For South African born John King the handwriting was written on the wall. Massive cultural and business changes occurring within his country indicated that white ownership of commercial enterprises might be a tenuous proposition at best. So, in 1997, he packed up his family and made the move to Phoenix, Arizona, where his wife had once attended college, and where she now hoped to secure a position teaching chemistry. King who had owned a thriving sports apparel manufacturing company in South Africa, took a job as a business consultant, literally selling his services door to door.
At approximately the same time, Mike Holt was making a career move of his own. A successful real estate broker in Chicago for 15 years (at age 21, Holt was the youngest Century 21 broker in the country), he had traded the routine of working in familiar surroundings for a life on the road as a management trainer of real estate agents and brokers. Having conducted one such seminar in Phoenix, he decided he liked the area and moved his family to Arizona.
By 1997 he had grown tired of living in motel rooms and visiting three to four cities a week. The time was ripe for a change. "Plus, the structure of Century 21 and all the big franchises was changing dramatically," he says. "I decided I had better go do something else."
So Holt joined forces with his brother-in-law, an experienced solid surface fabricator, and opened Scottsdale Solid Surfaces. They had been in business for only a few months when John King solicited Holt in his role as a business consultant. "I told him I didn't need any business consulting," Holt says, "but I was looking for a good sales rep and somebody to help in the office. So he quit the consulting job and came here full time."
Not long afterwards it became apparent that the partnership between Holt and his brother-in-law was flawed, and the two ended up parting ways. "That's when John stepped in," Holt explains. "He said, 'You've taken a big hit. I believe in the company. If I invest in it I will become a partner and we will carry on and take over the world.' I said okay."
Today Performance Solid Surfaces focuses on custom projects in both the residential and commercial arenas. Ten fabrication and installation workers produce three to four jobs per day. The company fabricates mostly Corian solid surface, and installs Zodiaq and Avanza engineered stone.
"We are in a kind of high-end niche area," Holt says. "Sometimes people want the unusual and the unique. We don't work with any production builders, so we have to rely on coming up with innovative ways to do unique, quality products."
A Workable Model For Employee Relations
Walking into the Performance Solid Surfaces showroom is something akin to the effect of drinking four large cups of coffee chased with a jumbo cappuccino. We're talking high energy here. The office staff is energized without being frantic. King and Holt flit about the office constantly, and controlled mayhem reigns supreme.
But what really sets this company apart from most other fabrication businesses is the relationship that exists between management and its employees. In the shop, one is impressed with the easy way the two partners interact with their employees.