Getting the premium price for what you do is pretty simple, really, it’s just a matter of offering the complete package better than anyone else. “You gotta have it all,” says Robert Larson of The Countertop Place in Wichita, Kansas.
“It starts with expert sales and education at the front end. It includes an efficient and automated shop, and is supported by a large selection of materials. When it comes to custom retail countertops, customer service and selection are the key. That’s why we get more per square foot than our competitors.”
To improve customer service, Larson and his partner, Mike Bell, automated their shop to make it more efficient, deliver consistent quality and minimize mistakes. The next step was to import their material. “Due to the recession, slab producers in other countries were hurt by some of their customers in the U.S.,” explains Larson.
“Because of that they have been cautious in their dealings with American companies going forward. It was worrisome for us at first selecting slabs in Brazil, but not now. When the slab producers saw I went to the trouble to learn their language they realized it was a long term deal with us. That really helped cement our relationships.”
Larson’s ability to select the right exotic stones for the Wichita market is a bonus, not only for The Countertop Place, but even for its competitors. “We sell to about four companies,” Larson says.
“We have developed relationships with other fabricators on a case by case basis, chiefly as a result of their customers having seen our material. We do it because we are importing anyway. We don’t give terms, they get a discount, pay less than from the vendors and they come pick it up.”
Larson’s competitors even send their customers to his shop to select their stones. “They call me, tell me the name of the customer and that they are sending the customer over,” he explains. “It works out quite well.”
The Good Side of the Recession
There’s no discounting the fact that the recent economic downturn hurt, big time. Even so, Larson sees a silver lining in an otherwise dark and threatening cloud. “In some ways the recession helped because, before, people didn’t seem to care as much about getting the most for their money,” he explains.
“Now they do. The fact that we are established and have the equipment helps give our customers the confidence to go with us. We stock 80% exotics and 20% basic stone. We don’t compete as well on low budget projects. Most of our customers want something unique.”
All of that plays into The Countertop Place’s philosophy for delivering unparalleled value. For example, the company doesn’t price its jobs by the square foot – it prices by the job. “We give a lot away for free rather than nickel and dime our customers to death,” Larson says. “We make the countertop experience as simple and straightforward as possible. Because we stock so much material, we can sell in half-slab increments. It’s a service our customers appreciate and one that gives us a competitive advantage.”
And The Future?
Consistent with his penchant for looking to the future, Larson sees an opportunity for opening new markets in Wichita – by selling to his competitors. “As the economy gets better, I can see fabricating for more small shops,” he says. “It helps everyone. I make a little less than if I had sold and installed the job myself, it gives the fabricators the ability to sell more jobs instead spending all their time fabricating – and everyone grows.”
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.