Highlighting best practice
Steve Bristow, owner and
Our premises in Newton Abbot
Specialising in the manufacture and installation of hard
surfaces, Devon-based family-run Steve Bristow Stone
Masonry strives to be the best the industry has to offer. As
with any luxury product, in their industry, the customer demands
high quality and excellent service. For Steve and his team, customer
service underpins every client’s journey – from initial contact all
the way through to an aftercare guarantee. Trade customers
account for around 85 per cent of the company’s turnover, and
the company are proud of the excellent reputation and strong
relationships they have forged on the back of the mainstay of their
business. Year on year, since their establishment in 1996, their
turnover has grown, and they now operate out of a brand-new
factory with 34 employees. Steve discusses their success below.
We have always reinvested profit in the business; this has been integral in enabling
it to develop and grow. We are not afraid to embrace new technology from
all over the world to improve the quality of our product or the efficiency of the
factory. An integrated digital templating system has assisted in this regard, while
also reducing the potential for error – this has resulted in fewer problems during
installation. Stone cutting machines incorporating robotic arms, water jets and
traditional cutting wheels together with polishing equipment have helped us to
drive efficiencies in every area of the manufacturing process.
A broader offering
In recent years, new products have become available to improve customer choice.
A general preference for natural granite and marble has been exceeded by an
»Owner and director:
»Established in 1996
»Incorporated in 2000
»Based in Newton Abbot, south
»No. of employees: 34
»Services: Manufacture and
installation of solid surfaces,
both natural and man-made
Steve Bristow Stone
appetite for quartz, which is available
as a more uniform product across a
wider range of contemporary colours.
In addition, we now provide sintered
compact surfaces, which are a much
harder and more versatile product.
These new products require different
handling methods, and staff have
been required to change working
In addition to offering a wider range
of products, we have also invested in
new technology to deliver additional
services. These include invisible
jointing, book matching and three-
dimensional visualisation of finished
worktops. These are just some of the
ways we have tried to stay ahead of
competitors, all the while maintaining
the best service available.
Growing isn’t always easy
Rapid growth from 2013 onwards had
resulted in the company struggling
to deliver the capacity required for
the increased turnover. In 2017,
we invested over £1.4 million on a
brand-new factory on land adjacent
to existing premises. We were,
fortunately, able to secure £100,000
from a UBI grant to assist with the
build, which enabled the project to
be delivered along a quicker timescale
than would otherwise have been
possible. This new factory has ensured
that we will be able to grow further in
the future.
These substantial increases in turnover
would not have been possible without
the commitment of our excellent staff.
I personally recognise that our entire
company’s reputation is in the hands
of everyone on site, not just myself or
other senior members. In keeping with
this mentality, we have ensured that
we operate a modern factory; its state-
of-the-art dust booths, for example,
recognise the priority of the welfare
and needs of our team.
We reward staff with excellent rates
of pay and ongoing training; for the
future, we will be offering an NVQ
level 2 qualification to all operational
employees. We have been able to
recruit and retain a core workforce of
dedicated staff; however, increasing
the workforce in the short term has
been a real challenge.
Blue Pearl granite
increases in
turnover would
not have been
possible without
the commitment
of our excellent
Highlighting best practice
Issues of scale
A bigger business is not always easy to
manage – and our increase in size has
brought real challenges. As an owner-
managed business, I have personally
found it sometimes difficult to let go
of overall control and be confident to
delegate. In our infancy, I was hands-
on in all areas; stepping back and
concentrating on the bigger picture,
such as the business’s strategy, has
not been an easy move. In addition,
the systems and procedures that
worked for the business when it was
smaller are no longer appropriate; we
require a greater division of duties,
with staff employed across a diverse
range of departments. Additionally, we
are finding that areas that previously
worked autonomously now require a
greater amount of control, and this
has resulted in the need for a complete
overhaul in several places. Alongside
all of these concerns, sustainability
remains an underpinning issue, and
we are striving to become entirely
Over the years, responsibilities placed
on the company have increased
significantly, and keeping on top of
legislation has been nothing if not
difficult. Employment legislation,
pension auto-enrolment, VAT
compliance, the use of subcontractors
and health and safety are all areas
that require constant investment
of both time and money to ensure
full compliance. In many cases, the
required expertise is not available
within our existing workforce and must
be outsourced. We are also pleased
to meet both the CHAS and SMAS
accreditation for health and safety, and
we work closely with a consultancy
company that oversees compliance in
that regard.
The West Country is an extensive area
that spans from the end of Cornwall
through to Bristol and south Wales;
access to a free-moving road network is
essential. The recent opening of a link
road to Torbay has helped, but we are
still awaiting improvements to transport
links for north Devon. Additionally,
during the summer months, especially
over the holiday period, there can be
significantly increased transport times,
which are an ongoing problem.
Opportunities going forward
The additional factory capacity has
recently enabled us to develop new
products. A line of custom furniture,
the amalgamation of hard materials
with glass and innovative bending
techniques to shape quartz are exciting
new developments that are taking
the business in a new direction. Never
content to stand still, we are always
looking for brand-new opportunities.
When the company was officially
incorporated, I put my name above the
door, and ensured that my standards
and expectations were embedded in
the company ethos: supplying the very
finest products and offering a faultless
customer service. I set out with a
personal ambition to chase perfection,
and be the best that I possibly could
be. This rings through even now, 22
years on.
When the
company was
Iput my name
above the
door, and
ensured that
my standards
embedded in
the company
The new Steve Bristow
furniture range