The building blocks of a NTCA Five Star Contractor

Amber Fox, NTCA Five Star Program Director

As I wrap up my first year on the job as the NTCA Five Star Contractor Program Director I have been reflecting on some of the items that we are implementing for 2018. One of the first items that comes to mind is the update to our application. This has great significance because it is essentially a roadmap on how to become a Five Star Contractor.

Our new application incorporates the building blocks to a Five Star Contractor: Integrity, Professionalism, and Craftsmanship. In order to build a firm foundation, your company culture must value continual investment in itself. So how do we find companies that have this culture imbedded on all levels, and how do we evaluate them for acceptance into our group?  These are the questions we asked ourselves when we updated our application.

I will touch upon some of the key elements of the application process in the hopes that you can recognize greatness in your own company, and if not that it can inspire you to rise to the challenge.

Integrity – the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles, and the state of being whole and undivided.

All applicants must show proof that they are contracting under the local laws of their state, which means that they carry all licenses and insurance needed.  Stability is important, which is why they must attest that for the last five years:

  1. They have operated under the same company name
  2. The company has not filed for bankruptcy
  3. There have been no federal or state tax liens filed against the company
  4. The company pays all federal, state and local payroll taxes, worker’s compensation, unemployment, FICA, etc. for all employees.

As a Five Star Contractor, you are part of something bigger, which is why you are also required to have been an active NTCA member for at least three years. Active membership does not just mean that you have paid your dues; we are seeking out leaders who get involved and want to help shape our Industry. That’s why you will always see our Five Star Contractors out in force at events like TISE West, Coverings, and Total Solutions Plus.

ProfessionalismExhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

This sums up how you do business as a whole. We request resumes for your designated company representative as well as a project manager to help us understand the background of your company. The backbone of all companies is their employees and we want to know that you value them and invest in them. That’s why we require that you have an active Safety Program as well as an Employee Manual/Handbook.

Each day contractors need to interact with many partners such as material manufacturers and distributors.  Successfully navigating these relationships is imperative, so we require that you gather three reference letters from your vendors/suppliers attesting to your professionalism in the tile industry.  How your client sees you is the best judge of all, so we also require three letters of recommendation from your client base such as architects, designers, general contractors, or owners.

CraftsmanshipOne who creates or performs with skill and dexterity especially in the manual arts.

Now we address the heart of our contractors – the artisans. It is our belief that it takes one to know one, so two letters of recommendations from peers or competitors are required.

Since our group encompasses national membership, we needed to find a way to evaluate skill level. To that end, it was decided that at least 10% of your field installers must be Certified Tile Installers through the CTEF or have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. Although it is required that 10% be certified, many of our Five Star Contractors have fully embraced this program and are far above the minimum needed.

The Five Star Contractor Group is comprised of contractors of all sizes and specialties but what they all have in common is an unwavering drive to exceed expectations, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service. Because of this commitment to excellence on every level, I see our group as industry leaders who are creating the change we want to see in our industry. It is my

hope that others see our efforts and are inspired to join us.

If you would like additional information about the NTCA Five Star Program, please reach out to me at [email protected].

Tile setters, suppliers donate labor and materials to the Tile Geeks Project

Good works and camaraderie enjoyed while renovating Madison Fields in Dickerson, Md.

By Lesley Goddin

Madison Fields (madisonfields.org) in Dickerson, Md., is a fully functional farm that offers an inclusive environment where adults and children – many with special needs – can play, learn, and work together. Among the features of the farm is an Equestrian center that fosters a nurturing and healing partnership between horse and rider that benefits children and adults with autism, developmental disabilities, wounded veterans or the local community.

For 10 days at the end of October 2017 into early November a group of 15 tile installers who are members of the Tile Geeks Facebook group came together to donate their time and expertise to renovate various areas of the farm – almost 3,000 sq. ft. in all.

Justin Kyle, owner of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Del., a Tile Geek administrator and NTCA member, set this plan in motion a year prior. He was inspired while at a training session, working with many fellow setters.

“I came to the realization that the same people in our group would travel to conventions and training events at different places in the country,” Kyle said. “We go to classes, drink some beers, walk through the conventions, but never really had a chance to work together. So I came up with the idea of finding a good charity project to do that would give us the chance to get together like we enjoy anyway, and out of that some good could come.”

After a flurry of emails to children’s charities that went unanswered – and a rough poll of Geeks who might be interested in such an endeavor – Kyle received a response from Madison Fields in April 2017, expressing needs that could be met by the tilesetting group. And it just so happened it was virtually in Kyle’s backyard.

“I was willing to organize this project anywhere in the country,” Kyle said. “With Madison Fields only a three- hour drive away, I was able to plan and arrange everything better than I had hoped.”

The original scope of work morphed from a “bunch of bathrooms in an extra house that the foundation was trying to buy on a property next to the farm,” Kyle said. That deal fell through, but instead there was a need for much more tile work in other parts of the farm, including four bathrooms, a tile floor in the barn itself, and a large floor in one of the resident houses.

Donations: labor and materials

When Kyle first hatched this notion, he ran it by those Tile Geeks on a shuttle bus with him at a training class. He got enthusiastic responses, so he set up a separate Facebook group (The Tile Geeks Project) and added the people he thought might be interested in doing it. “From there it just blossomed,” he added.

Those who attended came from all over the country: LATICRETE rep, Jeff Kimmerling, Milwaukee, Wis.; Dennis Pacetti, Pacetti Tile and Remodeling, Inc., Huntingdon Valley, Pa.; tile setter James Morris, Philadelphia, Pa.; Paul Luccia, Cabot & Rowe, Houston, Texas; Ulas Maris, Maris Tile Pro, East Moriches, N.Y.; Metin Gungor, Dekor Construction, LLC., Columbus, N.J.; Jon Appleby, Appleby Custom Tile, Bucyrus, Ohio; Joe Lenner, Infinite Ceramic, Emmaus, Pa.; tile setter Jim Garbe, Schenectady, N.Y.; Joseph Dantro, On All Floors, York, Pa.; Dan Kramer, DKCT, Inc., Buxton, N.C.; Stephen Belyea, JSG Tile and Stone, Weymouth, Mass.; tile setter Bethany Sheridan, Sterling, Va.; Carl Leonard, Cutting Edge Tile, Roebling N.J.; and George Maneira, New Age Stone, Jackson N.J.

A variety of setting materials was used on this project including: Strata_Mat™, Hydro Ban®, Hydro Ban® Board, Hydro Ban® Sheet Membrane, Hydro Ban® Flange Drain, Hydro Ban® preformed shower systems including curbs, and corners, Hydro Ban® Adhesive & Sealant, 3701 Fortified Mortar, PERMACOLOR® Select grout, Tri-Lite™ mortar, and more.

These installers footed the bill for their own transportation and took time away from their businesses to work together for the greater good. As it turned out, there was lodging available in the historic farmhouse that dates back to the early 1800s where the group was able to stay for most of the project. That was a boon for the bonding of the group. “If we had to go to a hotel, the majority of our down time would have been spent in our rooms,” Kyle said. “Having use of the farmhouse gave us a center base to work from. We could go out to dinner and then come back and sit around the living room and talk shop. It was really a fun experience.”

Donations of materials were another story. Since the project was established right before Coverings, Kyle had the chance to speak with Noah Chitty of Crossville in person in Orlando to ask for donations. Crossville was very generous with their tiles, donating 3,000 sq. ft. tile from multiple series for the project, including Nest, Notorious, Speakeasy, Cotto Americana, and Virtue.

Likewise, Kyle had been in contact with LATICRETE’s Ron Nash about this effort, who gave “his blessing. I even got to sit down with Henry Rothberg and he said whatever we need is ours,” Kyle said. In fact, LATICRETE wound up sending materials above and beyond what was requested, which wound up coming in handy when some unexpected situations cropped up later.

“We asked LATICRETE for what we expected to need,” Kyle said. “They sent out some extra materials including the new 257 Titanium thinset, and 2” Hydro Ban board, which was put to good use.

“It was an important step, because without setting materials and tile, we couldn’t do anything,” he added. “But once I knew those two companies were on board, it was just a matter of getting all the details figured out.”

Beyond the donations of labor and materials, Kyle knew that a “slush fund” account was needed for incidentals like plumbing and vanities. To address this, Kyle established a silent auction and Tile Geek members donated items to be auctioned off. Contractors Direct and Norton donated saws, and J&R Tile donated an iQ dustless saw; Shannon Huffstickler from Schluter was instrumental in donating three shower kits, and MLT’s Mick Volponi donated several MLT kits also. All items were sold to the highest bidder, which allowed the group to have some cash to work with.

“To top it off, Justin Ernst of Minnetonka Minn., contacted Kate-Lo Tile and at his request, they shipped a pallet of buckets to the jobsite for us to use,” Kyle said.

In addition, iQ itself donated an iQTS244 dustless saw to the effort that was used on site and then raffled off at the project – Ulas Maris held the winning number!

Working together to meet challenges

Kyle had some concerns bringing so many “Type A” personalities to work together. But it all worked out, he said. Setters buddied up to work on different areas of the project and when they finished, jumped right in to other areas where work was still under way. “We all just blended together as I hoped,” Kyle said.

In fact, Jim Garbe said, “For me, the best part of it was the amazing way that the planning and execution fluidly evolved constantly as the situations were assessed and re-assessed when demo commenced and often revealed things that were worse than we expected them to be. Instead of one large job, it was 10 small ones going on all at once with a limited time frame and constantly fluctuating labor force,” Garbe added. “The ability of everyone to problem-solve and switch gears to be what the current task required was simply amazing to behold.”

The project was not without challenges however. “The biggest challenge was knowing that we were on a set time frame that we had to meet and since we had not demoed anything, we didn’t know what was behind, and under the existing materials,” Kyle said. “There was no new construction. It was a complete remodel.”

Having the materials on hand made things better, Kyle said, even materials that had not been on the original wish list. For instance, the one bathroom in the horse stable was a bathroom someone had tiled improperly. It has a curbless shower, with no slope to the drain, tile stuck to the wall over drywall, and no waterproofing. The Tile Geeks team went in and ripped it all out.

“We didn’t have the room to do a true curbless shower as they had intended, but we were able to build partitions with some of the 2” Hydro Ban board, and make a vanity with the Hydro Ban board,” he said. In addition, “We did a large floor with a failed floating laminate job on top of it,” he continued. “We ripped that out only to find that the original slab had cutback on it. We ended up having some 257 Titanium, LATICRETE’s new thinset there. We knew it would bond to cutback, so we used it to install Strata_Mat. That saved us time from having to grind or scrape the floors.”

Camaraderie – an added bonus

In the end, the project was win-win – delivering renovated spaces for the organization and a time of connection and camaraderie for the setters.

“Tile Geeks Project was my first priority for the year of 2017,” said Ulas Maris, who enjoyed reuniting with Tile Geek friends and meeting some he only knew by name online. “I was looking forward to being there and sharing my skills helping out people in need… It would not be possible for us to be there if we didn’t mean it for real in our hearts. We all wanted to be there and be part of it.”

Tile setter Bethany Sheridan from Sterling, Va., added, “I enjoyed working with a team that accomplished so much in a short period of time, all for a good cause. It was also great getting to know my online friends from Tile Geeks. I would certainly do it again.”

Stephen Belyea, a NTCA State Ambassador as well as a Tile Geek member, said, “It was a pleasure to be a part of the Tile Geeks Project.  It was very rewarding to donate my time to the Autism Foundation. It was a bonus to do so with such a great group of people. Everybody that was willing to donate their time was also there with a great attitude. We all came from different places and different backgrounds, but we all had the same goal. We were all positive and willing to work hard and do what it takes to get the job done.

“It is nice to learn different techniques from different people,” he added. “I enjoyed being around people who are as passionate about tile as I am…We would spend quality time at each meal having great conversations. Sitting by the fire having a drink after a long day of work was great. I look forward to doing this again and hope the same caliber of people show up.”

“It’s amazing to me, anytime I get together with tile guys, especially the ones willing to donate their time and effort to something like this, I’m struck by the fact that they are simply really cool people,” Kyle said. “They are obviously intelligent in the tile field, but that also filters into other aspects of their personalities. I find the same thing when I go to conventions. I’m amazed at how well we all get along.”

Garbe added, “The opportunity to work with these people was as good as I expected it to be,
and I would do it again in a
second.”

Member Spotlight – January 2018 – H.J. Martin and Son

H.J. Martin and Son
Green Bay, Wis.
www.hjmartin.com

Lots of good things get their start in the garage. Bands, science projects, and in this case the company now known as H.J. Martin and Son, founded when Henry John Martin began selling paint and tile out of the family garage in 1931.  Eighty-six years later H.J. Martin and Son is a multi-divisional specialty contractor, self-performing commercial and residential flooring, walls and ceilings, glass and glazing, doors and hardware, and fixture and millwork installation nationwide.

The company’s diversity helps it cross-train its installers and helps to retain top talent. If one department is slow and another is busy, it can readily adjust. The company also can offer package discounts to the general contractor or end user on multiple phases of a project.

The contractor gets great satisfaction from the entire process of contracting, from showroom to installation, and the customer’s excitement about the final result.

“We go to great lengths to maintain an extensive selection of tile products within our two showrooms,” said David Martin, the 4th generation of H.J. Martin and Son. “Many of these tiles are exclusive to H.J. Martin and Son, so we often will have customers travel a great distance to purchase from us.”

H.J. Martin and Son prides itself on its team of in-house designers, who have detailed knowledge of its tile products, and are experts at finding the right fit for each individual client.

“We have long believed the thing that sets us apart from other tile contractors is our highly experienced team of installers,” David Martin said. “They are true artisans, who continue to train on the newest installation processes.

“All of our people, from designers to installers, try to delight our customers with an exceptional tile experience to last a lifetime.”

H.J. Martin and Son specializes in ceramic tile and natural stone for both residences and commercial projects. On the residential side, the company displays a wide variety of tile and stone products within its two showrooms and employs a team of aforementioned 14 in-house designers who help guide the client to the perfect tile or stone for his or her home. And company installers are experienced with a popular in-floor electric heating/uncoupling system

The commercial division installs tile and stone in office and government buildings, automobile dealer showrooms, educational and healthcare facilities, hospitality spaces and retail locations, among other places.

In addition, H.J. Martin and Son has an in-house team of floor-care specialists. They are experts at ceramic and natural stone cleaning, sealing and restoration, along with grout cleaning, sealing and recoloring. If a new tile floor is not an option, refreshing existing flooring is a great option.

Since H.J. Martin and Son strives to deliver quality products and installation to all of its customers, it joined NTCA in July 2014, with the belief that existing and potential customers will see its NTCA Five Star affiliation and know that they are receiving the highest quality of installation available.

“As a company, we believe strongly in continuing education for our installers, designers and other flooring specialists,” Martin said. “We always strive for our people to be knowledgeable in the latest product advances and installation techniques through attendance at outside seminars or in-house training sessions. We believe that the mission of the NTCA embodies many of the same ideals.

“NTCA membership, particularly as a recognized Five Star Contractor, assures clients that they are receiving the highest quality of workmanship for ceramic tile and natural stone,” he added. “Having the NTCA member designation helps to communicate our expertise level to those outside the company.”

Although the company does not currently have Certified Tile Installers or ACT-certified installers on staff, more than 80% of its in-house installers are Journeymen and have completed the requisite four-year apprenticeship.

NTCA Trainer/Presenter Robb Roderick heading to first 2018 NTCA Workshop in Anaheim

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – NTCA Trainer/Presenter Robb Roderick drove through Albuquerque, NM today on his way to the association’s first 2018 western swing workshop, located at Bedrosian’s in Anaheim, Calif., set for Wednesday night, January 17. He was able to connect with TileLetter editor Lesley Goddin, based here,  for a quick lunch at Albuquerque’s famed Owl Café, before continuing his journey across New Mexico, Arizona and into California for the workshop.

NTCA Trainer/Presenter Robb Roderick with TileLetter editor Lesley Goddin in Albuquerque, NM. Roderick drove through Albuquerque from his Missouri home on his way to present the first NTCA Workshop of 2018 at Bedrosians in Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday, January 17.

The NTCA Workshop program has a new theme for 2018: Tile Matters: Best Practices for Pros. The three-hour program – most often held from 5 pm – 8 pm – includes an hour of networking and catered meal followed by two hours of all new educational presentations and interactive opportunities.

Each workshop will address:

  • OSHA silica dust regulations
  • Standards review
  • Showers/waterproofing
  • Sealants
  • Mortar coverage

This year, not only will participants to the free workshops benefit from the presentations and product/method demos by NTCA Trainer/Presenters, but there will be more opportunities for attendees to have real hands-on experience with the products and methods being discussed.

The following workshops are being held this week:

January 17  

Bedrosians

1515 Winston Road

Ahaheim, Calif.

714-778-8453

[email protected]

 

January 18

Bedrosians

1725 Hacienda Drive

Vista, Calif.

760-724-6400

[email protected]

 

In addition to Robb Roderick, workshops are being presented by NTCA Training Director/Trainer/Presenter Mark Heinlein and NTCA Trainer/Director Luis Bautista. CTEF’s Scott Carothers is presenting CTEF Educational Workshops as well, and kicked the year off with one at Floor & Decor in Buford, Ga., on January 4th.

For more information about workshops and new members-only Regional Training Programs coming to a location near you, visit http://www.tile-assn.com/events/event_list.asp?show=&group=&start=11%2F4%2F2014&end=&view=&cid=12716

or http://bit.ly/2B4uG9J.

 

 

 

 

President’s Letter – January 2018

Respirable crystalline silica – get ready for the new OSHA regulations

I hope that you have heard this term before and have begun the process of understanding what it means and how it is affecting your business. Believe me when I say that it IS going to affect your business going forward and none of us knows exactly to what extent.

The NTCA has held seminars at Coverings, forums at TSP and published articles in TileLetter on this topic in the past year. Yet, it seems like we are just beginning to peel back the outer layers of the proverbial onion when it comes to understanding the regulation (29 CFR 1926.1153 Respirable Crystalline Silica), including “Table 1” – and what is NOT included in Table 1. Then we begin to see DOL issue “Standard Interpretations” and “Interim Enforcement Guidance” and it all gets very confusing.

From the NTCA perspective and as a business owner, I urge you to take this law very seriously. There are many reasons, but none more important than you and your employee’s safety and wellbeing. Secondly, this law is going to have a significant financial impact on your business either in compliance costs or if you ignore it, in non-compliance costs. As an employer, you should educate yourself so that you can make the appropriate business decisions for your company and make sure your bids include costs to work in compliance. If you are an employee or craft worker you should do the same so that you are aware of the risks that you are taking with you long term health. Visit this site for more information: https://www.osha.gov/dsg/topics/silica
crystalline/ or http://bit.ly/2fI23os.

On the non-compliance side, a non-serious OSHA penalty was increased in 2016 to $12,600. If that doesn’t get your attention, a repeat violation penalty could be as high as $126,000.

At this point, based on the testing that we and others have done, I believe most tile installations can be done safely and in compliance with the newly imposed regulations with proper engineered controls and tools. The one area that remains a concern is performing circular cuts larger than 4” in diameter. If you have a proven solution for this, please email me.

As if this wasn’t enough to think about and absorb, California’s law called Prop 65 – which among many other things – is going to require manufacturers and/or re-sellers to put a warning label on every box of tile and bag of mortar and grout – basically anything that contains silica. This warning label will likely be different from manufacturer to manufacturer. We will not know the full impact of this until we see what the warning labels say, but you can bet it will not make our job any easier. It is also likely that these labels will appear on all products made for our industry regardless if they are made or shipped to California simply because the chance can’t be taken that an unlabeled product shows up in California.

It’s important that you know the NTCA staff and volunteers are working hard to minimize the negative impacts of these issues on all tile contractors. I urge all to take a very proactive approach to these issues and educate yourself as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, we want tile consumption to rise across America so we must be prepared to deal appropriately with these new requirements.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, NTCA President
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – January 2018

“Whatever you do or dream you can do – begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Happy new year, NTCA members!

I know the next year comes around like, well, clockwork, but somehow it always seems to amaze me that we are back at the start of another new year.

Of course, this is a time for resolutions that often get abandoned two weeks into the new year. But I am curious, have you ever made a business resolution that you actually kept (or a personal one, for that matter)? If so, would you be willing to share that with TileLetter readers? What was your resolution, why did you make it and how did you implement it in your business?

Here at TileLetter, we have made some resolutions for 2018 that we do plan to keep. For years TileLetter was a news magazine that brought you information about things going on in the industry as well as technical and business stories and tips to improve your business.

With today’s technology and digital news vehicles, we are changing the focus of TileLetter and how we bring you information:

  • TileLetter.com brings you daily updates on breaking news, announcements and timely information for our industry. Log in from phone, tablet or computer to see what’s new each day.
  • TileLetter Weekly and Enews & Views are short, digital newsletters that come out weekly, to alert you to significant developments and time-sensitive information in our industry.
  • TileTV is a concise video-format news magazine that’s available monthly, with convention and conference coverage, demos and the popular “Question Mark” feature in which NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein answers your queries.
  • Of course, there are our Facebook pages – National Tile Contractors Association, NTCA Members Only and TileLetter, which also bring you timely stories and articles.
  • As for TileLetter, we are making the move to become more of a technical/educational journal. We’ll still have News and Product briefs, with a short description and links to full stories on tileletter.com. But our printed content is looking to be more of a reference document – something you can come back to again and again for help in a challenging project or for information about more efficient business operations.

We’ll also focus more keenly on our members, and their projects and showcase their work in the pages of TileLetter. So expect some changes, and let us know what you think.

One of the stories I’d like to bring your attention to in THIS issue is the Tile Geeks Project technical project. This amazing labor of love brought together a group of tile professionals who enjoy working and networking together to renovate several areas at a farm that serves the local community, especially autistic adults and children. The charge was led by NTCA member and Tile Geeks administrator Justin Kyle of Kyle’s Tile in Ocean View, Md., and 15 friends who are all part of the Tile Geeks Facebook group, supported by generous donations of setting materials by LATICRETE and tile by Crossville, in addition to tool and other sponsors.

In our Benefits Box, this month we detail the upcoming schedule for the brand new NTCA Regional Training Program, which will bring 20 local opportunities for intensive hands-on training around the country. This is a member-only training opportunity that starts in February, so try to make it when it’s scheduled near you. And Amber Fox, the NTCA Five Star Program Coordinator, will bring you periodic updates on the Five Star Program, starting this month.

We truly wish you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2018, and we pledge to do all we can to support you in that goal!

God bless,

Lesley
[email protected]

President’s Letter – December 2017

Is it time to refresh the culture of your company?

Rebuilding a company culture can lead to new levels of engagement and satisfaction for all

Martin Howard, NTCA president

Have you ever thought about the culture (a.k.a.personality) of your company? If you haven’t, I’d like to invite you to give it a try.

There are many cultures that companies seem to gravitate to, and we’ll look at a few for comparison.

  • The Traditional or Hierarchy Culture is common and tends to be found in “Top Down” structured companies. This culture can be demanding with little employee empowerment, expecting employees to just follow directions.
  • The Market Culture is most often characterized as having “market share and profitability” as their top priority. One issue with this culture is that the top goals of market share and profitability can often compete with each other.
  • The Family Business Culture is very common in the construction industry, especially among trade contractors. Multi-generational owners usually hold the leadership or management positions. This can be good if a high level of training and career development exist to ensure competent and smooth transitions of leadership. Employees can feel that if they hold different ideas or opinions than the family, they will not be heard. They can also see that they will never grow to attain a high-level position and this makes it difficult to retain good talent. Additionally, this can cause good people to leave or do enough to get by rather than give their best effort.

At our company – David Allen Company – we had a mixture of cultures that had developed over a 90-year period. In 2010, we hit the restart button to rebuild our culture, led by our Chairman, Robert Roberson. This process required a 100% commitment from the ownership/leadership to establish trust and transparency. Our goal was simple: we wanted to become a great company with high value to our customers and team members while creating a great place to work and build a career.

We utilized several tools to assist us in this process, including 360 Evaluations, Skip Level meetings, and One to One listening sessions. These tools created dialog between departments and group discussions around a set of topics designed to foster honest dialog.

Early on in this process, we utilized a little book with a big impact: FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. Here we learned that, “There is always a choice about the way you do your work, even if there is not a choice about the work itself.” Said another way, we can choose to have a positive attitude while doing work we may not enjoy. To help encourage a positive attitude our leadership began to work harder to regularly communicate clear expectations, create transparency and demonstrate respect on a corporate level.

In our next step, we gleaned lessons from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. One of the major take-aways was the concept of getting the right people on the bus, and then making sure those people were in the right seats. This brought a renewed commitment to hire only the “best fit” candidates and be willing to wait to hire if necessary. Everyone in the company took the “DISC” personality profile (a measure of Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness), which helped us better understand which seats were the best fit for our employees. DISC also helped us learn how to understand and communicate with personalities very different from our own.

On a structural level, we began dismantling some of the vertical silos that created division and started to build team levels of responsibility and accountability. This only works if all levels believe their voices are heard and can bring about meaningful change. To demonstrate this commitment, we assembled a cross-section of team members to review and modify the company policy manual.

Next, we developed clear career paths and the training and education necessary for success to improve team member fulfillment and job satisfaction. A key principle I learned many years ago is, “There is no success without a successor.” So, as we seek to develop ourselves, we must seek to develop those we mentor. The goal is that as one person takes the next step in their career development, they will have trained and mentored their replacement.

We then took on the task of developing a Standard Operating Procedure so that we could begin to work as a team. This offered the opportunity to scale our productivity by being able to support divisions that needed additional resources without having to hire and train for the short term. Through this process, duplications of effort have been eliminated and efficiency has lifted the level of work satisfaction. Encouraging team members to take ownership of their responsibilities requires empowerment and respect. Compensation and incentives have been reshaped and made available at more levels than ever before.

We then started a two-year company-wide process of studying Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust. This took us through the “4 Cores of Credibility:” Integrity, Intent, Capability and Results. Woven through these core concepts are 13 behaviors that build trust. Each month we created intentional opportunities to apply what we were learning by creating SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals and team goals.

The study walked us through a progression of building trust within ourselves, in relationships, and within the company. Up until this point our focus had been building trust internally, but now we began to build and extend trust in our markets and with our customers.

We also began to build and extend trust in our community by addressing different areas of need there. Our team was excited to participate in various charity events where the company would provide matching funds, including Stop Hunger Now, Red Cross blood drives, holiday food drives, and Walk for Autism. At our traditional July cook-out and game day we reached new levels of fun as we teamed up with our co-workers to crown one team winner for the year. This spread to our annual Chili Cook-Off, which now attracts 30-40 entries. Our team-building event winners are recognized with trophies, plaques, and gift cards. We have offered Financial Peace University to the team and their families twice at no cost to them and have seen amazing results of personal debt reduction and wealth building.

With our centennial celebration a couple of years away and our desire to build a strong, stable, and enduring company for our team, we became an employee-owned company three years ago. Today the employees are the largest stockholders and we’re enjoying a high level of engagement to maximize the steps taken to improve our company. Throughout this process, the underlying theme has been to think about building others up and treating people like we want to be treated. The people that make up our team are – without doubt – our most important and valuable asset.

We still have much to accomplish, but the goal is closer than before and we are working toward hitting the mark. This journey has been enlightening, challenging and very rewarding. Ways of thinking about each other and work have changed and opened positive new channels of collaboration. I hope you are encouraged to think about your company and how you can make a positive difference for the future.

––––

Martin Howard, president NTCA
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – December 2017

“You don’t choose a life…you live one.”
– Emilio Estevez, as Daniel, in The Way

It’s November 3, and I sit poised between trips. On Sunday, I leave for Total Solutions Plus, where I hope to see many of you! Only two and a half weeks ago, I returned from the aforementioned pilgrimage (October 2017 Tileletter Editor Letter) in Northern Spain, 200 miles of what’s known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

I haven’t totally returned to my day-to-day life after my trip – and that’s probably a good thing. I’m still incorporating insights, inspirations and lessons from the Camino into my life. Much of my regular day is spent sitting in my home office, interacting with my computer and phone screens, with the occasional phone call. That’s a distinct difference to the 20 days spent walking an average of 10 miles a day on the Camino, from village to village (and the occasional large city, like Leon, Astorga, Ponferrada, Santiago itself) through cornfields, rocky mountains, vineyards and green forests, surrounded by sunshine, morning mist, fresh air, the sound of birdsong and cow bells…..and pilgrims.

Jumping for joy upon arrival at the Cathedral de Santiago.

Lots of fellow travelers on the Way, forming temporary communities and families that coalesce, dissolve, and re-form, perhaps with new members along the trail or at a village where we stopped for a break, or a snack, or for the night’s lodging. Besides the glorious spaciousness of my surroundings and ability to ponder, this wonderful network of connections with people from various places in the U.S. as well as Australia, Germany, Canada, UK, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Italy, and around the world was the most nourishing part of the trip.

And this is what brings to mind the upcoming opportunity for temporary communities to again form, this time in a business setting. Total Solutions Plus has grown to be a well-respected and well-attended conference as people from all sectors of the industry – both domestic and abroad – travel to learn, share, establish new relationships and form and strengthen new connections. More programming is added each year, but it still is a relatively relaxed setting with ample time to sit and talk and make beneficial new contacts and visit with old friends.

Certainly, by the time you receive this magazine, the event will have passed, but never fear, there’s another one next fall! And don’t rule out TISE West in January in Las Vegas, and Coverings, held in May 2018 in Atlanta. These gatherings also give you the opportunity for connection, insight, inspiration that will benefit your business and give you a new perspective on not only your operations, but your life.

Just one group of pilgrims met along the Way (and my walking partner, Jane Knap, center – blue shirt)

And since this month is the month of major holidays, remember to take some time to celebrate with the communities of family, friends, neighbors and other loved ones who form the foundation of your life. Looking for uplifting activities to share with your loved ones over the holidays? Consider these Camino movies: The Way (with Martin Sheen) – which prompted me to do the walk – and I’ll Push You, a documentary just released last night (find out more at www.illpushyou.com). This film chronicles two childhood friends, Justin and Patrick, and their 500-mile journey on the Camino – a heightened challenge since Justin is confined to a wheelchair due to a progressive neuromuscular disease, and Patrick vows to push him the entire distance – and the lessons they both learn along the Way.

Happy Holidays, God bless, and stay tuned for pictures of Spanish tile in a future issue!

Lesley
[email protected]

Crossville Marks Tenth Tile Installation in Specially Adapted Smart Home Built by the Gary Sinise Foundation

Crossville, Tennessee – As the exclusive tile supplier for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment) in 2017, Crossville recently celebrated the 10th specially-adapted smart home dedication. Throughout the past year, Crossville has donated more than 10,000 square feet of tile for installations in kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other spaces inside homes custom-built for wounded veterans and their families.

“It’s exciting to know we have contributed to help 10 deserving heroes and their families enjoy the comforts of brand new, specially-adapted smart homes. Our tile is a part of the everyday surroundings that are making life better for those who’ve sacrificed so much,” says Lindsey Waldrep, Crossville’s vice president of marketing.

The beauty of tile is far from being the only driving force for incorporating Crossville products into the design of these unique homes. Tile’s performance, versatility, and ease of cleaning are also key factors in its use.

“The tile specified for each family has been chosen to make life more simple and solve challenges, all while looking beautiful for the long term,” Waldrep shares.

The dedication of U.S. Navy EOD1 Andrew Bottrell’s home in San Diego, Calif., marks Crossville’s 10th R.I.S.E. home completed this year. Crossville tile was installed in the master bath, guest and upstairs bathrooms, and in the laundry room–covering the floors and walls.

The master bath and shower floor and walls feature Crossville’s Gotham collection. With subtle striations, aggregate finishes, and lived-in colorations of concrete, this collection provides an urban aura for the space. In addition, Crossville’s Ebb & Flow collection accentuates the master bath walls with a touch of stone and glass.

The upstairs bath features Crossville’s Buenos Aires Mood collection. This line offers an elegant color, touchable texture, and sensuous movement to offer the right look and feel for a relaxing space.

About U.S. Navy EOD1 Andrew Bottrell
U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician 1 Andrew Bottrell attended EOD school in 2008. A year later, he reported to EOD mobile unit 3. He was deployed to Afghanistan in July 2011 with Seal Team 10. In Afghanistan, on Oct. 1, 2011, while conducting combat operations Bottrell was in a vehicle that was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED). He suffered extreme injuries which led to a double leg amputation and a left arm amputation.

About Crossville, Inc.
Founded in 1986 and celebrating 30 years in 2016, Crossville Inc. is a U.S.-owned and operated manufacturer of award-winning tile collections for residential and contract applications. Its headquarters and manufacturing facilities are located in Crossville, Tennessee. Crossville, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Curran Group, a private holding company renowned for its core values of family, respect, partnership, integrity, and improvement.

An industry innovator, Crossville is the first U.S. tile manufacturer to achieve the following:
– produce large format tile on site,
– manufacture tile with certified recycled content,
– develop the Tile Take-Back® Program for recycling fired porcelain tile,
– achieve certification of its waste recycling programs,
– achieve TCNA’s Green Squared certification for all of its U.S.-produced tile lines,
– distribute a complete line of gauged porcelain tile panels, and
– become a net consumer of waste.

For more information, visit Crossville’s website by clicking here.

About Gary Sinise Foundation
The Gary Sinise Foundation honors America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families and those in need. Through its R.I.S.E. program (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), specially adapted smart homes are being constructed for severely wounded veterans nationwide. Each one-of-a-kind home is customized to ease the everyday burdens of a wounded hero, their family, and caregivers. Other programs include Relief & Resiliency Outreach, Invincible Spirit Festivals, Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band, Arts & Entertainment Outreach, Serving Heroes, and First Responders Outreach. Its latest program, Soaring Valor, is sending WWII veterans to The National WWII Museum and documenting their first-hand accounts of the war. For more information, please visit GarySiniseFoundation.org.

President’s Letter – November 2017

It’s that time of year when we are pushing hard to reach the career goals we set back in January, and now there are only weeks left to the finish line. We all lead very busy lives, and even more so as we approach the holiday season.

In the midst of our hectic lives do you ever wish you could hit the pause button for a moment? Years ago, I heard a wise man say, “Keep the main thing, the main thing.”

Here’s a question for us to consider: how can we prioritize those other “main things” like we prioritize our careers? “Main things,” like family, faith, and caring for others in our community. It’s hard to hit pause when most of us are never far from our smart phones, televisions, computers, social media, or the 24-hour news channel. How do we minimize the distractions that rob us from growing and moving forward to achieve our goals?

We know planning and prioritizing our time is always the fundamental first step in the right direction. I’ve learned that if I take a little time to regularly reflect on the blessings in my life, I have that extra boost of motivation to stay the course, whether that applies to business, family, my faith or serving in the community. When we reflect, and realize the many ways our lives are blessed, we walk in a fresh perspective that makes some of the stressful stuff in life take its rightful place in the back seat.

I recently had the opportunity to visit a third-world country with a team that reaches out to the two billion people in the world who have no access to basic financial service and serves them through micro loans for small business enterprises. While there, I was privileged to observe how these people who had limited electricity, no water or sewer services, and limited public or private transportation live contented, even joyful lives, in the midst of severe poverty. How do they live with joy amid poverty? They had the love and support of their families and community and a sturdy faith in God. They had an unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit that propelled them to work hard to better their lives. This experience caused me to embrace the value of every life, the dignity of work regardless the pay scale, and see that we all have purpose. It also reminded me we were all born into a set of circumstances for which and over which we had no choice or control. Those of us fortunate enough to have been born in the United States of America, have not only received blessings beyond compare, we have been given the opportunity – no, I would say the responsibility – to lift others up in every way possible.

So, this Thanksgiving I’d encourage all of us to reflect on how blessed we are and how we can make a difference in the lives of others without compromising their dignity.

Martin Howard, NTCA president
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

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