Wood Industry Market Leader: Steve Stephens, acpi Cabinets
November 4, 2014 | 8:15 pm CST

Wood Industry Market Leader: Steve Stephens, acpi CabinetsData-driven decisions are not only the hallmarks by which Steve Stephens conducts himself, but have become underlying drivers in his work to improve the marketing and business development at acpi Cabinets.

As a marketing specialist, it’s his job to research the industry and look for solutions. ”Sometimes they are unique solutions – and sometimes they are just, ‘Wow I can’t believe we didn’t think of this before: if we just do this we have happier people.’”

Stephens developed the “research bug” while obtaining his Master’s degree at San Diego State University. He notes that while industry research “feeds product development and organization alignment,” it also provides vital feedback for improving customer relations.

“Everybody has some intent on understanding their customers, but [I believe in] really putting some teeth into it – and integrating it into your systems.”

His approach is fundamental: Develop a solid scope on how to measure success and determine the value. “Really focus on things that are going to move the needle and get customers satisfied, and build that into the project initiatives. You then have your metrics set up front.

“Then there is the quantitative side — ‘how are we doing?’” This, Stephens says, can be measured by sales or other metrics devised by the company.

In one of his previous positions with Centex Homes, Stephens says, customer surveys by JD Powers provided the company with the necessary feedback. While it could be “brutal,” he says, it was always valuable.

It is a practice that he has carried with him throughout his different jobs, and has instituted at acpi. “We are on a second quarter of feedback,” he says. “You sometimes get hit right between the eyes by what customers say – it is the main part of a feedback loop.” Because information is gathered from a large sample, he adds, if any problems do come to light, “it takes away the excuse that it could be just one comment.”

Stephens and acpi Cabinets take their commitment to service a step further, into the community. As part of the company’s launch of its Echelon Cabinetry and Advanta Cabinets brands, “we engaged a person I knew from my prior life that came in as a speaker, an ex-Navy Seal, and we have been linking to some of our activities to the Carry the Load veterans service organization,” Stephens says.

Stephens also has been actively involved with a number of charitable groups, both in Canada, where he has lived, as well as the United States. Among them has been: Shield of Athena, a non-profit organization for victims of family violence; Heifer International, which works to end hunger and poverty around the world; and Shared Housing, which helps people find affordable housing options.

“Historically, I have always had an active involvement [in community service],” he says. “I wish I was doing more.”

Quick Glimpse:

• Education: BA, The University of Texas/Austin, MBA (marketing) , San Diego State

• Number of years at the company: approximately 2

• Word or phrase that describes you? Passionate

• Who have you tried to emulate in business? “From a business perspective, Wes Ireland was by far the most influential person I ever worked for. And in a totally unrelated way, Nelson Mandela — Passionate and committed.”


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About the author
Karen Koenig | Editor

Karen M. Koenig has more than 30 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As editor of special publications under the Woodworking Network brand, including the Red Book Best Practices resource guide and website, Karen’s responsibilities include writing, editing and coordinating of editorial content. She is also a contributor to FDMC and other Woodworking Network online and print media owned by CCI Media. She can be reached at karen.koenig@woodworkingnetwork.com