Working in a family-owned business where its culture is love and respect is rewarding. Employees feel like they are part of a family and are treated with respect and kindness. That is precisely the motivation behind the foundation of the Triton Stone Group. In this episode, Steve Farber is joined by Katie Jensen and Rachel Jones, Co-Founders at Triton Stone Group. Seeing the opportunity to be a part of rebuilding their community after Hurricane Katrina, Katie and Rachel opened the Triton Stone Group. Today, they share the story of how the company was founded, the dynamics of working in a family-run business, and the culture they foster at Triton Stone.
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The Dynamics Of Running A Family Business With Katie Jensen And Rachel Jones
My guests in this episode are Katie Jensen and Rachel Jones. They are the Co-Founders of a company called Triton Stone Group based in the New Orleans area. They are a family business. Katie is the CEO. Rachel is the VP. Not only are they co-founders in a family business, but they are also sisters who work together. I’ll give you a high level on this.
Triton Stone Group, as the name suggests, is a company that focuses on high-quality, natural stones like marble, granite, etc., the stuff that you would use to put in a new countertop in the home that you just bought or a building and everything related to that. They have stores all throughout the Midwest, and the Southeast They are growing like crazy. Katie and Rachel, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having us.
Thank you, Steve.
Let’s start with the CEO. Katie, you started this company how long ago now?
In August 2022, it’ll be seventeen years. We opened up in August of 2006 right after Katrina. Our family wanted to open up a company to invest in the rebuilding of the city. We started there with five people. It’s been a roller coaster of an adventure when you look back from where we started to where we are now. It’s been a great ride.
How old were you when you started the company, Katie?
I was 23. I lasted ten months in Corporate America up in New Jersey working for a shipping company. I realized I was one employee out of 200,000 worldwide. We had grown up. Our father’s an entrepreneur. Coming from that background, I realized this was not the place for me. The impetus following Katrina was to move down back to New Orleans and start something that we could grow.
Rachel, were you guys tight growing up?
Katie and I have always been two peas in a pod. I was always the sister who wanted to hang out with her and her friends. Luckily for me, she was the sister that was very welcoming and always included me. I was still in college when the idea came about to start Triton. I was in the business school at the University of Southern Mississippi. It wasn’t even a thought. It was like, “Katie’s going to start a company. I’m in. Let me know what I need to do.” We were all-in from the beginning.
Did you finish school or did you just say, “That’s it, I’m out of here?”
I finished school. It opened in 2006. I graduated in 2007. My senior year was the first year that they were getting up and running. My husband, Dan, started working with Katie on day one taking over the outside sales position. As soon as I graduated in May, I transferred right over and feet on the ground to start helping to build the team.
There were five of you in the beginning. Is that what you said?
When we can take control of the brand, that's when the culture piece becomes more of the main focus of our conversation. Click To Tweet
I started with five people. I was like, “We were just too naive to think we could fail.” We were like, “This is what we have to do. We’re going to do it. People want to buy stone from us.” It was a lot of energy. It was my future brother-in-law, a cousin, a friend of my brother’s, and then a daughter of one of my parents’ friends. It was all indirectly family and friends. It was like, “We’re going to make this happen.” As we grew, we attracted a very young group of individuals who wanted to grow. They could sense that there was a future with our company and family.
It was the inspiration that came out of the tragedy of Katrina. You saw the entire area get submerged in water. Most of us can’t even conceive of how horrible that was. You wanted to be in a business that was somehow related to the rebuilding of the area. Am I hearing that right?
Absolutely. Right after Katrina, our brother joined forces with our cousin. They created a nonprofit, I Desire NOLA. It was this huge campaign to bring attention back to the city to the rebuilding. When the conversation started about Triton, it fit that mold of what we were already trying to do. With the influences that our family has in the city, it made a lot of sense that we would be able to be a part of the rebuilding and be a consistent face for the homeowners of the area that they could rely on.
It was like a trusted source. Also, there were lots of contractors and people coming into the area. We were able to provide a service and give them a quality product. They knew we were a reputable company. My father’s company is in trucking and logistics. We also had that as a help and support to be able to move the containers and that knowledge. It was a very big help at the beginning.
As a family and as a family business through your dad, you’re known in the community. You had a certain level of credibility. There were a lot of people who were coming into the city to take advantage of the resources that are going to be needed to rebuild. You started on the basis of that credibility. I get all that, but why stone? What was it that brought you to that specific market?
It was a connection through our father’s trucking company. He was a customs broker. He was clearing containers for a company called Triton Stone. The first location of Triton Stone was in South Haven, Mississippi, but it’s right over the border. Those owners were interested in expanding the footprint. Originally, my dad and brother went up to South Haven to talk to them. We were going to be opening up as a distributorship. We were going to be the third location, which got us the connection to the stone suppliers overseas.
Our location was individually owned and operated, but it gave us the platform and the business model. Through them, we were able to import stones and containers. I went up to Mississippi. I had a three-day training session. It was like, “Let’s go sell some stone.” That was the impetus and looking at the business plan, the business model, that’s what we were like, “Let’s move forward with this model and company.” That’s how the idea came about.
Fast forward, you guys own the brand now, right?
What was the evolution of that?
Fast forwards from 2006 to 2017, we had opened up nine locations in the Southeast. At that point, we had become very good operators. We had built that team of people who were young, motivated, and wanted to grow. We’re creating something special. I and Rachel had already made direct relationships with anyone in the supply chain that we needed. It was a decision as a family. We had to either decide to buy out the brand, change our name, or rebrand ourselves as our own company. The prior owners of the brand were willing to sell. It worked out that we purchased the brand and bought five more stores. That set the platform for where we are now, which we have 28 locations across the Southeast and Midwest.
When you guys were starting the company, I get that there was a mission element to it. It’s to help the city rebuild. You focused on stone because there was an opportunity there and you saw how that could work. Did you give any thought in the beginning way back when there were five of you to what company you wanted to build beyond the stuff that you were wanting to sell? In other words, the culture that you wanted to create. Was there any discussion around that at all way back in the very beginning?
I don’t think there was any specific discussion around it, but there was a stark contrast in the way that we ran our locations compared to the way that the original owners ran theirs. It was more of we knew what we didn’t want to be and what we didn’t want to do. There was always that family element included. We’ve built our business based on trusting family, friends, and connections through family or friends. For a long time, I would say, “That was my sister’s best friend in high school. That was my dad’s best friend’s niece.” There was always some connection and because we were so genuine, we were able to build this very solid base.
When we were ready to make that decision to continue to grow and buy out the brand, that was what gave us the confidence to know that we can do this. We had an amazing team. I would say at that point when we were able to take control of the brand, that’s when the culture piece became more of the main focus of our conversation like, “Where are we going to take this now? What are we going to do to elevate to the next level?”
We onboarded those new team members because they didn’t come up with us or know our family. Organically, it was all very important that we made sure everyone felt like they were part of our family. We did a great job of that. Now, it’s becoming even more important as everyone knows. We truly love what we do. We love each other. Our team sees that and not just each other, but our whole family. That has inspired people to get behind our mission.
A lot of the culture that evolved, in the beginning, was an extension of the family and community dynamics that you already had. Back up just a little bit and tell us about the family. You talked a little bit about your dad but give us a little color on the Jensen tribe.
There are seven siblings in total. Our oldest brother is Christian. He is the President of all of The Jensen Companies, which there is a conglomerate of companies with which Triton is included in.
How many companies are those?
There are four operating companies and a real estate holding company.
He has been also in the family business before he graduated college. He worked with my dad as soon as he could work. He was almost fostering us to get on board at the time, like, “What are we going to do? Where are we going to start? We got to do something.”
He is a very big picture. Christian is amazing. He challenges the norm. It’s great because I’m more of a doer. I’m going to execute. Rachel and I are able to say, “We can make this happen.” He challenges like, “But let’s think bigger. Let’s do this.” In the beginning, it was a great mix together of strengths.
Next is Katie and then me. You have talked about what we do. Our next younger sister is Mary. She has been working with the company as well since she graduated. She worked in our San Antonio location. She’s moved back home a few years ago. She’s been in our accounts payable department for the last few years.
Our brother David works for one of the other companies called Plastics. His wife, Megan, works with us. She’s over all of our logistics and our distribution centers. They moved to Charleston right out of college and there was an opportunity for us to open up a location in Charleston. They moved to move their family to Charleston. They did the Green Field. It was a lot of hard work at the beginning and got it up and running. They then moved back to New Orleans a couple of years ago as well. She runs logistics and distribution.
Claire was also part of the Charleston startup team. She and her husband moved there and were part of getting that location going. Her husband’s job has taken her to different areas of the country, but she has continued to work for us in several different capacities. She is adaptable and whatever needs to be done, she’ll do.
Our youngest sister is awesome. I like to say she’s the badass of the family because she was like, “You guys are all doing this. I’m going to go be a pilot and do my own thing.” It’s awesome because it’s her personality. She still supports us and admires us from afar. She lives in Birmingham. Her husband did work for us for a short time when they lived here. That’s everybody.
There are sixteen grandkids among the seven kids. We like babies, family, and chaos.
When we genuinely love what we do, our team sees that and inspires them to get behind our mission. Click To Tweet
I’ve done a fair amount of work with family-owned businesses over the years. Most of us would say, “That sounds great. You’ve got a close family who does business together and everybody gets along. Isn’t that fantastic? Wouldn’t it be great to be in a business like that with my family?” That’s what some people might think. Other people might be saying, “That sounds like hell.”
What I’m saying is that just because a business is a “family business,” it isn’t necessarily a formula for a great culture. We’ve seen plenty of examples where it creates more drama and politics. We’ve seen families split apart as a result of being in business together. There’s a dynamic that you already have in your family. This is my “from the outside looking in” that easily transferred into a business context. I’m going to guess that you guys are not argument-free.
No, of course not.
We always agree. What are you talking about?
I’ll definitely give you a little color to a huge reason why we have been able to get to where we are now. When my mom was growing up, one of her best friends was the Retif Oil family. There were two daughters and a son. When the dad passed away, he left everything to the son and completely cut the two daughters out of the business, the trust, or whatever it was. It completely split the family apart. They don’t speak to each other until now. From an outside perspective for my mom, it affected her greatly to say, “What a tragedy. I will never let this happen in my family.”
This was way far beyond any of us being old enough to even think about starting a business, but when it became apparent that that was the trajectory that we were on, she was very adamant about keeping the family principles and the fact that at the end of the day, you’re blood. That’s the most important thing. You love each other. All else goes aside until you can get back to that core level of love and respect.
We have had bumps along the way. Everybody has to settle into their different roles and that requires a lot of respect for each other. For me and I think for Katie, too, that has been a huge part of why we’ve been able to overcome some of the past disagreements that we may have had and make that a priority, no matter what, to figure it out.
The base is love. We have to start with that and the fact that we’re a family. You throw everything else out the door. You say, “Check your ego at the door. We want to love and support each other.” Once everyone realizes what their role is and that at the end of the day, we all have the same goal, we’re able to get there. Credit to my mom and both our parents for instilling that in us because it’s not easy. It is wonderful, but it’s challenging. What’s hard about it is worth ten times what you get out of it. It’s been an amazing blessing. We’ve evolved over the years and got to a great state.
It’s not an uncommon story for a younger sibling to both look up to an older sibling and be envious of that person at the same time as the ego gets challenged and all that. I’m looking at the two of you. Katie is the CEO and Rachel is the VP. Katie is the boss. Talk about that. Rachel, for you, did you have to work through any feelings of envy or any dynamic like that?
I would say, absolutely. In the beginning, it was challenging because we both have strong personalities. We both have a lot to contribute. There was a lot that had to do with the timing of the way that things played out. For lack of other reasons, I got married and started having kids right away. I was in and then out. For a couple of those first few years where you have to have a leader of a company. You have to have a consistent head, that wasn’t me. I wasn’t there and I was okay with that because I knew the path that I wanted for my family life. Maybe retrospectively for a little bit, it was like, “I see that I made this decision to step back, but maybe didn’t realize what long-term decision it was going to be.”
I have to give credit to Katie because she has never diminished my role or my contribution to the company. We each have amazing strengths and assets to offer and together it’s double. There’s no need for it to be like, “I did this or she did this so I need to do this.” That hasn’t been an issue. We’re sisters and we work together, but we’re also friends. We go out together. Our group of friends hangs out together.
It’s not even like we work together and it’s fine, but then like, “I don’t want to see you until Monday.” We worked together all week and then I’m like, “What are we doing tonight? Where are we going?” That also has helped us to be able to work through any issues where we can each sit down and be like, “This happened. It upset me. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.”
Also, being humble enough to apologize and be like, “Okay. Noted. Let’s talk through this and do this better the next time.” As our company has grown, I feel like our relationship has grown because you have to have structure and direction for all of our team. They have to understand, “You can’t go to Rachel and talk to me. You have to talk to me.” It has been a learning curve but it’s exciting where we are and truly poised for growth. It’s so important that our team sees that we’re a cohesive unit because that instills confidence in them that the leadership is connected.
You guys have a big family. How many employees do you now have at Triton?
We have 354.
You’re in growth mode and you want to be bigger. You have a big family, but it’s not 350 people in your family. What about people coming into the company who aren’t part of the family and are part of your extended community through friendships and all of that? Maybe it’s a company that you’ve acquired or people that you’ve hired in a different part of the country.
In many family-owned businesses, there’s that dynamic that says, “Either you’re in the family or you’re not.” The opportunities are there for people who are in the family. If you’re not in the family, you have to deal with it. What does it look like for you guys? For somebody like me, for example, who’s not in the family?
Our job and goal are to make everyone feel that they’re part of the family. At the base level, everyone wants to be appreciated. They want to be told and feel like they’ve done a good job and they’re contributing to something higher than just selling stones. At the end of the day, I tell people, “We could sell widgets. What it’s about is our secret sauce.” We’ve evolved. We acquired a company in the Midwest. On day one, we are giving them welcome bags. We give them Tabasco and Zapp’s potato chips or any way that we can connect them to the bigger goal.
The bigger goal is that we create this true unit of rock stars that the sky’s the limit. We’ve been on this cultural evolution. It’s exciting. I feel like my role has changed. I used to be very involved in everything and no one could do anything without okay-ing it with me. I’ve had to be like, “Katie, you need to step back and trust your team.” Trust that they’re going to do the right thing for Triton so then I can make sure our team’s inspiring their team.
We’re building leaders. We are attracting top talent from other companies because they want that connection. It’s not just numbers and goals. It’s truly about, “You are important to us.” Rachel handwrites birthday cards to every single employee. You don’t know how many emails we get like, “This is amazing. I can’t believe you guys do this.” It’s little things that we’re trying to do.
It’s to add this level of connection. As you said, everybody wants to feel connected. It’s deep-rooted within us from where we’re from. We’re from New Orleans. In New Orleans, if you know the culture, it’s like, “The more the merrier.” Everybody’s welcome. In the end, that’s also helped us transcend as we’ve had these acquisitions. I don’t think that there’s ever been a person that’s hired that Katie or I have ever been like, “That’s the receptionist in Charlotte. It doesn’t matter.”
There is no way. If I’m in Charlotte and you started, I’m going to sit there and talk to you. “Where are you from? Do you have kids? What’s your history?” That’s what they want and crave. It’s ten minutes of my time that is going to make a lasting impression on that person. It’s a lot of little things like that that we do naturally that build on top of that to make the culture that we want.
How often do you guys get that opportunity for those face-to-face conversations with people in other parts of the country?
Not as much as we like. We traveled pretty regularly. It’s so apparent when we do go to the stores that people are so appreciative that we’re there. They are so happy about FaceTime. We had a meeting about the fact that we need to see the stores more because that does make such lasting impacts on the teams at these locations.
We have our town halls. We had a big event with customers. We were able to bring down our managers and one level, but equally important are our drivers and our warehouse team. They’re the lifeblood of us. If we don’t have our drivers delivering our stone, we can’t make sales. It’s so important that they understand how much they’re appreciated. We’re doing an appreciation of all our forklift drivers and drivers. We are doing a slideshow and making sure they feel part of the team and know how much we appreciate them.
You used that word a couple of times. Around these parts, we like the word love. You have a loving family, which is extending into a business where you both said that you love what you’re doing. You want people to love it as well. Talk a little bit about what that looks like, could look like, or should look like in the way that you operate your business and particularly, as you look towards the future for growing the company. I’ll simplify the question. What does or should love to look like for you guys?
At a base level, everyone wants to be appreciated. They want to be told that and feel like they've done an excellent job and are contributing to something higher than just selling stones. Click To Tweet
For me, it’s genuine. It’s doing what you say you’re going to do. It’s showing and proving it in certain aspects of new programs that we put out or initiatives that we have. We have some great internal programs that we established a few years ago. Those have been a huge part of why we have a lot of people get attached to the company and the culture. It’s because they’ve either seen a coworker be able to be helped by us or has been able to reach out and say like, “I need help,” and then they get that help.
Can you give me an example of a program that you’ve done before?
It’s called Triton Cares. It’s employee-funded and Triton-matched depending on what the circumstances are. When they’re hired, it’s in their hire packet. They can elect to donate $1, $2, or $5 off of every paycheck. It goes into a fund and then we have a board of people who oversee the money and decide the way that it’s used. For example, we have somebody in Huntsville who has COVID for the second time. She has used all of her PTO and can’t come to work. Triton Cares is paying for her to have an additional week off of work. There was a terrible tragedy in New Orleans. One of our employees was shot. After work, he was riding his bike and a drive-by shooting. He was killed.
We were able to raise close to almost $8,000 for his family and paid for funeral expenses. His cousin worked for us. I paid for him to be off of work for two weeks. Those are things that people are like, “You guys are serious. You’re stepping out to make sure that we’re not just taking this money and doing nothing with it.” At the end of the year, we have the opportunity to assess what’s in the fund and donate it to a charity of everyone’s choice or let it roll over and continue to be able to help the employees because that’s what it’s for. It’s to help the employees.
This is the full disclosure moment here. You guys, me, and my team are embarking on a journey together here. We’re all very excited about it. We’re going to be working together for the next few years to help you guys become even more of who you already are. Is that a fair way of saying it?
From your perspective, love was already important to you. What was the impetus for you guys reaching out to me in the beginning? What are your hopes for what we can do over the next few years together?
We had undergone a big acquisition of the brand and five stores in 2017. We’re on this train. I would say we were maybe losing our way. We were just making sure we were hitting numbers and doing these things that weren’t translating to investing back in our team. What started it, full transparency is we did an employee survey. Our CFO, David, is also a great big thinker. He’s always wanting me to do new things. He’s like, “Let’s do this employee survey.” We did the survey and I’m like, “I love Triton. Doesn’t everyone love Triton?” They didn’t. It was pretty glaringly obvious that we were failing at a lot of things.
We had expanded quicker than our infrastructure was ready for. Things were getting dropped through the cracks. Our team was feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and underappreciated. It’s lots of things. For me, that wasn’t okay. Rachel can tell you. Not that I’m saying I like to win, but I want to make sure we’re doing the best. I want to have the best company and the best team and make sure everyone is on board. It was eye-opening. Immediately I’m like, “We’re having a meeting.” All the team flew in. We talked about what we were going to do for our team and that started off our employee engagement initiative.
Fast forward to Christmas time, one of the managers on our team mentioned your book, The Radical Leap to Todd, who’s our COO. He told me to read it. It spoke to me. I’ve mentioned it to you before. I feel that organically, the things in your book were what we were doing, but we had lost ourselves along the way. My goal is that we can inspire all the teams to act out your leadership principles. I didn’t force everyone to read it but ask them nicely to read your book.
Full disclosure, she loves to read and always has. In the course of our career together, she’s constantly walking in the office, “You should read this book. Here’s this article. Read this article.” She walks in and she’s like, “You should read this.” I’m like, “Another one? We just finished a book.” She’s like, “Just read or listen to it. It’s easy. It’s a story. It’s not a boring one. I promise.” I’m like, “Okay. Fine.”
I read it and I was like, “This is what we need. This is an interjection of life. We can use these principles and form around some stuff that we’re already doing, but some stuff that we need to do.” Also, the rest of our team and I saw the way that it truly spoke to Katie and made her put the connection between where we were and where we want to go. It gave us a path that we could follow and a narrative that we could focus around. We had our big December meeting focused on it and our town halls were also focused on it.
Some of the ideas and initiatives that have even come in the last few months have been outstanding. I had a call this morning with our San Antonio region. Because of the book and town halls, they took it upon themselves to create this hype team for Texas. They have this whole schedule of events and of fun stuff that they do like National Ice Cream Day and Bring Your Dog to Work Day. It’s seeing the way that it affects people, reinvigorates them, and has them almost recharged and re-energized towards their careers to say, “If we can duplicate this across the board, the sky is the limit.”
It helped my mindset change. You think they’re simple, but when you have a company with 350 people, it’s like, “I don’t work between Christmas and New Year’s. I don’t think it’s fair that we’re asking for our team’s work. We should close.” The buy-in and the fact that our team appreciates that. We’re open on Saturdays for customers to come and view stone. They work so we’re trying to accommodate them, but also equally, “What about our team?” They need to see their kids’ soccer games and baseball games. That’s not fair. I called Todd and was like, “Todd, I think we need to close on Saturday.” He’s like, “Excuse me. Did somebody steal your phone? Is this Katie? Who am I talking to?”
I’m like, “Todd, I’m serious.” Our team needs to know that we care about them. I also trust them to hit their numbers and make happen what they need to make happen. I want them to know that I trust them enough. “Hit your numbers, but you don’t have to work on Saturdays.” There are so many things that are coming out of this mindset change that has been great. We’re barely even tapping into it. It’s exciting.
Being open or closed on Saturday has been a long-standing debate within our company because nobody wants to work on Saturdays, but it was a necessary evil. We’ve talked about it before, but it was always back to the numbers. How much money do you make by staying open?
How many people come through?
When we looked at that decision through the lens with love at the forefront, it was like, “This is an easy decision. We need to close. They need to be able to have that same opportunity to have a whole weekend off.” From the team that has been around for many years, watching Katie evolve through these different facets of Triton’s life has been so awesome to see that she’s a leader that’s not ever going to say, “I’ve grown enough. I’m the best.” She’ll always strive to be better and do better. It inspires our team to also have that at their forefront. How can they be better for their teams and how can they inspire leaders within their regions? That is a huge part of it, too.
The impetus for this next phase for you guys came out of your desire to check your assumptions against the reality of people’s experience in working here. It would have been easy to say, “We love this company so everybody does.”
Take it or leave it.
We’re doing great.
Look at the numbers. The numbers are great and we’re having a good time, but that’s not what you did. You said, “Let’s do a reality check.” The message that you got from that reality check was, “Oh.”
It was eye-opening.
It was an LSM. We do like to be the best. When we were at that point, we were so in our own zone that we forget about what other people’s perspectives are and what their day-to-day looks like because we don’t see that. It could have gone in either direction. You could have gotten those results and been like, “They don’t know what they’re talking about.” It was like, “This is not okay. We need to fix this.”
I’ve sent it to our meetings. We have 100% retention that every single person loves Triton. What do we need to do to get there? I want to do that. We did the survey six months later. We increased three times, but we still weren’t at 100%. We still have room to grow and improve. That’s my new ambition and goal.
Love is genuine. It's doing what you say you will do, showing it, and proving it. Click To Tweet
There’s room to grow and improve on the cultural elements. As the company is, if you freeze it in time right now, but then when you add on top of it that you’re going to have new people and locations. As the company grows, that’s an additional challenge. It’s one thing to say, “We have this group of people that we’ve worked with for X period of time and we’ll work with them. That’s who we are so let’s work on this together, which is part of it.”
At the same time, let’s bring new people in. I’ve worked for companies whose love is not something that would even be mentioned. First of all, let’s look back at the past one more time. When the five of you, the original team, started this company, did you want or think that you would get it to where you are now?
I don’t think so. I don’t know if at that moment you’re so in it. When you’re loading up the slabs, I unloaded the first slab off of the truck because the guys were scared. I’m like, “I’ll do it.”
Why were they scared?
They were scared they were going to break it. They’re like, “I’m not going to touch the stone.” I’m like, “Somebody has to unload it.”
We’re having a stone business. Somebody has got to touch the stuff. Did you hop on the forklift and did it yourself?
I unloaded the first slab into our warehouse and then I’m like, “Now, can you do it? I did it. Come on, guys.”
At the time, she’s 23 and they’re like, “Now we feel dumb.”
I don’t know if it was shortsighted, but I knew that I was going to work as hard as possible to make it a success. My team always saw me working so hard so then, in essence, they also worked as hard as possible. It was this culture of like, “We’re going to make this happen. Let’s go to Charleston and open up a store. Go to Texas and open up a store. You got it.”
We know how to do it.
They saw that it was guts, determination, and grit. I didn’t ever perceive that we would have this organization. Also, what’s so special is we’re impacting so many people, 350 families, and their children. We’re helping people send their kids to school. Providing for our team and their families is my motivation. I hope it’s 500 or 1,000 people one day, but that we do it the right way and that they still feel connected to Triton. We mentioned it before. We’re not for sale. In a lot of companies, when you get this big, the leadership team is waiting for the owners to sell out. For them to hear us say, “We’re not for sale. Let’s go. Double down.” It’s invigorating and exciting.
Where do you want it to go? You threw out 500 or 1,000 people. I understand that it’s not the end goal, but if you were to roll the clock ahead and wave your proverbial magic wand. In other words, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the economy. There are always elements of the future. Most of the elements of the future are things that we cannot possibly predict but what is your vision for what you’re wanting to create together over the next few years?
It’s not more of the same, but being able to continue to include people and bring people into the circle. As you said before, “What is it like for an outsider?” You get welcomed into a company with open arms and we’re really fun. We’re moving and shaking things up. Even in the industry, Triton has always been this small player but we’re poised to go to that next level.
As Katie said, we’re already starting to see top talent in our different sales categories reaching out to us to come for us. For me, my goal is to not let any of those people down. If you’re seeking me out to work for our company, I want to make sure that you are fulfilled and you have an amazing career. You will look back and say, “Switching to Triton Stone was the best decision of my life.”
I don’t know what the future is, but if we can continue to organically grow and continue to impact people’s lives in a positive manner, that’s my goal. Whether it’s 500 employees or 1,500 and do it the right way and take care of people. I trust my team and our people to do the right thing. I’m like, “Here’s your budget and your numbers. You figure out how to do it within parameters.” I don’t know if there is or isn’t, but we give our team a lot of ownership of what they’re able to accomplish.
What I’m hearing is that expanding the number of people and their families that you could positively impact is the main thing. The numbers are a by-product. It’s one of the ways that we keep score as a business. It is a business. A business is ultimately something that’s there to generate wealth and prosperity for people and it goes way beyond that as well.
What we’ve been on this Cultural Revolution is like, “The more successful Triton is, the more we can invest in our team, which then makes Triton more successful.” It’s this wonderful circle that is like, “I don’t know why we didn’t get it before.” I’m glad where we are now. The more we give back, the more we get. It’s this wheel that’s going to continue to turn. Every year, every opportunity, we’re giving our team more and more. They’re working harder and harder for you. It’s the simplest thing, but it clicked for us.
I’m going to challenge you on one little thing there. You said, “I don’t know why we didn’t get it before.” You did get it before. You just maybe weren’t aware of what it was that you got. It’s become more intentional. It goes back to what I said. It’s about becoming more of who you already were and scaling it from the original five to whatever the number ends up being.
It takes a lot of work, but a big key that unlocks many doors is the realization that this is who we are and we want to expand on that. As opposed to somebody who says, “I need to start working on this because I’ve realized how much I hate people and how much of an idiot I am. I and the people around me need some fixing, even though I don’t want to do that.”
Frankly, there are some people that will go down that road and God bless them for trying. That’s an entirely different challenge. You guys are poised for great things. I’m excited to be a participant in that journey. It’s an inspiring story. I get inspired every time I’m around you guys. I’m excited that I get to share you with the tens of people who read this blog. It’s great to be able to tell your story. As we wrap this up, any last words of wisdom from the Katie and Rachel team to the rest of us who are business people, entrepreneurs, leaders, and aspiring leaders? What advice would you give me?
Love your team and what you do. Act authentically.
It is all wrapped up in your book and why it’s so impactful to myself, Rachel, and our team. To me, that’s the key to success. I’m so looking forward to rolling it out to all our organizations and making sure that’s the backbone of who we are. As we do expand, we can continue to push it through to all our team.
Katie, Rachel, thank you so much for joining me. To all of you tuning in, until next time. Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do. See you next time.
About Katie Jensen
Katie Jensen was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship.
Her family saw an opportunity to be a part of the rebuilding process in New Orleans and opened Triton Stone Group in August of 2006. Katie is the Co-Founder and CEO. Triton is a family run, women owned company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Triton now has 25 showroom locations across the Southeast and Midwest and 4 regional distribution centers. The corporate headquarters are based in Harahan, LA.
In 2019, Katie was elected to the Board of the Natural Stone Institute and will serve as the President in 2023-2024. In addition, Katie was named as the 2020 Person of the Year for her commitment to the advancement of the stone industry. She has served as a Mentor in The Women in Stone Mentorship Program and also serves on the NSI’s R.I.S.E Committee for the Gary Sinise Foundation.
Katie resides in Mandeville, Louisiana with her four children – Teresa (12), Cecilia (10), Elena (9), and Tomas (6).
About Rachel Jones
Rachel Jones was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. She attended The University of Southern Mississippi and graduated in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
Her family saw an opportunity to be a part of the rebuilding process in New Orleans and opened Triton Stone Group in August of 2006. Rachel is the Co-founder, and the Chief Marketing Officer for Triton. Triton is a family run, women owned company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Triton now has 25 showroom locations across the Southeast and Midwest and 4 regional distribution centers. The corporate headquarters are based in Harahan, LA.
Rachel has written numerous blogs for the industry and has been a contributing presenter at Natural Stone Institute events and webinars. She also has served as a Mentor in The Women in Stone Mentorship Program.
Rachel resides in Mandeville with her husband Dan, and their 4 children – Sam (13), Henry (11), Charlie (9), and Everett (5).