Last week, I got to visit beautiful North Carolina for the recent ISFA Industry Roundtable in Raleigh. As always, I walked away having had a great chance to meet and network with industry leaders. Also, I got to learn about what’s top of mind for a number of surfacing industry professionals including fabricators, distributors and suppliers to the industry.
There was great value in having this diverse, but small group all in one place with the purpose of discussing key topics in our industry.
The event started with a tour and reception at ROCKin’teriors, ISFA’s 2018 Fabricator of the Year. Talking to their employees reconfirmed for me that great people will produce great things. This high-end countertop shop invests in attracting and developing a great team. As a result of the dedication and knowledge of the people who work there, ROCKin’teriors is one of the premier fabricators for the upper end of the market in Raleigh.
The rest of the meeting highlighted how powerful it can be to come together as a group. Throughout the day, there were discussions about wide ranging topics from labor shortages locally to the impact of tariffs on Chinese quartz. What I learned is that fabricators are facing challenges on multiple fronts that are threatening margins. To me, that means that every activity related to every job should be executed with precision, whether that’s back in the shop, in the field or in the office.
What impressed me about the ISFA Roundtable was the openness of all of the people in the room, the willingness to share with competitors and the common desire to make their businesses and industry better. One conversation, specifically, that I valued was the dialog between fabricators and quartz manufacturers around the topic of silicosis. This frank discussion was enabled by the intimate, trusting environment. It led to some actions that ISFA will work on.
If you’re able to get to one of these events in the future, I highly recommend it. I’m looking forward to my next one!
In addition to the ISFA meeting, I had a chance to visit a couple of local customers in the Raleigh area. One of them had just bought our scheduling software, Systemize, the week before. Watching all of the activity in the office and shop was impressive. Customers were showing up in droves, installers were texting and the phone was ringing. It was a great reminder to me that working with software is only a minor part of the day for any of our customers.
Here’s the rub—while distractions in any shop are a reality, success with our software will require budgeting some time to get it set up. Block out time on your calendar every day when you first get the software. If you can remove yourself from the hectic daily activities, that will pay off in a major way. Yes, it’s extra work on top of all the daily stuff that doesn’t go away. However, this customer realizes that when Systemize is in place and a part of everyone’s routine, it’ll be a huge improvement to their business.
Attending industry events and meeting with our customers is a great way for me to get deeper insight about how countertop shops are changing with new technology and market trends. I’m looking forward to my next trip! If you haven’t visited other countertop businesses, you should do that too.
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