Focusing on quality installation and machinery
When Eric Tryon started Premier Surfaces in June of 2002, he went into it having learned a lesson with his prior business that he sold. It was to have total control of the process. Drawn to the stone industry initially for the artistic approach, Tryon also favored the opportunity of making people’s dream kitchens turn into reality. After having previous business experience relying on subcontractors, though, he knew his new company, which is based in Alpharetta, GA, would be different.
That is why Tryon has five of his own installation crews and two template crews. Believing that they are a direct extension of the business has given the company a major advantage, he claims. “We own and operate our own [crews] for the control and education, as well as the ability to deliver quality service,” he said. “This is something that will probably never change.”
In addition, Premier Surfaces spends a tremendous amount of time investing in the education of its installers. Every installer is required to go through an eight-week course and pass a final exam. “University of Premier Services” even hosts a graduation ceremony. This is one of the many examples of emphasis and importance Tryon holds toward his employees. Although he is the primary owner, Tryon considers most of his 40 employees as “part owners” due to a profit sharing program.
Tryon also attributes having a strong relationship with equipment suppliers to be an essential part of his business’ success. Machinery includes a GMM Eura 35 bridge saw, purchased through Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC, and two Northwood CNC stoneworking centers from Northwood Machine of Louisville, KY. “Having a strong relationship with equipment suppliers is big,” he said. “We’ve been very pleased with both companies, especially Northwood. It allows us to grow if we have stronger relationships with equipment suppliers and vendors. This ultimately means less headaches, so we can focus on our business.”
Premier Surfaces serves the greater Atlanta area, north Georgia and South Carolina. A total of 20% of its market is retail and direct consumer, 40% goes toward big box stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, while the remaining 40% is new construction and builder markets.
Manufacturing granite, Shirestone and Silestone, the 39,000-square-foot facility produces 50 kitchens a week. However, with recent investment in more machinery, Tryon believes the factory now has the capacity to do 80. “We currently run two shifts, but have the ability to run three. This wouldn’t be a significant change in overhead; we’d just be running machines more hours a day,” he explained.
Although Premier Surfaces has tried digital templating in the past, it has found polystrene hard templates to be the most beneficial. “The material is easy to cut, draw and label on,” said Tryon. “Digitized templating equipment just didn’t provide enough consistency with what we deal with with our customers.”
Premier Surfaces has recently completed several multi-million dollar custom homes and commercial office buildings, in addition to a few high-profile restaurants that are ongoing. Upon working on and completing projects, there is a focus on the company’s vision statement - “by exceeding our customer’s expectations, Premier Surfaces provides opportunities and lifestyles for its employees and their families.”
“Most employees here are committed emotionally, not rationally,” said Tryon. “They’re not here to just get a paycheck, they’re here for the bigger picture. It’s very rewarding to watch people grow and to see the things they’ve done outside of work, like continuing their education, buying their first house, starting a family or getting out of debt.”
Tryon accounts for this tight knit work environment to hinder most challenges his company may face. “Everyone here is moving in the same direction,” he said. “The momentum is there, so our biggest challenge is to not grow too fast. We want to be able to provide intimate customer experiences. Each customer needs to feel important and special.”