By Sally Cole
You’d be hard pressed to find a business owner who is more hard working, admired, team-oriented, innovative, loyal and beloved than Steve Sisler of Sislers Stone. Steve retired in mid-July as CEO from his family-owned and, until his departure, family-operated business.
Sislers Stone was founded by Steve’s grandfather, WD Sisler, in 1937. The business has long been an important provider of natural stone, concrete pavers, sand, gravel, and the like, in the Falls Church area but it wasn’t until Steve took over in 2002 that the company became the industry leader in the Mid-Atlantic area.
Steve Sisler is very much his late father’s son. Charles Benjamin “Ben” Sisler instilled in him the importance of being honest and true to one’s word, a great appreciation for our military and a desire to serve the community as a firefighter.
Those qualities are an integral part of Steve, whose retirement is in large part due to his promise to his father to care for his mother Mary.
Steve also has an innate understanding of solid management practices and the importance of innovation, both of which were realized at a young age. Steve began working at Sislers Stone when he was 10 and he immediately began absorbing the business.
According to Harry Shovlin, who became a mentor after teaching Steve in the 6th grade and later coaching him in discus and shotput, “Steve started thinking about how he would run the business when he was in high school. He had plans.”
Steve’s innovations ranged from sales to management to inventory. He created a sales team, delegated management responsibilities and began cross-training staff.
He opened Sislers West and Shenandoah Stone Supply in West Virginia to provide contractors with a wholesale source, enable the business to secure bulk discounts and provide rapid order fulfillment.
He added fire pits and outdoor kitchens to their offerings, created displays to help buyers better understand materials, ensured that the company had a huge presence at trade shows and created Sislers University to educate contractors about all aspects of the business.
He built relationships and positioned Sislers Stone as a partner to its clients; a trusted resource, not just a source.
The same is true of Steve’s dealings with the community. During his tenure, Sislers Stone actively participated in and sponsored Falls Church City and the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce and their events while also supporting a number of nonprofits.
Steve, who has been honored by the Chamber for meritorious human service, helped found Decorate-A-Vet and is a member of the Sons of the Legionnaires and the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department. He is also a strong supporter of local businesses.
According to David Tax, who co-owns Clare & Don’s Beach Shack and Lazy Mike’s with his sister Rebecca Tax, “Steve welcomed us with open arms. He showed me how being a business owner was better as a team sport. We care about each other’s success and wellbeing and will do anything to help one another. He set the standard.”
As Harry Shovlin put it, “there are two kinds of people in this world, givers and takers. Steve is a giver.”
Steve’s management style has prepared the business for the changes ahead. Kent Deeben, who owned a masonry company before joining the Sislers’ team a decade ago, will serve as the General Manager.
Long time employees Rodriga Requeno and Pedro Rodriguez will manage various aspects of the business and Connie Poling will continue to oversee WVA operations.
Each of them was hired and trained by Steve. As Kent said, “Steve is all about personal relationships. He instills a sense of loyalty and the desire to do one’s best. He has been preparing us for when he would retire, even though it happened earlier than we expected. He’s a real leader.”
While Steve has retired as CEO, he is still one of Sislers Stone’s 14 owners. He and his longtime partner Debra Neely will remain in Falls Church, when not visiting his mother. Sislers Stone is located at 7139 Lee Highway in Falls Church, VA. Sislers West and Shenandoah Stone Supply are located in Harpers Ferry, WVA.