While out in Las Vegas for StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas -- now part of The International Surface Event -- I sat in on the Residential Countertop Forum, which received a nice turnout. This was not really a surprise because fabricator forums such as this one usually do draw a crowd. Many in the industry want to learn from each other and exchange ideas. These types of sessions provide an ideal arena for fabricators to do just that.

The panel of industry experts who led the discussion encouraged audience members to ask questions and participate in the forum. Ron Hannah, owner of Cadenza Granite and Marble in Concord, NC, and Advisor to the Board of the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance (SFA), explained to the crowd that the forum was designed to be an open discussion of issues that fabricators are facing today.
Hannah and the rest of the panel did an excellent job of keeping the audience members talking and moving the discussion along.

One of the main topics discussed during the forum was referrals in the residential countertop business. All of the panelists agreed that referrals should play a significant role. Various ideas on how to retrieve referrals were discussed, and it was also pointed out how social media can be a viable vehicle for promotion. “With referrals, you might also want to think about what is the new word of mouth, which is Facebook,” said Dan Riccolo of Morris Granite in Morris, IL. “So get your customer’s Facebook [page] and have them like yours. You can send a picture to their wall and then all of their friends can see it.”

Another hot issue fabricators are currently dealing with is how to price exotics and other specialty stones. In particular, quartzites seem to be a popular stone choice for countertops these days. The general consensus among the panelists was that fabricators should be confident in the quality work they produce and quote a price that covers the risk factors involved. “I have no flexibility on a quartzite price because the risk is exponential,” said Chris Garten of Signature Countertops, Inc. in Scottsburg, IN. “The reality is if they can’t afford it, they can’t afford it. We don’t negotiate with price.”

To read more about what was discussed during the Residential Countertop Forum, turn to page 62 of this issue of Stone World. And a complete version of the discussion will appear in an upcoming issue of the Stone WorldFabricator E-News.

Sessions such as Fabricator Forums hold a great educational value and also provide an opportunity for industry members to network. Stone Worldteams up with the MIA to host a series of educational sessions at locations throughout the U.S. Recently the 2015 Stone Industry Education Series was announced. To see where the closest session is to you, read more in Newsline (page 17).