SAN JOSE − After graduating from Stetson University with a marketing and business degree, Roger Van Alst began a career that would take him around the world and back again. “After a long time managing home improvement companies in both the United States and Australia, I decided it was time to have my own business and acquired Black Diamond Paver Stones & Landscape in 2004,” he says. “When I was devising my business model, I pulled together the best techniques and ideas I’d encountered from my past experience while disposing of those I didn’t care for. A decade later, Black Diamond has grown from a small mom-and-pop operation to a multimillion-dollar company.”
When asked what drew him to hardscapes over other aspects of home improvement, Roger says it was the unique opportunity to improve people’s lives by enhancing their outdoor environments. “In California, we’re able to use our outdoor living spaces nine months out of the year, so they’re basically an extension of the home. I find that transforming customers’ outdoor environments often enriches their lifestyles, so the impact of our work really goes beyond the physical product.”
Originally from New Jersey, Roger settled in the Bay Area in 2000 following a five-year stint living in Australia. Today, as a resident of San Jose (where he lives with his wife, Tiffany, and son, Samuel), Roger says he appreciates the diversity of the local landscape. “I love being in a location that’s close to the mountains, ocean and city. It’s pretty marvelous that you can be waterskiing one afternoon and snow skiing the next. San Jose is also a neat place to be in business because of all the industry and technology.”
Outside of work, Roger engages in a variety of active pastimes, including skiing and boating. “During the winter, I moonlight as a ski instructor at Squaw Valley, which is something I’ve been doing since high school,” he says. “My family and I also like to go boating and waterskiing at the California Delta.” In addition to these outdoor pursuits, Roger likes collecting antique model trains and vintage cars.
In regard to his professional career, Roger espouses the centrality of customer satisfaction. “One of our mottos is, ‘Never leave a customer behind,’” he explains. “To us, customer satisfaction is no joke, and it’s never OK for a customer to be disappointed with our work, regardless of the circumstances. We’ll spend as much time, money and energy as necessary to make sure the client is happy by the project’s end.”
When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Roger says he’d hit the slopes. “In addition to doing more skiing, I would do instructing on a full-time basis. I’d also like to start mentoring young entrepreneurs to help them succeed in their business endeavors.”