We were one of the sponsors at the Stone World/Marble Institute education seminar in North Bergen, NJ on September 19th. Thanks to IGM for hosting this event.
The New York metro area is a unique market – there’s an incredibly dense population, huge economy, and a stone industry that has been one of the largest in the country since the early 1900’s. In fact, one of the attendees of the seminar was Barbara Cohen from Miller-Druck, the 3rd generation of her family to be in the business.
The seminar was “Business Success for Fabricators” and we covered a wide range of topics throughout the day, starting with the keynote from Tony Malisani, and finishing with the fabricator forum.
Tony talked about how his marketing has evolved. He tries to do things that are unexpected, geared toward building relationships, and geared toward women. Why women? Because they are the decision-maker when choosing a countertop.
His company tries to insert itself in as many places in the customer experience as possible. He sponsors a little-league soccer team, has his stone in many cabinet showrooms, and is involved in his local Home Builders Association. A big part of his marketing boils down to “people buy from their friends” and he’s made a concerted effort to be involved and grow his network.
Workers who feel valued will have passion and commitment to your company. The best way to make them feel valued is to have clearly defined responsibilities, listen to suggestions, pay fairly, and give your people opportunities to learn new things.
Jonathan Mitnik of CCS has a policy of giving a gift certificate to employees who suggest improvements to the company, which seemed like a great way of showing your commitment to improving the business.
Several of the fabricators talked about how they cross-train their employees so they have a better view of the overall process, and are more focused on doing their jobs accurately. For example, templaters who’ve been installers have a very strong understanding of the cost of a mistake – instead of being abstract, they’ve experienced it first-hand. A mis-measured top might lead to physical pain from moving countertops more than necessary and possibly damaging the customer’s house.
All of the panelists during the fabricator forum agreed that setting customer expectations is the key to being successful when dealing with different materials. Marco Duran of Atlas Stone summed it up as “it’s all about transparency”
Over the last 10 years there’s been an explosion of types of material, including new colors of granite, marble, quartzite, and engineered stones. Part of this is new technology to protect brittle materials (resin-impregnated slabs and mesh backings) and new containerization techniques to allow shipping across the world.
Because of the huge variety, it’s really important to explain the specifications of stone and have an open line of communication with a stone distributor who’ll understand the stone characteristics. For example, although many quartzite materials are often referred to as “granite”, they are likely to etch if exposed to acid, and how they’re more prone to imperfections than dense granite because of the combination of silica and carbonate in their makeup.
Because of this wide variety of materials, the industry is still very much dominated by craftsmen who are attempting to become manufacturers.
If you’d like another perspective on the stone industry education, the Marble Institute and Stone World also have posts about the seminar.
Want to know more? At Moraware, we make software for countertop fabricators. CounterGo is countertop drawing and estimating software. JobTracker is scheduling software that helps you eliminate the time you waste looking for job folders. RemnantSwap is a free place to buy and sell granite remnants with fabricators near you.