Tips For Running a Successful Concrete Countertop Business
We work with many customers that are new to concrete, or at least to artisan level concrete. One thing that comes up often, is how to make it all work. Over the years we've helped (we hope!) many of our customers with a few tips and tricks- not just concrete related, but also business related.
So, along those lines, here are a few basics to getting a new business up and going, and staying profitable.
Step 1: Exposure
Doesn't matter how good you make a product. If people don't know about it, then you're going nowhere fast. A website is your number one method to look professional, build confidence in potential clients, and attract new customers.
- So, how do you do this? There are free hosting sites, with some basic word processing type designs that can be effective. In most cases though, you won't be able to sell your product through your website unless you pay additional fees, you can't charge credit cards without a mess to set up and keep track of and again, more fees. We've built websites here at Expressions LTD for the last 25 years, and so are pretty well versed in what is good and what is not. Our strong advice is to get a paid website, minimal cost, but SOOO much easier. You should focus on your product, not the website side.
- Shopify is our website host. They do it all. You can get your domain name (ie. www.Expressions-LTD.com) direct here with them, you can collect money by credit cards/paypal/venmo/apple pay/amazon pay/etc. all right here- already set up, and simple. If you have showroom/store you can use shopify to run your walk-in customers too. If you go visit with clients, you can create their orders right there with them on your phone/tablet/laptop, collect money, send invoices, and so on.
- Shopify has a free trial for a few days too which is great. $1 per month for the first 3 months by using the link below, and then it goes to the normal monthly hosting fee of around $30 for most people. There are higher levels, pay more per month and get cheaper credit card processing fees. So here is a link to try it out:
- Once you have a website, get good pictures! Pays to have a good camera, or even pay a friend that can take good pictures. If you can't build a portfolio of good pictures/videos, then you're going to struggle with business!
- Social Media should not be overlooked: Facebook, Instagram, etc. are all powerful, free, ways to get the word out there.
Step 2: Marketing
Part of exposure above, but different. You may choose to wrap your vehicle, rent a billboard, or pay Google Ads so when people search your local area you pop up easier. But often the best approach, with concrete, is hands on!
- Once someone feels a finely made piece of concrete, 90% of your job is already done. Get your pieces in a place where they can be seen, felt, knocked on.
- A great way to do this is approach local plumbing show rooms. Many of them will have a large area to showcase new fixtures (faucets). It's common for home builders to send their homeowners to these show rooms to pick out fixtures, and many times their countertops too. So get your concrete counters & sinks in these showrooms. Many showrooms will pay you to supply them with countertops. If they tell you they are good with what they currently have, then sweeten the deal and offer them a piece at no cost- providing you can keep a stack of business cards on the countertop. Another way is to brand your pieces with your company info. We can help with this, by getting you a small Custom Made Logo Stamp (click here for product info) that you use in your concrete.
- Another great way is to approach any local restaurants being built, and offer them a great deal (or free) countertop in their bathrooms/front desk. Getting your work in just one popular restaurant is often enough to stay fully booked with new work, for the rest of your career!
Step 3: Don't Go Under!
As no-brainer as that sounds, it happens a lot. People have a great thing going- lots of clients, charge a good amount of money for work done, and still go under and out of business. Yes, going to college and getting a degree in Business Management is a great way to go, but not for everyone. There are a few basics though, to stay focused on:
- Basic math. Don't use that Common Core math stuff here- just use the good ol' math that works fine, and add up your bucks, take away ALL your costs, and keep a good positive number and you're going to be O.K. What that means is you need to keep track of things. Easiest way is to get a dedicated credit card, only used for that business. Cash and check purchases are okay too, but you have to keep track of it all.
- Start small, build up as you grow. We see time and again customers that are just getting going, and want to buy one of everything! While we appreciate the business, we usually try to talk people out of this method. Build up some customers, expand your capabilities, build up more customers, buy more tools/supplies, built up more customers, and so on.
- Continually plan on ways to improve, ways to get more clients, and ways to keep your costs low while being competitively priced.
STEP 4: How Much Money to Charge for Concrete Work?How to make sure you charge enough? Well, at first that's harder to determine because you need what you can get, but need to get established.
- Do the math for a sample size job, figure out what your costs would be to make something of that size, and then come up with your break even cost. Start there at first, get your feet wet and get your work out there. Get good referrals- people will tell their friends and on social media for you, so make sure they feel they got taken care of and a good deal.
- Once you get established, you can continually raise your prices. The more work that is coming in, the more you can increase your costs, until you find a happy medium where you are staying busy enough to your liking.
- If you are not charging enough, you will have work piling up and no way to get to it all. If you charge too much, you will have no work, and lots of time playing darts.
- You can of course also check with the local competition, if there is any. See what they are charging. But beware using this as your personal cost point- they may have a way to make things for less than you do, or they may be making things and actually losing money (soon to not be your competition). Don't fall into the trap that because someone else is doing it, you should too. Cover yourself, make sure you know your costs, before committing to someone else's pricing.
The Ultimate Goal
The dream is to be able to pick which jobs you want to do, and name your price. This will happen after much hard work. If you can make very nice pieces of concrete, eventually you will get to the point where your product will be sought after over others, and you can charge more. Sometimes MUCH more! Getting to this point though requires that you take care of each customer, starting right now at the beginning, so they are all happy.
If you lose money making sure a customer is happy, then that is the cost of ensuring you are still at this years down the road. Failing to communicate, calling customers back, fixing issues with the work they pay for, are all ways to ensure they will be quick to spread the not-good kind of word of mouth.
There are plenty of companies that have very hit-and-miss records out there- some customers are happy, others are not happy, and the rest in between. Yet these companies still function, people here and there will still pay for their service, providing the price is a bargain.
You don't want to be setting your end goal as always providing a 'bargain', unless of course you plan on running a sweat shop with a lot of employees and making lots of 'bargains' to add up to real profit. If this is your end goal, then we strongly advise you do go through a college course on Business Management. For a small business owner, in this concrete artisan/countertop industry, most are run with a small handful of employees, and so creating quality work (at an eventual premium cost) is the way to success.
Questions, Comments, please reach out to us!
-The Expressions LTD team