Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

2015 White Mustang GT fastbackIt was a dreary, overcast morning. The sun was struggling to break through and losing. I climbed in my Jeep, backed out of my driveway and headed for work. I am not a fan of dreary days. Sun is fine. Rain is fine but dreary is sort of a mood dampening thing. 

I drove through my neighborhood and turned onto the 4 lane that runs through my town and takes me most of the way to work. When I turned onto the 4 lane, there it was, a 2015 White Mustang GT fastback with custom black pin striping. The rumble of the engine took me back in time to when my Challenger was outfitted with the old-school glass pack muffler. It was a heavenly sound, coming from a beautiful, cherished automobile. The dreary day was forgotten.

We drove on for a bit and as we stopped at stop lights the Mustang was revving his engine and acting like he was just looking for an excuse to race. Unfortunately, since it was pre rush hour, there just wasn’t a lot of traffic out there to take him on. We were sitting at a stoplight. He was revving his engine and looking around for a challenger. I was kicking myself for choosing not to drive my Mustang that day. I would have gladly engaged him in some early morning fun. But alas, I knew my Jeep was no match for him so I drooled in silence.

And then it happened. Another player entered the game. We were driving over the highway when up the ramp came a brand new, sleek, shiny, all black Charger with custom red pin striping. Another beautiful piece of automotive machinery was in play. We blew by him while he was sitting at the light. I looked in my rear-view and saw him turn onto the 4 lane. He was coming and coming FAST! I watched as he weaved in and out of some light traffic. I could hear his engine dying to break free and take off. As he got closer and closer I was growing more and more excited. “Hot dang, there’s going to be a race today!” I said to myself.

Everything fell into place. Mustang and Charger side by side. The Charger was revving his engine and inching forward. The engine rumble of the Mustang roaring to life like the announcer had just said “Drivers, start your engines.” The anticipation of the light turning green is all around us.

The light turns green. The Charger takes off like a bat outta hell. Shoom, he’s gone. His tail lights are getting smaller and smaller by the nanosecond.  The Mustang? Well, he took off like Grandpa Moses after a big turkey dinner. I almost rear ended him. As I drove around him, I said to no one “If you’re going to buy a car like that then you need to be able to drive a car like that!” (I can say that with a fair amount of disgust because not only do I own one, I’ve had mine up over 100 mph one more than one occasion. Shhh, please don’t tell the cops)

The Mustang has a rep. It has an image.  It is muscle car, cool, bitchin’, bad @%* ride. Fast, sleek, the envy of every car in town. “Look at me coming down the road. I am to be respected, feared and revered. I am MUSTANG. I am AWESOME!” But then again, the Mustang has been around for 50 years. One slow-poke Grandpa Moses-after-a-turkey-dinner driver really can’t tarnish the Mustang image too badly. 

But what about you? Have you been around for 50 years? What’s your rep? What’s your image? And are you sure you’re living up to it? And better yet, it can’t be just you. It needs to be every employee, sales person or sub that represents your company.

 Do you profess to be a custom shop? But then, when someone comes looking for that special something that will set their job apart from everyone else’s, you give them the same “something special” that you sell to everyone else?  Be very careful with that approach. After all, hell hath no fury like a homeowner scorned.

Or, do you proclaim to be the cheapest game in town? “We will meet or beat any price!” If that’s the case then you have to do it all the time, consistently, no matter what. (And you have no one but yourself to blame when you go out of business). Shy away from that mindset one time, and thanks to social media, the whole world will know. 

It’s easy to lure people in with proclamations of exotic material. Everybody loves the word exotic. But honestly, most people, because they aren’t exposed to the business, don’t really know what exotic material really is or looks like. But show one highly educated, knowledgeable consumer something that isn’t exotic and all their friends and their friend’s friends will know that what your image says and what you really do are two completely different things. 

Let’s just say that you proclaim to have the best quality in town, bar none. But one day you are out sick and one of your suppliers accidentally delivers a less than quality batch of material. A new employee, not knowing what to look for, accepts the material and it accidentally ends up in someone’s home. 3 months later, they are on you to DO SOMETHING! You can’t back away from this. You have to do whatever it is that your image or reputation says you will do. All it takes is one or two people to complain to the BBB and your good name and image is toast. 

If superior customer service is your draw then everyone on your team has to be on the same page. 

If your receptionist has a sick child or your plumber has a headache and fails to give top notch customer service just one time, you need to be able to make that right. (A cutting board or a can of cleaner can go a long way towards re-establishing good will). You can’t let something small and simple sit and fester because then it becomes something large and complicated.

Admittedly, this all sounds like a lot of work and you aren’t going to be able to make everybody happy all the time. But, you need to live up to your reputation. You went through a lot of time, effort and trouble to create it. Keep it and maybe you’ll be around in 50 years like the Mustang. 

Sharon Koehler is a 10-year veteran of the stone industry,  and currently head of marketing for Artistic Stone Design in Richmond, VA. She has been a regular contributor to various trade magazines for several years. Send your thoughts or comments on this article to