LRA Stoneworks, Inc. made a dramatic change in the way regional stone and solid-surface fabricators do business. In that process, the company increased sales revenues from $800 Thousand in 1996 to over $5.2 Million by 2006.
Lee, and his son Jeff Rogers, started their construction industry manufacturing business under the name L. Rogers Associates, Inc. in 1983. First-year sales totaled a mere $68 Thousand. Acquiring 400 square feet of manufacturing space (his brother’s garage), LRA added solid-surface countertop manufacturing to its already growing cast polymer design & installation operations. Two months later, solid-surface and cast polymer demands from local home builders forced the company into a 600 square foot showroom and a 1200 square foot manufacturing facility. Only six months later, LRA was required to relocate to a 3600 square foot facility. By that time, the company employed nine persons. By 1996, LRA had grown into a 6,000 square foot facility, employing 19 persons with total sales of approximately $800 Thousand.
Prior to the last move, LRA had taken on new product lines that included three additional solid-surface products, granite and marble. Products then included custom countertops, custom shower bases and surrounds, elaborate whirlpool tub installations and laser-engraved signage. Products had been sold in a four-state area and as far away as Japan. LRA was the largest designer/installer of cast polymer products in the state of Michigan.
The company was growing at an increasingly fast rate that required the addition of state-of-the-art automated machinery to manufacture granite and marble products. That prospect would require an even higher rate of growth to cover the capital expenses involved. Servicing its growing number of builder accounts was beginning to create inter-departmental friction and becoming a serious concern for the company and builders, alike. Growth was becoming unmanageable. Importantly, the company would be required to double its sales in the first year after the latest move to meet financial obligations.
LRA’s Sales Manager had previous experience with Carlos Sabbagh of The Intentional Leadership Institute (TILI) in West Bloomfield. An initial meeting, along with strong recommendations, resulted in a long and profitable relationship with TILI. The Strategic Business Partnership proved to be the best choice Jeff and I had made since startup.
It was determined early on that written processes and job descriptions would be required to address timely delivery without which the company could provide little differentiation and incentive for the commercial and residential building community to choose to do business with LRA. Scheduling and production were identified as priority #1.
The review, planning and changes in process and procedure were accomplished “on the roll” and required the input of most members of the organization. After many after-hours sessions, inadequate processes were identified and plans created to remedy the bottlenecks holding the company back. In addition to accommodating necessary growth, provision of high quality products and dramatically improved delivery were essential ingredients to meeting the growth objective.
The processes of learning and implementation were hindered by two key personnel who chose not to cooperate and, in fact, undermined efforts to improve the processes required to grow the company. After continued intransigence, both were ultimately asked to leave the company. Their departure proved to be a catalyst that resulted in notable improvement of the attitudes and cooperation of the remaining 17 employees who immediately began to enthusiastically contribute ideas, effort and extra time to effect necessary improvements. This lesson amplified the need to hire the right person for every function.
Concurrent with changes in scheduling, production and installation operations, a detailed Business Development program was created through the joint efforts of the LRA sales team and Carlos Sabbagh. In fact, all departments became directly involved in the process of satisfying customer expectations and “customer experience”. It soon became obvious to all that the joint effort to accommodated sales, production, installation and client could not be accomplished with the previous narrow focus on individual or departmental concerns. Every department began to focus their efforts on satisfying the client. Inter-departmental feuds began to fade away. The importance of “customer experience” became highest goal and soon resulted in improvements in quality and delivery times, giving the sales force the ammunition needed to double revenues in the first twelve months after expansion and capital investment.
During the next four years, and through the Strategic Business Partnership with TILI and Carlos, improvements in budgeting, personnel selection and evaluation complimented development of a strategic plan and a proprietary estimating and invoicing system.
L. Rogers Associates, Inc. became LRA Stoneworks, Inc. and the new company opened a showroom in Petoskey, MI. The new company included a solid-surface and cast polymer division and a natural stone division and revenues had grown to over $3 Million.
Although the company had acquired an additional 4000 square feet of storage space across the street for raw materials, the size, weight and location of stone inventory was proving to be a hardship. Another physical move was in order. The company relocated to a 14,000 square foot facility and made a further substantial investment in state of the art stone manufacturing, overhead cranes and environmental equipment.
Outfitting the new facility with required fixtures, filtration systems, office space and showroom was managed by Jeff Rogers with an understanding of plant engineering acquired through the study and implementation of processes and procedures developed under the Strategic Business Partnership arrangement with TILI. The move of inventory and equipment in 2003, along with new equipment training was a surprisingly smooth process. Of course, new bottlenecks and process problems appeared and were quickly resolved. New systems and equipment required additional written procedures, training and job descriptions along with additional personnel. New compliance issues and regulation added to the workload, also requiring new procedures and employee cooperation. Mistakes were made, as will always be the case. However, the company now had the benefit of a few years of cooperative problem solving to address the hiccups involved in another rapid expansion.
TILI was instrumental in the development of supervisory personnel and the streamlining of production, scheduling and service operations. The person recently hired for that essential role, experienced substantial anxiety and frustration during the process but, with Carlos’ close attention and occasional coaching, soon became the authoritative and decisive individual required to manage the heart of productive operations.
By the end of 2006, the company employed 38 persons and had grown to over $5 Million in annual sales. Bursts of rapid expansion and production volume would likely have resulted in loss of clients and eventual failure except for the tutelage of TILI and a number of its associates. TILI provided valuable learning experiences for all employees….learning experiences that those employees eventually shared with newcomers, bringing new employees up to speed with little cost typically involved in training new hires. Well-defined processes and procedures and a focus on positive “customer experience” further allowed the company to provide high compensation and excellent benefits resulting in a high degree of job satisfaction and minimal employee turnover.