Wax. What kind of company would fire a fabricator just for having it on his person? Turns out, Old World Stone, in Huntley, IL will. And for good reason.
“I kept catching the guys with wax and I asked them what they were using it for. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘this is for little spots where it is hard to get to, where it’s hard to polish.’ I said, ‘No! Our customers are paying for a polished job, so polish it. There is no more wax allowed in the shop.’ Then, later, I found out a couple of guys were sneaking wax into the shop and I said, ‘If I find any wax in the shop, someone’s going to get fired over it.’ We haven’t had any wax since. That was eight years ago.”
It’s that uncompromising commitment to quality that has helped Vaccaro grow his business from start-up to becoming a major player in Chicagoland over the last 10 years. And that’s with no prior experience.
Serendipity or Insanity?
“I started this company with a couple of partners,” he explains. “They had come to me asking questions about starting a business, like where do you find a lawyer, and an accountant? So I said, ‘Do you guys want another partner in this thing?’ And they said, ‘We thought you would never ask.’ That lasted about a year. They just wanted to build the tops quickly and get them out the door. We parted company and they are still dong one or two kitchens per week, and we are doing 3-4 kitchens per day.”
A plumber by trade, Vaccaro has dipped his toe into all kinds of water, including home and commercial construction and owning his very own ostrich farm. “We had 43 ostriches at my house. It was something else trying not to get kicked at feeding time.”
So, even though he was a total newbie when it came to stone fabrication, Vaccaro knew how to hire the right people – and he is good at solving problems. Things like rodding all countertops at every cutout to reduce breakage in transit; furnishing uniforms for the installers and requiring them to wear booties anytime they entered a customer’s home; or completely changing his customer base from 95% new construction in 2008 to 95% kitchen and bath dealer in 2009.
“In 2008 I looked at my general manager and said, ‘We are either going to roll over and die, or we need to get some work in here.’ So we hired a fellow who was familiar with a lot of kitchen and bath companies and he kept us alive,” Vaccaro remembers. “He started bringing the work in. We managed to do about the same volume in 2009 as we did in 2008, and we increased 30% in 2010. In 2011 we went up about 18%, and this past year we went up another 18%.”
It was quite an accomplishment, especially when one considers the highly competitive Chicago market, where kitchen and bath dealers had become practically an endangered species. This was in an environment where it seemed the only thing that was mattered was how low you could go on price.
“We only approached the dealers who were really interested in a quality product,” he says. “We would just stop in and keep introducing ourselves over and over again until they knew who we were. Finally, that job would come around where they would call us at 8 in the morning and ask if we could come and measure a kitchen right away. Our response was always, ‘What time do you want us there?’ Then once they used us, and then tried us again, we would get all their work.”
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