- Written by: Jim Cavan
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
As he and a local quarry owner drove through the arid Turkish interior, still marveling at the pistachios and fresh juice from a recent roadside stop, Joe MacIsaac gazed out at the mountains and smiled. For thousands of years, this region had produced some of the finest natural stone in the world.
That week it was Turkey. A few months later, it was Italy. And then on to the next. In his role, MacIsaac has the green light to make what amount to million-dollar bets—on materials that will eventually increase the value of homes, create stories in hospitality spaces, or set the brand for corporate interiors.
Before taking the reins of Stone Source in 2011, however, MacIsaac—the company’s president and CEO—never pictured himself globetrotting for stone. Now it’s a bona fide passion. One that’s part and parcel of another, more longstanding aspiration: maintaining Stone Source’s position as a recognized industry design leader, while taking it to new heights.
Beneath the surface
According to MacIsaac, when Stone Source was launched in 1988, the process by which architects chose materials was practically set in—well, you know.
“What the company did that was really unique was to take something that had traditionally been at the end of the process—selecting natural stone—and put it at the beginning,” MacIsaac explains. “Including natural stone and porcelain tile into the specification process really gave the company a unique niche.”
Over time, Stone Source garnered praise for the unique selection of their products, from gorgeous stone slabs, to tiles and mosaics. It’s why MacIsaac came aboard, in fact.
But while the materials were top notch, he realized there was an opportunity to educate the architects, designers, contractors, business owners and homeowners about the materials themselves. With the goal of not only providing quality materials, but also managing expectations—and ensuring the right product was specified for each project.
That, in turn, meant fine-tuning the company’s processes. MacIsaac found himself asking: How should we interact with our clients? How are the products procured, inventoried, delivered and tracked? Are we providing the right technical information?
Presentation is everything
Start with the Stone Source website. For years, each of the company’s products—hundreds of them—featured only a few technical details. If a client had questions, he or she would have to call the company directly. And even then, there was no telling whether salespeople would be able to provide a deep level of detail on each material specified.
Now, the site is loaded with technical information in a way that makes it easy for clients to find, detailing everything from inventory status to care and maintenance specs. Moreover, the website is better aligned with the company’s sales process, allowing the sales team to share more detailed information about the inherent characteristics and appropriate applications of a particular material.
“The main concern had always been, that by putting all of your product information online, competitors might use it,” MacIsaac explains. “To me, that was a risk worth taking. People needed this information—that was a requirement.”
MacIsaac and his team took an equally transformative approach to its 10 national showrooms. Gone were the floors that were overloaded with tile patches. In their place, clean concrete floors and an intuitive flow of product displays.
In addition, the company created a new display mechanism that would allow them to consistently feature new products. Updated biannually, the displays feature some of the most innovative and design-forward materials available today. Meanwhile, monitors were installed to help facilitate discussions around technical details.
“The showrooms have become a great place to educate clients,” MacIsaac explains. “It’s a place to show large fields of tile, rather than smaller boards, and to help the client better understand the material.”
Should the client insist on a relatively unknown product, Stone Source does extensive due diligence. In fact, it’s not uncommon for MacIsaac’s team to reject a sizable percentage of the stone before it even hits the shipping crate—20, 30, sometimes even 40 percent.
MacIsaac has become especially fond of this procurement process, not only for the intercontinental facility inspections, but for the role it has played in improving client relations.
“When you’re focused on quality in everything you do, that can’t help but resonate with the people who do business with you,” MacIsaac says. “We want people excited to be working with us.”
Set in stone
Seven years after leaving his post as president of international for furniture-manufacturer Knoll Inc., MacIsaac has helped steer Stone Source to a twofold growth in revenue. What’s more, the accolades are following suit.
The company has twice been presented with Best of the Year awards by Interior Design Magazine, for both its Puzzle and Trilogy collections. In 2017, Puzzle was awarded Best in Flooring by Hospitality Design Magazine.
That same year, Tratto—one of Stone Source’s first original designs—was awarded Best Product in Flooring: Hard Surfaces by both magazines.
Needless to say, MacIsaac is eager to capitalize on the company’s creative foray.
“Original design is something we’re definitely expanding upon,” he says. “We’ve been able to grow our business considerably, but if there’s a way to further differentiate ourselves, we’ll do it.”
Asked which of his company’s projects stand out as personal favorites, however, MacIsaac is a bit more circumspect. One look at the project page on the company’s website, and it’s easy to see why. With filters for both project- and product-type, the portfolio features hundreds of individual applications—offices, hotels, hospitals, private homes and everything between.
It’s a truly dizzying array, showcasing a company for which form and function and art are inextricably linked.
In this way, MacIsaac says, it’s not so different from the fashion industry. Even if the underlying materials—and the lengths to which he’ll go to get them—are a bit tougher to the touch.
“We’re at a place now where it’s not just the designs that are resonating; it’s the entire supply chain and all of the process in between,” MacIsaac says. “For us, quality means doing things right the first time, and our growth bears that out.”
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