The 2016 Stone Industry Education seminars, presented by MIA+BSI and Stone World magazine kicked off in Charlotte, NC, on February 18, hosted by M S International, Inc. and featured marketing speaker Marty Gould. For the morning session, Gould discussed with fabricators how to use social media effectively for reaching out to customers. “Right now, four in 10 small to medium size businesses don’t have a social media page,” said Gould. “Social media has become the traditional paid advertising when it comes to reaching customers. It all used to be about how many followers, or likes, you can get on your Facebook page. Now, when you post something on Facebook, only 1% of your followers will see that message. Luckily, Facebook has made it extremely easy, and cheap, to advertise on their platform to reach new customers.”

In the afternoon session, a fabricator forum was held, moderated by Duane Naquin, of Stone Interiors East, and had a panel of, Brian Johnson of Johnson Granite, Hank Strauss of Mountain Marble and Granite, Lauren Grandlienard of ROCKin’teriors and Jon Lancto of Surface Products. The discussion started off with a new tax law in North Carolina, the E505 tax law. “It is my understanding that installation and, or revenue may or may not be taxed starting in March,” an audience member said.

Strauss explains that because of the changes, he lumps together delivery, install, tax, etc., all together on the invoice paperwork and pays just one tax on everything. “Back in the day, it was how we sold the job,” said Strauss. “It has now changed from what you’re selling and now it is what you are buying. Realize that everything, down to the pencil you use to write the contact, is a part of the job, and they are going to collect tax off of that.”

“I don’t pay sales tax in South Carolina, I pay used tax, so I don’t pay for slabs until I cut them,” said Naquin. “Get with a good CPA, any auditor is going to say, you need to pay tax, and not really try to help you in your situation.”

They went on to discuss volunteer OSHA inspections. “It’s important to note, on Volunteer inspections they will not fine you,” said Lancto. “We did them every year, and they would help prevent us from any future fines.”

“Remember it’s OSHA consultation services that are going to help you, they helped me through everything and kind of helped with the paperwork,” said Johnson. “I have noticed that electricity is a huge thing they look for, frayed cords. Also paperwork is big, making sure I have everything in order. When they first come in, it’s what we go through before anything else.”

The panel then discussed the importance of finding and retaining good employees.

“Give employees a good working environment,” said Grandlienard. “Safety is important. If your employees feel like you’re trying to keep them safe and you give them good benefits, they are going to want to stick around. It’s all about how you treat your employees.”

“Something we are trying to do is work with the local community college to find people,” said Johnson. “They are a great resource to have.”

Finally, the group talked about their experiences with alternative surfaces. “We have just started dealing with Ultra-Compact surfaces and it has its challenges,” said Strauss. “It probably has a place in the industry, but we personally don’t know where yet. But when quartz started getting big, we were slow to adapt to that too. So we will have to see.”

“We did a fair amount of work with the different porcelain surfaces,” said Lancto. “The problem is, the shop would come to a halt when we had to cut one of them. You have to change your machine settings, or change the tooling that was used. It may be great and have some great applications, but to me, right now, it may be ahead of its time.”