Last month, I sat in the showroom at IGM in North Bergen, NJ, with nearly 40 veteran fabricators from the New York Metropolitan area, and I saw something that probably wouldn't have been possible five or 10 years ago. These fabricators -- many of them competitors with one another -- had a brainstorming session like I've never seen before. The event was part of the MIA/Stone World industry education series, but it was in a different format than past events.

Rather than a standard presentation or seminar, the event was an open forum, where audience members raised specific issues, and one by one, each topic was written down and slated for discussion. At a recent MIA/Stone World Industry Education event at IGM in North Bergen, NJ, veteran fabricators -- many of them long-time competitors -- candidly shared ideas on how to succeed in the current business climate. The lead speaker of the event was Tony Malisani of Malisani, Inc., and Secretary of the Marble Institute of America.

He has spoken at major industry events such as StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas and Coverings, and he expertly addressed every single topic before the day was through. It is important to note here that while Malisani offered plenty of his own insights, much of the education was provided by the attendees themselves. As I said, this was a room filled with heavy hitters, and they were not shy about getting specific about how they addressed issues in the shop and in the field. Moreover, they detailed their failures as well as their successes.

I saw fabricators that I thought were long-term enemies sharing ideas with one another, and I can tell you that everyone in the room took away something that they will apply to their business. I've attended plenty of open forums over the years, and very often, I'm right in the middle of the discussion. But this go-around, I kept quiet and filled my notebook with all of the information and ideas being exchanged. The topics that were discussed covered a wide range of issues, and pretty much all of them represented forward thinking and a view towards future success.

  • Expanding a business
  • Reducing errors
  • Best practices
  • Working with new technology
  • Marketing in the digital age

"Most people got into this business thinking that the market was only countertops, and for a decade and a half, it was," said one fabricator. "But now, if you walk into our shop, we are doing a lot of other work. Countertops are only a small part of it." The fabricator went on to explain specific products and practices that he has employed to grow his business and make it stand out in a very crowded marketplace.

A brief rundown of some of the topics discussed appears in the "Latest Happenings" section of this E-Newsletter, and a full recap of the event will be in future print and online editions of Stone World. At a time when it is easy to become disenchanted with the current business climate, it is a breath of fresh air to see a collection of industry veterans take a moment to network, share information and collaborate to advance our industry as a whole. These MIA/Stone World events take place year round across North America, and if you haven't been to one (or even if you have), I strongly encourage you to check one out in the future. Like our industry, the topics are always changing, and I guarantee you will take something away from it.

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