When Donavon and Jodi Altenhofen took over Quint City Stone in 2005, their accounting system consisted of a notepad and a plastic tackle box. The old system had been uprooted in the transition from the original owners. Invoices were written in ballpoint pen, payments were made in cash, and business was transacted with just a little good faith. Donavon was comfortable with this arrangement. With a background as a builder and a truck driver, he liked things he could see, touch, cut, nail, break, and fix again. He preferred deals cut on a man’s word, where a contract meant nothing without a good, firm handshake, or maybe a beer.
Made out of Stone
That was how he made it at Quint City Stone, an Iowa landscaping and cut stone supplier that started in a limestone quarry in Indiana in 1943. Donavon worked as a temporary driver, then a permanent driver, and then a full-time sales rep, getting to know each vendor and client by name, as well as the flagstones, pavers, wall stone, cobbles, and countertops he sold them.
When the previous owners were ready to retire, the company had been in the family for three generations. With Donavon having been there for ten years, transitioning the company to the Altenhofens was the next best thing to family.
Donavon and Jodi bought the landscape side of the company in 2005, and a few years later picked up the granite and cut stone. So by 2009, the entire company was theirs, minus the technology. They knew they would need a solid accounting software system to move into the next phases of the business.
“For a few weeks, all we had was a tackle box, no computers, no nothing,” Jodi explains.
Quint City people know their vendors, clients, and the products they sell; from the pavers to create a patio to the polished countertop they install in a kitchen. Donavon and Jodi’s products range from low voltage lighting, all hardscape material for your landscape project, to your finished granite countertops for your kitchen/bath. Donavon is usually on hand to show them off personally to his buyers. Most of these buyers are contractors, builders, and architects looking for a quality product with great customer service to back it up.
Donavon says, “We always make sure we have somebody here to take care of our customers, something you can’t get at a big box store.” A difference Jodi described this way: “We don’t have 18 year old kids out of high school. We have people here who know how to get things done. They have built walls, thrown pavers. We help people. If they have no idea what they need, they have come to the right place because that’s what we do.”
That, Donavon says, is why their customers kept coming back in 2005, even if it meant paying in cash. But then again, he wasn’t the one doing the books. “Donavon is a very by-your-word man,” Jodi says. “But if people decided not to pay, we couldn’t un-do a handshake.”
Transition to a new Accounting Software System
Jodi started working in the office after the transition, handling invoices and sales records, while her husband handled daily sales, deliveries of product, client installations, and customer satisfaction. Quint City started using Cougar Mountain Software a few weeks after the Altenhofen’s purchased the company. However, when Jodi’s office manager left in 2011 and her local IT guy proved less than reliable, she was ready to drop the software altogether. She had no background in technology, and never thought she could handle it on her own.
“I finally decided to call Cougar Mountain myself, and I’m so glad I did,” she says. “I sat down with them and was like, ‘This is what’s going on.’ They listened and stood behind me.”
Cougar Mountain brought Jodi in for training classes, and soon she was navigating the software like a pro. After the training, there was a learning curve and some questions, but Jodi never hesitated to call Cougar Mountain.
Cougar’s Point of Sale (POS) platform lets Quint City keep track of tricky details like products sold on vendor consignment or the security deposits on its wooden delivery pallets. It handles simple and complex sales with equal ease, whether it’s a pond pump or a few tons of wall stone to one of their contractors.
“With my old IT support guy I would be down for two or three days at a time. Now I just call Cougar Mountain and get everything fixed when I have issues,” Jodi explains. “And since I know the system so well I have fewer and fewer issues. Obviously with any software system change you go through, you’re freaked out. But this is so user friendly it helps gets you through it. It really is easy to use.”
Today, even though she doesn’t call Cougar Mountain as much as she used to, she still knows the staff by name. “Chuck is great, and there’s Kevin, he’s wonderful. I had training with him. And Lisa, every time I call she helps out.” For Quint City, that’s the type of relationship and support they need to get to the next level.
The business has grown 40% since Donavon and Jodi took the reins, and he’s happy he can worry about the stone and his relationships with the people who buy it while Jodi keeps track of things behind the scenes. “With this year especially, having Cougar Mountain Software has taken a lot of headaches away. It’s been huge for me,” he says. “Now when I ask for numbers, they actually make sense and I know they are right.”