What I Learned at the Portland, ME Digital Stoneworking Expo

Aug 30, 2018 | Business

I attended a Digital Stoneworking Expo hosted by Park Industries in Portland, Maine. As always, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet local fabricators and also learn about what these business owners have on their minds.

One thing that I learned in Maine is just how much local pride exists there! I also learned that Maine is the highest ranked state in terms of number of 2nd homes owned. It also has more coastline than California.  Oh, last one: Portland, ME is the 2018 Restaurant City of the Year!

I really appreciate the approach that Park takes with these meetings. They are very educational for local fabricators who are thinking about making the leap to digital fabrication. Also in attendance are some folks like me—representatives from companies with products that can help digital shops. More importantly, these fabricators have the chance to hear from and network with people like them.  There are others whose organizations have successfully made the switch to digital.  That’s a really important time to learn about things that could possibly be helpful in their shops back home.

I’ve now attended a few DSE’s and I always learn something too. What did I learn?

Former athletes make great employees

Jonathan White from Paul White Company would know. The difficulty of hiring good people was a theme over the course of the meeting, Jonathan doesn’t have hiring issues. His company employs 200 people across 3 locations. I had a chance to speak with Jonathan and he went into some detail around his hiring strategy. As a former high school athlete himself, Jonathan naturally relates concepts from sports to business. He’s built a culture around achieving goals with a team of motivated, competitive and caring individuals.

Give them a cap and shirt and they’ll run until they’re tired” said White, clearly proud of his gang. One example of the competitive spirit in his workplace is among his install crews.  If one crew see that the other has more completed, they’ll shift into high gear, lest they get bested!

Jonathan also does the things a good manager needs to in order to have great people.  He interviews 3-5 people weekly.  He cares about and sponsors local organizations, including sports teams.  These are a few examples of what Jonathan does to ensure that he’s got a constant pipeline of the people he’s been successful with. Also, he’s able to hire when he finds great people without having to tool up his recruiting machine.

Don’t buy products if they don’t fix your problem

During his remarks, Mike Schlough from Park Industries spoke about their equipment.  Certainly different from our software in every way, there was a very similar message.  To paraphrase Mike’s example, if your problem in the shop is your shop manager, don’t buy a saw to fix it.

That example is very relevant for me when I’m talking to people about buying our scheduling software, Systemize — if you don’t have a well defined process, don’t buy Systemize.  Or any other scheduling software. Focus first on having a consistent, documented process for your business. Once you have that, maybe your scheduling issue will be fixed.  If not, maybe we should talk further.

Big companies weren’t always big

Hearing from other fabricators who have successfully grown their companies made me realize that they started like the majority of countertop fabricators – one job at a time. Consistently doing good work, at a fair price with satisfied customers are their objectives. They also shared many of the same issues as they grew.

Is our process right? How do we improve turn-around and customer service? Do we go digital? Hearing about the journeys that these leaders took made me realize that building a sizeable company is doable. As long as you keep focused on your objectives and work hard toward them.

Unfortunately I didn’t get to spend much fun-time in Portland, but I do think it was a great place to come together and network with people and continue to learn!

Interested in learning how our software can help your shop’s scheduling or estimating needs? Sign up for a demo!