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Countertop Fab Shop Owners: Reduce Chaos in Your Business

There are many articles around about how to optimize your value-creating processes: template, fabricate, and install.  You see more articles on this part of the business because this is where the magic happens.  This is where the value is created that your customers pay you for.

But what about sales and the front office?  Should we ignore those processes?  After all, every salesperson will tell you that nothing happens until somebody sells something.

As a business, you exist to service your customers.  To some degree, every employee has that as part of their job description.  The question is:

How well do you service your INTERNAL customers?

  • Install is the customer of the shop. If the shop doesn’t fabricate the top correctly, the installers must work that much harder to make the (paying) customer happy.
  • The shop is the customer of Template. If the templater has an error in their work, the shop can’t make the top correctly for the installers to fit the kitchen.

The same relationship exists between sales, customer service, scheduling, and the shop.  There is a whole series of internal customers within your business.  How well your employees service the needs of their internal customers has a large impact on the level of chaos in your business  and on your profitability.

Your employees may not be servicing their internal customers well if:

  • Your remake rate or callback rate is high (you do track those, right?)
  • When trying to determine what caused a customer issue, you get a lot of finger-pointing – it’s always someone else’s fault
  • Your install schedules are frequently changing
  • It’s taking longer than 8 to 10 days from template to install to complete kitchens
  • Employees aren’t sure who was supposed to make sure that faucet information was retrieved from the customer
  • Employees frequently have to go find information that should have already been provided to them
  • You hear comments like “They should have known …” or “Everybody knows  …”

So, if this is occurring in your business, how do you get a handle on it?

First – Define Your Process

You can use questions like these to help drive the process.

  • What are the essential steps in your front office processes?
  • Who is responsible for each step?
  • What outcome (result) is expected from each process step?
  • What does the templater need to know so he/she can create an accurate template?
  • How much information is required before we will commit a Templater’s time to a job?
  • What information is needed to generate a valid quote?

Second – Document the expected outcome of each process step.

It is worth every minute you spend writing all this down.  Just talking about it won’t get the results you need.  Once you have it all written down, do the following:

  • Share the document for each process step with the internal customer for that step. Have that person make suggestions for any changes.
  • Take the modified document to the person performing that process step and get their input.
  • There likely will be a difference of opinion as to who should do what. This is your opportunity to coach the employees through agreeing on their responsibilities in the process.  (It’s also possible that you may just need to make a command decision in the best interest of the company.)

If you don’t write it down, it never happened.

Third – Implement the changes

Make sure everyone knows what changes have been made and what the new expectations are.  It helps to print up job descriptions/expectations and review them with employees.  (Side note:  If you are hesitant to do this because you feel that these roles and responsibilities change too often, then you have a much bigger problem.  Call me before you start this exercise.)

Aaron Crowley in his excellent book Less Chaos, More Cash proposes what he calls the Order of Operations.  He does a great job of describing this process and I highly recommend his easy-to-read book as a sound easy-to-read guide.

Finally – Follow Up

Just because you told everyone what is changing, just because you wrote it all down and had everyone sign it, there is no guarantee it will still be happening that way a month from now.  For that, you must follow up:

  • Regularly spot check orders in various stages of your process to see if the new guidelines are being followed.
  • Ask employees how well they are getting serviced by their internal ‘suppliers’.
  • When you find folks deviating from the new process, how you address that is critical.  “Bob, why aren’t you following the new process?” makes the assumption that Bob is lazy or ignorant or doesn’t care.  It automatically makes him the problem.

Consider this alternative approach: “Hey, Bob. It looks like following this new process can be a real challenge.  What is the biggest obstacle that makes it tough to follow the new process?”  This approach sets up you and Bob as tackling the problem together, and is more likely to get you a superior outcome.

Your consistency and discipline in spot-checking orders and assessing how the new process is working is the key to making these changes work long term.  Without that, you will only see short term improvements before things revert to their original chaotic state.

Front office processes – sales, customer service, scheduling – don’t transform stone into beautiful countertops.  However, they are critical to making sure those transformative value-added processes can work correctly.  If the front office doesn’t set the shop up for success, the work required to delight the customer gets infinitely more difficult.  A big key to reducing the chaos in your business, making more money, and getting your life back is making sure your front office processes are well thought out, well documented, and consistently supported.


In addition to having run a countertop fabrication shop, Ed has also helped many fab shop owners become very successful. He is a seasoned manufacturing manager and coach who has helped hundreds of companies from single person startups to large international corporations. As a for­mer business owner, he understands the responsibility to make payroll while also satisfying customers. Ed can be reached at . If you want help implementing this tool, Schedule a Call with Ed.

This article was published in the February 2024 Issue of the Slippery Rock Gazette, find it at: