When Janet Shalin was shopping for a new stone countertop for her kitchen, she discovered that some stone companies were “cutting corners” on craftsmanship to save money and “jeopardizing” client trust.
So what did she do?
She started her own company.
“When I saw that some companies weren’t doing things the right way, I decided to go my own way, start my own business and do it the right way,” says Shalin, who started Stone Decor in Los Angeles 13 years ago.
The business approach that Shalin uses is different from other stone operations.
“I’m very straightforward, upfront and honest,” she says, sitting at a table in her top-floor office that features a dazzling view of downtown LA. “With me, there are no games, no tricks. I don’t make promises to customers that aren’t possible. The only thing that comes from that is disappointment and distrust.”
And the last thing Shalin wants to do is disappoint a customer. That’s because she thrives on ultra high-quality service while providing customers with superior product at wholesale prices for everything from kitchen countertops and bathrooms to fireplaces and pools.
As a result, Stone Décor has emerged as one of the industry leaders under Shalin’s adept direction.
“Janet and Stone Décor are unique,” says Phil Finnergen, who hired the company to remodel the kitchen in his Santa Monica, Calif. home. “The quality of the product was the best, the price was outstanding and the service was just fantastic. Everything was on time, the installers were incredibly professional and the work was simply impeccable.
“I couldn’t have been happier,” he says. “I’ve had nightmares in the past when it came to doing work on my home. So have many family members and friends of mine. But with Janet and Stone Decor, the process was so smooth and perfect from start to finish that it just floored me.”
That’s the typical response from Stone Decor customers. Of course, that isn’t a surprise at all, especially after listening to Shalin talk about the company’s business philosophy and passion.
“You’ve got to love what you do and have a passion for it–and we do,” says Shalin, whose staff is comprised of Bob Jansen, CFO; Tammy Sugarman, Director of New Business; Von Lawrence, Project Manager; and John Morris, office manager.
“I love taking care of clients, I love servicing people and I love using my knowledge and experience to help clients make the best decision for their purchase,” Shalin says.
Perfection or Nothing
Most companies want clients to pick out the stone themselves, yet that’s not easy for someone without a trained eye for the product, according to various industry experts and experienced homeowners.
“My clients,” Shalin says, “are spending thousands of dollars to have a perfect kitchen or bathroom or fireplace, and our philosophy is that it should be perfect, and that it will be perfect. While many other companies may cut corners, we don’t. We only want what’s best for our customers.”
Shalin personally escorts clients to a stone yard, and she not only helps them pick out the right stone but also educates them so they can make the right decision. That’s one of the biggest differences when it comes to dealing with Stone Décor versus other companies.
“You have to make sure there’s no cracks through the stone, that there’s the same thickness throughout the stone, and make sure the stone doesn’t have big crystals so it won’t chip,” she says.
“It’s important to let the customer be aware of those kinds of things.”
According to a number of its clients, Stone Decor is all about the customer, top quality stone and superior craftsmanship. Clients also say the company takes pride in its business practices, its honesty and integrity.
“We only use the best-quality stone, and we only work with the finest and most experienced installers,” she says. “My workers have a minimum of 10 years of experience, and some have 15 to 20 years experience, and they have true artistic flair. The combination of artistic flair and experience is what separates our workers from other companies.”
Shalin demands that her stone is fabricated with the more expensive diamond pads, not the less expensive sandpaper, a practice used by many other stone companies in order to save money. Some companies also use the same cutting blade time after time, just to save money.
Not Stone Decor.
“If your blade is blunt because of overuse, the stone can be chipped, and I just won’t stand for that,” Shalin says. “Blades need to be changed frequently.
“Some companies just don’t do what’s best for the customer,” she adds. “For instance, when installers are supposed to be at a customer’s house at 8 a. m. and they wind up telling the customer at 7:30 a.m. that they’re not going to be there, it’s very uncomfortable for someone to call them and say, ‘We won’t be there today at 8 and we probably won’t be there tomorrow or the next day either.’
“It’s totally unprofessional. The customers put their trust in the company and some [companies] let them down.”
From the time Shalin was a young girl growing up in LA, she has been fascinated with quality building materials. Her father bought homes to renovate and sell.
“I remember going to a lot of the homes with him and marveling at the rich details of the stone, granite, the brass fixtures,” she says. “My love for the business began there.”
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[Rick Weinberg is Editor-in-Chief at California Business Journal. He is a well-known journalist, writer and reporter who has worked for the New York Times, FOX and ESPN. He launched CalBizJournal.com to focus on California businesses and business professionals and California business information and news.]