Archive | December, 2015

StoneTalk Episode 17: Marty Gould

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StoneTalk Episode 17: Marty Gould

Posted on 28 December 2015 by cradmin

In episode 17 of Moraware’s StoneTalk podcast, host Patrick Foley interviews Marty Gould, marketing consultant for The Customer Store.

Listen to the full podcast to learn all of the following:

  • How marketing differs from selling
  • How to collect valuable information about current customers
  • How to discover new customers just like your best customers
  • Why marketing is an investment in relationship building
  • How to jump-start your marketing plans

A full transcript of this episode of StoneTalk can be read at the Moraware website.

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Effective Safety Planning Part 4: Hazard Prevention and Control

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Effective Safety Planning Part 4: Hazard Prevention and Control

Posted on 23 December 2015 by cradmin

Welcome to part 4 of our six-part series on Effective Safety Planning for small-to-mid-sized businesses (SMBs). Last month, we examined the second point of the four-point safety program recommended by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), which detailed how to conduct a worksite analysis and job-hazard assessments (JHAs). This month, we delve into the third point: hazard prevention and control.

Hierarchy of Hazard Controls

After you have successfully identified all of the hazards your employees face in the workplace, the next step is to prevent or control the risks. Many employers believe that this simply involves buying personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers, but according to OSHA’s established hierarchy of hazard controls, PPE is a last resort that should only be applied when three other methods of control of failed.

The hierarchy of hazard controls is often represented by a five-tiered pyramid. Controlling and preventing hazards starts at the top of the pyramid because as you work your way down, the methods decrease in effectiveness. Starting from the top, the five methods are Elimination, Substitution, Engineering Controls, Administrative and Work-Practice Controls and PPE.

hazard control Use

 

Elimination and Substitution

The most effective method available for controlling hazards is to simply remove or eliminate them so that employees are no longer exposed to a safety or health risk. Of course, this is not always possible because the equipment or process is intrinsic to your business. For instance, a fabrication shop cannot operate without cutting equipment, and all cutting equipment carries some form of risk.

Many hazards can be successfully eliminated by redesigning your facility or processes. Following are a few examples of eliminating hazards through design:

  • Redesigning equipment so that it does not create excessive noise, temperature or pressure
  • Redesigning a process so that toxic chemicals are no longer necessary
  • Redesigning a workstation to make it ergonomic and reduce physical stress

If the equipment, process or workstation cannot be eliminated, the next-best method is to substitute it for something that does not pose a hazard or that is less dangerous. For example, if you are using a chemical, say for polishing or sealing a slab, you can research whether a different product is available that does not include the ingredients that make it toxic.

Engineering Controls

If a particular hazard cannot be eliminated or prevented through substitution, the next methods that should be tried are in a category called engineering controls. Engineering controls are basically redesigns that prevent or reduce human exposure to specific hazards and include three specific types: enclosure, barriers and local ventilation.

The most effective engineering control you can implement is enclosure because it controls how employees are exposed to health-and-safety risks. Some equipment, such as robotic or programmable saws, can be completely enclosed even during production. Other types of equipment require human operators or a human presence during production, but keeping this equipment enclosed when not in use may prevent or reduce hazards during maintenance or for people simply passing through the area.

Examples of enclosure controls are as follows:

  • Moving parts of machinery are enclosed and inaccessible while it is operating.
  • Toxic substances, such as liquids and gasses, are contained until they can be detoxified or safely disposed.
  • Toxic chemicals and substances are enclosed in glove boxes so workers can conduct their jobs while remaining separated from the hazard.

If a hazard cannot be enclosed, then a barrier should be constructed to prevent exposure. Fences, ropes and chains are all examples of effective barriers, but local ventilation is also considered a type of barrier for hazardous gasses or airborne substances. In addition, baffles can be used as barriers to reduce or eliminate noise hazards.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are essentially work practices aimed at reducing employees’ exposure to hazards. Examples of administrative controls include adding relief workers or rotating workers through different jobs to keep exposure under hazardous levels. For instance, silica dust becomes increasingly hazardous the longer a person is exposed to it. If a job can be split up between two or three people, it is often safer than if one person is performing it for a longer period. Another administrative control that can be implemented is to establish a system of targeted breaks or activities.

Personal Protective Equipment

As mentioned above, PPE is the best-known type of hazard prevention and control. However, it is also the least effective. PPE includes protective clothing and gear such as respirators. To ensure that PPE is being used effectively and is not creating additional hazards, training is often required. In addition, workers may need to undergo thorough medical examinations to determine whether the PPE is not adversely affecting their health. This is particularly the case with respirators, which puts increased strain on the lungs and pulmonary system. According to federal and state law, all workers required to wear most types of respirators must first be cleared by a licensed physician. The physician is required to retain all medical records while the employer is required to keep clearance certificates or another form of proof that they have passed the physical exam. For specific information on PPE use and implementation, you can read OSHA Standard 1910 Subpart I. However, you must be aware that many states have implemented standards that are more rigorous than those at the federal level.

For further information about the standards in your state or about compliance in general, please contact your regional OSHA office, which can be found at the end of OSHA’s Q&As for Small Business Employers. All you have to do is ask for the consultation department. Despite popular belief, asking OSHA for information about compliance will not trigger an actual compliance inspection. Such practices by the administration are banned by federal law. The consultation department is required to keep all information confidential are banned from sharing it with the health-compliance or safety-compliance departments.

Be on the lookout next month for Effective Safety Planning Part 5: Training for Employees, Supervisors and Managers

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Colt Industries Press Conference Announcing Split with Dupont Corian Solid Surface and Zodiaq Quartz

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Colt Industries Press Conference Announcing Split with Dupont Corian Solid Surface and Zodiaq Quartz

Posted on 22 December 2015 by cradmin

Back on December 8, Colt Industries, formerly one of the largest distributors of DuPont Corian solid surface and Zodiaq quartz surfacing held a webinar-based press conference announcing the reasons for their move away from DuPont products to the lesser-known Durasein solid surface from China and Diresco quartz surfacing from Belgium. The captured the video conference, which included explanations as well as a question and answer portion. Here it is in its entirety:

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Franke to Add 9 New Granite Sink Models in 2016

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Franke to Add 9 New Granite Sink Models in 2016

Posted on 21 December 2015 by cradmin

Franke-Granite-Ellipse-Series-60-40-Bowl

Franke Granite Ellipse Series 60-40 Bowl

Launching in January, Franke will have nine new models of Granite Sinks in six finishes: Champagne, Mocha, Onyx, Oyster, Storm and Vanilla. The sinks feature antimicrobial protection to inhibit bacteria growth that may affect the sink surface, reports the company. They also have a durable surface that is heat resistant. The Franke Granite Orca Single Bowl sink comes with Franke’s integrated ledge system.

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The National Tile Contractors Association Recognizes Industry Leaders

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The National Tile Contractors Association Recognizes Industry Leaders

Posted on 18 December 2015 by CRadmin3

NTCA Tile Person of the Year Jan HohnThe National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) awarded the 2014 Tile Person of the Year Award to Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn of St. Paul, Minn. Jan is the third woman to receive this award during the six decades it has been presented. For more than 20 years, Jan has worked tirelessly as a one person, high-end residential tile and stone installation company. She dedicated herself to the trade, serving as President of CASTA (Twin Cities Local Tile Contractors Association), NTCA Board Member, NTCA Technical and Methods and Standards Committee Member and most recently, as Chairperson of the NTCA’s Training and Education Committee. Jan was the first woman to become a Certified Tile Installer by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation in 2009. Jan’s attention to detail, artisanship, knowledge and commitment to the industry have earned her the NTCA Five Star Contractor certificate.
Joe A Tarver Lifetime Achievement Award - Eric AstrachanEric Astrachan, Executive Director of the Tile Council of North America, received the Joe A Tarver Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is offered to a leader in the tile and stone industry who dedicates his/her career to advancing the trade. Eric made significant contributions to the industry by incorporating both Canada and Mexico into the Association, developing the Green Squared program and the expanding the TCNA Handbook and ANSI Standards. His passion for creating unity is exemplified by the Tile Council becoming an even stronger partner in the NTCA, CTDA, TCAA, CTEF and the Tile Heritage Foundation. Eric is an integral part of Total Solutions Plus, which brings together all industry associations for meetings, creating unique industry networking events and leadership conferences. Joe Tarver was in attendance to participate in Eric’s recognition.
You may also be interested in this article about submitting an entry to Coverings 2016 Installation & Design awards.

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Caesarstone Saga Continues, May Be Resolved

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Caesarstone Saga Continues, May Be Resolved

Posted on 17 December 2015 by cradmin

Last August, we reported one of the biggest financial-news stories  of the year related to the countertop industry, concerning the sudden plummet of Caesarstone stock from a high of $72.01 at the end of July to $49.59 on August 6. Unfortunately, the Caesarstone saga has continued over these past few months, and it still seems to be far from an ultimate resolution.

During the intervening time, Caesarstone stock prices fell even further to a 52-week low of $28.92 on September 29. Since then, a partial recovery has been made, but the stock continues to struggle to break the $40 mark, and no one is quite sure if it will ever regain its previous value in the $60 to $70 range.

Caesarstone Q3 Financials Released

Caesarstone officially released its financial statement for the third quarter of 2015 on November 4. According to the statement, revenue experienced a year-to-year increase of 11 percent to a record-setting $136.8 million. This growth was mostly driven by sales in the U.S. and Canada, which grew by 22.2 percent to $61.7 million and 16.9 percent to $19.8 million, respectively.

“We are pleased with our results in the third quarter, which demonstrate the continuing strength of our brand and business around the world,” said Yosef Shiran, CEO of Caesarstone. “We are executing well, driving growth despite significant foreign-currency headwinds. We are also continuing to innovate, launch new products, expand our infrastructure and enhance our competitive edge.”

Other items of interest in the third-quarter financial statement are as follows:

  • Gross margin fell year-to-year from 43.7 percent to 39.5 percent.
  • Operating expenses increased from $22.7 million last year to $29.4 million, partially because of a $4.7 million expense for silicosis claims not covered by the company’s insurance.
  • Last year’s $1 million finance income dropped to become a $100,000 expense.
  • Net income per share fell to $0.56 from $0.75 in the previous year.
  • Expected revenue for 2015 is $497 million to $502 million.

Kibbutz Issues Proxy Contest

Shortly after the third-quarter financials were released, Kibbutz Sdot-Yam, the founder and largest shareholder of Caesarstone stock, initiated a proxy contest to replace two of the board of directors’ nominees for upcoming board elections with their own handpicked candidates: Yitzhak Sharir and Ammon Dick.

Caesarstone responded, saying the company was “surprised and disappointed” by the news. Caesarstone also stated that it believes Kibbutz is seeking to control the board even though the group sold nearly $300 million in shares, reducing its controlling stake in the company to 32.4 percent. The company said that it is exploring all options to enhance shareholder value and strengthen its leadership position in the quartz-surfaces market and advised shareholders against returning or signing any proxy cards or voting instructions they may have received from Kibbutz.

Caesarstone Management Vs. Kibbutz

On November 18, Caesarstone management hosted an investor presentation to discuss the proxy contest, and Kibbutz issued a letter in response to the presentation five days later, refuting the claims of Caesarstone management and urging all shareholders to elect its nominees to the board of directors.

According to the letter, Caesarstone management claims Kibbutz is trying to claim control over the board of directors and that Kibbutz’s motives are in conflict with the interests of public shareholders. Kibbutz states that the group voluntarily abdicated the chair, which it had held since the initial IPO to ensure the board remained independent, and even if the two members it sponsors are elected, the group would still only hold three of the nine seats on the board. In addition, Kibbutz points out that the majority of the group’s assets are invested in Caesarstone, and its interests are simply to grow the company and maximize shareholder value. Currently, Caesarstone stock accounts for 90 percent of the group’s equity.

Another point of contention is that Caesarstone management claims to have suggested and introduced Ronald Kaplan, a well-respected U.S. business executive, to the nominating committee. Kibbutz, however, states that it independently found Kaplan through JP Morgan. Kibbutz believes that Kaplan, Sharir and Dick will bring “meaningful and much-needed improvement” to the board of directors. In a new response letter, Caesarstone capitulated, saying Kibbutz is correct in that the group found Kaplan, and management is appreciative of Kibbutz’s support on this matter.

Caesarstone also claims that the company holds strong practices for corporate governance, but Kibbutz refutes this, stating that the board is forbidden to meet without the CEO present and several members are unduly influenced by the CEO, compromising their independence. In addition, Kibbutz claims that management’s nominees to the board are less than independent.

Caesarstone Refutes Kibbutz

In yet another response from Caesarstone management, Kibbutz’s claims are refuted as utterly false. Highlights of this letter are as follows:

  • If Kibbutz’s new nominees are elected, the board will include five directors with ties to the group.
  • The new nominees are not completely independent of the group.
  • Caesarstone management has been completely honest about the independence of its nominees.
  • The CEO of Caesarstone does not wield undue influence over board meetings and agendas.

Board Elections Held on December 3

When board elections were held on December 3, Kibbutz found that neither of its two candidates received seats. In a statement to the press, the group thanked shareholders for their “time, attention and interest. Kibbutz also said the group is ready to work with Caesarstone management and fully cooperate with the new board.

Eleven days after elections, Caesarstone stock was reevaluated by seven of the eight ratings firms currently covering the company. Of the eight, one has rated the stock as sell, two have issued hold ratings and four have rated the stock as buy, including JP Morgan.

It appears that this brings the Caesarstone saga to a close, although the company’s focus on celebrity endorsements and leveraging its agreement with Ikea, instead of including the fabricator as one of its top priority outlets still seems to be an issue, at least with some of the fabricators we have spoken with, but we here at CountertopResource.com will stay abreast of the situation should tensions rise again.

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How to Build Credibility Through Bylined Articles

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How to Build Credibility Through Bylined Articles

Posted on 16 December 2015 by cradmin

By Sally Saville Hodge

Editor’s Note: We here at CountertopResource.com are always on the lookout for articles on countertop fabrication and the larger countertop industry. Contact us at info@countertopresource.com for more information about how writing bylined articles can work for you and your business.

When most people think of PR, they think it’s all about sending out press releases – to as many media outlets as possible – in hopes that an editor will bite.

That is one aspect of PR. And it’s the most commonly practiced. But it’s not necessarily the most strategic approach, particularly for those who don’t have a product to push but do want to get across a way of thinking or the thought leadership that differentiates them. A more effective approach is to position that expertise via bylined articles.

Think about it – an article that’s written under your name (or byline) and is 100 percent the message you want to communicate. It’s not an ad (it should be written in an informational, non-promotional manner) and appears in the editorial pages of a publication you’ve targeted because its readers constitute your buying audience (or perhaps your peers). Between the extent of the message, which you’re largely controlling, and the third-party endorsement value of the editorial coverage, you’ve got a PR tool of substantial value.

To tap into the power of the bylined article to help build your credibility and reputation, you need to understand the five Ws: what, who, why, where and when.

What They Are

The most fundamental lesson is learning what byline articles are. They are essentially articles written under your name – or in journalism parlance, your byline. Such articles are a vehicle for you to flex your industry-knowledge muscles. The material in the bylined articles should be presented in a way that demonstrates discreetly what makes you an expert in your particular field. Three of the most common types are op-ed contributions, trend articles and how-to pieces.

Op-Ed Pieces

An Op-Ed is so named because it appears opposite the editorial page. Editorials are publications’ official stance on issues affecting the industries they cover. Op-Ed pieces similarly position the author’s point of view on an issue or trend. Strong opinions matter.

We have helped craft various op-ed articles for one of our clients, a consultancy firm specializing in brand and business strategy. One of our targeted publications for this client is BrandWeek, which accepts contributed op-ed pieces by its readers. We worked with one of this client’s partners in creating a response to H.J. Heinz’s discontinuation of flavored and blue-colored French fries. Entitled Green Ketchup Works, But Not on Blue Fries, he argued that the intent to stretch its Ore Ida brand was strategically well-grounded, explaining why it behooves companies to understand how far their brands will stretch to help drive better business results.

The article added to the consultant’s reputation for his thinking on brand issues and also created a strong link between brand strategies and business results – a key underpinning to his firm’s mission.

Trend Articles

A trend article, logically, discusses a current or burgeoning trend that has the potential to affect either the public or a specified field. It’s generally more informational and less opinionated than an op-ed piece.

One of our clients, a book publisher, retained our firm to create a variety of trend-oriented bylined articles for three of its authors as a means of supporting book sales over the longer term. One author’s book revolved around the current state of the practice of marketing. Our aim was to develop several articles based on its contents that discussed current trends and issues – from the challenge of breaking out of the marketing silo to deficiencies in the planning process. These were created for a management journal and several leading marketing publications and further solidified the author’s position as a leading authority on marketing, branding and management issues and trends.

How-To Pieces

A third type of bylined article is the how-to piece. Two of our publishing client’s authors wrote books on how to achieve sales improvement that were ideally suited to this type of bylined article approach. We created several dozen articles, based on each book’s contents, for each author that appeared in publications catering to sales professionals, including many that were industry-specific. These placements not only spurred further sales but increased awareness of the authors in a wider sphere of influence.

Who They Are Appropriate For

Anyone who aims to be positioned as an expert in his or her field can utilize this approach. We’ve used this as a strategy quite successfully with consultants of various types, for example. Authors, who by inference are “experts,” are great candidates, particularly since they can borrow against their book content for subject matter. But we’ve also used this approach with clients who are more esoteric, such as the innovative owner of a plastics-molding firm whose message revolved around the benefits of finding uses for recycled plastics. Although most publications we’ve worked with eschew bylined articles submitted by vendors because of their tendency to “sell” rather than inform, we also have had success in this space by positioning clients on general industry issues and solutions, rather than their specific solutions.

Why They Are Important

As our examples illustrate, bylined articles are an excellent way to showcase the knowledge and expertise that make you stand out in your field. Editors who accept your article ideas see you as someone with expertise who has something important to say. Readers will see you in the same vein. The fact that the publication thinks enough about your message to run it on the editorial side (without having you pay for the privilege) enhances the value of your article. If you share that publication with your customers and/or potential customers, they also see you as an expert – if your peers want your opinion or information, then you probably know your stuff and will do a good job on their countertop project(s).

Developing a well-written article is challenging, but it is worth your while. While it helps you showcase your thinking, it also gives you greater exposure to a targeted audience. And, since you are the one creating the article, you have far more control over your message. And the content is also far more extensive than a single quote in an article written by a reporter. Another benefit is the implied third-party endorsement value of editorial-side coverage.

Another consideration is its longer-term power as a marketing tool. Once you secure the appropriate reprint or sharing permissions, the article can be incorporated into your marketing program and posted on your website for visitors to browse, emailed to prospects and friends or utilized as part of your presentation materials.

Where They Are Accepted

Most publications accept some form of bylined article. Many major dailies accept op-ed pieces, particularly by well-known authorities, such as academics or authors. Other media outlets, like the professional or trade press, often solicit informational or instructional bylined articles or opinion pieces and often depend on outside contributions because they don’t have a wealth of staff.

Professional and trade publications and web portals, such as CountertopResource.com, are also excellent options because they allow you to target the specific readers who constitute your buying audiences or you can show the piece to your buying audience. The primary buyer of our brand and business consulting client’s services, for example, is the chief marketing officer. Thus, we have developed good relationships with the majority of the marketing trades and journals where our client’s bylined articles appear with regularity.

When They Are Appropriate

Bylined articles are almost always appropriate – depending on your targeted venue.

Certain types of instructional pieces will always find a home, particularly if they are rounded out with current examples and a perspective that might advance what’s already been written on the topic. It helps, by the way, to research your targeted media market before writing your piece to make sure your topic hasn’t been covered recently.

For bylined articles that respond to a current issue or trend, however, timeliness is critical. Stay abreast of developing news, both generally and in your industry, to help you begin thinking about what’s topical and what insights you could provide to shed light on an issue or add to the analysis that is taking place.

The use of bylined articles as a public relations approach is rising in acceptance as a more strategic and focused tactic that helps build a brand over the long term. It takes time to put this sort of program in place – from targeting and positioning appropriate media markets to devising storylines that will sell to incorporating the outcomes into the overall integrated marketing program. Yet the return on investment will prove this out as a viable adjunct to the more commonly practiced forms of public relations.

About the Author

Sally Saville Hodge is president of Hodge Communications, Inc., specializing in strategic public relations and marketing communications for businesses, entrepreneurs and professional associations. Subscribe today to Communic@te!, a free, bimonthly e-newsletter and get a free special report: “Using Buzz to Create a Groundswell for Your Business.” Visit http://www.hodgecommunications.com for further information.

Copyright© 2015, Sally Saville Hodge. All rights reserved. For information, contact FrogPond at susie@FrogPond.com.

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DuPont and Dow Announce Merger Deal, Ramifications for Surfacing Unknown

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DuPont and Dow Announce Merger Deal, Ramifications for Surfacing Unknown

Posted on 15 December 2015 by cradmin

dupont-dow mergerOn December 11, DuPont and Dow announced they have agreed on a merger, valued at $130 billion. After the merger, the new company monikered “DowDuPont,” plans to split into three separate companies within 18 months to two years after the deal closes. DuPont has said it plans to cut 5,000 employees, assuming the deal is approved by regulators, stock holders and board members. The chemical giants have a variety of overlapping products, but in the countertop/surfacing field only DuPont is a player with its Corian solid surface and Zodiaq quartz surfacing products.

Interestingly DuPont’s surfacing line appears to have recently taken a hit when one of it’s largest distributors that covered 17 states, Colt Industries, announced it was parting ways with the DuPont and would no longer be distributing Corian or Zodiaq surfaces. This merger and the potential synergies or chaos, depending on whether or not the building products division is something that receives additional attention or loses focus, is another unpredictable factor tossed in. Certainly as additional details become available, this media outlet will continue to bring you information.

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ISFA Launches ‘ISFA on Demand’ Solid Surface Training Program

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ISFA Launches ‘ISFA on Demand’ Solid Surface Training Program

Posted on 14 December 2015 by cradmin

The International Surface Fabricators Association (ISFA) is launching a new “ISFA on Demand” training program, in which a certified ISFA trainer will travel to facilities to train on-site personnel in solid surface fabrication. The training will be performed using the client company’s own equipment and supplies, so that those being trained will be shown fabrication processes on the very machinery that they will be using in actual production. While the on-site program currently only covers solid surface training, expansion into quartz/stone training, business training and shop optimization is being planned. Companies that sign up for ISFA on Demand training must be members of ISFA or must sign up for membership prior to training.

You may also be interested this information on other countertop-related training and events.

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Marble Institute and Building Stone Institute Vote to Combine for 2 Years

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Marble Institute and Building Stone Institute Vote to Combine for 2 Years

Posted on 11 December 2015 by cradmin

mia bsi natural stone institute logoThe results of a vote conducted jointly by the memberships of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) and and Building Stone Institute( BSI) affirming the entrance into a joint, two-year agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, on Jan. 1, 2016, the two organizations will combine operations for a period of two years, and operate under the name “MIA & BSI The Natural Stone Institute.” After the initial two years, members will again vote whether or not to make the agreement permanent. According to information released by the organizations, the MIA had 417 votes cast from a pool of 1,323 eligible members (31.5 percent), with 396 voting for the merger and 21 voting against, whereas the BSI had 103 votes cast out of a pool of 222 eligible voters (46.3 percent), with 102 voting for the agreement and one voting against. The Boards and staff of the two organizations have been busy reviewing and combining operations in anticipation of this decision and are working to put plans into play immediately. All benefits of both organizations will be shared between members.

You may also be interested in this article about the International Surface Fabricators Association’s new executive director.

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