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Destiny Control

Wooded, uneven terrain along Interstate 95 in Virginia provides an ideal home for a concrete landscape unit operator whose commitment to marketing in

Don Marsh

Wooded, uneven terrain along Interstate 95 in Virginia provides an ideal home for a concrete landscape unit operator whose commitment to marketing Û in business cycles weak or strong Û underpins an integrated production-distribution-installation model. Xteriors Pavers' headquarters lies just above Richmond, about midpoint between northern Virginia, where growth continues outward from Washington, D.C., and the Tidewater market of Hampton-Norfolk-Virginia Beach. The population within a 150-mile radius of the site totals 15 million.

Soon after seeing the Xteriors home office, marked by abundant primary red and royal blue accents against white backdrops, customers can train upon what is surely one of the most ambitious merchandising efforts in concrete hardscapes: a sloping, 16,000-sq.-ft. outdoor display of pavers, segmental retaining wall units, and natural stones forming paths, elevated gardens, and small ponds around a central stream.

A big board machine plant the company opened last year sits on the other side of a ravine above the hardscapes display and main office. With a separate entrance for material deliveries and finished product shipping, the 15,000-sq.-ft. facility is adjacent to parcels available for additional storage or expanded operations. It occupies the highest ground on Xteriors' 30-acre site, appropriate for a company that moved ÎupstreamÌ to production following a successful start in hardscape design and installation.

By securing production orders through installed or do-it-yourself project sales, notes Xteriors President Don Hall, We control our destiny, every aspect of our business. We are a marketing company more than a manufacturer, and look at market development and distribution differently than other hardscape unit producers.

That mind set is reflected in resource allocation ranging from the new plant to the pages of magazines and newspapers circulated in markets Xteriors reaches from its Doswell, Va., home base, and a Chesapeake, Va., sales office opened last year. The new plant, for example, commenced with manual or semi-automated material and product handling equipment. That liberated investment dollars for 36 molds and a five-color pigment dispensing system Û keys to a deep initial offering of pavers and SRW, plus a commitment to roll out two to three new products each year.

Xteriors supports existing and new units through an advertising budget well into the six figures, covering regional magazine and local newspaper ads, cable television spots, and home show booths. At the headquarters office, which was completed in 2007 as site work was initiated for the plant, the company conducts do-it-yourself hardscape project clinics on Saturdays from April through October. The clinics draw homeowners, builders, remodelers and municipal government staff. Some participants opt for the D-I-Y route, while others enlist Xteriors for a turnkey project. Regardless of the route they choose to a finished job, participants see what makes their host unique: extensive product offering; delivery of a complete bedding material, edging and paver/SRW package; and, the option of purchasing partial, versus full, cubes.

VETERAN'S VISION

Xteriors is run by an industry veteran whose paving stone production tenure dates to days when pigment dosing included a coffee tin, and customer box lunch presentations were occasionally interrupted by broken film looping on a projector spool.

Don Hall was among the charter employees of Pavestone Co., departing as executive vice president in 1988, when the company was running three machines between Dallas headquarters and Houston satellite plants. He shifted to California, overseeing start up of Acker Stone operations and marketing programs that positioned the company among the state's first movers in concrete masonry hardscapes.

In the mid-1990s, Hall left California, which was slowly recovering from recession, for the block & paver businesses of (pre-Titan Cement) Tarmac America in Virginia and (pre-Ready Mixed Concrete Co.) Unicon Concrete in South Carolina. My whole career in concrete masonry has been building plants for others, and seeing them grow into target capacity by creating landscape unit demand.

Branching out in 1999 to launch Xteriors as an installer, he adds, I decided to build the market, then the plant. The move into production saw the brand split into two entities, Xteriors Construction LLC, of which Hall is sole proprietor, and Xteriors Manufacturing LLC, where he is majority partner, and his accountant of five years, Julie Vaas, is minority partner. We analyze how money is spent more than any company I've worked for, she says, noting how her Xteriors affiliation was preceded by more than a decade of accounting and finance work with contractors in Arizona and Virginia.

Vaas handles the Xteriors books, allowing her partner to concentrate on precisely gauged production, delivery and construction schedules. Against this year's challenging economy, Xteriors has added seven sales and plant staff toward the peak construction season. The company is maintaining its full D-I-Y clinic schedule, along with at least two box lunch programs for area architects and engineers. Both groups have more time for such meetings these days, given reduced project activity, and are especially interested in permeable paving.

As Xteriors Construction crews demonstrate skills and service making their company unique, and box lunch presentations, D-I-Y clinics and a strong consumer advertising campaign perpetuate the Xteriors brand, Don Hall and his production staff are mapping out a second plant for wet cast units. Good site selection, loyal bankers, and strong business administration will have them breaking ground on a schedule that assures the availability of new products customers expect.