Member Spotlight - Carolina Custom Surfaces
Member Since 2017

Carolina Custom Surfaces (CCS) was founded in 1995 by Rudy Hoch. Rudy and his wife Phyllis bought the manufacturing assets of a small cultured marble company in Randleman, N.C. and CCS was born. Under Rudy’s leadership the company made cultured marble vanities, shower systems and bathtubs. It also began to produce its own brand of solid surface called Carolite.

Carolina Custom SufacesIn 2000, CCS relocated to Greensboro, N.C., to accommodate the company’s growth and to be closer to its primary builder market. 

During the time CCS was being managed by Hoch, Joe Duszka earned a degree in industrial engineering at the University of Illinois, and went to work for a couple of manufacturing companies in Chicagoland eventually working his way up from industrial engineer to plant manager. “From this experience I knew that I one day I wanted to own my own manufacturing company because I loved working in an industry where we built a tangible product,” explained Duszka. “I love working with people, processes, and equipment to figure out the best way to accomplish the task at hand. However, I also knew that I needed to have a better financial understanding of how to run a business, so I went back to school and earned my MBA at Pepperdine University.”

In 2004, within a few years of earning his master’s degree, the Hoch’s approached Joe and his wife Deborah about moving to North Carolina to run their business with the intent to eventually sell it to them, which was the opportunity they had been working toward. So, they moved from the Chicago area to join CCS, and in December 2005, the Duszka’s bought the company and Joe took over as president.

“Shortly thereafter we began the search for a new location to allow for growth in solid surface and to open a stone fabrication shop so that we could enter that growing segment of the industry,” said Duszka. “It was apparent at that time if we wanted to continue to grow our market share, we would have to enter the stone fabrication business. This is when we partnered with Park Industries to help us learn how to fabricate stone and what equipment was needed.”

In late 2006, early 2007, CCS moved to its current location in Greensboro, N.C., and currently operates three manufacturing departments: stone, solid surface and cultured marble. The company has almost 50 employees in manufacturing, templating, sales and administration and has a fully staffed showroom for both residential and commercial customers. It primarily services about a two-hour radius of its location, except for work with its commercial partners, which can take it further because projects are evaluated on a job-specific basis.

Diversity as a Fundamental
Today, the company produces about 750 sq. ft. of finished surfacing material a day, with the jobs split up among its various products. Quartz and stone makes up 65 percent of its work, solid surface 29 percent and cultured marble 6 percent of the material processed.

The work is divided about 60 percent residential work and 40 percent commercial projects. As such, the company understands the importance of a broad range of products, paths to market and customer types.

“One of the big lessons learned during the last recession was the value of diversification,” explained Duszka. “So, we’ve transitioned our business from primarily a builder and kitchen & bath dealer base to one that also includes direct sales, big box stores, furniture dealers and millworkers. This diversification was one of the keys to successfully navigating the recession and has led to the growth that we have experienced since.”

This had led CCS to develop a broad base of customers, including commercial contractors, kitchen and bath dealers, retail and direct sales, builders, big box stores, and furniture companies.

Duszka said CCS has a nontraditional sales relationship with kitchen & bath retailers and designers, in that many of them work with the company, but it’s typically a direct buying experience with the K&B shops/designers receiving a separate fee from the clients instead of a subcontracting relationship. “We have a showroom that is complete with all of the products we sell in a friendly atmosphere that K&B dealers can send their clients to,” he said. “We also often have designers in the showroom working with their clients utilizing our sales team as needed.”

Other direct sales typically come to the company as referrals, so good feedback is critical. “We contact customers for feedback after installation is complete to let them know that we appreciate the opportunity to work with them and learn how we can continue to get better,” said Duszka. “That helps to ensure word-of-mouth communication is positive. We’ve also recently become very active on several social media platforms and have been pleasantly surprised about how much attention we garnered through our posts.”

The company has outside salespeople to drive builder work, monitor permits and follow job starts, as well as gather intelligence, such as through social media, about potential builder customers to better engage them when working to earn their business.

With commercial being such a large percentage of work, Carolina Custom Surfaces has a full commercial team that monitors bid requests for projects within its service area. CCS also works heavily with millwork companies to provide the tops for their cabinets and millwork. “We have found the key to this segment is not just being price competitive, but also being able to deliver on time commitments,” said Duszka. “It’s also important to have the technical expertise to not only know what can be done, but also what should be done to protect the end user and all involved in the project.”

Advanced Equipment and Excellent People
When it comes to successful operations beyond the sale, Carolina Custom Surfaces relies heavily on two things to produce high- quality products on time: high-end equipment and a well-trained and qualified workforce. In both areas, relationships are critical.

“CCS uses digital technology wherever we can use it effectively to improve our productivity, quality and the customer experience,” said Duszka. “We build relationships with our suppliers because they are truly business partners. We work with Park Industries primarily for our stone equipment. They are a true business partner.” The equipment used in the stone shop is reflective of that partnership, such as the following Park Industries equipment: a Fusion 4245SL Sawjet; a Titan 2800 CNC router; a Fastback straight edge polisher; a Wizard radial arm polisher; a Pathfinder/Slabsmith system for creating digital layouts of customers jobs; and a Hydroclear water recycling filter.The stone shop also features a Northwood 138 CNC machine; a Farnese dedicated miter saw; a Water Treatment Solutions system for its closed-loop water recycling system; Alphacam programming software; and Speedlabel for tracking jobs in the shop.

The solid surface shop relies on an AXYZ CNC router and a Pinske Edge thermoforming oven.

For cultured marble, CCS uses a Gruber Autocaster, spray booth, grinding booth, molds and conveying equipment.

And with all jobs, the company relies on LPI’s LT 2D3D lasers to create accurate digital templates, which Duszka says helps prevent callbacks.

While all of this equipment improves the repeatability and accuracy of the work put out, the other major factor in its production success is the people CCS hires. The company spends plenty of time building the culture of success. “Hire with intention,” suggested Duszka. “I am always looking for great talent. I may not necessarily have an opening at the time, but I try not to pass on great people, and have created positions for the right people. I look to hire people that have strengths where we have weaknesses and seek out people that know more than we do in a particular situation.”

Duszka said he personally interviews each potential team member to determine if the candidate can add value to the team. If he feels they can, he then moves them on to the department head for the area of responsibility they are hiring into to discuss specifics of the job. He also said he uses a pre-employment questionnaire that not only includes a math test, but offers insight into how applicants think and value others.

Once the right person is hired, the company then focuses on making sure they are trained properly. Not only do the workers get job-specific internal training, but, where appropriate, CCS will send employees to train off site to improve their skills and knowledge. “We believe that our employees should always be growing, and training opportunities are one way to do that,” said Duszka, who listed a host of opportunities for such training, including Park Industries Digital Expos; product specific training from various suppliers; trade shows, such as Polycon and TISE; and networking and training events offered by industry organizations such as ISFA and the Rockheads group.

The Philosophy behind the Success
With CCS counting its staff among its top assets, the company goes out of its way to make sure its workers are satisfied. “A happy member of the team is a more productive member of the team,” explained Duszka. “A more stimulated and challenged team member, in the right culture, will be happier and more engaged.”

To help make sure this happens, Carolina Custom Surfaces works to make their team feel more “family-oriented.” To accomplish this task, the company has several events meant to build a team spirit. Among these are company cookouts during work, where the entire company shares a meal and some time together; an annual chili cook-off in which cross-department interaction is encouraged; an annual Thanksgiving meal for the past 10 years; and an annual “Family Fun Day” in which CCS takes employees and their families to a local minor league baseball game with a buffet style meal provided, as a way of getting to know the families of its team and to say thank you for sharing them with it. “Our team spends a lot of time at work, and we want their family to know that we appreciate them, too,” explained Duszka.

“We also base our salary increases and promotions on merit, not seniority. I believe our team appreciates this because it reinforces the performance orientation of our culture,” he continued. “Successful employees want to know that they are part of something bigger than just their job; they want to provide more than just a countertop. At CCS, our team’s desire is to make the customer’s experience better than they could have imagined.”

This leads to an improved experience for customers, which in turn leads to greater levels of success. “We are not just selling countertops; we want to be a ‘trusted advisor’ for our customers and help provide options that will exceed their expectations,” said Duszka. “The primary value-add for our customers is our focus on improving their experience at every touch point we have with them. Fabricating countertops satisfies some of their needs, but that is not the whole picture. We strive to be different, from the way that we answer the phone to the experience we provide in our showroom, at template and so on throughout the entire process. Our job does not end when we install the countertop and collect a check. We follow up after the installation to make sure that we have exceeded our customer’s needs and to learn from the times where we haven’t so we can make the appropriate adjustments.”

Carolina Custom Surfaces also works to build personal rapport with its clients. One such way is to host several “customer nights” each year where the company invites customers to various events, such as minor league baseball games where it rents a suite for the night and caters in food and drinks for both clients and team members. “We ask members of our team that interact with those customers to attend so that they can put a face on the company and build the relationships,” said Duszka. “We will have our sales manager, finance manager, plant manager and myself at each event. We also ask our templaters, schedulers, project managers, inside sales and outside sales team to attend at several of these, dependent upon the group of customers attending. This is a great learning opportunity for all involved.”

This philosophy that focuses on both internal and external relationships as well as satisfaction has served the company well over the years and continues to lead to greater success.

Moving Forward
“Always invest in building your team,” said Duszka when asked what advice he would offer other fabricators. “Give them the tools they need to succeed and then let them flourish while holding them accountable. Strong teams are accountable to each other and expect to be held to that standard.” He also pointed out that it is key to have the courage to address anything that doesn’t align with the culture in your business, and to make sure to recognize and reinforce actions that are exemplary of your culture.

Duszka emphasized the importance of continuing to invest in personal training to get batter at what you do. He pointed out that CCS is a member of various trade organizations, such as ISFA, NSI, PCMA and the Rockheads, and that connections made within these groups allow him and the company to learn and share best practices from and with others to improve not only the company, but also the industry as a whole.

With 24 years of history and experience behind it and a focus on proactive process, technology and business development, Carolina Custom Services is in a great position to succeed for another two dozen years and beyond.

For more information contact Carolina Custom Surfaces, located at 100 Landmark Dr., Greensboro, NC 27409, by phone at (336) 299-3030 or email at [email protected]