According to the experts it was time to close the business. The combination of a whopping recession and a super-competitive market had beaten down Advanced Marble & Granite in Meridian, Idaho to the point that bankruptcy was inevitable. Or so it seemed.
“We were counseled by two attorneys who said the debt was too high, it was time to get out,” says Mike Bishop, one of the owners of AMG.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘That’s not us. We can’t do that to our suppliers. We can’t do that to anyone, so we are going to make this work.’”
So, Bishop and fellow partners Don Massey and Mike Norton gathered at Bishop’s Las Vegas home for a four-day planning session. “We wrote it out on paper and did all kinds of projections,” he explains. “We felt like we knew what we were doing and what we thought we could do. We had a lot of faith in each other and a lot of trust. It’s not been easy but right now we are feeling pretty comfortable that it is working.”
A Bigger Piece Of The Pie
In October 2011, with the economy still in freefall, AMG assumed an aggressive posture. “We said we know where we are and how competitive this market is,” says Bishop. “What we need to do is take a bigger bite out of the market.”
The company branched out into tile installation by merging Mike Norton’s company, Snake River Stone and Tile, and concentrated on landing commercial contracts. It added a new partner, Kevin Bishop. And it purchased new equipment, which helped raise efficiency in countertop fabrication. But, mostly, AMG just got better across the board.
“People talk about front-end vs. back-end efficiency; we worked on the middle – tightening the belt,” Bishop explains. “Overall, we have done some things within the company to make it more efficient. Today, our tile is doing about four times what it was a year ago in sales and our total sales are up about 49% from a year ago. Gross Profit has increased 58% with a corresponding increase in expenses of 1.3%. Right now our net profits are up 380%. We feel pretty good about that.”
Making It Work For Everyone
Advanced Marble & Granite continues to pursue a mostly residential clientele for the slab countertop side of the business. And it relies heavily on referrals for new business. “We decided that if we couldn’t earn someone’s business by the quality we produce and have them tell their friends or neighbors about us, then we didn’t deserve the business. We may reach a point where word-of-mouth won’t be effective, but right now we have more work than we can handle.”
In their quest for an ever more efficient operation, the folks at AMG reasoned that the machines in the shop only make money when they are running. So, they went out and got more business – this time with their competitors – and added a swing shift.
“We approached some of our competitors with the idea that we would do the fabrication and they would do the templating and installation,” Bishop says. “Their first response was they couldn’t make money doing that. So, we said, let’s just try it for a month and see what happens. Now we have four shops that are with us 100% because they realize they don’t have all the headaches of overhead and equipment – plus they get their jobs faster than they could do it themselves.”
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