Executive Summary Rock of Ages (ROA) is an industry leader in granite quarrying and manufacturing, specializing in memorials. With nine quarries ranging through Vermont, Quebec, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and recently Ukraine, ROA offers a variety of granite colors and grades for the selective consumer. Until January, 2008, ROA also had a retail division dedicated to memorials. Although ROA has been in business for over a century, economic factors in a global economy are eroding on their once rock-solid consumer base.
Specifically, ROA has operated at a loss over the last several years, with 2008 being a transition year due to the discontinuation of the Retail division. This case study serves to evaluate ROA’s strategic direction given both internal and external environmental factors using best-of-breed analysis tools. Table of Contents Executive Summary2 Rock of Ages Case Study 2 Table of Contents2 Introduction3 Mission and Goals4 Situation Analysis5 SWOT Analysis10 Porter’s Five Forces12 Sustainable Competitive Advantage13 Resources and Capabilities14 Performance Measures16 Strategic Integration17
Bibliography22 Introduction Rock of Ages is in trouble. The following pages illustrate ROA’s declining performance over the last five years in revenue while operational costs continue to rise. Return on equity plummets while debt continues to climb. This diminishes shareholder value for ROA, and impacts their long-term viability. The time for action is upon them. To evaluate the appropriate strategy to revitalize ROA’s business, we employ several analyses – essentially inspecting the company from separate facets as though it were a prism. First, we analyze the current strategy and direction.
What does the organization already have in motion to change their fiscal landscape? Next, we perform situational analyses of ROA by evaluating both internal and external factors which have shaped their current situation. These include: A financial analysis over the last five years, marking both long and short term trends. SWOT analysis to determine where ROA shapes their future, and where the present situations are allowed to shape ROA. Porters Five Forces analysis to evaluate how well ROA is positioned to respond to competitive pressures and which area of competition require immediate response.
A competitive advantage analysis appraises how ROA differentiates them from the competition, and whether this advantage is sustainable. After gathering the data from these analyses, it’s used to create performance measures and mapped to strategic integration throughout the organization. The case study ends with recommendations based on the analyses for ROA to regain market share and preserve brand equity. Mission and Goals Founded in 1885, Rock of Ages (ROA) is nearing its 125’s birthday as a granite quarrying and manufacturing company. Priding themselves on lasting granite memorialization, the company sells wholesale memorials to
independent retailers in the US and Canada. Until January of 2008, ROA operated three separate lines of business: Manufacturing, Quarrying, and Retail. The Retail division has been discontinued, allowing the company to focus on the remaining two core business divisions. ROA’s newly revised strategy now focuses on the following elements (ROA, 2008): Strategic alliances With the Retail division’s discontinuation, business partnerships with local and regional retailers, funeral directors, and cemetery owners is critical to ROA’s continued growth and success.
Direct sales of private mausoleums and civic memorials Local, state, and federal funding are available for creating and renovating civic memorials. One of the recent commissions for ROA produced the world’s largest statue of Pope John Paul II at over 30 feet tall. (ROA Civic, 2008) Personalization ROA seeks to provide a product line with enough variability to meet the needs of anybody in search of a memorialization solution. Expansion of quarries and quarry business Until recently, ROA focused the business on domestic quarries only; owning and operating ten quarry properties in the US and Canada.
ROA recently brokered a partnership with VIKA, Ltd. , a Ukrainian quarrying company, to broaden their product offering and remain competitive with overseas competition. Reduce overhead and streamline operations Having recently sold the Retail division, ROA seeks to decrease redundant job functions and administrative office space costs. ROA focuses on product differentiation through quality. The only company who offers a perpetual warranty (guaranteed forever), ROA products set the standard for granite memorials. Situation Analysis ROA’s situation is defined largely by recent financials.
They have demonstrated year over year decline in revenue, profit, and net income since 2003 as demonstrated in Figure 1 (below). (MSN Money, 2008) Figure 1 ROA’s 2006 and 2007 financials have been resubmitted to accommodate for the discontinuation of the Retail organization, providing skewed trend lines. However, one will still note continued decline of net income between 2006 and 2007 in spite of a slight increase in both revenue and gross profit. This additional loss has been attributed to the costs of discontinued operations (Retail), and constitutes a $5. 2 million cost in 2007.
The resubmission of 2006 financials have repositioned 2006 as a bounce-back year for some key metrics. Figure 2 (below) illustrates improved fixed assets turnover and inventory turnover, with a minor decline in total asset turnover. Figure 2 Figure 3 Not all key metrics show positive gain since the 2006 resubmission due to the Retail discontinuation. Figure 3 (right) shows continued decline of return on equity following the same trend line as 2003-2004. This demonstrates poor performance for stockholders. While return on equity falls, ROA’s debt ration continues to climb.
Years 2006-2007 show this trend leveling off, and the current ratio in figure 5 has started to climb. These ratios will need to significantly improve to increase the company’s liquidity. Figures 4 & 5 While sales performance appears dismal, recent trends are largely due to the resubmission of the 2006 financials and the discontinuation of Retail. Sales revenue increased approximately 10% between 2006 and 2007 with the restated financials removing the Retail division. Figure 6 Figure 7 (below) evaluates the company’s assets and liabilities over time.
This more clearly illustrates the benefit of selling the Retail organization, as the working capital once again approaches the current liabilities, and current assets are back on the rise. Again, as ROA reduces debt their market attractiveness will improve. Figure 7 Financial Summary While much of the fiscal landscape is in a period flux for ROA due to the discontinuation of the Retail business line, much work is left to put them on the road to financial recovery. Based on the company’s performance and analysts predictions, few investors would risk ROAC in their portfolio. (MSN Money, 2008) SWOT Analysis
Highlights of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats currently met by ROA are illustrated in figure 8 (below). Figure 8 (Chapman, 2008) Strengths ROA has a long history of product quality. Backed by the industry’s only perpetual warranty, ROA stands behind their product for the customer and the customer’s heirs forever. The quality begins with the type of stone quarried from the Earth, as many of ROA’s quarries yield granite composition among the best in the world. (Granite Museum, 2008) In addition to quality, ROA also moves more quantity of granite than any other quarrying company in the US.
(USGS, 1997) These factors have drawn and kept a talented workforce at ROA, and provided a brand name well recognized in the granite industry. Weaknesses Although ROA demonstrates generations of granite expertise, there are some modern day business challenges which impact ROA’s profitability. Distribution channels are in need of expansion to reach a broader and more diverse customer segment. While this must be driven through key business partnerships, better management of enhanced distribution partnerships will require investment in information technology systems to integrate the ROA web presence with consumers, partners, and suppliers.
ROA suffers from limited R&D funding, relying on an industry as stable and solid as the product they sell. With consumers growing increasingly demanding in terms of customization, ROA needs to stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation. Perhaps a prospective customer could upload a photo and see various types of stone to virtually carve it onto in an effort to facilitate better and faster sales. Putting choice into the hand of the consumer will create another differentiating factor for ROA to sustain their competitive advantage. Opportunities & Threats
Some of the external factors for ROA present themselves as opportunities rather than threats. For example, the rate of cremation is rising – currently ~25% and expected to rise to ~40% by 2010 (see figure 9 below). This presents an opportunity for the growing customer market that need an alternate method for memorializing these loved ones. A new product or deviation from the existing product line would be required to meet this need. Figure 9 (CANA, 2006) SWOT Summary This SWOT analysis reinforces ROA’s key strengths (branding, quality, labor force) which the company should continue to maintain.
More importantly, however, is the revelation of the weaknesses in the organization (distribution, R&D, strategic partnerships) and threats (overseas competition, labor unions) requiring a plan of action. This case study’s recommendations for that plan can be found in the Conclusion and Recommendation section. Porter’s Five Forces ROA’s competition framework is illustrated in Figure 10 below. Porter’s framework maps out the five competitive pressures for an industry. Figure 10 For ROA’s quarrying and manufacturing divisions, the larger threats stem from buyer power and substitution.
Buyer power is a significant force as ROA maintains high pricing in comparison to the competition. ROA seeks to differentiate their product offering through quality and their perpetual warranty, charging a premium for these services. Buyer power is also emphasized by the growing number of alternative solutions available for memorialization. Lower cost bronze markers are common for cremation memorials, as well as spending alternatives for the urn. In these instances, the granite products ROA is known for are losing market demand, and as a result consumers have a higher bargaining power.
Another of the forces in need of attention is industry rivalry. In conference calls with Norwich MBA students, ROA representatives have stated overseas competition is the fastest growing threat. “A granite company in China can quarry, manufacture, ship and resell a product for less [cost] than it takes [ROA] to create a finished product. ” (Brock, 2007) While ROA contends these overseas monuments are inferior quality, this source for price competition creates diminished profit margins for ROA. Summary Similar to our SWOT analysis, we’re seeing a common theme for ROA to focus on specific areas of the business: Overseas competition
Price Dwindling market segment Need for strategic partnerships (distribution, retail) Focusing on these factors will stabilize the company and provide a basis for sustained competitive advantage. Sustainable Competitive Advantage ROA’s competitive advantage is based on quality in raw materials, quality in manufacturing, and the industry’s only perpetual warranty. While these differentiating factors allow dominance over a portion of the target consumer market, the remaining consumers are less discerning on quality and more driven by price.
To meet the needs of this consumer segment, ROA will need to offer a lower priced alternative product line. This can be accomplished through overseas partnerships, similar to the VIKA partnership in the Ukraine. Limiting themselves to the premier segment of a diminishing market will spell ROA’s doom. To protect the ROA brand’s association to quality, the lower-end product marketing could be done under a separate business name. The following table lists the resources and capacities for ROA. Resources and Capabilities Table 1 Importance Relative Strength Comments RESOURCES R1. Finance 9 2
ROA has shown steady decline year over year. R2. Technology 5 2 ROA has not made significant investments in technology to enable the business R3. Plant & Equipment 8 8 These facilities are key components to ROA’s continued success R4. Location 4 8 ROA operates in Vermont – in close proximity to their quarries R5. Distribution (dealership network) 9 6 With sale of the retail division, the distribution network is critical. R6. Brands 7 7 ROA has a strong brand in the industry CAPABILITIES C1. Product Development 6 5 ROA must develop new products to meet changing market needs C2. Purchasing 7 4
ROA needs to perform a cost benefit analysis for overseas procurement of raw and semi-finished product C3. Engineering 8 9 ROA has a strong skilled labor force C4. Manufacturing 8 7 Additional cost-saving measures may be available through partnerships. C5. Financial Management 9 4 Though the Retail division has now been discontinued, the company has suffered financial losses year over year. C6. R&D 5 1 No real R&D investment C7. Marketing & Sales 8 5 Limited web presence, lack of integrated CRM C8. Government Relations 8 8 Much of the Civic Memorial business is dependent on this business line.
C9. Strategic Management 9 6 Discontinuing Retail was a sound decision, but was it too late? The company needs to get a few profitable quarters to satisfy shareholder concerns. Figure 11 Several key strengths and weaknesses are evident based on this evaluation. Of particular note is R1- ROA’s financials. This has been an area of weakness due, in large part, to the Retail organization. By discontinuing Retail, ROA has stepped onto the road to financial recovery, yet there are still additional steps needed to ensure that recovery takes place.
These are addressed in other key weaknesses, such as partnership management, market incentives for distribution dealers, and contraction of operational expenses. Focusing on ROA’s strengths, engineering and manufacturing remain core assets to the company. The government relations ROA has been making are also strong assets for the organization, allowing growth in the civic memorial business where federal funding is required. Performance Measures Through the SWOT, Porter’s Five, and Resource and Capabilities matrixes, we have identified several strategic areas within ROA which are core to the growth and business success.
Table 2 (below) captures these objectives with key performance measurements. These metrics above are broken into the strategic areas of financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth. Table 2 Strategic Performance Areas Objectives Measures Actual (2006) Actual (2007) Change Financial Cash Flow Positive net cash flow Net change in cash $ 1. 36 Mil. ($ 1. 39 Mil) ($ 2. 75 Mil. ) Revenue Increase sales Gross sales $ 50. 16 Mil. $ 55. 55 Mil. $ 5. 39 Mil. Debt Decrease debt Current Liabilities $ 47. 00 Mil. $ 27. 87 Mil. ($19. 13Mil. ) Customer
Dealer relations Improve relations Dealer based sales N/A N/A N/A New products Introduce new low end product lines Customer adoption of new product N/A N/A N/A Customer satisfaction Survey to evaluate customer satisfaction Survey results N/A N/A N/A Internal Processes Manufacturing costs Decrease costs Manufacturing COGS $ 17. 6 Mil. $ 18. 0 Mil. $ 0. 4 Mil. Inventory Turnover Maintain or improve Inventory Turnover 1. 77 1. 89 0. 12 Distributor relations Improve relations Distributor survey N/A N/A N/A Learning and Growth Employee Satisfaction Maintain or improve
Employee survey N/A N/A N/A Core skill competencies Improve skills Skills testing N/A N/A N/A The financial section outlines areas of positive performance, but also opportunities for improvement. Revenue improved 10% between 2006 and 2007, and debt fell 40%. While these numbers are drastic improvements, they are tempered with the discontinuation of the Retail business line, providing uncertainty on the sustainability of the recovery trend. More troubling is the slip in cash flow, as it fell from a positive $1. 36 million to a negative $1. 4 million.
One will note that many of the metrics necessary in other sections are unavailable. These are metrics critical for the organization to monitor, and have either been ignored or are not publicly unavailable. Dealer relations are of particular importance with the discontinuation of the Retail organization. Strategic Integration Many suggestions brought about from these analyses are consistent with ROA’s stated mission and goals. However, while the goals ROA works towards are correct, there is still some question on the strategy in place to achieve those goals.
Table 3 (below) suggests a point rating for the various segments of the business. The following section will delve into each of these initiatives in further detail. Table 3 Functional Initiatives BSC Performance Areas Affected Objectives Measures Change (2006-2007) Points HRM Human Capital Focus on strategic job families to decrease overhead SG&A Increased $0. 11 Mil 15 Finance Financial Perspective Increase Profit Net Income ($1. 19 Mil) 25 Marketing Customer Management Process Increase customer base Number of sales N/A 25 Operations Inventory Turnover
Increase quality, reduce errors Number of returns 0. 12 15 Change Leadership Organizational Capital Successful discontinuation of Retail and subsequent cultural adoption Strategic job employee satisfaction N/A 20 The order of importance suggested of 1) Finance 2) Marketing 3) Change Leadership 4) Operations 5) Human Resources are based on ROA’s SWOT and Porters 5 analyses. The company has been in steady fiscal decline over the last 5 years, and every effort must be made to limit overhead and spending while increasing sales in this pivotal time.
To carry these sales out, a new marketing effort is required, and strategic partnerships with retailers and distributors are a core component to that effort. Based on the recent company changes and forecasted changes necessary, leadership must focus on careful strategic communication to bolster morale and align culture with the new business direction. These new directions require operational processes and systems in place to enable the business. Finally, the company cannot afford to lose the talent which provides their competitive advantage.
The human capital component must focus on retaining key performers during this transition period. Conclusions & Recommendations Following the suggested order of importance listed in the previous section, we begin the recommendations with Finance. As a publicly traded company, ROA has a fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders. (Friedman, 1970) Today, that responsibility is in direct conflict with the strongly held cultural values of ROA. The company has been slow to react to the overseas threat in availability and price, and has suffered significant market erosion due to this sluggishness.
ROA prides themselves on being a US (and Vermont) company, and as a result of their industry and location are subject to significant overhead due to US Labor Union rates. While the quality of these skilled workers remains a differentiating factor, ROA must find ways to either lower domestic costs or increase offshore investments and partnerships to lower operational costs and provide a product line priced appropriately for the less discerning market segment unwilling to pay a premium for their product. This leads us into marketing recommendations.
With the discontinuation of Retail, ROA is far more dependent on strategic partnerships in distribution and retail. Incentives for these partners are critical, and must be compelling enough to differentiate ROA from other granite wholesalers. ROA needs retailers and funeral home directors to sell ROA’s product line preferentially and only use a competing brand to save a customer sale. To facilitate this brand loyalty, ROA needs current marketing materials for consumers and information which is readily available and emphasizes ROA’s competitive advantage (quality, skilled labor, perpetual warranty) over the competition.
ROA also needs a product line and pricing schedule which meets the needs of a broader segment of the market base. The ROA website needs a partner portal, such that retailers can sell ROA products through ROA’s site, as well as manage inventory and orders to ROA. This brings us to operations recommendations (we’ll address leadership at the end)… One critical facet of operations is inventory management. ROA’s inventory turnover is too low. By implementing a partner portal, orders can be integrated into both lines of business (Quarry and Manufacturing), ensuring lead times are effectively managed and inventory reduced.
As ROA increases its offshore presence, this type of a management system will be increasingly important to highlight areas of surplus and shortfall. By setting expectation with business partners accurately, ROA is enabling their partners to succeed, which in turn will anchor the partnership into the future. As ROA chooses where to allocate capital funds, marketing and operations should receive funding specific to these initiatives. As mentioned, ROA differentiates itself based on quality, and much of this quality stems from the skilled craftsmen and artisans which create their product offerings.
Quality is core to ROA’s business, and outsourcing or off shoring these strategic job functions would likely lead to diminished quality, thereby destroying the competitive advantage ROA offers. Therefore ROA should maintain the finishing and final quality assurance inspection of all products domestic, but increase the offshore supply of raw materials (granite) and have products semi-finished shipped in. This will reduce both quarrying and manufacturing overhead, while maintaining the high levels of quality ROA is known for. The final section for recommendation is leadership.
ROA’s leadership team has taken a bold step forward with discontinuation of the Retail division. However, it was done too late. The business has sustained years of lost revenue due to the failing Retail division. The leadership team has invested in offshore opportunities with VIKA. This, too, was done too late. International competition has eroded ROA’s consumer base and undersold their pricing structure. The first point of concern in evaluating ROA’s leadership is the sluggish reaction to threats and opportunities rather than proactively maneuvering the company for quicker responses.
Now is the time to unite the company behind the manufacturing and quarry divisions to ensure positive momentum from the sales of Retail. Now is the time to confront the international competition threats by investing in offshore opportunities. Now is the time to solidify the relationships with distributors and retailers with strong incentives to bolster ROA’s sales and reinforce the market branding. The second point of concern is the culture in ROA which has lead to this situation.
With the discontinuation of Retail, the company is provided with a rare opportunity to capitalize on the sense of urgency ensues to create change. (Kotter, 1996) With a carefully articulated vision and strategy, ROA has the opportunity to change the culture in the company from a lethargic reactive one to an energetic, proactive culture less likely to balk at the investment of an offshore manufacturing facility. Focusing inward on resource alignment is as critical (if not more so) as the external factors in ROA’s stated strategy. (ROA, 2008) Bibliography
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