How to Grow Your Business with Lunch and Learns

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What is a “lunch and learn”, and how can you use it to grow your creative concrete business? This helpful podcast episode delves into exactly how to use lunch and learns and other techniques to develop relationships with top architects and interior designers.

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Caleb Lawson (00:04):
Good morning everybody. Welcome to the Maker in the Mix podcast. It’s May 31st Wednesday, and Jeff and I are super excited to have you. So Jeff, what are we going be talking about today?

Jeff Girard (00:16):
Hey, good morning everybody. Today’s topic, which was a write-in and we are encouraging, actively encouraging people to write suggestions in, is lunch and learns. How do you go about doing a lunch and learn? What is the point of them and how do you go about doing them? So let’s talk about that today.

Caleb Lawson (00:39):
Absolutely. So that’s something that I have done a fair amount of actually. And Jeff, I know that you did things like that back when you were running your countertop business. I’ve heard stories about actually having an event of sorts in your studio space, which is a great way to go about it. If you’ve got a lot of contacts I’ll touch

Jeff Girard (01:04):
On, I’ll touch that later on, but,

Caleb Lawson (01:07):
But you got to develop those contacts first. So I’ll give you a little bit of background. I started in this industry by actually buying a company called Price Concrete Studio in Orlando. And Chuck Price, who I bought the company from, had actually developed quite a bit of contacts in Orlando. So my challenge early on was not necessarily finding contacts, but keeping a reputation. So I didn’t really start doing lunch and learns until later. And the first one I did was actually a wine and cheese. It wasn’t a lunch and learn because it was an evening. And honestly, I’m a fan of that because if you bring wine and cheese and in my case cocktails, I think that helps the situation a lot more than lunch. And I have done lunch and learns a lot of them.

Caleb Lawson (02:04):
So basically the bones of it are find an architect and interior designer that you want to work with and get on their calendar. A lot of mean, most interior designers, if most of them are looking actively for new vendors all the time and they love lunch and learns because it gives them a free lunch and it gives them an opportunity to hang out and learn something new and hone their craft a little bit better. So it’s something they’re actively searching for and you’re providing them with a solution to a problem most of the time. So I think that getting over that initial break, the ice kind of fear of reaching out and being kind of a cold caller, if you will, don’t fear the salesy aspect of it because it’s, it’s an integral part of their business. They’re always looking to find new trades to engage with and it’s about developing relationships especially,

Jeff Girard (03:09):
You’re not going to be selling anything. You’re not going to be trying to convince them to change a project and put concrete on it. That’s not the point. No, the point, what you just said, which is incredibly important, is you are starting to build a relationship. So it’s all about feeling each other out, building the confidence in them that you can be a reliable source to be. You’re a partner of sorts.

Caleb Lawson (03:34):
Absolutely. So the first thing that I generally do when I moved to the Asheville area, two and a half years, I guess it’ll be three years in September while, so that was really my first foray into like, oh my gosh, I have to develop contacts in my area. I don’t have any, I’ve never done a work in Asheville. It’s been a whole thing. So I mean I cold called a lot of people. I cold called and emailed and Instagram to over 300 people in the course of a month. And so the timeline was we got majorly flooded in August of 2021. Up until that point I had been really relying on my Orlando contacts. And so at that point we were ready to do work again after being flooded. And I was like, how am I going to get work? So I just started looking up lists of the most desirable architects, designers, and builders to work with in the area.

Caleb Lawson (04:41):
And I came up with a list and I emailed and called and to whatever, contacted any way I could, all of them. And then I ended up being able to get meetings with several. And basically the way it goes, it’s very, very simple. Put yourself together a slideshow or a presentation of some kind that shows your work. I’ve got several because we’ve been doing c I classes and I kind of had a rolling slideshow of images. And so it’s as simple as that. Put together a rolling slideshow of images, have be prepared to answer questions about your product. And I think the one that I’m remember and refer back to the most is an interior designer in Orlando, very, very high in interior designer that I did the wine and cheese for. And I kind of went the extra mile on this one. Not that I don’t want all of them, but this one just kind of stands out because it was in the evening.

Caleb Lawson (05:39):
It was slated for a little bit of longer time because they didn’t have time constraints. And so a friend of mine ages cocktails and so he gave me a couple of bottles of barrel age negroni and then I had my wife make a charcuterie plate and I used concrete samples as my charcuterie board. And then I also made a white bowl for stain testing. And so basically I went in, I had a big PowerPoint and I went through it prior to, but prior to them coming into the room, I filled that white bowl full of red wine and I set it off to the side where nobody could see it. And the point of this is you want to engage them and you want to give them something to remember. Obviously the relationship with you is paramount, but you’ve got to also have a really good product, which we do.

Caleb Lawson (06:37):
And so I poured that red wine in and it was like the sealer was two and a half days old. It was not fully cured yet. And what sealer was that, by the way? Omega early Omega too. I mean, not that it’s changed, but I think that our knowledge of the way to apply it, I don’t think it had been at that time, I’m not sure if it was fully on the market yet or not. And we definitely weren’t inducting for as long as we are now. So that was the difference. Yeah. Yeah. So induction times have really made a difference in over and over and above performance than even what it had at that time, which was great. And so it was two and a half days old and I poured a full bottle of red wine from Trader Joe’s, little two buck chuck action and just set it off to the side.

Caleb Lawson (07:29):
And I was there for two and a half hours. And so two hours in, I finally get around to, because they were just wrapped with all the things that we’d done. I mean range hoods and big tables and all this crazy stuff they hadn’t thought about. And that’s the other thing is you’re giving them a chance to play because designers and architects love to play. And so you’re playing to their ability to design things that are out of the box. So you’re solving a problem for them. And I think that is the most important thing to remember is that you’re solving a problem for them. So anyway, I asked them, I was like, question time. I’m like, what are your impressions? What’s the worst possible thing you can think of about concrete? Tell me what your impressions are. And one of them was like, well, it stains, this is fantastic that that’s the first thing you’ve said to me. And so I went and got the bowl and I’ve got a picture of it somewhere. I don’t still have a bowl. I think when I moved, I threw it away and got the bowl. I’m like, Hey, this is full of red wine and it has been for the last two hours. And I walked over to the bathroom, I dumped it, I rinsed it out, came back. Obviously I had no stain in there like oh my God.

Caleb Lawson (08:35):
And I think that to me leaving that kind of impression, I mean that’s not about me. It’s very powerful. And it is. I know Jeff, you’ve got a story about that from pre Omega, but when you did your business, you had a lot of your clients come to your house where you had a lot of concrete. So you want to touch on that for a second? No, sure are super important.

Jeff Girard (08:57):
I’m going to back up a little bit and build on what you said is architects and designers are the people that feed you work. So Caleb’s business and my business are different in the sense of course, got to remember when I got started. This was in 1999, so pushing a quarter century ago, and by no stretch of the imagination am I at the beginning of this industry, but I’m was at early stages where the awareness of what concrete was and what you could do with it was very, very minimal.

Caleb Lawson (09:34):
And I would suggest that unfortunately a lot of it’s there still have the impression that they had. I mean really it’s still, oh my gosh, it’s wet cast. It’s so heavy, it cracks, it stains. And so there’s a lot of myths to dispel.

Jeff Girard (09:47):
There’s the mythology is very persistent and unfortunately, and this is a separate topic, it’s promoted and continued by very poor quality work, which is the whole point of why I started CCI so long ago is so that we can raise the standard and everybody can rely on good quality concrete. And it absolutely touches back into what you just described was hey, concrete doesn’t have to stain, it doesn’t have to crack it. It can be something that’s livable and usable and reliable because designers and architects, they’re dealing with customers who are quite high end. That’s who our customer base is. We’re the one percenters, right? We’re not Home Depot people. The majority of customers. And it sounds a little bit elitist, but really there’s lots of other materials that are just as good at the $10 a square foot, $30 a square foot, even $50 a square foot,

Caleb Lawson (10:52):
Things that do the job and then

Jeff Girard (10:54):
Do the job. Exactly.

Caleb Lawson (10:56):
But we’re commodity

Jeff Girard (10:58):
Wall-to-wall carpeting kind of level. Nothing wrong, cater

Caleb Lawson (11:01):
To those people work, and those people are great, but we’re catering to absolutely, they don’t need it. They want it and they want it desperately bad because they want something nobody else can

Jeff Girard (11:12):
Have. So when you talk to an architect, specifically architects, but also high-end designers and don’t ever call a designer a decorator, they’re very different. And that’s an insult. So interior designers, licensed and everything like that, the good ones are, they’re not people who watch 12 episodes of HGTV and say there isn, I

Caleb Lawson (11:33):
Got a Pinterest board.

Jeff Girard (11:34):
Yeah, right. No, that’s not the kind of people we’re dealing with or who we’re talking about is yours. When you do a lunch and learn, you’re going in and you’re selling yourself, you’re showing what your capabilities are, you’re showing your competence, you’re showing your professionalism, you’re educating the client, the architecture, the designer about your product. You are the expert in your product. So there’s a couple things I want to talk about. First I’m going to plug CCI. We have a textbook on sales and marketing which walks you through how to do a lunch and learn. What do you say? These are the scripts, these are the things you do. How do you set up a meeting? What do you bring? That’s all outlined in our sales and marketing book. You can get on the CCI website. So I just want

Caleb Lawson (12:21):
On top of that. On top of that, when you come to class, which you should in the ultimate class, if you really break it down, what I do at lunch every single day during class is a lunch and learn. I’m giving you all a lunch and learn. So if you want to know how to do it and you want to watch it done, come to class, I do them every day a

Jeff Girard (12:41):
Part of it. Yeah, absolutely.

Caleb Lawson (12:43):
That’s a really good point. The audience, I mean, that thought just came to me. It’s like, oh my gosh, what I’m doing when I’m talking about sales and marketing

Jeff Girard (12:49):
Is a lunch and learn

Caleb Lawson (12:50):
Is a lunch and learn. And so yeah, we’re going to plug that for sure.

Jeff Girard (12:55):
Circling back to what you had said when I got started, I started in my house. My shop was my garage, my kitchen was a showroom. So when I had customers come over, I did predominantly residential remodels. So I rarely ever dealt with architects. I did. I dealt with a lot of interior designers and kitchen designers. So those were my professional interfa, the people I dealt with. And the event that I hosted was for kitchens and signers, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but when I had people coming over my house, the story that kind of sparked the bowl, wine bowl sto idea was I had a husband and wife come in and they were very interested in concrete. And this was in the early days, probably 2000, year 2000. And they had a stack of typical homeowners. They had a stack of photocopies of magazine articles and they had post-it notes and highlighters and things circled in red.

Jeff Girard (14:06):
And they kept going back and referring to things that were talked about concrete in these articles. And you’re still going to find that new articles, articles that rehash things about how you have to reseal every month or you have to put wax on your concrete or concrete is going to be heavy and it’s going to crack and all these things that are absolutely wrong and incorrect, but nobody knows. So it’s just information that’s out there is rehashed because information is something to bite into. And so their big concern was, Hey, I read in this article that the concrete stains or that it’s really heavy or you’re going to get cracking and blah, blah, all these things. And so my response to that, I had two responses that really helped me out. And the whole point of this was I was not trying to sell ’em concrete.

Jeff Girard (15:05):
I was trying to build their confidence that hey, my concrete is something that you should consider. And that’s kind of the whole point is I didn’t say that those articles were wrong. I didn’t say that that information is incorrect. What I said was the things you’re reading about that particular concrete. And I pointed to an article and I pointed to a separate article and I pointed to a third photocopy that was referring to something else that they got in some other source. I don’t know where it was, but I said, what you’re reading is about a very specific product made by a very specific person. And the idea of concrete is it’s like saying, I’m going to go out and buy a car. Well, what does that mean? Because are you going to buy a Volvo? Are you going to buy a pickup truck? Are you going to buy a sports car?

Jeff Girard (15:57):
Are you going to buy a van? What are you buying? Is it a convertible? What’s important to you? Who’s making it? Or yeah, are you buying a Yugo or are you buying something that’s super reliable? So the things that are written are accurate about the specific concrete that the article’s referring to, not in general. So you can’t generalize. And when you’re dealing with a product that is completely handmade, even by professionals who have machinery that do it, batch, large batch mixers and large processing equipments and auto polishers and things like that, it’s still custom made. And the finishes they use, the sealers they use, the way they process their concrete, the way they cure their concrete, the whole thing is specific to them. And that’s why lunche and learns are so important because you’re building the relationship. It’s a one-on-one relationship. And it’s not just you, it’s your product. It’s your concrete, how you template, how you organize information, how you manage your projects, how you communicate. Those are specific to you and your company. And that is what these designers and architects are looking for is they don’t want just some backyard flyby, not contractor who says they can do it but has never done it and is unproven because it’s their reputation on the line too. They don’t want to be left hanging

Caleb Lawson (17:34):
To touch on that. They don’t need all of concrete to be a certain way. They need your concrete to be a certain way. And if you can provide that solution for them, you’ll be the only one they ever use again.

Jeff Girard (17:45):

Caleb Lawson (17:46):
You’ll be their concrete guy.

Jeff Girard (17:48):
They’re going to, you want to be speced, you want to be specified. That’s really what the goal is. And that means that you have to first let them know who you are, what your concrete is, what the kind of concrete you’re working with. A lot of architects, I have two cousins who are architects and although they are educated in different materials, they are not structural engineers. So they don’t know how to design how things are done. Forgive me for that. I am a structural engineer. I know. So you’ll see on plans an architect drawing how they think things should be made and that’s doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.

Caleb Lawson (18:27):
And it’s okay to correct them. It’s okay to change the design. Absolutely. Cause hey, this is actually would work better. This would work better this way. And they’re going to be like, great. It’s fine.

Jeff Girard (18:37):
They may be specifying something as cast in place because that’s what they think of as concrete. And you may say, Hey, we don’t need to do that or that’s not going to work. Or the way you’ve drawn the reinforcing is appropriate for a sidewalk, but it’s not appropriate for what you’re actually making here. You don’t have to worry about that. You just need to specify what do you want it to look like, where’s it going to go,

Caleb Lawson (19:02):
How’s it?

Jeff Girard (19:04):
And that’s where the partnership comes in. But that’s going to come after they feel comfortable working with you. So like I said, I didn’t deal with architects that much. I dealt with kitchen designers and interior designers and specifically kitchen designers, just like architects. They need to have, if they’re licensed, they’re part in the United States, there’s the National Kitchen and Bath Association. And so I was a member. They have members, they have to have frequent continual education, so they have to do courses and training and things like that.

Caleb Lawson (19:45):
Hang on, before you go there, finish the story about the homeowners because you had,

Jeff Girard (19:47):
Oh yes, I get off, the train gets derailed, we’re

Caleb Lawson (19:51):
On tangent, it’s going to

Jeff Girard (19:52):
Come back. So these homeowners are talking, they were worried about staining, right? They had so many articles that talked about staining and how it has to be. I said, you know what those, that information’s all correct, absolutely. But none of that applies to my concrete. And that’s the difference. And let me show you that. And this kind of happened early on in the meeting. So I took a piece of light colored concrete little sample of it, oh, I can’t remember what colors doesn’t really matter. And I went to the refrigerator, opened it up, and blueberries were in season. I said, so blueberries are pretty stain staining. They stain everything. They even stain white for Micah. So I took blueberries and I smashed ’em up right in front of them and I put it next to on this table, set it aside. And so let’s talk about your project. Let’s talk about all this. We’re going to take our time. There’s no rush. And when you tell me you’re ready, I’ll rinse these off in the sink and show you that my concrete doesn’t stain.

Jeff Girard (20:52):
And that’s what I did. An hour later we talked about their project, they started to feel more comfortable. I walked off over to the kitchen where they could, they were sitting at the kitchen table so they could see me do it there. So there’s no slight of hand or fake or doing anything shady. I just rinse it off, wiped it off with a sponge, set it, dried it off, put it in front of ’em. I said, my concrete doesn’t stain. And so this was in 23 years ago. And that reality, people can talk, read things online, and so many people are dependent on reading and hearing from other people. And I think that’s a problem is because everybody has an agenda. We have an agenda, we have an agenda. We want to get people to be excited about concrete. We want to be able be the people teaching you, we’re teaching you, now you’re listening to us, but ultimately it with a product. Let the concrete do the speaking for you. Let your sealer do this picking for you. It’s really not the concrete. It’s a sealer that matters, which is a another.

Caleb Lawson (22:03):
Yeah. So really you should say, my concrete does stain. My sealer doesn’t.

Jeff Girard (22:07):
Right. So because if

Caleb Lawson (22:10):
It’s bare or

Jeff Girard (22:12):

Caleb Lawson (22:12):
Yeah. If it’s highly polished, it will. I mean, if there’s a whole range of things that like the best concrete in the world, if it’s not protected properly will stain. Yeah,

Jeff Girard (22:22):
Yeah. It will become a maintenance headache. So that’s where showing your confidence level, not just in what your concrete can do. Pictures of review projects. Hey, I did this great kitchen. Hey, did this beautiful fireplace around or whatever, which those are important, right? Don’t get me wrong, those are very important. But that’s one

Caleb Lawson (22:47):
Small piece. Iose your little samples, which they can touch and feel and see what the finished product does look and feel like up close. But then juxtapose that with, there’s this 20 by 16 wall that I did, or here’s this massive dining table or arrange hood or whatever the case might be that I did or bathtub. The idea, at least from my perspective when I’m doing a lunch and learn when I’m doing a wine and cheese or a meeting at all with an architect or a designer is, oh, my dog’s in a bar. Hold on.

Jeff Girard (23:16):
Having things for them to touch.

Caleb Lawson (23:19):
But the idea, what I’m getting at is when I do that kind of thing, when I meet with somebody who is going to spec my work, what I’m getting at for them is, Hey, you don’t have to worry If your design is too complex, I can take care of it. And I think at the Legends of Rock event that we had at my studio a couple of weeks ago, Mike Glee, if raw creative, if you’re listening, hi said, something that really stuck with me, which was I challenged my architects to find something I can’t make out of concrete. And I think that is beautiful because to me, those are the most fun projects when an architect or designer’s like, Hey, I don’t know how in the world you’re going to pull this off, but this would be really cool and you take the excitement of this would be really cool. And then I mean doing a SketchUp drawing and then when the real thing looks exactly like the SketchUp drawing, you’re doing it. And I think that to me is the most exciting part about that relationship is they want to be able to just create,

Jeff Girard (24:29):
They want to flex their muscles

Caleb Lawson (24:31):
And they need a team that can pull off the muscle flex. And you’re part of that team. You’re an integral part of that team. And so I think having the confidence to go in there and be that for them is super huge. And that’s part of what, again, as a plug, that’s part of what we’re trying to instill in our students when they come to CCI is like, Hey, you need to be able to say yes and figure it out later within a degree of reason. And that’s why we think understanding your material, understanding the reinforcement, understanding the sealer, understanding the limitations of the material because they do exist, is super important. Because that if you understand all of that and you understand how and why, then you can confidently say yes and figure it out. And

Jeff Girard (25:23):
The other benefit is you are not just coming to a class if you’re going to watch a YouTube video or something, it’s very passive. You’re just absorbing information, but you’re only absorbing the information that’s being provided. And then when it’s done, it’s done. So what we have always done at CCI is you’re not alone. It’s like when you leave class, you’re not on your own. So we are still here to support you and kind of mentor you through the learning curve after class so that when you do talk to an architectural or designer and they are asking you to do something that’s out of your comfort zone, which will happen and you want that to happen, good

Caleb Lawson (26:07):
Happen. You want happen,

Jeff Girard (26:08):
How you grow, we’re there to help you along. And so at this legends class, we did a project that was really out there. We really pushed the limits. And it’s something that very, very few people are capable of doing because looking back, I’ve been looking at this industry for almost a quarter century and I’ve never seen anybody do what I just did. Well, what we just did, I should say, and yes, I’m tooting our horn of course, because we offer

Caleb Lawson (26:38):

Jeff Girard (26:40):
But I want to get back to to the topic at hand is lunch and learns are a way for, it’s the, it’s to present the opportunity for that designer to flex their muscles and do something that they maybe haven’t even thought about doing. When you show them, Hey, look at what this concrete is, because the concept of concrete has to be defined. And if you are the one defining what the paradigm of concrete is, now that opens up a whole new realm because in their mind it might be four inch thick gray broom finish stuff, sidewalk kind of concrete. And maybe that’s what they’ve always worked with. Or they’ve just kind of said, oh, well we’re doing concrete pavers and made by some company that squirts out thousands of square feet of 18 by 18 inch piles that you buy for $5 each or whatever in bulk. And that’s their idea of concrete. And then all of a sudden you come in with these beautiful finishes, curves and architectural stuff and it’s like, wow, their mind is blown, you know, are defining, you have the opportunity to define what concrete is what it can do, and they become your advocate. They become your champion to the ultimately the people who are paying everybody, the client.

Caleb Lawson (28:04):
And so I mean, when you develop that relationship with an architect or designer, and then they’re excited about what they can do because ultimately they do have a lot of influence. I mean the design or the homeowner or the owner, whether it’s commercial or residential, are ultimately making decisions. But they have hired a designer and an architect and they are going to trust that the designer and architect know what they’re talking about. And so when the designer and architect are excited about the thing that you can help them do, then they’re going to be like, Hey, what about this? I mean, I have architects that are pushing my stuff, not because it’s concrete. The concrete is a vessel, it’s a vehicle. I mean how to make it. And that’s important, how to make it good. And that’s important, but ultimately it’s not the concrete you’re selling, it’s what you can do with the concrete that you’re selling.

Caleb Lawson (29:02):
And so I’m a concrete artisan, but that is a byproduct. Like that’s or not a byproduct, that’s a vehicle. I want to make this ridiculous conference table. Well, this is how you do it. I want to make this ridiculous ranch hood. Well, this is how you do it. And so really what we’re getting at is you want to create a buzz in the architecture designer’s head for I, you want them to lay a awake at night thinking about what they could create that they couldn’t create yesterday. And so going back to what you were saying about tooting our horn, yes, we are doing that, but it’s more about, I mean, the reason you started the Concrete Countertop Institute, what was it, 2001, is

Jeff Girard (29:48):
That right? CCI started in 2004.

Caleb Lawson (29:51):
Okay. So the reason that you started CCI in 2004 was not to flex your muscles. And it was really about, gosh, there is this deficit of quality knowledge and how to in the materials and how to create high-end concrete for people that’s not going to have all of these detriments and not going to be a maintenance item in their home that they’re going to hate. I know how to do it well. And we’ve got just a plethora of really bad information out in the ether. And so the impetus behind leaving your company and starting another one, which is a risky move by the way, was I want to help people. I want to create in them a way for concrete to actually be good. And that message, that goal remains today because unfortunately, the bad information is still out there. YouTube has not deleted me videos.

Caleb Lawson (30:59):
Yeah, it’s still bad information out. There are still people who are calling me wanting to be clients, but worried about four inch thick gray concrete that looks like a sidewalk. And I’m like, Nope, not what it is. And so the same information that caused Jeff to start CCI is still rolling around out there. And some of you listening might have assimilated bad information and I hate that. But the reality is we exist still because the problem still exists and we want badly to try and help that situation in the industry at large. And we want to create successful artisans the world over. And I mean, Jeff has done that. I don’t know how many people you’ve trained, we could probably go back and count, but

Jeff Girard (31:50):

Caleb Lawson (31:52):
And so

Jeff Girard (31:54):
I’m not kidding.

Caleb Lawson (31:55):
No. Yeah. At

Jeff Girard (31:57):
One point my estimate was I taught a good fraction of the people in the world how to do this personally. So let’s get back to,

Caleb Lawson (32:07):
But anyway, all that to say that message of why we started and how we go about it still remains.

Jeff Girard (32:12):

Caleb Lawson (32:13):
We want to help the

Jeff Girard (32:14):
Process as a step-by-step process in it end with identifying who do you want to work with. And so not all architects are people you want to be working with because maybe they design commercial, I don’t know schools well, if they’re

Caleb Lawson (32:36):
Building HH Greg, you’re not going to be in there. If they’re building Michaels, you’re not going to be in there. But

Jeff Girard (32:40):
One of my cousins, he, he’s an architect in California and he’s has specialized, his career has gone a particular path. And he specializes in dealing with designing private schools and nursing homes and those kind of facilities where there’s an important aspect of safety and functionality that meets certain code standards and all that. So he doesn’t design like high-end houses. So he would not be a client of mine. So he would not be somebody who’d be interested in talking to me because that’s not a good fit.

Caleb Lawson (33:21):
So likewise, what you need to do is you need to identify the types of designers and architects that build the types of things that you want to be involved in. And their

Jeff Girard (33:31):
Professional societies can help you do that. So you absolutely

Caleb Lawson (33:35):
Chamber of commerce and things like that. And then certainly Google’s your friend, you can find the top 10 interior designers or top 10 residential architects in your area and start there. And so identify those people and then be a squeaky wheel, reach out to them, send them information, send them create I, and I can link a pdf d f that I have on the website for the next podcast. But basically have a pitch deck is what they’re called, p d F of who you are, what your company does, and the type of work that you do. And some do. Sometimes you’re not going to get through the gatekeeper on the first call. Sometimes you need to call several times or you need to email and you need, and I mean, what I have done is I’ve gone on their website and kind of scrolled through the website and found the principal architect and found his email address and I went or her email address and went straight there. And so you didn’t get past the gatekeeper. Do that, make them excited and make them want to meet you and then offer them an opportunity to do so. I do lunch and learns, what’s your schedule? When can I buy y’all lunch? Nobody’s going to check out free lunch. And so identify those people, reach out to them, get in touch with them, and then offer them something they’re not going to turn down like lunch.

Jeff Girard (34:55):
Now, food, when you talk to people over food,

Caleb Lawson (35:00):
Disarms them, I think a little bit, it

Jeff Girard (35:03):
Makes it more casual. It’s a very intimate, primeval event of breaking bread together with people. So they’re more interested, they’re more open to listening to you. They’re perhaps more, they find you more likable because you’re giving them food. Now, one tip is talk to somebody in the staff who does, there’s somebody, there’s almost always somebody in an architecture firm, especially a bigger one, who one of their roles is to set up and arrange lunch and learns. That’s one of their tasks.

Caleb Lawson (35:35):
Even go so far to figure out what the principals,

Jeff Girard (35:38):
What do they like to eat? What have they been getting all the time? What is their favorite? What are theirs? What are they sick of? Because everybody probably gets pizza and tacos

Caleb Lawson (35:47):
And I mean, I’ve had them cater before. I did a big architecture firm one time and I had it catered and that was huge. They

Jeff Girard (35:54):
Loved it that it’s going to make an impression. And when I talk about the event that I gave for kitchen designers, that also is, that’s how you make a good impression. So it’s not about whining and dining. You’re not going to be feeding them caviar and champagne and stuff like that. That’s not appropriate. But you also don’t want to come,

Caleb Lawson (36:13):
It might

Jeff Girard (36:13):
Be sandwiches from Walmart or something like that. You want to have something that they’re going to remember you buy and go, wow, that’s really good. And talking to the staff and finding out, hey, does somebody have any dietary restrictions? And all that tactical kind

Caleb Lawson (36:27):
Of stuff. The extra mile

Jeff Girard (36:28):
Go in the extra mile because that’s the image that you’re trying to project is I’m not just some flyby night white van contractor, no disparaging of people who own white vans, but you know, see the beat up bull white van with the, they’re got the

Caleb Lawson (36:47):
Handyman extension cords

Jeff Girard (36:48):
With the, and the electrical tape on it, and they’re doing the work in the front yard on, so on rickety saw horses. That’s not who you are. You are polished white glove professional. You’re white glove. Yeah, exactly. And so the information that you’re giving to them is packaged. So they only have time for lunch, so you can’t have a three hour presentation. But it’s not about trying to get them to do concrete and

Caleb Lawson (37:18):
You want to intrigue them enough for them to ask questions you want them to have,

Jeff Girard (37:22):
It’s a teaser,

Caleb Lawson (37:23):
Want to know. And so yeah, identify them, get in touch with them, get on their schedule, show up with something quality and have a short butt, sweet and intriguing presentation of some sort. Dress nicely. And I know that’s should go without saying, but here we are. I think present what you want them to see, present quality, present your favorite projects. Give them a physical sample to touch. Don’t just cut it out of a sample, round the edges and seal the sample sample separately. Make it look really, and maybe have your logo on it. I

Jeff Girard (38:06):
Think it might be better. Instead of having a slideshow of 50 or 60 different photos of different things and you’re trying to scroll through them quickly to show them everything when they can’t really see anything, just pick one or two projects and really dive down, dive

Caleb Lawson (38:24):
Into it, dive and explain the process of how you got to know the homeowner and how you understood what they were after and how you dived into what their desires were and things of that. I think that because we are pretty white glove, we are relational. Talk about the clients you really enjoyed getting to know and really stressed that those are the types of clients they have

Jeff Girard (38:49):
And what were the challenges and how did you solve those challenges? Yeah, did you

Caleb Lawson (38:53):
Approach that, solve that problem? How did you accomplish this goal? And it’s not bragging, it’s not weird. It’s solving a problem for them. They want to know how you’ve accomplished the goals that you set out for yourself and the goals the client set for you. And then follow up after you’re done. Get an email list of everybody in that office, even if they weren’t at meeting, and you send them an email with your pitch deck and say, Hey, it was so great to meet everybody I met at lunch. If you weren’t there, please look at this and reach out if you have any questions. Here’s my cell, blah, blah, blah.

Jeff Girard (39:34):
I think, and that works both locally and regionally because like you, Caleb, you work in other states. And when I was at peak production, I was doing more than 50% of my business outside of North Carolina. In fact, I did stuff in Calif in Seattle, I did stuff in Puerto Rico. I routinely shipped all over the country. So I’ve

Caleb Lawson (40:03):
Got architects and designers in New York. I’ve got ’em in la. Yeah, I’ve gotten ’em Miami. So you don’t have,

Jeff Girard (40:08):
Just limit your pool to who’s in your town because

Caleb Lawson (40:12):
They don’t have work just in your town. I promise you that. I’ve got architects in Aspen that are doing work in Asheville. It’s architects are not necessarily regional,

Jeff Girard (40:22):
Right? So that’s an important thing to bear in mind is your customers, you may be doing the project locally, but the customer may be remote and their designer and architect may be remote. So that takes a while to get there. But the process is the same. Another follow up thing, and it kind of ties into this, is give them an invitation to come visit you at some point in time.

Caleb Lawson (40:50):
I think making it personal for them is super cool. And this is something you just reminded me of something, I did a couple of pieces for an interior designer’s office. And if you can get work in their office, that’s something that’s really helpful because then they’re going to look at you every day. And I did the table that this designer’s, all her sub designers work at every day. And so she and I collaborated on the design, which is so fun. And I encourage it to everybody. And then when it came time to cast it, I called her and I said, Hey, you want to come watch us? And while she was there, I said, why don’t you put your hand print in the table? And so I had her get her hand dirty and some pigment and stamp it into the leg of the table.

Caleb Lawson (41:37):
And so now that table is her table. Nobody else can have that table. That’s her table. And I think that once you get confident and develop those relationships, asking them to come look at your space and asking them to be a part of the process is going to make them, I mean really it, it’s an experience for them that they’re going to remember. And then the next time they go to design something, they’ll be like, can I come watch you naked? And that is huge because then you’re the guy or girl, you are the person who is making this thing that they are super excited about. I think all the time, every project I’ve ever done, I have one piece that I’m like, Ooh, that’s the one. It’s like kind of attach yourself to a piece. You want to be the piece in the home they’re designing that they attach themselves to, and forgive us for tooting the concrete horn. But it can do such crazy things that it’s not hard to, once you get yourself established and understand the material and you’re confident in that, it’s really not very hard for us to make something that they think is wild and attach themselves to

Jeff Girard (42:55):
Ultimately, I mean, at some point in your career, well, along this career, I’m very far in my career in a way, for us, we kind of get jaded because oh yeah, been there, done that. And what used to be a challenge is now boring and you can do it in your sleep kind of thing. And as somebody who’s always deeply engaged in doing new things, I’m developing new materials and things like that, but the dopamine rush of something new and exciting, you’re kind of always chasing that. And they’re the same way, but now all of a sudden you’re giving them a whole new set of toys that they have. No, they’re brand new to them. So what is exciting to them is possibly for you, you can do it in your sleep. It’s easy. It’s like, eh, that’s no big deal. It’s only a 12 foot countertop, that’s blah, blah, blah or whatever.

Caleb Lawson (43:59):
And to them, it’s like, I don’t have to have a seam in this 12 foot countertop. Exactly. You can look like this and oh my god. Exactly.

Jeff Girard (44:04):
So that their excitement and their engage, so

Caleb Lawson (44:10):
Let their excitement drive that excitement for you comes

Jeff Girard (44:12):
Back to you too. I mean, you get excited because they’re excited. And so it’s a positive thing all the way around. So

Caleb Lawson (44:19):
All of that to say, develop those relationships, right?

Jeff Girard (44:23):
It’s a relationship. So again, I didn’t do a lot with architects because I didn’t do a lot of commercial work and I didn’t do that kind of high-end custom stuff. I was primarily residential remodeling. Again, back in the old days, call it the old days, that’s the, was the nature of the landscape for the concrete countertop industry.

Caleb Lawson (44:45):
Oh, landscape architects, by the way, those also are Absolutely,

Jeff Girard (44:48):

Caleb Lawson (44:49):
Your outdoor spaces are just as important. And it could be something as simple as a sphere that they put in their yard.

Jeff Girard (44:57):
And just to touch on that, the range of products that they have access to is so limited and so rudimentary that when, oh my gosh, you start offering them something even remotely bigger or more exciting, they get, they’re thrilled.

Caleb Lawson (45:14):
Oh, absolutely. So

Jeff Girard (45:16):
I wanted

Caleb Lawson (45:16):
Touch on that.

Jeff Girard (45:17):
So coming back to, I dealt with kitchen designers and I mentioned in the United States, it’s is, it’s the National Kitchen Bath Association. So their members have to do monthly continually education. So I arranged, I talked to whoever organized this to host an NKBA, regional meeting in my shop. Now the criteria was I couldn’t promote a product. I couldn’t really mention any names, but hey, they’re all in my shop. And I had 38 kitchen designers from Eastern North Carolina in my shop listening to me. We walked through, I lo had projects in my shop. Naturally, you clean your shop, you get it all spec and span. I had cheese and wine and grapes and sparkling water and finger food. And this was unlike a after work kind of thing. So it was kind of like an hour event. And it was a very limited amount of time.

Jeff Girard (46:19):
It was like an hour, hour and a half, I think. And it was an opportunity for people to see for the first time what actually this stuff is. Because if they have any questions and they’re uncertain about something or they have a notion that they’re just not comfortable with, I guarantee they will steer people away from it. So if there’s any inkling of uncertainty, they will not go there. So your job not only is to get them comfortable with you, but for you to define in their mind what concrete really is. And it comes back to that staining, that bowl of wine. That’s very powerful to do something like that. Cause that dispels those myths instantly.

Caleb Lawson (47:12):
Yes, and I mean, I have had builders and designers that have told me I had a bad experience one time, and I’ve told people off of concrete since then and I’m really glad that I found you because, and so I think the opportunity is there. I promise you there is an architecture designer in your area that’s had a bad experience that you can undo and you can solve that problem for them because all of sales is pro problem solving and it does not have to be salesy. You want to develop a relationship with these people because they are, not only are they great sources of revenue for your business, but they’re good people. And I mean, I have found that long term becoming actual personal friends with these people, these architects and designers, it serves your business of course, but at the end of the day, it makes you a better artisan too, because I mean, are the average of the five people you hang around the most. So I think developing relationships with the folks who are designing the types of things that ultimately you want to build, it broadens your horizons too. So there’s a definite element of personal improvement to finding these folks that do the kinds of things that you want to

Jeff Girard (48:31):
Do. Very, very good point,

Caleb Lawson (48:35):
Because you don’t want to just be authentic. People can smell a salesperson 10 miles away. It is not about sales, it’s about people. It’s about providing the client with something that they can really love for a really long time. So you want to, these are all of course tips and tricks on how to get in, but the reality is if you’re not authentic, it won’t work.

Jeff Girard (49:00):
And you do need to know your stuff. You do need, don’t just jump in right away and start doing this because you’re going to be in over your head when you do start talking to them. And if you do, you’re going to get resistance, right? You’re going to get the designer and the architecture. Yeah, I’ve had a bad experience. Talk to them about that. Find out what went wrong, what went sideways, why was there a problem? It very likely had to do with somebody who didn’t know what they were doing or was in over their head, had the wrong information, had no information, something like that.

Caleb Lawson (49:41):
Well, and then getting the relationships important, maintaining the relationship is just as important. I think one of the things that to me is super important, and I won’t take too much more time because I know we’re pushing nine o’clock, so that’s been right in an hour. But

Caleb Lawson (49:59):
To me, being honest about the shortfalls as well as the victories, I think is really important. I had a client recently where we had an issue with something, I had a blemish on the top that I can explain. I know why it happened and it really wasn’t my fault. But nonetheless, it happened and it resulted in a kitchen island needing to be replaced. And rather than, this was a builder that I was working for, and I know the homeowner as well, but rather than trying to hide it or whatever, I said, look, I wanted this in because you need your inspections, but I also want to redo this island because I’m not super happy with it. And here’s why. And I’m going to tell you forever, ever and ever and ever, that is the biggest win you will get the most brownie points for things like that because the client was like, I, I’ve, I’ve built several houses and that doesn’t happen. Thank you so much for calling to my attention this thing that you are not happy with. That’s huge. And so following through, develop a relationship and then consistently give them good experiences.

Jeff Girard (51:15):

Caleb Lawson (51:16):
You have to follow up with good experiences. You have to follow up with authenticity. You cannot, this is not a getting get out thing. This is a relationship. You’re going to have to talk to these people. Again,

Jeff Girard (51:31):
The whole point of getting in with architects and designers is you build a relationship with them, you maintain the relationship, but it’s a street that continues. And as you grow, they grow, as they do more projects that get more comfortable, they start feeding you in more projects and bigger projects.

Caleb Lawson (51:54):
And I know plenty of people who, they have one architect and it keeps them busy year round.

Jeff Girard (51:59):
Now, you don’t want to have just one customer, but

Caleb Lawson (52:04):
Certainly not

Jeff Girard (52:06):
The po. What point is you don’t have to, you never sell anybody anything, right? You’re not selling anybody concrete. But if you’re dealing with a brand new homeowner every single time you’re doing the same amount of work every, it’s a lot of work. You’re climbing that hill every single time, and you’re starting over with the next customer. When you deal with a designer and an architect, a lot of the legwork is already done and

Caleb Lawson (52:31):
For you. And they understand some of the basic questions and can answer themselves.

Jeff Girard (52:34):
And they’re bringing better clients, they’re bringing better projects. So you want to be here, you’re elevating your bottom line. You’re elevating the quality and the quantity of work you’re doing. You’re elevating the state of concrete in your area and as a whole, and you’re developing great friendships and great relationships that benefit not just you, but them,

Caleb Lawson (53:00):
And one, oh, I had a point I was going to make. Don’t It’ll come back. It’ll come back. But all of that to say, I think to sort of wrap up these relationships are what builds your business. To Jeff’s point, you don’t want to keep doing the same work and explaining the same thing over and over again. If you can get five or six or two interior designers, architects that can really sink their teeth into the types of capabilities that you have, it will keep you busy. And we want to be there to help you along the way to develop those relationships. So

Jeff Girard (53:43):
Absolutely, let us know. Give us some feedback.

Caleb Lawson (53:46):
Yeah, this was something that we could talk about this for hours upon hours, so we’re going to cut it off because we really could. But yeah, give us, feed this. This was a topic that was brought up to one of our list by one of our listeners, so this helps us out to know what y’all want to hear about, what you want to send us questions. I think there’s a form on the website to send us questions. And we are working on getting the podcast onto Spotify, Apple Music, all of those, YouTube, I think it’s already on. So keep paying attention to that. We’re working on that. And again, if you have questions, if you have concerns, if you have something you want us to talk about, give us a shout, shoot us a, shoot us an Instagram message or an email or fill out that form on the website, and we will jump into your topic of discussion. So yeah,

Jeff Girard (54:44):
Thanks for joining us today and come back and see us next week.

Caleb Lawson (54:48):
That a sounds great. All right, we’ll see you next week.

Jeff Girard (54:52):
Take care. Bye-bye.