By Harry Hollander of Moraware
Moraware co-sponsored the latest Park Industries Digital Stoneworking Expo in Orlando Florida that took place October 2-3. And as usual, this was a great educational event. Thank you Joan, Mike, Stephanie… and everyone involved.
On Wednesday morning, we had the opportunity to talk about our drawing and job management software with a bunch of countertop fabricators. My impression is that there are more new companies entering the stone industry, with ambitions of growing quickly by using technology.
Countertop shop tours
Then, in the afternoon we went on a tour of two fabrication shops. This is always my personal favorite… and while the majority of the attendees are ogling the latest waterjets and CNC’s, I use the opportunity to visit the front offices. I love to understand how fabricators do their estimating, scheduling, and managing their inventory.
First we visited B. Shea Surfaces, which brought back a sense of nostalgia for me. This is one of the first companies I ever tried cold-calling, back in 2003. In those days, the company was one of the largest countertop shops in the region. Butch, the owner, told our group about his struggles during the housing crash in the 2008 & 2009. Their company was focused on production-builder work, and bursting at the seams in 2007, with about 150 employees.
Months before the crash, they invested in a new building and a huge amount of equipment – hoping to double the size of their company. The timing was tragic, and they retrenched significantly. As a consequence of the lessons they learned, they’ve become much more focused on efficiency and automation.
Over the last year, they added significantly to their revenue… without adding additional employees or reducing the quality of their products. And although they continue to make countertops for some builders, they choose to work with only high-end customers.
Next we visited Majestic Marble. Scott Hanes, the owner, had similar luck with timing in 2007. He had just bought the cultured marble company, months before the crash. The rapid change in the market forced him to re-think the business, and they dramatically changed their offering. In a few months, they went from being a provider of low-end custom marble to a high-end granite shop.
It was difficult, but Scott and Majestic have reaped the rewards of investing through the hard times. In addition to the original shop in Orlando, they now have an additional location in Tampa. Because of their focus on systems, processes, training, and technology they’re able to run both shops with similar efficiency and results.
It’s really cool that both shops use our software as “the backbone” of their businesses, and I’m really proud that we played a little part in helping them weather the bad times (and the good!)
The next day was filled with speakers and break-out sessions. All of them were great, but I’ll highlight the ones that really struck a chord with me.
Business metrics for fabricators
Dale Schleppenbach of Park Industries gave a very energetic talk about metrics. I love the idea of fabricators getting more insight into their key performance indicators. But, before you can measure your business, you have to be systematic and process-focused. In a poll of the fabricators in the room, it turns out that less than half had processes defined and documented in their business.
Once you have those processes in place, you can establish measurements to make sure they’re being done consistently and figure out where the top bottleneck in your business is. Once you know that, you take action and remove the bottleneck. Keep repeating that, and your business keeps improving and growing more profitable over time.
I also really liked Joe Duszka’s talk about company culture. Joe is really thoughtful and clear about culture in his own business, and even with his focus and effort, it’s still a huge part of the work he does, especially as the company grew past 50 employees.
One of the provocative exercises he described was having the people on his team articulate how they thought about the culture. Even though there was some alignment, it’s clear that it’s an ongoing task of the leadership to keep the team in alignment. He had a great quote that “when you catch someone in the act of doing something that supports your culture, you need to quickly and publicly acknowledge it.”
This topic is on my mind as we grow the Moraware team, and it’s definitely an area where I need to improve my own skills. Even though I love the numbers, I agree that culture is a huge part of what makes a company great. The performance reviews for employees at Joe’s company, Carolina Custom Surfaces, weigh everyone’s fit for the culture as heavily as their performance on the key metrics in the business.
Also, major thanks to Scott Hanes and Geoffrey Gran for talking about Moraware and the impact we’ve made on their businesses. It’s really humbling and we take the responsibility very seriously.