A Conversation With Marshal Tolly

His focus is on the customer.

Marshal Tolly is passionate about customer service and it’s at the core of what he does at Renaissance Granite & Quartz, which fabricates and installs natural stone, including granite, marble, soapstone, and Cambria quartz. Tolly took on the role of sales and marketing manager in February, and has been intent on helping create an infrastructure that better meets customers’ needs and will foster the company’s growth today and into the future.

What are your responsibilities?

My primary responsibility is leading the sales department here in Des Moines and central Iowa, as well as expanding and building a sales department in eastern Iowa, based out of Hiawatha. My secondary responsibility is overseeing the marketing plans and strategy of the company.

Can you talk more about the business’ expansion into eastern Iowa?

Renaissance strives to provide outstanding customer service. In an effort to do that, we felt the need to expand our sales department both here and in eastern Iowa. What we’re doing in Hiawatha is creating a design center which will showcase exclusively Cambria quartz products. It will be a place where dealers, designers, and homebuilders can bring their customers to view the entire line of designs, including samples (large and standard sizes), and complete kitchen mock-ups.

Most dealers and designers don’t have the space to display 122 different designs of quartz. The design center will offer a space to meet with customers to see our whole array of designs, rather than the limited collection they may have in their showrooms. By creating a design center in Hiawatha, we’re able to provide our services closer to home for customers in eastern Iowa, making it more convenient for them. We hope to have it operational in October.

What’s your previous professional experience?

I spent the better part of my professional career with Hostess Brands, working for the company for 14 years. I specialized in multi-unit sales management across multiple states, and managing and motivating salespeople in multiple locations. Renaissance chose to capitalize upon my ability to develop and execute a sales plan, and build a sales team that I can lead across multiple business models. Following my time at Hostess, I also did some consulting, working with retail grocers on building business, marketing plans, and strategy.

How did you make the move from cupcakes to countertops?

My career path began to change when Hostess Brands shut its doors in November 2011. I came to Renaissance with a unique opportunity to help build a sales team and business strategy focused on quality products and customer service. In any job—whether you’re selling bread or countertops—it truly is about the people and the customers. Managing a sales team is really little about a product and more about creating processes and an environment based on customer service.

My employees like to laugh—and cringe—every time I say this, because I say it often: When we decide to make our company about the customer, the customer will decide to make purchases about our company. Those are words that I live by and strive to achieve every single day.

Whether my employees are being presented with a unique opportunity or trying to find a solution to a problem, that saying is always the first thing out of my mouth. It’s my way of helping them learn how to make decisions on their own. And if you’re always doing what’s right for the customer, I have found the rest will take care of itself.

What short-term and long-term goals do you hope to achieve?

My first and foremost goal is to revamp our sales team into a more streamlined unit to provide improved service for customers. We are striving to provide one point of contact for the customer from the point of sale to the moment of installation. This transformation from our current multiple contact approach will set the stage for best-in-class customer service. This level of service will allow us to effectively serve our current customers and enter new market segments more efficiently in the coming years.

There will be less confusion, better communication, and stronger service on our part. Our sales strategy, partnered with increased production capacity, will help us provide a Renaissance experience.

In the long run, my goal is to help grow sales. Over the years, sales and volume at Renaissance have increased explosively, doubling their volume several times over the last decade. But there was never really an infrastructure to keep up with the demand and help the business to continue growing in the future. Over the last year, we have been building an infrastructure that helps us realize that we’re no longer a small business—we’re a natural stone empire.

What else is involved in creating that infrastructure?

In order to grow and move to the next level, we have to expand both our workforce and our physical space. We just added almost 40,000 square feet to our building here in Des Moines. About 25,000 square feet of that is for production and approximately 15,000 is for the front office and showroom.

The primary change to the showroom will be that we’ll have the ability to showcase much larger pieces of stone and samples of our materials, compared to typical showrooms that carry 12-inch-by-12-inch or 3-inch-by-3-inch samples. There will also be displays including complete built-in kitchens, islands, and bathroom vanities so customers can get a better feel for the design.

What is the most popular trend in natural stone today?

Quartz continues to grow, both in commercial and residential settings. That’s primarily because quartz is a fully-sealed product. This makes the product more stain resistant, durable, and easier to maintain than some other natural stones. White and gray colors are trending positively in design aesthetic.

Renaissance deals in all natural stones, including an exclusive relationship with Cambria quartz. We import stone directly from Brazil to meet these customer needs across multiple price points.