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Strategizing to Take a Stone Shop to the Next Level

At the New Mexico Stone Summit, Blake Christensen of Valley View Granite in Salt Lake City, UT, shared ideas on how to diversify a stone business, build efficiency and train to industry standards

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At a recent Stone Summit hosted by Arizona Tile at its Albuquerque, NM, location, Blake Christensen of Valley View Granite in Salt Lake City, UT, gave a presentation to a group of local fabricators. The session, which was part of the Stone Industry Educational series organized by Stone World and the Natural Stone Institute, was designed to bring industry professionals together to discuss issues they are facing by opening up and sharing experiences. Christensen sits on the Natural Stone Institute board of directors and is a member of the Rockheads, among other industry involvement.

Christensen told the audience that he and his father, who has a construction background, founded Valley View Granite in 2003. “In the past 15 years, we have grown to 125 employees across multiple locations,” he said. We have come a long way. My hope is to share with you some of my experiences that have helped us along the way. I am just a normal fabricator. I love doing these types of events -- to come out to meet everyone and interact with other fabricators.”

The Stone Summit kicked off with participants introducing themselves. Christensen also asked each one to express what they hoped to gain from the session.

“This is great that there are a lot of first-time attendees,” he said. “I hope that everyone walks away from today with something. Something that is useful that you can share with your organization and really make a change. The whole goal of these events is to elevate the industry.”

Making a Business Plan

Christensen began by outlining a two-page business plan. “[This] has helped us grow our business,” he said. “It helped to get everything organized, on paper and going in the right direction.”

The fabricator touched on working with family. “When you work with family, you have to have roles defined and what their expectations are,” he said. “A lot of times, you have to write it down.”

According to Christensen, EOS, which stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System, made a drastic change towards the success of his fabrication shop. “It is made up of simple concepts that help you define expectations, help with procedure and process, motivate your leadership team and measure effectiveness,” he explained. “In 2019, I was introduced to a book called Traction by Gino Wickman. It changed my organization and life. It has helped my relationships -- to get my team going in the right direction.”

Christensen explained that the book is where he learned about EOS. “It takes a lot of business philosophies and ties it together in a simple way to help better your business.”

Core Values

Another important topic Christensen addressed was recognizing a company’s core values.

“You hear about core values all the time, but what are they?” he asked. “We had vision statement. It helped us to learn to use core values to make business decisions. We hire based on core values. A person might not have the skillset, but I like their core values. Getting everyone on your team that has similar core values is important.”

The fabricator went on to discuss how to determine a company’s core values. “You will discover you already have these values in your company,” he said. “It took about four months for us to discover ours. We went through a process.”

Christensen explained to the group that his company’s senior leadership met to put its core values in place. “We looked at who is a ‘rock star’ in our company,” he said. “We said if we can duplicate this person, we would hit it out of the park. You can dominate any industry if you can get everyone to row in the same direction.”

During a period of a few months, Christensen and his leadership team wrote down the attributes of their rock star. “We filled up two to three white boards,” he said. It was a process to narrow down the attributes. Christensen also explained that they looked outside the leadership team for the company’s rock star.

At the end of the session, fabricators in the audience had many takeaways. Christensen will speak again at a Stone Summit in Sacramento, CA, hosted by MSI on Thursday, November 10th. The next stop in the Stone Industry Education series will be at MSI’s facility in Dulles, VA, on Thursday, September 22nd. To learn more details and see the full schedule about all upcoming events, visit: /stone-industry-education.

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