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Business Sense: Why Committing to Marketing Feels Terrifying

Posted on 09 March 2018 by CRadmin3

By Harry Hollander of Moraware

If you want to grow from a $2 million business to a $5 million business, you have to spend a scary amount of money on marketing. Owners who embrace marketing build businesses while owners who fear marketing frequently build jobs for themselves.

The difference is glaring – your approach to marketing is the difference between choosing your customers and begging.

A marketing-driven business says “if you’re this specific type of person, we’re an awesome fit for you, and we understand why you want to buy our product.”

A business that sees marketing as a necessary evil emits a different message: “Can I work for you? I need a job. I work hard. I work cheap. Can I please work for you?”

The customer who knows they paid you 20% more than the lowest bid and who is thrilled with the experience and end result is delighted that you advertised to them. They feel lucky to have heard about you. Except it’s not luck. It’s a combination of understanding your customer, followed by boring consistency – rinsing & repeating.

So simple that it’s anti-climactic, right? Except that simplicity is never simple to achieve – it takes commitment. Which brings me to a story…

Putting it into Practice
I recently took part in a marketing workshop for countertop fabricators. Working in groups, our task was to come up with a marketing budget for a fictitious fabrication firm.

To simplify matters, we were given our annual revenue goal and price point for jobs performed. Our goal of $5M in revenue, from performing $50k jobs, meant we needed to sell 100 jobs.

It was easy to agree that our target customer was fairly rare, but easy to identify. This customer has high wealth or high income (two very different things) and cares about the end result more than the price. This customer cares deeply about how things look and how they are treated throughout the process.

Without getting distracted with HOW you would attract this type of prospect, the critical question is HOW MUCH are you willing to spend to acquire this customer?

With virtually no debate, we agreed that spending $2,500 to acquire a $50,000 job was quite reasonable, representing 5% of job revenue.

Simple. Case closed. Start printing money $50k at a time. Except not.

It was at that moment when the monster of big numbers awoke. Doing the math – 100 jobs, $2,500 to acquire a job, that’s $250,000 spent on marketing annually. The feeling was visceral. That’s way too much. $100,000 felt more like the right number. All the planning, research, customer knowledge and commitment drained away at the mere sight of the big number beast.

And here’s what the trap sounds like…

Marketing-Fearful Thoughts
Thought: “We can probably acquire those same customers by spending $1,000.”
Reality: “No, you really can’t. Hope is not a business model.”

Thought: “We can if we’re really creative.”
Reality: “Creativity takes a lot of time and money in the form of salary. That’s just a trick to hide marketing expenses in another category called Overhead.”

Thought: “I’m afraid to spend that much because I don’t know if it will work.”
Reality: “Then you’d better create ways to know what works and what doesn’t.”

Thought: “If we spend that much we might have to lay people off and we definitely can’t afford the new CNC machine.”
Reality: “If you don’t embrace marketing, you will certainly lay people off. And nothing is more sad than a silent CNC machine.”

The Takeaway
The takeaway is rather tidy. Know who your customer is and who they are not. If you can’t say with confidence who is NOT your customer, repeat the process until you definitively can. Reach assumptions about how much you are willing to spend to acquire a customer. If you aren’t willing to defend those assumptions to the death, continue working on them until you reach that point. If you don’t, your commitment will waver when the big number appears. The budget will be cut. The fellowship will fail.

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Architectural Surfaces Group Acquires Bedrock International

Posted on 08 March 2018 by CRadmin3

ASG BedrockArchitectural Surfaces Group (ASG) acquired Bedrock International, a leading distributor for natural stone in the Midwest. The transaction allows ASG to enhance existing products from natural stone, quartz slab and tile, while providing new offerings such as plumbing fixtures.

The acquisition of Bedrock expands ASG’s reach across 20 markets, including Des Moines, Kansas City, St. Louis and Tulsa. Headquartered in Austin Texas, Architectural Surfaces Group specializes in the design, sourcing, and distribution of natural and engineered stone and other related products.

You may also be interested in this article about the ASG acquisition of Cosmic Stone & Tile Distributors

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Avonite Releases New Colors

Posted on 07 March 2018 by CRadmin3

AVONITE SURFACES NEW COLORSAvonite Surfaces Acrylic Solid Surface, a brand of Aristech Surfaces LLC,  released new colors for 2018. The new launch consisted of 16 colors that include: Antique Blue, Azul, Dove Gray, Dove Shimmer, Fuego, Galactic Ice, Ice Blue, Mango, Morning Tundra, New Concrete, Porcelain, Rivers Edge, Signal, Smoke, Storm and Vintage Concrete.

These colors join more than 50 standard colors and patterns offered by Avonite Surfaces. Avonite acrylic solid surface is used in architectural and design applications in hospitality, retail, education, government, healthcare and commercial workspaces. The benefits of Avonite include a non-porous surface, stain resistant, NSF Certified Food Zone Safe, bacteria and chemical resistant, inconspicuous seams, a readily repairable surface and the product is thermoformable for curved and custom applications.

You may also be interested in this article about new colors of Vadara Quartz

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Federal Brace Debuts New Countertop Support Finishes

Posted on 06 March 2018 by CRadmin3

Federal BraceFederal Brace debuted new finishes for several popular products, as a result of increased demand for variety. The Arrowwood and Brunswick Low-Profile Countertop Supports are both being released in a matte black powder coat. The Liberty Hidden Countertop Brace, previously available only in raw steel is now being released in a matte white powder coat. All three designs are offered in a variety of sizes, from 8 inches up to 24 inches, in order to support countertop overhangs and shelves of various lengths.

Federal Brace’s low-profile supports can be used for overhangs, wall hung counters or shelving, remaining decorative while staying out of the way of knees and bar stools, making them perfect for a breakfast area, bar, or any entertainment area. Generally having a ¼ in. thickness, these gusseted braces can hold up to 500 pounds per brace. Federal Brace’s hidden supports, like the Liberty, are used on countertop applications and drilled into the cabinetry substrate to remain completely hidden and unseen despite supporting up to 375 pounds per brace. Having more finish offerings will not only increase the options available to customers but allow for greater variety of interior styling for designers.

You may also be interested in this article about how to improve your designs with countertop brackets.

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Michels Red Granite Quarries Achieve ANSI/NSC 373 Certification

Posted on 01 March 2018 by CRadmin3

michelsFollowing its commitment to sustainable business practices, Michels Corporation achieved certification of two red granite quarries in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Red Granite Quarry and Wausau Red Granite Quarry have both achieved certification to the ANSI/NSC 373 Sustainable Production of Natural Dimension Stone Standard.

Requirements for the Chain of Custody portion of the NSC 373 standard have also been completed by Michels. This allows the material to be tracked from point of harvest, through fabrication and travel and to the project site.

Michels became the first company in Wisconsin and fifth in the world to successfully complete the Natural Stone Council’s process and received NSC 373 certification for two of its limestone quarries in 2017 Michels continues to explore certification at additional sites that align with the standard.

NSC 373 certification is a voluntary accreditation based on performance and metrics for improvement in the following categories: water, transportation and chain of custody, site management, land reclamation, corporate governance, energy, management of excess process material and solid waste, safer chemical and materials management, human health and safety, and innovation.

“Sustainability is important to Michels, our customers and the design community,” said M.O. Bohrer, Michels Vice President of Corporate Business Development and former chairman of the Natural Stone Council. “We are tremendously proud to be the first company to have both red granite and limestone quarries that meet these rigorous standards.”

You may also be interested in this article about LEED and LBC recognizing sustainable stone certification.

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Stone Installers Discuss Their Jobs – Warning Strong Language

Posted on 26 February 2018 by CRadmin3

EDITOR’S WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE NOT SUITABLE FOR ALL VIEWERS! Ever wanted to know what some fabricators/installers honestly think about their jobs? Well, here’s a video that may provide some insight. These two stone installers, who apparently work in Virginia, decided to record their drive to an installation site and post it on YouTube. From how they talk, they aren’t very happy with their work, they don’t care much for their customers and they feel overworked and underpaid.

While we don’t agree with the sentiments nor approve of the language and didn’t have to post this video, we felt it makes a strong statement about the countertop industry, and is something that should be addressed, particularly when the pool of available workers is nearing a 20-year low. We are not sure what this says about the company these men work for (which is not identified in the video), but their advice to any young people watching is to “get a job at McDonald’s” instead of being a stone fabricator and/or installer. In the midst of a market that is faring well and facing a growing labor shortage, this doesn’t bode well for the future of the industry.

We would be quite interested in hearing how you are dealing with the lack of available workers to fill your needs and how you keep your staff happy with their positions.

Once again, be warned they use what can be deemed as vulgar language in their discussion, so if you are offended by that, DO NOT WATCH THIS VIDEO.

You may be interested in this article about labor and effectively handing your human resources.

You may also be interested in this article about hiring veterans to fill your countertop shop needs.

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The Natural Stone Institute Recognizes Industry Leaders

Posted on 23 February 2018 by CRadmin3

The Natural Stone Institute has recognized several individuals for their contributions to the industry and continued involvement with the association. Awards were given to the following industry professionals:

NSI 2017 Migliore Award

2017 Migliore Award winner Jim Hogan with 2017 BSI President, Daniel Wood, and 2017 MIA President, Jon Lancto.

Jim Hogan, Senior Vice President of Carrara Marble Company of America, is the recipient of the 2017 Migliore Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Hogan began his career in the stone industry in 1985 following an eleven year career as an airborne ranger in Special Forces for the US Army. Hogan applied his engineering degree to his job at Carrara Marble Company of America in southern California. His management helped grow the business into a powerhouse of the stone industry, now primarily involved in large scale commercial projects. Today, he is senior vice president, co-owner, and a member of the board of the directors of the company.

Hogan began his service on the board of directors of the Marble Institute of America in 2002 and served as its president in 2008. He made his work within MIA a priority and took on his responsibilities as president with enthusiasm and thoughtful management. As president, Hogan was greeted by perhaps the greatest crisis in the history of the modern natural stone industry—the radon crisis. He rose to the occasion, working nearly full time with MIA staff to lead efforts to fight back against false claims regarding radon emission in natural stone. Long after the radon crisis, Hogan continues to contribute to the industry in countless ways, including reviewing technical papers and traveling to Washington DC for legislative visits on Capitol Hill.

NSI Women in Stone Pioneer Award

Kathy Spanier with 2017 BSI President Daniel Wood and 2017 MIA President Jon Lancto.

Kathy Spanier, Director of Marketing for Coldspring in Cold Spring, Minn., is the recipient of the 2018 Women in Stone Pioneer Award.

For more than a decade, Spanier has made a powerful impact on the natural stone industry with her tireless efforts to position natural stone as a sustainable product within the building industry. She has been active in the Women in Stone initiative since its inception, and her vision and leadership were instrumental in creating the Women in Stone Mentorship Program. Over the course of her 35 year marketing career she has continually assumed leadership roles in a number of industry associations.

NSI Person of the Year Award

David Castellucci with 2017 BSI President Daniel Wood and 2017 MIA President Jon Lancto.

David Castellucci, Director of Business Development at Kenneth Castellucci & Associates in Lincoln, RI, has been named 2017 Person of the Year by the Natural Stone Institute.

Castellucci served as MIA president in 2016 during the first year of the association’s joint venture. In the past two years, he has also served as Chair of the Board Nomination Committee, Chair of the Branding Committee, speaker at Coverings and TISE, and advisor to the New England chapter. He has served on delegations to the Xiamen Stone Fair, Middle East Stone Show, Marmomac, Vitoria Stone Fair, and Carrara Marmotec. He also acted as chair of the 2017 Pinnacle Awards jury and as a legislative delegate to Washington DC to assist with industry promotional efforts. In March he will join several industry volunteers on a delegation to the IZMIR Fair (Marble 24) in Turkey. This will be the association’s first visit to the fair in several years.

You may also be interested in this article about ISFA’s 2017 Envision Award Winner.

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Guest Blog – Unique Grains vs. Flaws: Is the Customer Always Right?

Posted on 22 February 2018 by CRadmin3

By Abby Sanders of Stone Interiors

Across companies, industries and generations, one tenet of customer service has held strong almost universally: the idea that the customer is always right. Fortunately in the construction industry, at least when safety is concerned, we understand that there needs to be a compromise. Sure, the customer might demand that her dog stay in the home at all times, but we know all too well that we can’t have our installation crew tripping over a Shih Tzu while they’re navigating a home with a thousand-pound granite slab.

But what about situations that are less clear-cut? Things get especially complicated when dealing with natural stone, which is inherently unique from slab to slab. All fabricators have found themselves performing multiple home visits, ordering new slabs and even replacing an entire job after it’s completed, all to appease the whims of a client. When is the customer right, and when are they, (dare we say it), wrong?

Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself as a fabricator before scheduling your team to re-fabricate a job for a discerning customer.

Was your customer reasonably informed before they agreed to the installation?

This is a tricky one because it requires you to take an honest look at your sales process. Was your team available to answer the customer’s questions before asking them to sign anything? Were they given an opportunity to see the slab in person or, at least, see a photo of their slab before it was cut? Do your client-facing materials clearly indicate that there may be variations in the stone?

If your answers are “yes,” then you have likely done your due diligence to inform your client. But if they weren’t provided with all the information necessary to make an informed decision, they may genuinely feel that they have been misled and did not receive the product they expected.

Are you confident that the flaw doesn’t pose a safety hazard or compromise the life of the stone?

An experienced fabricator knows the difference between a fissure and a crack. But it’s important to ensure that whoever is making that call is knowledgeable enough to determine with certainty whether a flaw is purely aesthetic or not. If the job is already installed, visit the home in person to inspect the stone firsthand whenever possible (or assign an experienced, trustworthy representative to the task). Keep in mind that a determined homeowner may decide to get a second opinion and could challenge you if any representative of your company makes a false claim.

Would you be happy with the finished product in your own home?

This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself this last question whenever a customer takes issue with your company’s work. Even if the new surface is perfectly safe and stable, you should still accept accountability if the work isn’t up to your usual standards. Even a superficial flaw may be noticeable enough that it impacts the overall look of the kitchen.

What to do when the customer is, in fact, wrong.

Plenty of customers request unnecessary or even impossible repairs. But some have a point. After considering the situation as objectively as possible, you may determine that the minor time or expense it takes to make them happy is worthwhile. If you can send a representative to answer questions and polish a new kitchen island, then you may have earned a five-star review that attracts new customers who more than make up for the additional resources you spent.

But if the time or expense is beyond what you feel is reasonable, then don’t be afraid to say “no.” In many cases, if you handle the situation in a professional, empathetic manner, you can help your customer put that small paint scratch into perspective without buying them brand new cabinets.  Prepare everyone on your team with key speaking points about the nature of natural stone and the inherent risks of an in-home construction project so that everyone feels confident speaking with disgruntled homeowners.

In the end, you have an obligation not only to your customers but to the future of your company and employees. Come up with a process that helps you determine when the customer is truly wrong, and your business will ultimately be more sustainable while still maintaining a reputation for quality and customer service.

Contrary to popular belief, the customer may occasionally be wrong after all.

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Join Coverings in the National Tile Day Celebration

Posted on 21 February 2018 by CRadmin3

Coverings, the largest international tile & stone show in North America, invites the industry to join in celebrating National Tile Day on February 23. Established in 2017 to recognize the value and importance of tile in architecture and design, the Registrar at National Day Calendar has marked the annual celebration of this timeless, global element of architecture and design.

Building on the tile industry’s “Why Tile?” initiative, National Tile Day champions the merits of tile that make it one of the most practical building materials. These merits include tile’s durability and sustainability; resiliency; versatility in use, indoors and out; ease of upkeep and maintenance; energy efficiency; and health benefits, including no VOCs. These factors, along with its beauty and flexibility, allow designers to utilize tile in its many forms to create unique and stunning installations that last a lifetime.

On Friday, February 23, National Tile Day will be celebrated with unique digital activations, providing special opportunities for trade and consumer audiences to learn more about tile. Members of the industry are invited to join the conversation on social media by sharing inspiring projects that showcase the many benefits of tile or new products and trends using #WhyTile, #NationalTileDay, and #Coverings2018. For full details regarding Coverings and National Tile Day, please visit coverings.com/nationaltileday.

Following National Tile Day, the 2018 Coverings show provides ample opportunities for its attendees to learn about installation standards and best practices, the merits of selecting tile, and the latest introductions to the tile market. Attendees will also have access to a thorough program of CEU-accredited seminars, demonstrations, and networking opportunities. Coverings returns to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta from May 8-11, and will bring together exhibitors representing more than 40 countries.

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Vadara Quartz Launches 18 New Colors

Posted on 16 February 2018 by CRadmin3

Vadara BIANCO MOLASA

Bianco Molasa

Vadara Quartz Surfaces announced the release of 18 new colors to its collections. Among the new releases are seven new premier vein colors that mimic the appearance of natural stone. Four new textured colors are also included and are designed to give any living space a sleek and contemporary upgrade. Vadara has also released three new translucent colors that, when backlit, give off a unique glow for a bold, grand effect.

Vadara Giallo Onyx Illumina Collection

Giallo Onyx Illumina Collection

“With these incredible new colors, Vadara is continuing its mission to disrupt the interior design space by not only staying ahead of the trends, but forging new paths for designers looking to try something new and different,” said Arik Tendler, CEO of Vadara Quartz. “We always strive for sophistication and elegance, and these new releases do an amazing job of fulfilling that commitment.”

Every new color is now available in Vadara’s four distribution centers, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Nashville.

You may also be interested in this article about new Q Premium Natural Quartz colors

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