GK Naquin of Stone Interiors led an engaging morning presentation at the Tampa Stone Summit on October 10, 2019. The day-long event was one of 10 Stone Industry Education sessions organized by Stone World and the Natural Stone Institute across the U.S. This particular one was sponsored by MSI and drew 64 registered attendees.

The discussion kicked off with Naquin asking members of the audience to introduce themselves and explain what they hoped to learn from the session. The group was a mix of company owners, sales/marketing representatives and production workers. Among the reasons cited by participants for registering for the event were:

  • Marketing
  • Business Management
  • To gain further knowledge and gain valuable information
  • To learn more about all aspects of the industry
  • To meet fellow peers
  • To see how their prices for stone compare to others

One fabricator, who recently started his own business said, “I would like to learn more and see what other successful companies are doing and follow their leads.” Overall, it was evident that all of the participants were open to ideas and wanted to socialize and network with friendly competitors in the area.

Chris Hildebrand of Affordable Quality Marble & Granite in Aiken, SC, and who started the Facebook group All Slab Fabbers, said his primary focus is safety. “There have been so many people killed in this industry in the past few months,” he said. “It’s crazy.”

Shop safety is certainly an important topic that can never be discussed too much. Another participant pointed out that the recent deaths were all the result of poor slab handling.

Another top issue to address is employees. “What’s the most important thing to your business?” Naquin asked the crowd. “People. You need good people. I can’t emphasize more that you can’t ignore your employees.”  Naquin went on to recognize a shop worker in the audience. “To bring you here shows what he thinks of you,” Naquin said, referring to the company’s owner.

Naquin also stressed the importance of analyzing shop performance. “It needs to be customized to your operation,” he said. He explained that a business owner needs to track performance statistics from each process of fabrication, including equipment-reported production, employee-reported production, material usage/variance and tooling usage.

Knowing your costs and what brings in profits is crucial to a successful business, Naquin told the audience. “Do you track accessories?’ he asked. “If you are tracking what you sell, your sales people will see what makes money. It’s important to know what you are making money on and sell more of what you are making money on.”

Another key factor Naquin explained is the importance of knowing how to develop new business. “Look at segments of the industry where profitability is,” he said. When building a residential market, social media platforms such as Facebook work well. “Social media is huge,” said Naquin. “We get a lot of hits off our social media.”

Customer service is also of tremendous importance. “The customers are always right,” explained Naquin. “You lose all the way around if you argue with them. You want your staff to make a decision based on what they think you would do. Make your customer feel like you are looking out for them. Train your customer service representative to be that way.

“You have to be upfront and you have to bring your ‘A’ game every day when you are in customer service,” Naquin went on to say. “You have to leave your problems behind.”

The morning part of the seminar wrapped up with a presentation of a certificate of appreciation to Randy Caudill, general manager of MSI’s Tampa location. “It’s a pleasure to have everyone here,” Caudill told the audience. “I see a lot of entrepreneurs here. We have the technical side and the business side, as well as the sales and marketing side. You make it all work. That’s what you do.

“The culture MSI pushes, and I push here, is a relationship,” Caudill continued. “We want to grow together.”

Caudill and other staff members then led participants on a tour of MSI’s new expansive showroom and slab warehouse, which holds an impressive 10,000 slabs. Attendees also had the opportunity to mingle with sponsors to learn more about their products. After lunch, the participants were divided into breakout groups to talk more intimately about business management, sales and marketing, and technical issues.

At the end of the day, MSI provided refreshments for a closing reception – allowing participants to further talk and discuss what they had learned. The final Stone Summit for 2019 will be held at Daltile’s facility in Seattle, WA. Visit www.stoneindustryeducation.com to learn more details. Also, check out www.stoneworld.com/events to view the 2020 schedule for the Stone Industry Education events and see when one will be coming to your area.