Solid as a Rock

Kodiak Mountain Stone

With new showrooms up and running, Kodiak Mountain Stone has decided to increase the retail side of its business as it expands. Its own core product is still made in house, but much of the focus has shifted. Rather than just manufacturing its own products, the company has reinvented itself as a supplier of manufactured stone products, acrylic stucco, natural stone, concrete fencing and brick materials from other companies.

“The retail side focus is about our stores,” says Jeff. “We still have our dealer network which is a core part of our business but more and more of the focus has been based on the stores because it gives us more control over how things are happening. We have really tried to get more involved in that side of things.”

An example of this can be seen in Lethbridge. Over the last four years it became more involved with the local branch of the Canadian Home Builders Association and the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce. Jeff is on two committees of the home builders association which has really increased the company’s profile within the community. It has led to more opportunities for networking and meeting with more of the builders, contractors and developers.

“That’s really enabled us to sell through builders of a lot of new homes, but also a big part of the market is in renovations. So, now we are also known to people as the place to go for renovations or do it yourself jobs. They know who Kodiak Mountain Stone is and that we supply a host of different products, which has helped to increase our retail business.”

Many of its dealers only sell Kodiak Mountain Stone’s products and their demand drives the company to diversify its lines.

Offering such a diverse range of products and services is due in part to incorporating new dealers into the fold; it has included a dealer in Saskatchewan and a new dealer in Edmonton. But most of the expansion efforts have been concentrated on the two stores in Lethbridge and Calgary along with the existing dealer network.

“A lot of this is done through awareness and marketing. Some are specifically rock stores and others deal in hardware. A lot of our dealers have such a wide variety that it’s hard to get too much more in there. Product knowledge is also a factor. Staff are going to sell what they know, so we are also concentrating on education.”

Finding employees was a big challenge for Kodiak Mountain Stone in the Cardston factory. A lack of resources and a small employee base hindered progress; getting raw materials into Cardston was quite expensive. Concrete is one of its main raw materials and is significantly less expensive in Utah then Alberta, so the decision was made to move production to the Utah factory.

“Even though we are manufacturing in Utah, we are doing about 85% of sales in Canada. The head office is still in Canada, but we do have subsidiaries and manufacturing in Utah. As for staff, we had our challenges finding the right people in Calgary because there are a lot of competitive jobs in that market. It took a while, but we got it together.”

Employee engagement is an important part of the process in finding and retaining good staff. It is crucial to instill a team atmosphere in order to move forward and keep all staff members up to date. On Mondays, a team meeting takes place via video conferencing to be able to include everyone; the previous week is reviewed and goals for the upcoming week are laid out.

Product knowledge sessions also take place in these meetings. An employee would be assigned a certain product and it is then his or her responsibility to update the team on it. “The more we know about a product, the easier it is to sell. So we try to keep these knowledge sessions going all the time for the benefit of the entire team. We also undertake other things to try and keep the team engaged and together. There are competitions and recently the Calgary store won, so I bought everyone lunch.”

Jeff is a big believer in continuing education, and he emphasizes the importance of the company’s education plan. There are certain books that management strongly feels encompass the core thoughts and ideas of the business. Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is a classic for customer service relations. New employees are given a time to go over the book and then host a meeting with all the staff online to let others know what has been learned from it and, but more importantly, how it could benefit Kodiak Mountain Stone.

“We also added in the aspect of how it would benefit them in their personal lives, not just at work. It’s been a good program for us.”

Since we last spoke, Kodiak Mountain Stone has completed work on two new showrooms in Calgary and Lethbridge. Most of the competition has a showcase of small samples on a board and when customers or clients come into its stores they are forced to make decisions based on these. Kodiak Mountain Stone has endeavoured to make the customer experience very different. Instead of a small sample, customers will see a three foot by three foot area of the wall, against which they can hold up their eavestrough or siding samples to compare colour.

“A lot of them bring in their siding or paint solutions and they can see a better representation of what they are achieving. The feedback on that has been great. Designers and customers love to send their customers in. They can leave with a small sample and take it home for colour matching. But to really get a feel and knowledge of what they are choosing they’re getting a better look at what it is.”

As seen on its website, the walls become the samples. Brick masons have to be brought in to lay the brick and make the impressive sample walls. One wall is made completely of brick of different types and profiles; another wall is all different styles of stone; yet another showcases different styles of stucco.

“That is what we are doing with the new stores. We had our manufactured line of products and then we added the natural stone followed by the stucco. Then we added the brick and the concrete fencing. I think options like that are going to continue as we grow and expand our market share.”

The biggest opportunities for Kodiak Mountain Stone are going to be within the existing marketplace and how it capitalizes on new relationships and partnerships. Its competition has been with companies like Eldorado Stone and Cultured Stone. Jeff has just completed a deal whereby the company is going to be a distributor of Eldorado Stone, which had been its biggest competition. Now the two will be working side by side and really taking a shot at the entire market.

“In my mind, with Kodiak Mountain Stone and Eldorado Stone we have the two best products available in the Lethbridge market. I think that strategic alliances and partnerships like that are what’s really going to help us to see some significant growth.”

September 25, 2017, 4:38 PM EDT

Live, Work, Play

Most of us living in large cities like New York, London, Madrid, Seoul or Toronto take a lot of things for granted which are not available in smaller communities, like reliable public transit, ready access to highways, parks, bicycle and jogging paths that extend for many miles, and major shopping centres…