Doug Bannister started The Stamp Store in 1995, growing it to become widely recognized as a reliable source of product information and training. Bannister has been involved in decorative concrete treatments work since 1980. First he was a decorative concrete contractor; he still contracted while starting and growing The Stamp Store; in 2001, he put the contracting aside and concentrated his full energies on growing and improving The Stamp Store.

"I really enjoy concrete," Bannister explains. "I'm not gifted in that many things, but I am at concrete. There's an affinity I have for it and I know how to work it. It's great to be able to work with a product I understand so well."

His experience and approach qualifies him as one of the leading experts in the industry. Bannister was a member of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and an active participant and presenter in the Decorative Concrete Council (DCC) events and past Council Director. Bannister led the Stamp Concrete Demo at the 2001 WOC. He is an ACI Certified Flatwork Finisher, and among the products he developed are the enCOUNTER Countertop System and the Rainbow water borne stain system, among numerous others. He was also chosen as one of Concrete Construction magazine's ten Most Influential People.

Here are Bannister's Hindsight tips:

Managing Employees
At 16 years of age, Bannister got his start in the industry by working each summer for his uncle, a Marine drill sergeant, for $1 per hour. After college, Bannister was drafted into the military, where he served three years.

"All of that didn't allow for much compassion," explains Bannister. "My work was all of my life at one point. As an employer, I'm much more compassionate than I used to be."

Bannister says he still requires a quality end product and excellent customer service, but "allowing people to be individuals and embracing diversity, instead of making [employees] all soldiers" has resulted in less turnover, loyal employees and better service providers.

In turn, Bannister says his service providers listen to their customers, don't pigeonhole them, and ultimately provide needs that suit them.

"Outside of the policies we set, we allow people to be flexible," he notes.

Jumping on the World Wide Web may have been the best move Bannister says he ever made as far as advertising and marketing are concerned. Establishing an Internet presence back in 1996 allowed Bannister to be one of the only people in the industry on the Web at that time.

"People would fly in from all over the world to attend our classes," Bannister recalls of that time period. "Information was hard to find when I was starting out. The challenge now is to sift through all of the information from online sources."

Bannister adds that his membership with The Concrete Network has also been a big part of his marketing exposure.

"The Internet is the key to our success," he observes. "We've grown our site, added manufacturers and our own products. We don't need to flash it up to get the job done."

Customer Relations
Bannister says he draws from his contractor days a lot in regards to dealings with his customers.

"We come from a contractor background, so that's been easy for us," Bannister explains of customer relations. "We understand their needs and keep those at the center of our focus."

"Getting the right product is important to us," he adds. "The support the manufacturers offer is just as important as the products themselves. Looking at it from a contractor's point of view, good products in the hands of good contractors with good support is a win-win."

Working with Distributors
The reputation Bannister has built with The Stamp Store is a key element to working with distributors, he says.

"Having The Stamp Store really works there," Bannister observes. "We listen a lot to what their needs are. We understand they want good products, repeat business and minimal tech calls. When we do get an audience with distributors, we know where they are and we know what it takes for them to succeed."

Facility Management
Bannister is used to hearing that his facility is unique. And he should be—it displays over 15,000 square feet of stamped concrete alone, as well as various concrete countertop samples, vertical stamping and overlays systems.

"All of the products we sell are on display," he explains.

The facility parking lot, designed in a patchwork quilt of decorative concrete applications, is so unique that Bannister says the architect he was using for the work had qualms about it.

"He said it would turn the high end people off," Bannister laughs, adding that it has actually been quite successful, to the point that his competitors have even been known to send clients over for a look at the samples.

"We don't fence it off, so people can come see it whenever they want to," he notes. "It goes with my attitude of sharing information and being open. If we help educate, we'll build a bigger market for everyone, and we can all share in that. I give it freely, because it's not going to hurt me in the least."

As a contractor, Bannister says he quickly learned that it's an "upgrade" world.

"Everyone wants to upgrade," he explains. "Concrete is no different. People buy peace of mind, and they want a product to last. As a contractor, I charged the most and delivered the best product. I also returned customers' call promptly."

And when those calls regard problems, Bannister steps up to the plate.

"We knew that solving issues in a timely manner would help define our company," he says. "We jump on problems and solve them quickly."

Not holding his cards close to his chest, Bannister seems to thrive on helping educate the industry.

"My sense is that it comes back to us, whether we charge for it or give it freely," he notes of education.

In fact, Bannister allows anyone attending his classes to record them, take pictures, and do anything else they need to do in order to learn the material and take it with them when they leave.

"There's a universal law that when we give freely, it comes back," he says. "I've been on the receiving end of that too, and I'm very grateful for that. Gratitude is a big part of where we come from."

Read other articles in the Hindsight Series.