As most of you are aware, Stone World partners with the Marble Institute of America+ Building Stone Institute (MIA+BSI) to offer a series of educational workshops throughout North America over the course of a year. We have been doing it for quite some time now, and the formula has proven successful. The workshop is a great way to gather fabricators in an area and not only provide education, but to also allow them to discuss key industry issues together. What’s so amazing about this industry is that most individuals are willing to share information and experiences.

In order to keep things fresh, the educational program has been tweaked now and then. I just attended my first one of the year last month, and saw that in addition to a “Town Hall” format, they have introduced smaller break-out group discussions. Providing an opportunity for local fabricators to talk more intimately on various topics of importance to them is invaluable. Sharing experiences and knowledge can only lead to more successful businesses, and have positive results on the stone industry overall.

The New Jersey event, which you can read more about beginning on page 40 of this issue of Stone World, was led by Eric Tryon of Premier Surfaces in Atlanta, GA. With four locations in the southeast, Tryon has many experiences of growing a fabrication company, which he is more than willing to share with his peers. In this particular workshop, Tryon spent a good portion of the morning talking about the importance of benchmarking. “Benchmarking is huge,” Tryon told participants. “People say to me all the time benchmarking is a lot of work and a lot of time, but I say, how do you know if you and your people are making profits? Most people want to be recognized and to be able to see they are making a difference. Stop looking at people as an expense, but look at people as an investment. That payback to you will come back two-fold.”

In a nutshell, Tryon explained that in order for a business to succeed, it should have a niche or focus. Whether it is catering to a high-end market or being the lowest-priced shop in the area, shop owners should be confident and direct in the services they want to provide. He also talked about  how employees are more productive when there is an incentive. That’s where the benchmarking comes in. Giving them goals to meet and rewarding them when they hit them will not only lead to a happy staff, but a successful one that is loyal and driven.

Tomorrow, I head to Seattle for another workshop. What makes these educational seminars so interesting is that each time it is a different audience, which may share different viewpoints and experiences. I look forward to hearing what fabricators in the Pacific Northwest have to say. You can find out in our July issue, when I bring you a full report.