Back in the day when Curt Richter was a remodeling contractor, he would give out tickets to a local cooking class as a way to differentiate his company from the competition. The idea was a runaway hit, and before long the company had a six-month waiting list for the classes. “Some people even asked if they could buy the tickets,” Richter recalls.
So, when he joined forces with Mary McGarrity to form United Stoneworks in Albuquerque, NM three years ago, they decided to take the cooking class concept one step further by hosting classes in their own showroom. “We have a working kitchen with all of these professional appliances donated by the manufacturers,” says McGarrity.
“We hold classes two times per month. We invite professional cooks to come in and do the classes. They get to promote their restaurants as well, and they help fill the classes. We send out E-vites to our mailing list. Maybe one time we do a kosher class and invite the Jewish community. Another, might be Thai cooking. Another, how to cook wild game during hunting season.”
Experience And Innovation
Between the two of them, McGarrity and Richter bring a lot of countertop experience and business savvy to the company. McGarrity is an architect, has worked for what was once the largest countertop fabricator in New Mexico and ran Home Depot’s installation section for a number of years. Richter made his mark in the office equipment industry before getting into home improvement.
Roughly 50% of United Stoneworks’ business is in the commercial sector, with the other half coming from retail residential. It offers granite and quartz countertops and tile backsplashes (about 40% of all projects have a tile backsplash). Also included in its services are tear-out, plumbing and even painting. It finds its customers through referrals, magazine ads, walk-in traffic from the showroom and the company website.
“This industry is made up of a lot of tile setters who, typically, don’t have the sales and marketing experience needed to survive in a tough economy,” Richter says. “We saw a great potential opportunity to bring some organization and best practices to the industry.”
Part Of The Community
So what customers of United Stoneworks see is a company with a strong reputation for customer satisfaction. Its people are well-qualified, the showroom is spanking new and well-organized and the company is very active in the community, hosting the aforementioned cooking classes, as well as NKBA and HBA meetings and Lunch and Learn CEUs for architects and designers. Plus, they just seem to have lots of parties – and invite the public to attend.
What those customers don’t see is a well-run organization that has a firm handle on its fiscal future. “Our financial model is one that isn’t used in this industry,” Richter says. “It helps us drill down on our financials and helps keep costs in line.”
“Our people are the difference,” McGarrity observes.” We give them ownership. They all take pride in what they do and who we are as a company. If we make a mistake we find out how not to do it again. Everyone takes responsibility for educating the customer. Whether it is in the showroom or during an installation, all of our employees are conditioned to educate the customer about their countertops and how to take care of them.”
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