Interview with Sean O'Keefe
Quarry Tile Company

AC: Tell us about your business.
SO: We are a ceramic tile manufacturer in the Spokane Valley. We employ 150 employees. We started in 1965 and we have natural resources from the Spokane area.

AC: Who is your target customer?
SO: Our target audience is residential and commercial industries. Our primary market is hospitals, schools, restaurants, hotels, as well as federal buildings. Our products are architecturally specified by architects and designers and we sell to distributors.

AC: What has been the greatest impact of COVID-19 on your business?
SO: Initially, last March we were an essential business, there was some confusion between state regulations. Then we found out similar businesses were running because they are part of the building industry. We needed to produce tile for hospitals, had to navigate through the government to open as essential businesses. Productivity has gone down because we are running on limited staff, trying to keep lines running, keep employees safe so they can continue to come to work. We aren’t able to allow employees to work from home, so they have to stay healthy.

AC: What are one or two actions you’ve taken to make a difference?
SO: On the marketing side we’ve been active on Zoom, and online for educating distributors. We used to send employees to do presentations in person. We are in the process of updating our website, which is more interactive for potential clients. They can order samples online with a more in-depth description of our products.

AC: What is a mistake you’ve made along the way that other people can learn from?
SO: We have made our fair share of mistakes. Going back over the years, the biggest mistake was we were way too complex in our product offerings. It affects our profitability. We have focused on our core products and our core niche. When you offer too much, you are busier but can be too busy.

AC: What is inspiring to you today?
SO: What inspires me is the continuing evolution of the industry. The big thing is making sustainable products with locally sourced materials. Getting back to the core and finding more efficient ways to produce our products. We need to continue to be a relevant player in our area. That’s what keeps us going.

Sean O'Keefe