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‘whole living’ philosophy together with the addition of this business,” Sean says. INCENTIVIZING – NOT REGULATING. Sean’s primary focus is ensuring that clients have a smooth design-build experience at Living Stone. He says there are three different types of clients to shepherd though the process. “It’s no secret that culture impacts recruitment and retention. But, we really do live and breathe it here. We provide great benefits and invest heavily in that part of the business. We call it organizational health.” “About a third of the people will absolutely love and embrace it; another third will cruise through it; and the last group will struggle with it,” he says. “It’s the first thing we try to do when working with a client – identify which group they fall into and then pair them up with the project leader who is the best fit. We want their needs and wants to match their investment.” And when clients are well matched, a sense of trust begins to emerge. Living Stone is built on an organizational structure of trust and runs like an open book. This transparency flows into all parts of its culture – including client relationships. In fact, the company started to use a software system called CoConstruct where clients can see online when a change is made. Clients get an alert and are trained to sign off on the change as needed so there are no communication issues or surprises when it comes to changes, billing, or fees. Sean admits that while Living Stone has a great team and system in place, labor is a key concern. He says the problem isn’t new – it’s been around for about 15 years now. “It pretty much started for us during the Great Recession,” he says. “People went to other industries and didn’t come back. A generation has also retired.” To combat this shortage, the company does a great deal with local colleges and universities. It has several established internship programs and puts an emphasis on training during their stay. They’re also hiring younger people and putting them into assistant roles so they can learn the ropes on the job and then move into more project management types of roles.

Creating a culture where people want to work is also part of the plan. That’s one of the reasons why Living Stone is a certified “Just Economics” employer. Just Economics works to educate, advocate, and organize for a just and sustainable local economy that works for all in Western North Carolina. “It’s no secret that culture impacts recruitment and retention,” Sean says. “But, we really do live and breathe it here. We provide great benefits and invest heavily in that part of the business. We call it organizational health. We check in with staff and ensure we all have the right expectations.” The company also has a volunteer project every first Friday of the month where staff get to spend time working with local community groups such as Western Carolina Rescue Ministries; Bounty & Soul; and Black Mountain Home for Children Youth and Families. Living Stone also offers profit-sharing, a 401(k), and other full benefits to staff. Its philosophy for building is much like its philosophy for running the business. “The green building industry is all about regulating,” he says. “We prefer to incentivize, not regulate.” In an effort to meet that end, Sean works with a business consultant that helps Living Stone with the organizational health efforts and to build a stronger overall culture. Sean is also a member of The National Association of Home Builders 20 Club. This is a place where peers and colleagues can share problems, help each other, and compare financials and strategies to see how they are doing. One of the things Sean has learned from talking to others and from personal experience is to not take things personally. “I’m always reminding everyone of our core values and why we’re doing something the way we’re doing it.” “If a client isn’t happy for some reason I need to know why,” he says. “Over the years I’ve developed a philosophy – no regrets. With each failure, you learn how to make improvements.” Currently, Living Stone primarily works in the residential arena and Sean says one of his favorite projects has been a recent one See INCENTIVIZING, page 8

HEADQUARTERS: Black Mountain, NC

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 25 at Living Stone (57 for ID.ology and Atelier Maison)







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EMBER 19, 2022, ISSUE 1469

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