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Meet David Shearn of The Builder Depot in Alpharetta

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Shearn.

Thanks for sharing your story with us David. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am from the UK and came over on a Visa, I worked for a company with over 300,000 employees.

I was in charge of a particular division which did really well in the UK and Holland and was struggling in the US. They sent me overd to help. I could instantly see the issue. It was the whole of Europe in one county. All with different ideals and visions.

A cookie cutter process in 2000 was not going to work (this is really just as the .com boom started). I loved working in the USA but found myself obsessed with e-commerce.

I know 2000 was just books online but knew the future was eventually everything. If it could be books, it could be anything. Then came the .com collapse. That did not put me off, I just felt that if you are going to run an online company you had to do it with a huge amount of sweat equity and less debt, particularly if you intend to sell a product online and not be an online service as a product, which would eventually be called SAAS. Time moved along and I gained knowledge of the USA, how to build websites, how SEO worked, everything I could I would try and learn. I had been head hunted and moved on three times and within that time started seven startups within billion-dollar companies.

All very successful. The final move was to a Tile and Stone Manufacturer. The Tile and Stone industry to me was fascinating it had not changed its method of quarry to distributor, to sub-distributor to retailer to contractor or designer to consumer for over 70 years. With everyone adding 100 to 75%GM along the way. What’s also amazing was the market was locked, there was no real way in. No way to enter, no way to increase sales through sales. No one cared, no retailer crossed the boundaries they were given by distributors. There were pricing structures in place. The entire system was a price fixing cartel in my opinion. It led to huge price points. By 2007 I presented my new company the new board was in the UK. I had a plan to take them 100% online.

In 2007, 100% online was still a very radical idea. Unfortunately, the board was so much older than me.

This plan was pretty much the end of my career (It was too radical, too much against the norm). Which was fine, I really, really believed in it. I could not do the day to day running the USA for a UK Manufacturer. When I no longer believed in their direction.

Equally, I could not walk away from the company, I have health insurance, income, a car. I had a young family (aged three months and three). I needed a push. They gave me one, by letting me go.

It actually coincided with 2008 financial collapse which actually meant everyone had to go. But from November 2008, I put into place the very same plan that I have suggested to the company. It lost a small amount of money and year one. But since then, it was profitable. We bootstrapped the business. I never borrowed any money. No one would lend you any money anyway, three companies even refused to simply let me open a business checking account to deposit money! I did not want to borrow money, deposit it. But banks were not accepting new customers. It was a strange time.

My wife worked with me in the garage, she packed the samples and UPS ground orders, our loading dock was our front door. It was 2008/09 if you could offer cash and remove risk which every manufacture was scared of you could buy product for an incredible price, I already had a good idea of the prices and costs, but in 08/09 things were lower. The quality improved as everyone still working did everything they could to keep things going. I planned to keep all our costs down except for quality of product and service, you could really upset a $10B hard surface industry. At the time, I was unaware of the concept, but our business, our business of selling high end Tile and Stone online was a “Market Disruptor”. Back in 2006 you could never have entered this market, but by 2009 people were begging for order, manufacturers, so I sold my 401K (not at a great time) and jumped in ordering a container from overseas. Everything, all our money. The model was a market disruptor indeed. More so for the customer service and quality of product. We did what the retailers could not. Our simplified supply chain, quarry to consumer via my own made e-commerce website allowed for huge saving and speed of delivery as we stocked the product.

It may have been in my garage. But it was stocked and could be shipped next day. Thanks to my wife. We were pushing the envelope of what had become an archaic and slow industry. We wanted our customers to get their tile faster than anyone else. We wanted the highest quality. So we paid cash, always cash. That had an interesting response, you received the very, very best marble and tile.

Far better than all the billion-dollar companies on terms. As you were risk free. We had stumbled on a few USPs. Today without any VC investment, the business has an eight-figure revenue and enjoys double digit growth. It is no longer in my garage 🙂

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No cash. Doing every job yourself from warehouse worker, to unloading trucks, to booking freight, to sweeping at night, to picking up, making deliveries. Absolutely every single job to make it work without hiring anyone and increasing our cost. Watching your wife struggle. Waiting for an order to come in so you could pay your mortgage. The joy of getting a mortgage paying order. I was fortunate and unfortunate. I had two small children. They never had to see the hardest part.

Equally because I had a family and I was from another country there was no “fallback position” this was it. Failure was not an option. I had been a VP one day with a company car, next day I was packing orders and driving them to a freight terminal, unloading them and putting them on a pallet. The good news, I was relatively young and needed to lose some weight, this did it.

The Builder Depot – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Coming to America and in less than a decade achieved the American Dream. Not on my own. But we still did it. I wanted that. There is no other dream, there is no “English Dream”, “French Dream”, “Australian Dream”, I grew up hearing about the “American Dream”. It is inspirational.

Two words. Another feature our business does not sell. It never has. I have always liked that. It puts together the best solution. Products from quarries around the world, then on our website provides an opportunity for a customer to save. It is their choice. There is no sale push. As we are one of the only few stocking companies in the USA we can send pictures, we can match lots. This is a USP. It helps.

As a consumer, I would want this. I would want to know the guy I am talking to on the phone is opening up the box, opening up the pallet this is the material that is shipping to me. This cannot be done through the “Ivory Tower” E-Tailer model. We are hands on.

The people that work here. Rather cliché, but you can read their names in the reviews.

Having the highest ranked Google review in the Tile and Stone Industry. A $10B industry and we rank the highest. The best thing to do is read the reviews, so many people save so much money, as we have changed the supply change and plan to continue to do so. I specialize in websites, new products, new ideas, things that have not yet been through off, financials and spreadsheets, social media, being a workaholic, an uncontrollable drive and being proud of watching others succeed.

Our reviews: https://www.google.com/shopping/seller?q=thebuilderdepot.com&hl=en_US Our reviews are not just limited to Google either: http://www.thebuilderdepot.com/customer-testimonials.html

We save a lot of people a lot of money. I especially enjoy the flippers, house flippers, they come in take a rundown home that maybe depressing a neighborhood. Change that home, it adds value to everyone’s home. It is a good thing.

An example of a review, this explains how removing so much of the supply chain helps the end user: “Absolutely the best customer service in online shopping. These guys make sure you order the correct material. They go above and beyond by sending you photos to make sure you like exactly what you see before it was shipped. Ben was knowledgeable and extremely pleasant to deal with. And that’s not even the good part. The quality of the material was by far superior than anything I had seen in the store and less than half the price. My initial tile cost from a local store of Carrara Marble was $18,400 for four bathrooms. Same tile and better quality from these guys cost me 5,700 including delivery. My builder told me “don’t order it, sounds too good to be true”. Guess he was wrong.”

What were you like growing up?
I was born in the UK. Coming up to my final year at University, I planned to become an Army Officer and go to Sandhurst Royal Military Academy (West Point for US readers).

I liked playing Rugby. I studied Business Studies. I was not the most diligent of students. I would rather be on the Rugby field with the team, or at the bar with the team after the game. I liked danger. Risks. A collarbone break changed my direction. I joined a major conglomerate. 100,000 applicants and they took on thirteen, I was one of the thirteen. I found my place there. Became one of the best of the thirteen and that allowed me to travel with the company.

Pricing:

  • Italian Marble is popular. 2″ Hexagon is available online for $11.75 and Free Shipping
  • Arabesque is one of the most popular formats. Beveled Arabesque in particular we are the only company with it on a mesh in large format for $10.95 a Square Foot and Free Shipping.
  • Collections. We sell collections of premium Italian Stone. Different Mosaics, Trims, Tiles all from $7.00 a Square Foot. We match it up by going though pallets and lots. No other company goes into this level of care. Most do not because they do not stock the inventory, so they cannot.

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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