Sharon Koehler

Artistic Stone Design

There are many different sayings advising one to be mindful about the company you keep, the friends you hang out with, the company you work for, or the people you associate with. Folks much wiser than I have famously written, “You are only as good as the company you keep,” and “A man is judged by the company he keeps.” Then there is “You’re known by the company you keep.” Everyone has an opinion on this topic.

King Solomon, thought to be one of the wisest men of all time once said, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

Aesop, a Greek philosopher who lived from 620 BC to 564 BC, even wrote a fable about this topic. To paraphrase: A man went to buy a donkey but before he bought it, he wanted to try it out, so he took it home and turned it loose in the field with the other donkeys. The new donkey walked over to the biggest, laziest donkey the man had, and the two donkeys became friends. The buyer immediately took the donkey back to the seller and said he didn’t want it. The seller was confused because the man certainly had not had enough time to test the animal. The buyer said he did not need to see the donkey work.

He knew he would be lazy because of the donkey he chose to be friends with: the fat, lazy one.

These days, there’s a lot of controversy over people in law enforcement doing the same thing. If you hang around with criminals they assume you are one. They have words and terms for it: collusion, accomplice, acting in concert, etc. Even if you don’t have a record, sometimes they assume it’s just because you haven’t been caught yet.  

So, as we can all see, this topic has been around almost since the beginning of recorded history. Also, it has been the center of many discussions, arguments, conversations and lawsuits.  

Now, back in the day, word of mouth was about the only way you could possibly, maybe hear about a disreputable business or individual (including the “WANTED” posters in the local Sheriff’s office). And more often than not, you didn’t hear. You had no way of knowing who was good and who was bad.

Well, times have changed!  You don’t have to rely on word of mouth, the Pony Express, the telegraph or wanted posters. There are so many avenues open to you now to see if you want to do business with a company.

Check their ratings with the BBB and Angie’s List. Look at Houzz and Angie’s List to see if they have any awards like Best of Houzz or Angie’s List Super Service Award. Check to see if they have any local or regional awards. Also, look to see if they have any business associations like NARI, NKBA or whatever associations are in their industry. You can also make sure they are properly licensed.

Check their reviews. My gosh, there are so many sites accepting reviews now, it’s not even funny.  There’s the BBB, Angie’s List, Houzz, Google Plus and Yelp just to name a few. The list is almost endless. You can check their website for testimonials. Look at their social media sites, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, Instagram or YouTube (there are more but you get the idea). See how they interact with customers and potential customers. Look at what kind of pictures or videos they are posting, see what kind of comments they are making.

Before you start groaning that this is too much work, consider that it really takes less than an hour with the internet. Isn’t it worth an hour of your time to make sure you don’t end up partnering with someone that does shoddy work, so they have trouble getting paid, which means that more than likely, you’ll have trouble getting paid? Isn’t it worth an hour of your time to make sure someone won’t be ruining your good reputation by being shady?  It’s human nature to think that maybe you can help them be better, that if they see how reputable and upstanding you are, maybe they will get inspired and do better themselves. Granted, that may happen, but it can be a long tumultuous road that may end badly, and in the meantime, your good work is being judged by the company you keep.

Notes: Buying Motivations example: either price motivates my clients, or design assistance and custom layout is main motivation for my clients.  Education / Occupation example: My clients generally have college degree and are a business owner, teacher or doctor, vs. my clients are tradesmen and licensed professionals, vs. clients are retired.

There are plenty of websites where you can check customer comments and leave reviews, including the BBB, Angie’s List, Yelp and Houzz, to name just a few.

When you do undertake this research, be realistic. If they have one or two bad reviews or comments, weigh that against them as a whole. We have 39 reviews on Angie’s list alone and 3 of them are bad. You cannot make everyone happy all the time. Some people are never satisfied and sometimes a company can just screw up. It happens.  So out of the 39 we have, 36 are good. That’s a good track record. We have nine reviews on Houzz and they are all good. Again, that’s a good track record. No one should be afraid to work with us.

It should be the same if you are applying for a job or just looking for work in general. Sometimes when you need a job, you really don’t care– but you should. Do the same research. Look at the same things. Do you really want to trust a company for your livelihood that has awful reviews or a low rating with the BBB? You run the risk of having them close the doors on you or worse yet, not being able to pay you.  (There is still a guy out there that owes me three weeks pay from almost a decade ago.) Trust me, that stuff stings when it happens and it can be hard to recover from.

Whether business or personal, do the research. You won’t regret it.

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