Being the best granite worktop installer: Staff evaluations at AG

Today is the first day of a round of staff evaluations at Affordable Granite. This is a matter of routine – it is vital to keep working proactively, making sure that our granite and quartz worktop team is as good as it can be. There is no room for complacency in this (or any) business. You have to keep trying to improve, or you will only tread water – and with the currents that are flowing, that will mean moving backwards.

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Being the best granite worktop installer: Staff evaluations in a troubled market

It just so happens that the day our staff evaluations began was the day we got the news that one of the largest companies in our sector, J Rotherham, is in administration. From its rural base North of the Humber, and not so very far from the town of the same name, J Rotherham has been a force to be reckoned with for decades, even competing directly with us in the distant South. With around 250 staff, it has been a whale in a pond dominated by firms smaller than our own. Very sadly, many of Rotherham’s skilled workers are facing immediate redundancy.

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The troubles hitting the largest stone worktop fabrication companies are often to do with work and cash-flow – especially when a large proportion of the business is with only one or two very large customers. J Rotherham have been this way before, when MFI went bust, and this time round it is their link with a big kitchen company which has hurt. The point is that the whole building/kitchen/worktop market is feeling the squeeze at the moment. It is good to have the breadth of customer base that we have, with large numbers of small or individual customers. But it is also important to keep checking to make sure that we are as fit and strong as we can be to operate in that market.

Being the best granite worktop installer: Staff evaluations in a demanding market

When Affordable Granite was founded back in 2003, we were one of the very first firms to do what we do. The market was very much driven by price – and we beat our rivals every time.

Since then there has been a flood of price-driven competitors entering the fray. At the same time, products have diversified and kitchen designs have called for more technical versatility in what we do (from big curves to shark-nose edges). As a result, customer expectation has changed completely, with ever-greater product knowledge and discernment in practically every customer contact. More and more people know so much about what we do.

Against that backdrop, keeping fit in our customer service and the quality of our offering has never been more important.

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It isn’t simply a matter of evaluation, of course. Ongoing commitment to training and improving our products and processes is crucial. In many ways, a round of staff appraisals is the perfect opportunity to see where we need to work harder on training and perfecting ourselves as a team. Being sent back to the classroom never did anyone any harm!

Being the best granite worktop installer: Staff evaluations in a growing market

The stone worktop market may be troubled and demanding, but it is still growing. The kitchen trade is hard-pressed, but the solid stone share keeps on getting bigger. More and more people now expect to put solid stone in their kitchens instead of laminate or other cheaper and less long-lived alternatives. We want to hold our own and win customers by being the very best granite worktop fabricator we can be. And that means, once again, appraisal and self-awareness and self-critique and development.

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And of course, as I wrote last month, there is room for mutual support in that growing market. The Worktop Fabricators’ Federation is all about standing together so as to raise standards in a world where there is plenty of work. Respect for and cooperation with decent competitors on quality and health and safety issues keeps the cowboys at bay, helps us in handling some of the big commercial giants (both suppliers and clients!)  and lifts our industry ever higher.

That is why our feelings when a serious, four-generations-old competitor goes into administration genuinely are sad ones. 🙁

Being the best granite worktop installer: Staff evaluations? And I'm still here!

Staff evaluations are a bit nerve wracking. But we all know it’s an important process. If it is going to be worth anything, some criticism may need to be given – there will be brickbats as well as bouquets. I’m just glad to find that I am still here, proud to be part of a company that takes health and safety, quality and customer service so seriously.

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We are Affordable Granite, the leading granite installer in Surrey, Sussex and across the South East. Whether its Health and Safety, Customer Service, Quality Control, Environmental Impact – we want to be the best and to go on getting better. For questions, queries and quotes connected with any aspect of worktop installation or kitchen design, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01293 863992 or by email on .

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