Building A Strong Corporate Culture With Trademark Universal Stone

Building A Strong Corporate Culture With Trademark Universal Stone

Trademark Granite Fabricators Podcast Transcript:

Greg: All right. We’re here. We’re recording now, maybe a little chuckle in the background with Jason Black, as usual. Jason, good to see you.

Jason: Good morning, Greg. Good to have you back.

Greg: Special guest in the studio today, Henry Berroa, a partner with Trademark. How are you?

Henry: Good. Good morning. Thank you for having me, gentlemen

Greg: A pleasure. Why don’t you tell us what Trademark is, since we just teased it there a little bit?

Henry: Trademark is a company that does granite and marble countertops, on the surface. That’s what it is, but we’re actually a business that’s in the client care industry.

Jason: That’s awesome, Henry. Let’s get into that a little bit, but first why don’t you give us a little background of maybe how you got started, and how you got in the business, and where you’re from, and that kind of stuff? Give people a little background of Henry.

Henry: All right. I’m originally from New York City, and joined the Army when I was 17 years old. We were stationed here in Fort Knox, my wife and I, back in 2005. We moved from Korea, and we came here to Louisville, or to Fort Knox.

We didn’t really know anybody, and after being herefor  about three years, met a gentleman who was Dominican like me, and it was pretty exciting to meet someone that liked the same things that I liked, the same music, the same food, had the same culture. On day he said, “Why don’t you come by my job and meet the guys?”

I was pretty excited to go out to his work and meet the gentlemen that he worked with, that were also a lot of Latinos. I went over there, and it happened to be a granite fabrication shop. It was actually pretty funny, and by accident on how I got involved in this industry. I literally didn’t even know how to read a tape measure when I started.

Greg: That’s not important, though, is it for your job?

Henry: No, not at all.

Jason: Yeah, precision. Don’t need any precision with granite installation and fabrication!

Henry: Right. I was there, and it was funny because I went and I met everyone and introduced myself, and we all got excited. They just happened to be missing one of the guys for the day, so it was like, “You want to come with us?” I said sure.

Jason: What were you doing at the time?

Henry: I was in the financial services industry. I was teaching classes on Fort Knox. I had just recently ETS’ed out of the military. I was teaching financial classes, classes on budgeting, home loans, and mortgages, investments. Something totally different.

I was bored out of my mind, and I needed a change, but I didn’t know I needed a change, until that day. I jumped on an install truck and went with the guys, and three months later, I was still there. I was still there. I didn’t need to be there. I just really wanted to be there because of the folks.

Then it was really conflicting because I realized that the leadership at that company didn’t have the same morals and values that I did. They didn’t align. I saw it in the clients’ faces every time that we went to do a job. So I excused myself.

It wasn’t a few months later I heard that gentleman was closing his business down, and I saw it as a great opportunity. I believe that everything in life is asking you one question… “Do you want me to be a problem, or do you want me to be an opportunity?” Just jumped in. Just took that opportunity.

Jason: How many years ago, or what year was that?

Henry: This was in 2008 that he closed down, so we started in 2009. We opened up in April of 2009, literally when the …

Jason: The market was at its worst.

Henry: Economy was at its worst.

Jason: What better time to start a new business?

Henry: The economy was doing bad, but what the economy was doing wasn’t my business.

Greg: These are my some of my favorite stories. I hear them, I don’t know on a regular basis, but the people who started when the economy was down, and set up a foundation that was done properly are often the people you see doing well today. You make it through the thin time on the front. You’re in good shape when things blossom a little bit.

Jason: That’s one of the reasons I love doing these podcasts. Henry and I have worked together for years, but we’ve never sat down. I’ve never heard this story, and you get to know folks a little bit on a personal level and understand their background and why they’re doing what they’re doing. I want to hear more. Keep going.

Henry: Yeah, so April 2009 Trademark was born in the basement of our home. We had a $7,000 credit card from Home Depot and a $1,500 loan from my mom to get a forklift, and learning how to read a tape measure.

We just knew that as long as you do the best that you can do, no matter what that is… If you’re a janitor, you just need to try to be the best janitor that you can possibly be. If you’re a barista, you just need to try to be best that you can be. We just knew that as long as you did the best that you could, and you take care of people along the way, you have no choice but to be successful. You just have no choice.

Greg: Who is “we” that you keep talking about?

Henry: My wife and I, and a former partner of mine that we had, and Jeff, my current partner. We all just had the same values, which just made a great partnership. Eight years later, our anniversary, our eight-year anniversary is actually next month. Eight years later, we’ve become one of the largest granite fabrication companies in Louisville.

Jason: Give folks an idea what that means, maybe how many employees you have. Are you producing a couple kitchens a week? What comes out of Trademark?

Henry: We have right now about 23 employees or team members. We produce about eight kitchens a day.

Jason: Wow.

Henry: That’s what we do. We do about eight kitchens a day. We work with the major suppliers here in Louisville. We only like working with the local companies because at the end of the day, they were the ones who helped us grow. That’s what we do. We talk to so many different clients, so many different people, so many different personalities on a regular basis. It’s just incredible.

Jason: I’ve been in the business almost 15 years now, and I’ve worked with a ton of different granite fabricators and installers. I guess by chance, it’s probably going on four or five years ago, I was introduced to Henry. One thing I’ve just been blown away with is the culture that you’ve instilled in your company as well as your team members. How do you do that?

Again, I run across tradesmen all the time that their guys just could care less. They come onto my job sites, and treat them with no respect. That’s why they’re not invited back. I keep inviting you back because, one, the work you guys do. You’re a quality individual, but that culture that you’ve instilled in these folks. How do you do that?

Henry: It’s actually pretty easy, Jason. The first thing is at our company the word boss and employee do not exist. We are a team. Everybody knows that. If I don’t do my job, the installers don’t eat. If the installers don’t do their job, then the fabricators don’t eat. If the fabricators don’t do their job, then the sales girls don’t eat. That’s what it is.

You start to create this culture of team. When you do that, everyone feels like they’re literally a part of something. When we have a meeting, everyone comes to the table. No one is left out, and we put things on the table that we need to talk about. Everyone’s voice is heard. Everyone’s opinion matters.

It’s an incredible dynamic when someone sees that their idea is being implemented throughout the company. We’re smart enough to know that we don’t know it all. We would be crazy not to consult with the guys that are in the field every day. We would be crazy not to consult with the fabricators who are in the back every day.

We ask them questions, like, “Hey, let me ask you something. What would make this polish come out better? What would make your day easier? How could you focus on making this top look as pristine as it should be? How do we give our clients the best quality and the best experience overall in every encounter we have with them?” When you engage your folks that way, everyone just feels so vested. They feel like they’re a part of something bigger than just them.

Another thing that we do is, family is extremely important to us. At our place of business if your son has a Little League game, we want you to be there. Somebody else from the team will cover your spot. You need to take care of your family.

If your daughter is playing the butterfly in the play, like you need to be there taking care of that. We understand that if everything is good at home, then you’re going to be great at work. We know that. If you work at Trademark, then you shouldn’t be struggling. You shouldn’t be struggling financially. You shouldn’t be struggling mentally. Those things are nonexistent, or at least we try for them to be nonexistent at our place.

Our team are the same guys that we hang out with on the weekends. They’re the same guys that we call after work and we talk and chit-chat about things. We just went to go see a play last weekend with our templater and his family. You just create an environment where everyone feels that they’re important. Everyone feels like their voice is heard and valued, and you create this family atmosphere.

Then another thing that we’ve done as we’ve grown, when we were a young company, we are still a fairly young company, but when guys will come to us and say, “Hey, how about vacation time?” That’s something that we dug into and implemented. At Trademark you get vacation time. You get health and dental. You get sick days and personal days. You get a 401k with a match plan.

These are things that we’ve implemented, and just recently, actually last month, I got my team together, and I say, “Hey, guys. I always talk about this company as ours. This company is not just mine. This is our company.” What we said was from here on out, we’re going to analyze what we’ve collected as far as revenue goes on a monthly basis, and we’re going to take a percentage of that, and we’re going to divide those profits up.

It’s not just for Jeff and I to take profits. We just feel that we wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for our team. We want to make sure that everybody is rewarded. It’s not something that we just talk about. It’s something that we try to do on a regular basis.

When you see our guys, Jason, at 10 o’clock at night installing your kitchen countertops, that’s their company that they’re working for. They feel that in their heart.

Jason: You can tell they feel it, and they are passionate about it. A lot of people talk about culture, but so much of it is me, me, me, and it’s not about the team. I remember a project last year, it was Homerama house, and we were more than behind the eight ball! We were done. We had a third floor on this house, and there was no staircase to get up there.

We had slabs of marble that needed to get up to the third floor, and were like, “How in the world are we going to do it?” I pull up to the job site, and Henry’s got this boom forklift machine that’s stretching over three lots and his guys are heaving marble up over a third floor balcony. I’m like, “Holy cow.”

I’d always respected you guys, but man, I was like, “Those guys went above and beyond to get the job done.” Didn’t even call me and complain that they couldn’t get access. You just took it into your own hands and figured it out. It was awesome to see. I’ve got tons of experiences like that. I’m going to brag on Henry a little bit.

Henry: Don’t make me blush.

Jason: No, no. Sometimes people think of homebuilding and granite fabrication as just a material product that gets installed. They don’t see what happens behind it. You were helping my wife with a client the other day, and usually everything runs through me, but this was a job that she was doing for another client. She was working directly with Henry.

It was something simple. It was the night before the install, and she gets a text that says, “Ms. Black, this is Hector with Trademark. We’re going to be at your job tomorrow, I think, between 2 and 2:30.” It was a pretty precise window, and just wanted to let you know.

They showed up on time, and even had a little, maybe I’ll have you expand upon your survey that you make the clients sign off on, but she was like, “That was a great experience.” She’s like, “Do they do that on all your jobs?” I’m like, “Yeah, babe, they do.” She’s like, “Wow.” Hats off to what you guys are doing over at Trademark.

Henry: Thank you.

Jason: Tell me maybe, it’s something I’m accustomed to, but when you’re finished with a job, you guys have a checklist that you make the homeowner sign off on. Walk me through that and how that came about.

Henry: The foundation of everything that we do over at Trademark is based off of one thought, and that is the thought that we have clients, not customers. Let me explain that. A customer is a person who purchases a commodity or a service. This is someone you have a transaction with. That relationship is based solely on that transaction. In that relationship, you become a commodity that can be bought.

We are not that. We don’t have customers. What we have are clients, and the literal definition of what a client is, is someone who is under the protection of another. That’s pretty deep. That’s personal.

Greg: This is like a master’s business class. I’m loving this. Go ahead.

Henry: Yeah, so that’s deep. That’s personal. If you think about it as a man, as a business owner, as a father, as a husband, as a sibling, who are the people that are currently under your protection? Your wife, your kids, maybe your parents, your team members that you interact with on a regular basis.

These are the people that you want the best for. These are the people that you will always go out of your way for. These are people that you want the best quality of everything for.

Imagine if you treated every one of your clients the way that you treated your loved ones. They’re all under your protection. That’s what it is. The dynamic that you create with your client relationships, and the dynamic that you create with your team and your company, is absolutely incredible.

We use that. That is the thought that lays the foundation for everything that we do at Trademark. When you think about it in that manner, you start to analyze everything that you do. What we did was, to answer your question, Jason, we dissected every client interaction that we have. We thought about all of them, from the moment that they call our shop and ask us for an estimate. From the moment that our templater hits the door. From the moment that the job is done, and the quality control guy gets there.

One you divide the entire process into different sections, and you look at them as a team, you say, “Okay, guys, how can we make this interaction better for this customer, for this client?” How can you make when the QC arrives and is inspecting the job, how do you make that client interaction better? How do you take it to the next level?

Greg: What’s a QC?

Henry: A quality control.

Greg: Is that on your staff?

Henry: Correct.

Jason: Okay.

Henry: I think we’re probably one of the only companies that has a QC.

Jason: I would second that.

Henry: Even that came from how do you make your installs better. Our installers, they try to achieve perfection, but they’re human. We’re all human. If you stand in a room with 2,000 people, and say, “Raise your hand if you’ve never made a mistake,” no one will raise their hand.

We try to do the best that we can always, but we understand that we’re human, there’s human error, so we decided to implement the QC. What should be happening, something that’s fairly new, but what should be happening with every customer is after we’re done with the job, within 24 to 48 hours, the QC should be setting up an appointment with you to come out and just inspect it.

Because we know that the client isn’t a professional in this, we’ve created a checklist for them so that they can get prompted when they read these sentences to know what to look for. Are you satisfied with your seam? Are there any chips on your countertop that we need to address? That is where that came from, analyzing our process. Analyzing every client interaction, and trying to make it better. Take it to the next step.

Jason: Checklists and processes are hugely important. I’m guilty of it myself. I have great aspirations of all these checklists, but I sometimes fail to implement them, and I’m impressed that you guys are implementing them. I can’t remember who I was listening to the other day, but they said, this was pretty harsh, but they said, “Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners.”

It really made me think. I’m one to write goals all the time, but sometimes they may sit on a board for six months with no action. But if you’ve got that system in place, then your goals can become reality.

Henry: Absolutely.

Jason: I think that’s what you’re seeing, what we’re seeing with Trademark. Are you guys investing in technology these days? What are you seeing in the fabrication business?

Henry: Absolutely. When our machines first arrived at our shop, I remember that day like it was yesterday. The excitement throughout the team was infectious. It was just …

Jason: What type of machinery is this?

Henry: The first one that we got was a Northwood CNC fabcenter. What this machine does is that it cuts, and it can polish as well. It was a machine that we got for the purpose of using it to polish our pieces, just to get a better polish on edges that are a little bit more involved, like ogee edging. That was the purpose of this machine. Shout out to Mylene, because that’s what we named her.

Last year in September, we purchased a water jet, a Northwood saw jet. This machine, what this does is it also cuts, but it not only has a blade, it also has a water jet. It’s an amazing piece of equipment. Shout out to Layla, because that’s what we named her.

Jason: All part of the team, right?

Henry: All part of the team. We absolutely have invested in machinery. We love our machinery. I’ll give you a quick story. That’s why I started laughing when you asked me the question.

When we first started, and we moved into the location where we are now, we had about two or three other stone companies in our area. I guess word got around that a new fabrication company had opened up, so we didn’t know… I’ll be honest, I’ll be the first one to tell you we didn’t know what we were doing.

We finally got a job, and what we would do is we would take the slab, and we would put it on top of this huge wooden table. We would take a bar and would clamp it down to give us straight lines, and then we would take a circular saw. You put a diamond blade on it, and we would try to cut it as slow as possible while another person held a garden hose to keep the blade moist, wet.

Jason: Got some good visuals going on right now.

Greg: I’m hoping there’s a YouTube video of this out there, that’d be awesome.

Henry: We’re out there. We’re all wet. Arms are vibrating uncontrollably because we’re here trying to cut this slab of granite, and someone startles us. Stands behind us, and goes, “Wow.” We all stopped, turned off the saw, and we look. He goes, “What are you guys doing?” We go, “What do you mean? We’re doing granite countertops.”

Jason: That’s what we do, right?

Henry: We’re like, “Do you need some granite countertops?” He goes, “No, absolutely not. You guys will never make it.” He turned around, and he left. After that, we later found out that he was a vet in this business, and he was our competition. Great guy, by the way. He’s become a friend, but two months ago, he shows up to our shop, and he goes, “Hey, guys.” I was like, “Hey, how are you?”

He’s like, “Man, I’m good. I heard you guys got that new Northwood water saw jet.” We’re like, “Yeah, we did.” He’s like, “Can I please see it? I’m thinking about getting one myself. What do you think?” We’re like, “We absolutely love it,” so we gave him a tour.

When he came in and he asked that, it was just a humbling moment, just to remember that this was the gentleman who came buy and saw us at our lowest, and told us we would never make it, now, coming by to see the new technology that we purchased. I thought it was great.

Jason: I love it. I ran into a guy the other day that used to do some drafting work for us when we first started. Again, I had another job working downtown at Corporate America, sitting behind a cubicle. He would just shake his head and go, “What the hell are you guys doing? You will never make it in this business. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

I happen to run into him the other day. Again, we’re friends. I just laughed, and I reminded him of that conversation. He’s like, “I’d be the first to admit I was wrong.”

Henry: Yeah.

Jason: Look at us now. Getting a good sense of the culture you have, and why you do what you do, anything else that sets your company apart from the competition? I know we’ve gone through a bunch of those probably already, but is there anything else? Culture’s huge. It’s hard to beat that, but I’ve got to ask the question. What else are you guys doing?

Henry: When you think about the customer versus client, it just absolutely changes the way that you think and interact with everyone. If you truly want, this is another thing, the best for your clients or your potential client, you make it a point. You decide instinctively that you’re not going to wait until money exchanges hands before you start to contribute, before you start to educate and guide and advise.
This is expensive, and what you want is you want people to have as much information as possible to protect them from themselves, so that they’re not making bad decisions. I’m sure you see that every day, Jason.

You start when you walk into our place, you’re walking into an education session. You’re getting educated. We’re asking you. You come in and you say, “I want marble countertops for my kitchen. That is what I want.” Why is that? Did you understand that marble is extremely porous? It’s more porous than any of the other natural stones that you would use.

You come into an education session, and we start, to as professionals share what we have. Unfortunately, you also have to try to protect your clients or potential clients from people out there who are probably not going to do what’s in their best interests.

That thought, the thought of sharing before money even changes hands sets us so far apart from our competition that it’s staggering. It’s almost unfair, to be honest. I’m telling you right now, guys, if you’re listening… If your client walks into my shop, they’re probably not going to leave because as soon as someone walks in, they feel protected. They feel empowered.

Anytime that we come in contact with someone, we have one goal, and that’s to leave that person better than they were before they met us. I think that that’s another huge thing that’s different between us and our competitors.

Another thing I would say is that in our process of dissecting everything that we do, we’ve realized that we have client personas. Every client isn’t the same, and we’ve identified five different client personas at our company. We have builders, remodelers, home owners, cabinet companies, and designers.

When you look at each one of those client personas, you realize that there are things that motivate a builder that may not motivate a designer. You realize that you can’t treat a homeowner the same way that you would treat a remodeler. You start to see what the differences are between all your client personas.

When you know what the differences are, you begin to understand them, and when you begin to understand them, you begin to cater specifically to that person. We have a different process for each one of those client personas. I think that just knowing the uniqueness of every one of our customers is also huge at Trademark. Those are …

Greg: That goes back to the education. You have an education series tailored for each client. They come in, they feel personalized. Your approach to them, it’s not transactional. That touches on everything you’ve been talking about.

Henry: Correct.

Jason: The nice thing with Henry too, he’s got a good selection of marble slabs, granite at his shop, but there’s larger granite shops that hold thousands of slabs. He doesn’t want to send the customers there aimlessly to walk around. He’s like, “if they’re going, I want to meet them!” And he takes the time personally to meet the clients to help educate them and make that proper decision for their home, which is awesome.

Henry: Even with what you’re talking about, Jason, when we go to meet with our clients over at the granite suppliers, those interactions are different. If I’m meeting with a designer and the designer’s client, then I’m going to hang back, stay in the background, and let the designer take the lead because that is what that client hired that designer for. That is that designer’s job, and we need to respect that.

I’m going to hold my tongue unless I’m spoken to. I’m going to speak when I’m spoken to in that interaction. If the designer says, “Hey, Henry, what do you think about the way this color cabinet looks with this marble or this granite?” At that point, I’ll give my opinion, and I’ll tell them why I think what I think. Other than that, I’m hanging back.

With the designer, my role is to be a professional in the specific area that we’re talking about. A designer is going to make sure that this looks fantastic. My job is to make sure that it’s functional. My job is to make sure that this isn’t going to crumble on the client after the designer has left and made it look good.

Jason: Absolutely. We’ve had many of those conversations.

Henry: Exactly. That is my role. My role is to inspect the material at that time, and make sure that there aren’t any hairline cracks that we may not see, or any fill or fissures. I’m trying to make sure that we don’t make a mistake as far as technical goes.

With a homeowner interaction, who doesn’t have a designer, now in that interaction, I may have to be the designer. I may have to jump in and say, “Ms. Johnson, we’re not going to do this, and we’re not going to do this because this stone makes your cabinet look yellow.” I need to start helping to design as well as be that professional.

Even in those situations, it would be a totally different conversation if I showed up with a client and Jason Black to that meeting than if I would show up with a client and Gretchen Black. Totally different conversation.

Jason: That’s good. One thing that I always love to talk about, and I think we may have to bring you back for another episode, is we haven’t even talked about marble versus granite, what the trends are you’re seeing, edges, and all that stuff. There’s so much I want to talk about, but I do one to hit on one of those. I know you’re recently new to Instagram.

Henry: Yes.

Jason: You posted a picture the other day. How can people follow you real quick on Instagram if they want to follow?

Henry: Follow us on Instagram, Trademark502.

Jason: Okay, @Trademark502, but he posted a picture, and I’ve been dying to do this in a job, but was it two slabs bookend back to back? Tell me a little bit about that and what that was for, and when can you do that on one of my jobs?

Henry: As soon as possible. It was bookend. I was book matched, and it’s not a natural stone. It’s called Florim, and it’s porcelain material. It has like an HD photographic image of natural stones on there.

This material is about a quarter of an inch thick. The entire slab weighs 110 pounds. It looks exactly like natural stone. The problem is that natural stone is so heavy that it has limited uses. What this material allows you to do is to go ahead and put it on walls, put it in showers. You can cut it up as tiles and put it in tiles on the floor, so it has sequence and patterns that you can put together, or you can have them book matched. That is what this product is, and I’m actually pretty excited about it because I think it opens up the door for us to do so much more.

Jason: It’s a whole new level of awesomeness.

Henry: It is.

Jason: That you’re bringing to the table. Maybe, Greg, we can throw an image or two of some of that work Henry’s doing on the …

Greg: Are we allowed to borrow a few pictures from your Instagram feed?

Henry: Feel free. Absolutely. Feel free to take whatever you like.

Jason: You mentioned the shower. Where could somebody use that bookend application or that full slab application?

Henry: I’ve been thinking about it. A full, in walls, so instead of limiting yourself, in a shower, a shower’s usually not big enough to have that bookend match effect, to really appreciate it. If the shower is large enough, it’s not deep enough, to where you can stand back and look at it.

I would think that on a wall, on a fireplace maybe. I was thinking down a long wide hall. Just so many different areas. I was thinking maybe, Jason, we can brainstorm and see where we can use this application.

Jason: I think we can dive in a little deeper on that. You’ve got my head spinning. I’m so glad that you joined us today. I think we’ve raised our game on the podcast a little bit this week.

Henry: I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Jason: I know we talked about Instagram, but one more time, how to contact you. You’re @Trademark502.

Henry: @Trademark502.

Jason: What about website?

Henry: Website is

Jason: If somebody just wants to old-fashioned call you, what’s your digits?

Henry: Hit me on my cell, 270-319-3132.

Jason: Henry, I can’t thank you enough for joining us today. I’ve got to rethink the culture I’m creating on my team.

Greg: That’s very impressive. Yeah, a lot going on here.

Jason: Maybe we can hire you as a business consultant over here at Artisan.

Henry: I’ll tell you, one of the things that I heard Warren Buffett say. He said, “Everyone has the same opportunity because everybody can read what I read.” That’s what I do. What I do is I love to read. I love Tony Robbins. I love Jay Abraham. One of my favorite books, it’s actually a small book, it’s “Who Moved My Cheese?” Have you read that?

Jason: I have that book, yeah.

Henry: Yeah, so it’s an amazing book. I recommend it to everyone. I’m currently reading Tony Robbins, “Money, Master the Game”. Have you read that one?

Jason: I’ve done “Unshakable,” which he references that one. I’ve got to go back and read that one right now.

Henry: I’ve got a little gift for you.

Jason: Aw, man.

Henry: Like I said, with all our clients, we want the best for them. You being one of our clients, Jason, I want the best for you as well, and I think that this book, it changed me and the way I think, so I want to pass it along to you.

Jason: Dude, that’s awesome.

Henry: Yes, sir.

Jason: We’ve got Tony Robbins. “Money, Master the Game: Seven Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.” Number one New York Times bestseller. Awesome. I’m going to have to wipe away tears here.

Henry: Aw, stop.

Greg: That’s the best podcast wrapup you ever had!

Jason: I know. I’m a huge Tony Robbins fan. I think I love his energy. I love your energy.  Not to get too philosophical, but life’s too short to have negative energy.  Treat people with respect. Do what you say you’re going to do, and treat them all as a client.

Henry: As a client, baby.

Jason: Thank you, guys, again so much. We look forward to the next episode.

Henry: Yes. Thank you, guys. Thank you so much.