For all the technology, all the new products, all the talk about politics and the economy, sometimes good old common sense is the best prescription for success. That’s certainly the case for Craftmark Solid Surfaces, Inc. which, in builder-heavy Atlanta, experienced an 80% drop-off in new construction sales at the height of the recent recession.
“We believe in saving for a rainy day,” says Larry Pulliam, president of Craftmark. “Plus, we didn’t have a lot of debt. We grew when we could afford to grow and invested back into the business as we went along.”
Not having the bank nipping at their heels made it possible for the folks at Craftmark to assess the damage and make the necessary adjustments. “Luckily, we had some of the large builder accounts who were still in business,” Pulliam says. “We had to downsize our workforce and we aggressively looked into developing new products. Almost overnight we switched from new construction to remodeling customers.”
As it downsized, the company was careful to hang on to its key people. “We couldn’t afford the luxury of having specialists anymore,” Pulliam recalls. “Everyone was cross-trained on everything. One day you might be fabricating a countertop and the next, pouring marble.”
Craftmark is one of three companies under the AGCO, Inc. corporate umbrella, whose 70,000 sq ft campus is located in Norcross, GA. Between them the companies manufacture and install cultured marble; fabricate and install natural stone, quartz surfacing and solid surface; manufacture specialty solid surface products; manufacture acrylic whirlpool tubs; and install fireplaces and custom fireplace mantels. It is a family-owned company that has been in business since the 1970’s.
The Value of Automation
“Before the downturn we threw a lot of people at a job,” says Pulliam. “The recession taught us the value of having the right piece of equipment on the shop floor. You can produce so much more with fewer people, and the quality is so much better. Now we would choose technology first before hiring new people. We believe in automation.”
One of the adjustments the company has had to make is increasing its market area. Before 2008 most of Craftmark’s work was located in North Atlanta. “Today we have builders in South Carolina and we cover the entire 15 county Atlanta area,” Pulliam says. “It’s really cut into our margins, especially since Atlanta is such a price-sensitive market, but we feel lucky that the business is starting to come back.”
Luck is something you hear Pulliam refer to often when explaining his company’s ability to weather the most severe economic storm in recent memory and come out on the other side positioned for growth. Perhaps it was luck. More likely, it was just good common sense.
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