stores and box stores, and then tell them that we are a company that can provide great service for them. And when people pretty much don’t want to deal with them. We are happy to deal with them. I guess that has made our business grow.
Out of the first location, we have a very good clientele out of word of mouth. I mean we have very few advertisements, but very good clientele. So out of our first location we almost have like a 50-50 of the word that comes in from contractors and box stores, and then from our own customers.
Jordany: At the second location, we opened just based on a new market opportunity given from one of the other stores. And from there we just grew from there.
Patrick: I have heard many customers say that they shy away from the box stores. Why do you think other fabricators shy away from box stores? And what’s different about your relationship with them? Why is that working out well for you?
Jordany: Well it’s a big puzzle and it needs to be worked out well. And you can talk to any fabricator that works for them, and they are going to tell you is that the pay is not very high. It’s a squeeze budget and you need to produce a high volume in order to actually make profit, and then they demand a lot from you. And all those things are true. So basically you have to be able to keep up a good relationship with all of them. Their scores are demandingly high. Everybody is asking to be at 93, 94% approved average. So you have to be almost a perfect company in order to stand there and say, “Hey look we are good.” It doesn’t matter which one you choose to work for. I mean we are for both, but both of them they require a lot from you. And basically the customers they’re backed out with the big names.
So if you don’t really get paid until your job is complete. So you depend on having good people behind you, good installers, your room for mistakes are very, very small. And that’s where most people try to run away from them, it’s like, “I just can’t deal with them, it’s too much, and it takes a lot of my time.” But we’ve made a process pact. Actually every year we’ve improved our business. We’ve made changes; we see where we’ve been charged for things. Where need to do to cover our end to make the business safe on our side and profitable. And that’s where we are at right now.
Patrick: So it sounds like you are rather proactive about being a high quality shop, otherwise it would be too much hustle dealing with the box stores, but then once you are a high quality shop, then they give you a big marketing advantage. For example, opening a new location. They give you all kinds of business without having to drum it up. Is that a kind of a summary of how to make it work?
Jordany: It is, it is. I mean and I’ll tell you from where we started to where we are right now, most of the work that has been given to us if we just look at the retailer side to the boxster side. It’s been from corporations and from…
Jordany: …did they talk to them and say, “I have this guy who’s working for me here. If you want to see if they can stretch your territory, give them a call.” And as my phone rings you say, “Hey look, I met such and such area. This is what I have going on and on the Memphis market when we walked in, there were five different providers in the area. We pretty much outrun just about everybody.” And it’s a sad thing to say but it’s coming into the table when you want this to work and providing and showing them that what we can do and then what kind of services we offer. And like you said, it does give you grounds to make investments in your business. I mean we operate our CNCs of part equipment. You like everybody else just more aware.
I mean our sales people they are equipped with LT-55s, or some of them with the 3D laser. We got iPads on the street, CounterGo. I mean we are not a small shop. We try to invest back. And that kind of brings us to a level where we also have support to do things for us as far as our showroom locations or advertisements. So one thing brings another, and then it’s a non-stop process. Kind of exhausting but we enjoy the ride.
Patrick: One of the things that you’ve mentioned as being important to this process is having really good employees?
Patrick: How do you find really good employees? And how do you keep them?
Jordany: It’s a hard thing to say. I mean at this time, as the business took a change where everybody these days either…I don’t really see going back to an old way, cutting and be in a dust and then having a fabricator, and then hand polishing everything. We do cement polishing, but we do a lot of CNC polishing at the shop. So it’s a little bit of both. But those guys inside, we’re trying to keep who we have. I mean basically we don’t like people come in and go. I mean we try to keep the ones that we have. We’re trying to be very competitive with pay.
Jordany: And then just to make them work happy, so they don’t have to go somewhere else and look for more money. The installation side, the template side and the sales side, we’ve made it more profitable. It takes a little more of the company budget and the profit being that way. But everybody’s kind of have their production. Our sales guy they have incentives if they sell X amount square footage. If they sell more, if they make X more money. Our installers, they’re sub-contractors; they’ll pay by square foot. I mean our templates they get paid also on production. So everybody is willing to work, and I think that’s key.
When you try to improve as a company, and you are just not overloading, but every now and then you are picking up more work, more work, more work. When you pay them equivalent to what the company is heading to, it makes them part of a team. And all of them are, “Hey, we are getting busy man. And like you know, I had two houses a day and now I got three.” And also they see on their side, “I’m going to get a second helper, I may have two or three houses a day now.” And then like I said, we have to do some shopping on our markets. I mean I know a lot of people especially installations, it’s the main thing of a shop. If I had to say for anybody that’s either starting a business or doing, you have to find good installers. I mean if you do not have good installers, you are doomed, because that’s what your customers see.
Sometimes they might even not come to your shop but if they make it to the house with good appearance acutance, knowledgeable, fast, able to deliver good work, and move on to the next job, that’s all you need. And you may need them to do the work a day. I mean, I have installers, they run a 5-day shift and then week shift in this five days, they prepare this about 700 square feet a week easily, and they are home every day in a good time. But those guys have been doing 10 to 15 years. I had to go find them in different markets and say, “Hey this is what I have. I have this amount of work and this is how much money you are going to make when you come work for me.” And then, that’s all I had to do, but…
Patrick: So you literally moved them from different locations?
Jordany: We moved them. I mean I’ve got installers that at the moment out of the four crews, I only have one single guy that’s from Memphis. I have guys that came from Nashville, I have guys came from Atlanta; I have installers I think one came from Texas. And I’ve been to different companies before. So I always made good relationships where I’ve ever been. So I always kept the phone number, I always kept in touch with somebody. So when I needed, I’m always calling people and trying to find out, who’s where’s stone sell, and what they are doing with their life and when I’m able to find them if I have to bring here and help them move, we’ll do that.
Patrick: That’s awesome. I think a lot of people overlook that. That option of finding an experienced person elsewhere in the country and convincing them to come move to your nice location.
Jordany: I mean, I read there like I said, we don’t just hire somebody off the street and say, “Hey, here’s your job, then go and do it.” I mean it’s very hard, at the volume that we run like I said, with most of the profit coming from retailers, you have to have people that are willing to work, deliver good service in a small time manner, and they are happy, and you are happy. And then we move on.
Jordany: We have very few people in our fabrication shops for the amount of work we do. I mean we have in this location, probably 20 people on payroll or 21 people on payroll not coming to help us of course off the subs. But we are moving eight kitchens a day.
Patrick: That’s impressive. So I’m curious how you balance one thing. Let’s say I’m an installer working for you and the more square feet I do the more money I make. How do you balance that with quality? How do you avoid my reaching out and trying to do another 100 square feet, and then my quality slips? How do you make sure that I stay high quality with the work I’m doing?
Jordany: We track their quality. I mean that’s one thing. We have to track the amount of service scores. I mean and we survey every job. It doesn’t matter if it’s from one of our sales guys or if it’s a box store, if it’s a contractor, if it’s a builder, whoever it is, or somebody just walking in the door. We have a customer service person that will make those calls. And hey, miss Jones…
Jordany: …did so and so installing time, did he get their own time?” “No”, “Did he call you?” “No he didn’t call me.” So we try to find out if he was there on time, if he left on time, if they are happy with the job, and many times customers will be shy to let the professional installer know that they are not happy with something. They wait until the person leaves in order to make the call and credit service call. So when we make the call, the person that does is very good, so he makes the customer very comfortable, like, “Hey, they did the job, but there’s this area that I’m not very happy or I have a question.” And that’s when we can catch and say,” Hey, we’ll go back there and make it right. We want you to be happy.”
And then we log those things in a computer, and then we have to review that and say, “Hey, we may have to pull X amount of square feet from so and so, because we are getting calls. There’s a bit of perspective form the customers are having that he’s rushing through the jobs. Basically, not taking his time, not talking to the customers, so basically that guy has too much work. This one we can pull back, and this is kind of how we kind of like track them.”
Patrick: That’s really interesting and again I don’t hear a lot of people doing that with such precision. I mean calling every single customer. It makes a ton of sense to me. The last thing that reminded me of, I just remember the last time I had a furnace out in. they did really mostly a nice job, but they left the panel off. So when I went to go see the work they did, the panel was sitting on the floor. I would really see there’s chance I wouldn’t have seen it if I waited for somebody to go look at it. But it was just a little sloppy. And the fact that they never recalled me and asked about that, just left that little tiny thing that made me say, “Not so much.” If I had just gotten a call, then I would say, “Yeah, I’m happy with the work that they did, they left the panel off, or whatever.” Then they could have responded to it. And they could just have, I would have at least closed the loop. It would have made it so that wasn’t hanging out there for them or me.
Jordany: Exactly. And probably if it was a job that you had hired through a company that requires a score for the company, you probably would not score them a ten or whatever the score is. But then when mistakes happen, and we just follow behind, and you are like, “Well, everything is good, but I found this mistake here, but don’t worry, we’ll take care of it.” And we just try to stay ahead of being proactive, just trying to stay ahead of the problems and making things right. And that’s what it’s all about. I mean the consistency of work is key. We just can’t have people that some days they are good, some days they are not.
Jordany: And that’s very hard to balance. Everybody has got a wife and family, and before you notice everybody will be working too many hours. So that’s where we balance of stretching out the scheduling a little more or like, “This week, let’s just put a little more work in this, and why don’t we just see what we can do.”
Patrick: That’s interesting. It sounds like you listen to your people and adjust to your work accordingly. Makes a lot of sense. So you mentioned you use Parker equipment, and you also mentioned that you have relatively small number of people for the amount of work you do. What has the role of equipment been in that? And how do you know when it’s time to buy a new piece of equipment? So like are you at a point where, “All right, I know I’m not going to need to buy anything for another year or two or whatever?” Or are you constantly thinking what equipment is going to free up some capacity for the people in my shop?
Jordany: We are happy with them. I think that they will probably a key turning point of something that we needed to do in order to survive because of the workflow. And basically what comes down to is that when a machine only can only produce so much. An then when it comes to a point where the machine is running up to its limit and then you’re still working more hours, that’s when it tells you that it’s time to put another one there. And I’d say they are pretty much on the edge in both places. Because if you take an hour to cut a slab let’s say with loading and unloading, give or take 10 minutes here and there, 40 minutes on the process of running. If you have to go through about 14 to 15 those a day, it’s going to be a 14-hour shift, it doesn’t matter if you are fast, as fast as it can be is 14 hours.
So that’s when you’re already looking at that and also you are using your equipment excessively, and then it’s going to wear out faster. So sometimes it’s just easier to add another one, and make things run smoother. And that’s pretty much the decision that needs to be made depending with the future business and you have to judge, is it judge a good workflow or just something constant that came to stay. If it is something that came to stay and has room for improvement, yeah let’s go ahead and move. And that’s pretty much where we’re making a decision right now, what really should be done. But I will tell you. I mean the move 100% digital it is just key to just keep things running. I mean there would have been no way that you can be precise.
I mean machine will make mistakes, yes but if you are in the granite business and if you look at a process or a template, the wood template to the installation, hey the process is way larger. It has a lot more gaps there, than just being digital. I think that’s the key right now is just to judge if your business came to stay or if it is just like a work, you know, like a workflow. We are just busy this month for example, but we are constant. It’s something that we’re already thinking about, see what we do and that comes with more space and restructuring and maybe reorganizing the layout of the shops. It takes time and it takes money to do.
Patrick: Yeah, it’s about that constant growth mode. It sounds like now you serve customer in several states. Is there ever a point where you say, “Okay, we don’t want to grow any bigger?” Or do you think at least for the time being, no we’ll just keep growing until people stop sending us business?
Jordany: Yeah, the main problem is space. We are moving on the location number one to a bigger building.
Jordany: And that’s going to solve some of the problem. But at the second location yeah, it may be something that we have to think about. We have the space but we just had to see where we were going. Moving the location like how we came here, it was just key because we had already a lot of work north, about three hours north of location number one. So we came in as a support point, and then it kind of made everybody drive last. So it was actually not because we loved the city, but because it was actually the right place to be. At the point where we are growing, we are just trying to not grow so fast. We are trying to pull back a little l bit and then you know perfect what we have in order to see what we would do. But it may not be very long before we open another place.
Patrick: Wow. As you said that’s a ride. You just got to keep going.
Jordany: It is a ride.
Patrick: So what are some of your other challenges in addition to just growth? What are some of the things that you are thinking about that you’d like to improve?
Jordany: I’d say that the main thing that we have, and this is the problem that we have as a company is just integrate inventory to a live system. I mean like we have this lab smith. I mean we may have to get somebody to open a door there, and then try and put that on our website where we become live as we log him in. but because of this flow and of the material. They come in and go very fast. It’s something that we have not been able to see how that is going to be possible. We may order through for a bundles of more material today and then by next Monday, it will be all gone. Then you’d be like, “Okay, they were just here, so what’s the point of putting online if they are just going to be gone anyway. So that’s my kind of mentality sometime.
Patrick: So are you talking about putting them online so your customers can see them? Is that what you are saying?
Jordany: So customers could see them, that’s option one for presentation reasons. So [Inaudible 00:21:22] is a great tool. I mean, we are able to serve people from very far distance and if you instruct them right, if you tell them exactly how the process would be, they would be very happy with the layout. It’s very precise; you’ve seen what I’m talking about.
Patrick: Sure, sure.
Jordany: So we minimize a lot of them coming in and tagging material because that takes payroll hours to do it, moving material, there’s liability issues, there’s a lot of things involved having a very flow of customers, just coming in and tag material. So we try to cut it off a little bit to the max and we are very happy that we are able to, but on the other end, when our sales people are out, I mean they are very equipped. But if they have been out for a few days out from the shop, they have no idea what we have here.
Jordany: So that’s my main thing, it’s because they’ll have to find out, “Hey, we have that material that came in, whatever color, do you have any of that?” And we’re like, “Oh we got three and a half slabs or oh the two of them were tagged,” so because we are constantly busy, that’s where we lack. I mean we lacked a lot on having a better inventory control. Not for financial reasons, because we do, but actually for the customer side. Like to let them know what we have. But those are challenges that will come with the business as you grow. We’ll make them through and we’ll work what we have. But that’s the main thing that we are looking at right now. We are just trying to make it in a way that people can actually see what we have.
Patrick: So it’s the missing link it sounds like is if I’m the customer and I’m trying to buy a countertop from you, you are a little bit unsure of what you can offer for me. Is that correct?
Jordany: Exactly, if they say I looked in your website here, and then we have some default pictures of colors, that’s what we sell, and there’s black and I’m looking at yellow river here. I really like this color. And I’m like, “That’s not what we have on hand.” So that would be something that I would have to get something out of the Wheelsmith [SP], send him a full picture, if they want to drive down or most of the times what we do we have the sales person go and meet with them at the house. I think that’s the key in order to close the business, just go off to their home. You can see where they are at, you can see exactly how the process is, give him a precise quote and we don’t charge for the service.
Jordany: So that’s where we try to take the business. But if we had a live availability of what we have, because we don’t move those materials every day, so there’s a lot of stuff that should have been up online and should have been updated and then it’s not.
Patrick: Now is this only an issue for slabs that are unique, slabs with a lot of vein in them? Or is it an issue with everything that some weeks we have absolute black and some weeks we don’t? I find this really interesting.
Jordany: Kind of like, but mostly I would say people call group two or Bs or whatever how they call them, it’s all the more on the high end. I mean I think that that would have been the most thing. Because we have a lot of people that have been dealing with that for a long time. And then you free up that access. I mean the stores could go live and see what we have. Dealers that we would deal with, they say, “You know I really like this color and company designers that we have.” You would have been better than just have them guess what we’ve got and what we don’t. Because we keep a good amount of slabs on hand anyway, and we average I would say between 350 to 500 slabs per location on hand. So we have good amount. I mean we have enough for people to come here so they don’t have to go to supplier. So we are trying to cut that right there. So if it’s Boston [SP], we would like them to come here than go somewhere else.
Patrick: All right. Well part of these questions are Moraware has inventory pieces. Well I’m not sure that it solves the problem that you are trying to solve.
Jordany: We actually use it on the other shop.
Jordany: Yeah, I use it here.
Patrick: But it sounds like you are trying to solve a slightly different problem than it solves. It sounds like…
Patrick: …yeah, it’s not o just for your internal people to see what you have. It’s for the purpose of seeing what you have and showing it to customers and saying, “This is what we have.”
Jordany: Sounds likely, yeah.
Patrick: Interesting. That’s really super interesting. Cool. Then this connected world where the inside of a business is not far removed from the outside of the business kind of changes everything. Social media and things like that. Do you have a Facebook page? Do you Tweet?
Jordany: Yes, we’ve just created a page not too long ago. We are trying to have that more presentation on the outside. I think that those are the things that we cannot keep from having the constant growth was like in our presentation online. A lot of people on the granite business in the area, we’re builders, our stores, know who we are. But there is not much advertising going on. I mean most of the times when we are approaching the scenery, we were having a meeting we’re discussing like, “What if we did this, it’s just going to create more business.” So we already have a good amount of business and we are going to have to create that. And it’s going to bring more business which is a good thing. It’s a good problem and don’t take me wrong, but we need to be able to accommodate those walk-ins. Our showrooms are not very large in both locations.
Jordany: There’s got to be something that we have to probably expand and have them a better presentation of what we actually have. So that’s the challenge for this year. It’s just a lot of TLC [SP] I guess.
Patrick: So two things that seem…is it the beginning of a trend, a couple of things that are potentially in opposition, the idea of having nice showrooms with the idea of doing more in the customers’ home. You said you are trying to do more in the customers’ home. Is that in contrast to having those showrooms? Or are they just complementary or are they two different things?
Jordany: No, we do it because we like to have it in the house. So if we can transfer it to their house, and then take whatever they need over there, whatever the samples, whatever pictures that we need to take on iPad and then use the CounterGo to do the layout there and then. We try to close that there because we don’t have the showroom strength helping us out, say you can come here and that gives you how the finished product would look. So that’s pretty much where we try to take that gap. Because not having the showroom kind of makes us have a different approach of going out and giving bids and everything, which we do have a good amount of walks in, don’t take me wrong. We have on both locations, people swing by, they stop, and they say this is my so and so countertops and they’re very happy with it and we’ll make sales there but we don’t have a lot of the billboards, the online, the media, the email marketing. We don’t have, none of that going on.
Patrick: Is that none of it yet or none of that?
Jordany: Yet, yeah just yet.
Patrick: Okay. So it’s on your to-do list.
Jordany: But it’s something that we’ll have, we will have. We just have to find the right person to take charge, and to lead that. And somebody like I said, the keys, somebody has knowledge to it. I mean there’s no way I can dive in and be a marketing online expert because I’m not.
Patrick: Sure, sure. Well, that has been very pleasant talking with you, and a lot of interesting stuff. Is there anything else you want to share before we wrap things up?
Jordany: Hey man. I want to thank for the opportunity that I’m talking to you guys. I mean we are a very young company and also for you guys creating a podcast. The thing like I said, granite moves millions every week across the country, and then there’s not a space where people can actually listen and relate, and say, “Hey look, I’m having that same issues here. Look I got that problem solved but I never thought about that.” So I think it’s a good space and I hope more people are willing to come out and tell about their experiences and where they are. And then to better their businesses because that all it’s about.
Patrick: Well thanks, that’s exactly what we are trying to do, is just get people talking and it’s not like you’re competing with most of the people out there. It’s a pretty geographically based business.
Jordany: We are not afraid to share any secrets, and I think everybody has got their share of the cake. So that’s out there for everybody.
Patrick: Awesome, well thank you so much Jordany, I hope we get a chance to talk again soon.
Jordany: Hey man, thanks for your time. All right, you take care.
Patrick: All right. Take care.
Patrick: Thanks for listening to Stone Talk, the podcast for countertop fabricators. If you liked this episode, be sure to visit stonetalk.org or subscribe to Stone Talk in iTunes for more. Visit the Stone Talk Show Facebook page to join in the conversation and follow @Stonetalkshow on Twitter. Stone Talk is brought to you by Moraware, makers of JobTracker scheduling software and CounterGo estimating software for countertop fabricators. I’m your host Patrick Foley, and I look forward to spending time with you again on the next episode of Stone Talk.