Reigniting Fireclay Tile’s Outdated Flame

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Although Fireclay Tile relies on old materials to convert to its handmade tiles, the San Jose, Calif.–based team needed a fresh start back in 2009.

The sustainable tile manufacturer had been using a customized FileMaker Pro database that was putting a damper on client communication. Customers had no insight into the manufacturing process, and orders were lost on multiple occasions. The stand-alone PC-based accounting system required double data entry, resulting in redundancy and wasted effort.

“There were a lot of issues that came up when we were hosted on a server,” recalls Eric Edelson, vice president and owner of Fireclay. “No one really knew how to use it, information was out of date, it was incredibly slow, and it did not have any technological capabilities.”

Fireclay Tile needed a flexible CRM platform that would support multiple business functions—from ordering to manufacturing, shipping, and customer service—and for Edelson, simplicity was the key. “I wanted something really simple and that my team would have a lot of fun using,” he says.

Edelson was charged with the task, and after “not really looking” at other CRM systems, he chose Salesforce for Fireclay. “Salesforce has a wealth of additional options and features,” he says. “I knew I would want to continue to keep adding to our system over time.”

Although everyone had been stationed at “outdated five-year-old Macs” and the former database was causing problems daily, Edelson says, he met with some resistance when he broke the news to his close-knit 30-person team. However, he was not deterred by his employees’ mixed reactions and knew from his experience with CRM systems at previous jobs that the change was necessary.

“I was ruthless about it,” Edelson insists. “Everyone left work on a Friday and came back that Monday with new Dell flat-screen computers. They didn’t really have an option.” It wasn’t long until the team caught on and embraced the technology. “Some were upset to begin with, but once they got the hang of it, they realized it makes life so easy and much more successful,” he says.

Today, Fireclay Tile uses a variety of Salesforce applications, including the Sales Cloud to manage mass email lists as well as real-time dashboards to show the sales pipeline and to provide updates on company progress for all employees while measuring the productivity of the factory and the on-time record of shipments. Fireclay Tile also used Force.com to build a production-management application to track orders in a centralized location and a sample-management application that tracks which leads have received samples while automatically reminding the sales staff to follow up.

Fireclay Tile used a third party during implementation to simplify the two-month process that began in April and ended in June 2009. “You don’t have to tackle everything right away,” he says. He also advises companies to refrain from being scared off by seemingly high price tags. “It will be a lot of money, but it’s worth it,” he says. “It’s an investment.” In fact, since implementation, Fireclay Tile has decreased accounting overhead by 85 percent, which has covered the cost of Salesforce licenses.

“Eric is essentially running his whole business on us,” says Scott Holden, senior director of product marketing at Salesforce. “With our software, the update process is easy, and there is an ease of use that is characteristic of Salesforce.”

Since Edelson chose a cloud-based system without a server, Holden says, Fireclay Tile saves considerable money because it does not need an IT staff.

Edelson plans to keep this solution and continue to research additional Salesforce applications for his Fireclay Tile wish list.

So, when will this self-proclaimed “business guy” finally be satisfied and call it a day? “I don’t see that happening any time soon,” Edelson laughs. “We just keep doing stuff.”

Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb can be reached at bfarb@destinationCRM.com.

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