Common sense says a new countertop company with three employees and a single installation vehicle will have different needs than an established operation with dozens of workers and millions of dollars in sales. It also indicates that a business course tailored to each company based on its size and experience will be far more useful and effective than a one-size-fits-all program. Common sense has prevailed.
From February 21 to 23 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Surface Fabrication & Design Expo will roll out a new and comprehensive education program that is broken down into tracks according to developing stages of a fabrication business, with seminars directed at issues those businesses currently face.
"The tracks are divided into three major groups, which we call Start-Up, Developing and Seasoned," explained Pati Beaulieu, show director for the expo. "Whether you have been in the industry for decades or are new to countertop fabrication, there is a program tailored to meet your needs."
Start-Up is defined as a fabricator new to the business, with one to five employees, revenues up to $1 million and low automation. Developing covers fabricators who have been in business a number of years, have five to 15 employees, revenues up to $5 million and have begun to automate the operation. Seasoned fabricators have several years of experience, 15+ employees, revenues in excess of $5 million and are highly automated.
"This is the kind of education our industry needs," said Todd Werstler of Tower Industries in Massillon, Ohio. "As an experienced and high volume fabricator, I don't need to sit in another class that covers the basics of how to write a business plan. But the prospect of discussing management metrics with other business owners who are facing similar challenges in running a multi-divisional company is very exciting."
While a small company owner or manager might find a discussion on how to set up accounting systems, manage cash flow and raise capital critical to its current situation, a mid-size owner is probably more concerned about managing growth, capitalizing on core competencies and reinvesting strategies. The seasoned fabricator, on the other hand, wants to know what other CEOs are doing to better direct key department managers, and how to anticipate future trends in the marketplace.
To further enhance the educational experience, show organizers have invited college professors to teach the business courses. Industry-specific conferences and hands-on clinics will be conducted by industry leaders. By attending two classes per day over the course of the three-day show, attendees will qualify for a certificate of completion. The final session in each track will feature a real-life case study followed up with group discussion and question-and-answer.
"Our instructors have been carefully chosen for their subject knowledge, experience and presentation skills," said Beaulieu. "Full outlines of each class, as well as related resource information, will be provided to facilitate note-taking and to use for future reference."
Beaulieu stresses that, while the course materials provide a solid business foundation and are designed to be put into practice immediately, fabricators will probably want to seek additional in-depth training from other accredited sources, such as industry trade associations.
If a less structured program is desired, attendees also have the option to pick and choose courses from any track or attend "General Interest Classes," which cover topics ranging from design trends to understanding the Green Movement. Hands-on clinics on the show floor address issues like seam polishing, stain removal and templating techniques.