Located in Perth, Australia, WA Marble & Granite was started in 1935 by the Paganin family. As the business enjoyed an outstanding reputation, it was passed down within the family for generations. Maria Byworth, the company’s present owner, started working for the fabrication business in 1994 before becoming a partner in 2003. Her journey along the way has been nothing short of inspirational, motivational and exemplary of entrepreneurial heroism.
“I started by having a bookkeeping business,” said Byworth. “One of my contracts was with WA Marble and Granite. I started working there and sorting out the books and 10 years of daily interaction with the owners and managing some of the most sensitive information; I was asked to be a partner. At the time, I was pregnant with my second child however, with the timing being off for my family and me, I respectfully declined. They kept pursuing me though, and eventually, I came back to them and said, ‘No problem at all’ and became a partner of the business 17 years ago. I have been with WA Marble & Granite for 27 years now, and to be honest, I love it. I love changing people’s lives. I love renovating kitchens and bathrooms. I love doing anything with stone, really. Then two years ago, I paid my business partners out as they retired and now I am the sole owner.”
WA Marble & Granite can fabricate just about anything out of natural stone; countertops, tables, vanities, fireplace surrounds to outdoor applications such as cladding, ledges, benchtops, fountains, tiles and more. Average daily square footage fabricated can vary greatly by season and WA has operated at near capacity for some time now. However, with the recent downturn in the Australian economy plus the virulent effects of the COVID-19 virus, WA has averaged two kitchens, two laundry rooms and four vanity tops per day; certainly down from their maximum capacity, however exemplary of being able to stay busy and secure business through the most challenging of times. WA is always looking to improve and seek new selling channels, however according to Byworth, “We don’t ever want to grow our business to the sacrifice of quality and reliability – volume cannot replace reputation – and it has been our reputation that has earned us the privilege to be the go-to company for trusted renovations.”
Fabricating in Australia with Maria Byworth
Maria Byworth, owner of WA Marble & Granite in Australia, discusses what trends she is seeing in Australia as well managing techniques for her employees.
WA Marble & Granite will fabricate quartz and sintered surfacing. “We will evaluate most any material presented to us, however what we adopt, merchandise and suggest will only be materials and brands that have the same values as our business; quality, reliability, fair price; all backed by strong service,” said Byworth. “We have found that in the end, customers buy people not brands. Our people are our business and the products and brands we choose to align with must have the same values. As a result, we build trust and a loyal following, something no amount of advertising budget can equal.”
When it comes to fabrication infrastructure, WA Marble & Granite uses a GMM Euro bridge saw, an Omega 100 edge polisher, a Thibaut T818 CNC stoneworking center, a Nuova Mondial miter saw and a Stone Plus bridge saw. The facility is 2,100 square meters (about 22,600 square feet) large, with 11 full-time employees. The company staffs one in-house installation crew, as well as another one on a subcontracting basis. A Prodim Proliner is used for digital templating.
Primarily, WA Marble & Granite deals wholesale and with B2B companies: cabinet makers, builders, interior designers and architects. “I truly believe that I want to treat my clients the way I want to be treated,” said Byworth. “I am a woman with a strong faith and live by the Golden Rule in my personal life and business life. I want everyone when they are finished with me to be so happy. If they expected 100 percent, I want to give them 120 percent. Word of mouth is going to grow my business and if you get one bad review, that hurts your integrity. I want my clients to feel like they want to be loyal; that they feel like we did the right thing by them. I do the same with my employees. I want them to feel loved, and I want them to feel a part of a team that we do care. Every single one of us cares about the end result of the client. It’s not about the money. It’s about changing people’s lives.”
For some jobs, WA Marble & Granite will travel three or four hours away. “There is a lot of competition,” said Byworth. “I prefer business to business for that repetition work. A small fabricator would like to do only one or two kitchens. I like the business-to-business model for our company and I like the challenge of higher throughput in our shop while always maintaining our core values.”
“I don’t get too tied up with people who start off talking about money [for a job] — saying that this business is offering me this or this business if offering me that,” Byworth went onto say. “I say that WA Marble & Granite is a brand. We have been going since 1935. You can see my factory and my showroom, and if you compare it to someone else who is a lot smaller, you need to ask yourself, if something goes wrong with my kitchen, will they be around to fix it for me? I offer a lifetime warranty on my benchtops, within reason. If you jump up and down on it and crack it, I won’t. But if you made a small mistake and chipped it, or the joints have opened up, it doesn’t matter; once you are my client, I will look after you always.”
The idea of doing the right thing also transfers over to WA Marble & Granite’s employees. “Most of my employees come from word of mouth,” said Byworth. “They have heard about the company, and they know how specific I am with quality. For every birthday, we have a celebration with a birthday cake. The last Friday of every month, we finish work early and have a BBQ where we sit down and chat about the month, the good, the bad and the ugly. We talk about mistakes. We talk about anything that is affecting them personally. We have a good open discussion. You don’t have to share, it’s up to you, but if you want to share, you can. Every now and again, I will run out to McDonald’s and get them all morning breakfast as well. Just being there and making sure I am involved with their lives. Making sure I know if they are having a hard time with something. Just caring about people and being present, not just riding them. When they make a mistake, they actually care and I know they feel really bad about it.”
Looking toward the future, the short-term goal is to continue to change people’s lives by providing them with amazing stone and service. “We may even be expanding into a new but related business; as high-quality proprietary opportunities come my way, I am always ready to listen,” said Bywroth. “The entrepreneur in me loves the challenge and yet the challenge must always be synergistic with our core business and our values. My long-term goal will be that my sons will take over both the companies, WAM renovations and WA Marble & Granite, so it will continue to be a family-owned business.”
WA Marble & Granite
TYPE OF WORK: Business-to-business and wholesale
MACHINES: GMM Euro bridge saw, Via Nuova, Italy; Omega 100 edge polisher from Comandulli, Castelleone, Italy; Thibaut T818 CNC stoneworking center, Vire, France; Nuova Mondial miter saw, Italy; Stone Plus bridge saw, China; Proliner from Prodim, Fort Pierce, FL