Slippery Rock Soapbox:
Trade Shows and Their Future
in the Stone Industry
Rich Hassert
Braxton-Bragg CEO

Like many businesses in these tough times, Braxton-Bragg has more worthy projects than the cash necessary to support them. Our budgeting process is how we decide what investments to make and what to forgo.

Our process is simple: we first create a list of worthy expenditures, and then we attempt to rank them. The basis for getting "on the list" is that the advocate must demonstrate how the investment will benefit our customers. The process then becomes a discussion focused on how to get the most benefit from the available cash.

Some decisions are almost "no brainers" in that the investment is small and the benefit huge. Membership in the MIA (Marble Institute of America) is an example. Dues are modest and the MIA did a great job of addressing the hysteria and dishonesty of the granite radon scare. Others in this category include SFA (Stone Fabricators Alliance) which is a "new technology" community, that may be the wave of the future for networking and sharing ideas.

Moving up the investment scale brings in projects like the MIA/Stone World regional seminars. Braxton-Bragg is proud to be one of the companies that sponsor these workshops, which are regional training seminars aimed at helping stone fabricators. We also sponsor National Tile Contactors Association training seminars.

Some investments are large and the payoff is questionable. Trade shows fit in this category. Normally exhibitors at trade shows are manufacturing companies. People that attend are often limited to distributors. Stone industry trade shows are open to the public and in an earlier phase of industry development, trade shows probably played a very important role in educating and informing the new contractors entering the business.

It is our view that trade shows are an expensive anachronism and that websites, magazines, and seminars do a better job of educating and informing than do trade shows. Innovation no longer waits to be introduced at trade shows; it is introduced via the web and other publications as soon as it is possible to ship the product. For this reason, Braxton-Bragg has decided to not attend StonExpo. Instead of spending the money to attend the show, we are giving away free samples of the new Hercules Sink Harness, which we think is one of the most innovative ways to install sinks that we have ever seen. (Call us for your free sample, 1-800-575-4401).

We understand that our position runs contrary to the prevailing wisdom of many stone industry leaders, but we think that our customers will be better served by receiving an exciting new product free, than by distributors hauling multiple 18-wheeler loads of existing products to Las Vegas. The biggest concern expressed about our non-attendance was that we would not be handing out our usual free Braxton-Bragg T-shirts. To cover that issue, we have stocked up on a new shipment of shirts - give us a call and we will see what we can do.

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