April 24, 2014

Five Star Spotlight – Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc.


San Diego, Calif.
Since: 1972
Specialty: Providing impeccable quality and service for commercial and high-end residential installations, predicated on long-term relationships with clients; exceeding expectations through accountability to project schedules; and upholding the highest technical standards.
Employees: 60
Website: www.wirtzquality.com


The Wirtz family has been a solid fixture in the tile industry in San Diego for three generations. It all started with John Q. Wirtz, who would bring his two-year old son John David along with him to work. Years later, the father and son team – along with spouses Wanda and Cookie, respectively – officially started their family business, a two-bucket company, in 1972.

After growing up in the family business, John and Cookie’s daughter Amber Fox decided to officially join the company in 1997. As she made her way up through the company, she became a Ceramic Tile Consultant, and she is currently serving her second term on the NTCA Board of Directors. Her current position at Wirtz is vice president. Fox aspires to run the company one day.

Under her tutelage, Wirtz Quality Installation, Inc., (WQI) won the Coverings Installation Awards First Prize Tile for a Commercial project for the Palomar Medical Center West in April 2012, and a 2010 TileLetter Awards Commercial Installation Award of Merit for the Se Hotel in San Diego.

wirtz-employeesThis family story does not end here. The 60 employees of WQI have been with the Wirtz family for an average of 14 years, ranging from over 30 years to those who joined just last year. This company has always taken pride in its goal of treating each person as a member of this family and not just an employee. These employees – along with their depth of experience and the culture of teamwork – give WQI the confidence to take on so many diverse and intricate projects. All of the company’s key positions are filled with long-term employees. The Wirtz family knows that these employees are what make the company stand out.

WQI strongly believes in not becoming complacent, and holds its employees to this same standard. WQI not only stays involved in adapting to industry changes, it also makes sure that employees have the necessary training that will better them as individuals. For example, WQI sent nine installers through the CTEF Certified Installer Program, all of whom passed with excellent workmanship.

One employee who Wirtz considers the heart of the company is Steve McMurphy. He joined the WQI team back in 1982 and has been moving the company forward ever since. As field supervisor he is in charge of all the installers and the scheduling.

wirtz-restroomAs Steve is the heart of the company, Frank Echols – who has been with the company for 25 years – is the backbone. Echols is WQI’s senior estimator.

“You will not find a more thorough and detail-oriented person,” explained Amber Fox. “When we turn in a bid, we have every confidence that it is correct and complete. Anyone who has done commercial work knows how important estimating is to having a successful project.”

Project manager Justin Kylstad is amazing at keeping WQI jobs organized, running smoothly and coming in on budget – not an easy task in this unpredictable monster called construction.

Warehouse manager, Pablo Murillo, Jr. has had the challenge of handling Wirtz orders shipments and deliveries for the past 27 years.

“While he takes his work very seriously, his personality has everyone laughing at the same time,” Fox said.

wirtz-bathroomOffice manager Bernadette Reyes is the sunshine in the company, keeping all of the office on track, and keeping staff and employees all in line. She has the pleasure of processing contracts and their insurance needs as well as accounts payable.

Ryan Wilson is the latest addition to WQI office. “We are thankful every day for Ryan,” Fox said. “He goes above and beyond for this company. He makes sure that our projects are not only paid on time so this company can continue in this economy, but he is a wizard at all of the billing requirements for the different general contractors.”


WQI foremen, Phil Reyes, Albert De La Vega, Dan Gilstrap, Joel Martinez, Victor Fox and Sal Contreras have seen and done it all. They have led numerous tile projects throughout San Diego, including – but not limited to – hospitals, office buildings, condo high-rises, hotels, restaurants, and casinos. And these are just examples from WQI’s commercial division; the foremen feel just as at home in high-end custom homes as they do in a large commercial project. They are the foundation for the company and the excellent relationships and repeat business that Wirtz has with its general contractors today.


What the family of employees brings to the mix are core components of holding to WQI’s mission statement: “We create long-term relationships with our clients, exceeding their expectations through our accountability to project schedules, upholding the highest technical standards, and providing impeccable quality and service.”

Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., is very fortunate to have the next generation in place in all the key positions. This group is all in their late 30s and already has over a decade of experience. With their enthusiasm and interest for the industry, it looks like Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., will have a bright future.

Wirtz Quality Installations, Inc., lives and breathes its motto every day: “Work hard but laugh harder.” Having a treasured family of employees makes living that dream a reality.


President’s Letter – February 2014

dan welch imageHave you ever wanted to unplug your computer, lock the shop door, and drop the computer in the dumpster on the way out? Today was one of those days. After a long week of teleconferencing with a new construction manager on an out-of-town project, I was convinced the construction trade had lost its mind. Daily progress meetings lasting hours, schedule compression, material delivery delays, and unrealistic contractor expectations can kill your profit margins, and chip away at your sanity.

Earlier in the week, I was sitting through “one of those meetings” watching the twenty-something project manager talk, and talk, and talk… while I feared my team was aimlessly installing tile without my direction. Mentally, I was screaming, “What are we doing here? We’ve got tile to install!”

General contractors are under the same strain we are. They want the project to be safe, meet schedule, and generate profit for their company. However, to keep business, and to entice new project owners, prime contractors have become experts at reducing future liabilities by making subcontractors take the bulk of the risk. This allows them to work with much thinner profit margins by transferring this liability to us subcontractors. So, are you accounting for this risk? Are you charging for it? Are you even aware of the risk you take on each given project?

Daily progress meetings cost time and money. Contractor’s safety protocols cost time and money. Schedule compressions create overtime costs. Unacceptable jobsite conditions cost money. Unclear specifications can cost you if the general contractor plays the “you’re the expert – you should have known better” card. If you only review the drawings and section 09300, you’re bound to get burned by unexpected risk transfer. You must price for it, or fight back with exclusionary language in your proposal.

So, do you know what is expected? Did you review every page of the specifications, work scope, general conditions? Did you see the alternates, field change directives, post-bid addendums, submittals, jobsite conditions? Have you read the contractor’s safety program? Are you prepared to talk knowledgeably in a meeting to defend your company as liability is forced into your contract? Tile subcontractors are at the mercy of the contractor pinched between designer’s material selections, manufacturer’s lead times and the owner’s expectations. We must push back collectively as an industry. If the prime contractor wants to defer risk to us, then we all must charge for that risk. Without accounting for it, we’re willingly taking less profit for the same work. Personally, I’m no longer willing to take it.

I suggest we start the process of handing back liability by line item charges for these jobsite expectations. Are you staffed to provide onsite managers who do not install tile? Are you prepared to place that manager in daily meetings filling out progress and safety reports while much of the work you perform on site is installed unsupervised? All of this when the growing economy is stretching your experienced craftsmen and you train new staff? Remember, general contractors are asking for this documentation, not to solve problems, but to build an arsenal of evidence transferring risk from their wallet to yours. If you miss it on bid day, shame on you. If you take time to exclude these expectations, or charge for them, you’ll be money ahead at the end of the year.

Dan Welch
President, Welch Tile and Marble
President, NTCA

Editor’s Letter – February 2014

Lesley psf head shotWell, we’ve done it, folks. We’ve made it through another year and the holidays and the start (and perhaps the failure already) of New Year’s resolutions.

And now we are squarely into 2014, which in the Chinese calendar is the Year of the Horse. To be exact, it’s the Year of the Green Horse, or the Year of the Wooden Horse.

Just to get a little woo – woo for a minute (hey, I live in New Mexico), the Year of the Horse is all about ACTION. The last two years have been “water” years – years steeped in contemplation and introspection, caution and planning. All together, we have completed five years of a degenerative cycle (how has THAT shown up in your personal life and your business?) and now we are primed towards intuitively-guided action, freedom, optimism and extroverted energy. The “green” of the Green Horse corresponds to the element associated with 2014 in the Chinese tradition – wood. Wood represents new budding and branching out of life we are now embarking upon – symbolized by green.

So, what has this got to do with tile and stone contracting?

This time of year kicks off the trade shows, which for me means Surfaces, and its new Tile Expo, which trumpets the importance of this surfacing material and its installation. Each year while I am at Surfaces, hotels and casinos in Las Vegas are decked out for the Chinese New Year. That got me interested in researching a little about what is in store this year.

I see some echoes of truth in the Chinese predictions in our industry. These last few years have been cautious ones, slowly emerging from the struggling economy of the recession into more palpably optimistic times. There has been a lot of loss and chaos, pruning away and planning as we hung in the balance between a crashed economy and one poised to bloom. Those who took this time to get prepared are smart, because the Chinese astrologers say this is about to change – and hang onto your hats when it does, because it will be a wild ride.

And oh – because my mind works this way – wood is a huge style trend in the tile world right now. As I mentioned in a previous issue’s report on CERSAIE – you couldn’t turn around at that Italian show without seeing wood represented in some way in ceramic or porcelain. I expect that to continue at all the shows I attend this year as well. And I’ll take it as a good sign, symbolizing growth and the blossoming of opportunity, action, energy and prosperity for us all!



PartnerShip® Freight Program: save on every shipment

As you may have read in our December issue, the #1 objective for NTCA this year is “To save our members money and to find them work.”

To that end, we draw your attention to a prominent benefit of membership – the PartnerShip® Freight Program. To date, the 32 members (including six members who joined the PartnerShip program in third quarter 2013) currently enrolled in the program have saved a total of $60,845 – $1,962 on FedEx shipments; $23,757 on LTL shipments;  and $35,126 on service shipments.

PartnerShip helps you save on every shipment you send and receive. It is open to all NTCA members with no obligations or minimum shipping requirements.

These significant savings go directly to your bottom line:
• Save up to 26%* on select FedEx Express® services
• Save up to 15% on select FedEx Ground® services
• Save up to 10% on select FedEx Home Delivery® services

NTCA members also save at least 70% on less-than-truckload (LTL) freight shipments arranged through PartnerShip with leading national and regional carriers.
Intrigued? Interested? Visit https://www.partnership.com/micro_site/index/74ntca for complete program information and to enroll. Questions? Call PartnerShip at 800-599-2902, or email [email protected].


Five Star Spotlight – Precision Tile Company Inc.

custom-sponsorPrecision Tile Company, Inc.
West Columbia, S.C.
Since: 1982
Specialty: Residential remodel projects; hard tile, marble and granite installations

five starAfter his service in the Navy relocated Scott Heron to Charleston, S.C., from his home state of Michigan, Heron decided to start his own renovation company. It didn’t take long for him to fall in love with setting tile.

scott_heronAfter moving to Columbia, S.C., in 1987, Heron decided to specialize in hard tile, marble, and granite installations; thus Precision Tile Co. was born. Being the new kid on the block posed quite a few challenges in the early years. With word-of-mouth referrals moving only among the established, generational tile setters, it was tough to break into a new market. But Heron equipped himself with knowledge and education to best serve his customers.

Precision Tile takes great pride in transforming someone’s idea into a long-lasting installation, of which both Heron and the homeowner can be proud. For Heron, there’s no better compliment or feeling than when a former customer calls to say how pleased he or she still is, and that they would like him to work on a new project. Repeat business is not only the best mark of a quality installer, but it serves as its own stamp of quality on both an installer and his/her business.

With a desire to know as much as possible about the tile industry and to be better able to create a quality job for his customers, Heron regularly attends Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, and reads as many industry publications as he can get his hands on. Therefore, Heron’s customers are able to discern – from their first meeting – how passionate he is about setting tile and how knowledgeable he has become.

Being certified by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation and achieving Five Star Contractor status has made a tremendous difference in the amount of business that has come Heron’s way. Having a pedigree has opened doors to new jobs, new builders, and new educational avenues. It has given him the chance to expand his reach in the industry, as well as help to direct the future of the tile industry. Heron also likes having access to the other Five Star Contractors across the country, in case he comes across a new problem. “Having a qualified pool of people from whom I can ask questions is invaluable,” he said.

As chairman of the HBA of Greater Columbia Remodelers’ Council, Heron’s wisdom and expertise is often sought by builders and other installers. He regularly gives advice to contractors and homeowners alike, to the point of giving homeowners his cell phone number, in the event a DIYer hits a snag. Heron has visited many a job site to review the work and help homeowners get past stumbling blocks, without charging the homeowner or contractor for his time. While business and jobs are important, teaching people how to properly set tile is Heron’s number one focus.

Featured Project

Renovating and restyling a bathroom is easy compared to updating one within the original style of the home.

The Browns needed to have leak damage repaired, but also wanted to add some upgrades to their master and guest baths. The challenge was selecting “just the right” material and installing it to look original.

As you can see, neither of these challenges posed any difficulty to Precision Tile.

The new tile selected looks original to the 1930s art-deco style of the home, but updated layouts, fixtures and vanities give the project a more contemporary flair. A clean grey and white motif was used in the master bathroom while the guest bath, which is also used by the children, has a warmer and more durable material selection and color palette of browns and beiges.


President’s Letter – January 2014

dan welch imageWhether you own a mature business or are just getting started, one thing you’ll eventually have to face is the day you don’t own it any longer. For some of us, it’s the day we retire. For others, it could be the day we die.

Every business is different, with one owner, several owners, family business, partnerships, and more. However, the fact remains, someday, you won’t own the business. So, what have you done to plan for that day? How is your plan communicated to employees, your vendors, your customers? Will you stay involved after retirement? Do you plan to cash out? Is the business your source of retirement, or have you planned and saved outside of your business?

I pose these questions to TileLetter readers  after a recent visit with Tim Curran (family owners of Crossville, Inc.). Tim’s family’s business, The Curran Group, is a fifth-generation family business that still faces many of the challenges that we face at Welch Tile, a second-generation multi-family member business.

I met Tim during an NTCA Five Star meeting at Crossville’s facility in Crossville, Tenn. When he gave a presentation on “Business Succession Planning,” every note of his talk rang true. He is challenged with family dynamics, shareholder disagreements, uncomfortable feelings, and tough decisions, just like any family would be. But the Curran Group’s approach is unique, and it speaks to the resilience of a fifth-generation organization. Tim inspired me to travel to his office with my family, to have an open discussion about family business strategy. He was gracious enough to welcome my request, and I am thankful he did!

Smart, enduring decisions are based on facts, not feelings. It takes a strong leader to separate family from business, and a business cannot survive without all team members pulling in the same direction. My family came away from the meeting with a confirmation that we are here to lead and manage our business for a period of time, and the jobs we individually choose to execute within the organization are compensated to the level as if we worked for someone else.

When it is time for a family member to retire, it is that family member’s responsibility to plan for the event. For a business to survive five generations, it cannot continually afford to “pay off” retiring shareholders. When it is time to retire, family members need to plan for it in advance. Understand the plan will change. Discuss options openly with your family and pre-fund transfers if possible. Also consider life insurance plans to fund the unforeseen. And most important, have a plan communicated to your leadership team and employees.

As your business moves into this new construction economy (post 2008), think about how you plan to retire. How do your employees plan to retire? Does it align with your company benefits? Remember, the ability to retire is only as strong as the plan and funding for that plan. If you’re depending on your business to fund your retirement, can it do so without you? Can it continue without the cash you take?

Thank you,
Dan Welch
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – January 2014

“Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it’s business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don’t love what you’re doing and can’t give it your best get out of it. Life is too short. You’ll be an old man before you know it.”
– Al Lopez

Lesley psf head shotHappy New Year one and all!

We find ourselves with a blank canvas stretching before us – 12 months of 2014. What are your plans to make it a good year, both personally and professionally? With what attitude will you enter the new year?

I’d like to draw your attention to one new section in TileLetter: Qualified Labor. We are dedicating some ink each month to bringing you news about certification events that are upcoming – or notable ones that have been held recently, like the Albuquerque certification for TWENTY local installers held last month.

Now that qualified labor language is in both the TCNA Handbook and is part of Master Spec, it will be easier for the A&D community to recommend qualified labor on their jobs. And why wouldn’t they? With highly technical products in the marketplace, like huge porcelain panels, A&D professionals aren’t going to want to specify beautiful product and leave its installation to the unskilled. Be sure you are taking full advantage of educational opportunities sponsored by manufacturers and suppliers as well as taking part of the NTCA workshops in your area. We list the upcoming ones in each issue of TileLetter, or you can go to https://tile-assn.com/Training/EducationOpportunities.aspx?mid=41 to see a list of workshops planned for the year, as well as a list of upcoming webinars.

0114_qualified_installerAnd if the workshops weren’t enough value in themselves, this year, NTCA is giving away a free NTCA membership at each workshop and giving you a chance to win a free trip to Coverings in April or Total Solutions Plus in October. We offer 70 workshops this year, so you have a one in 70 chance of winning – you can’t beat those odds! If a workshop is in your area, be sure to attend!

Also consider VALIDATING your skill with a Certified Tile Installer evaluation or if you are already a CTI, with ACT – or Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers – credentials. This is a tool that sets you apart from the competition and brands you immediately as the cream of the crop to potential clients. To help prepare you for the tests, this year there are a number of pre-test programs in select cities around the country that give you a sense of what will be asked for and expected on the test to increase your chances of passing. Look for more information in the Qualified Labor section of this issue.

It may only be January, but I have Vegas on my mind – that’s the site of the 25th edition of Coverings this year, from April 29-May 2. Those of you in the West who have longed to visit Coverings, now’s your chance. It promises to be a winning experience!

It’s my privilege and pleasure to begin this new year with you and journey along its winding paths together. Here’s to a prosperous, passionate and powerful year for us all!

God bless!
[email protected]

NTCA debuts new 20′ booth at Surfaces

JACKSON, Miss. — Fresh and ready for the 2014 trade show season is the new 20′ booth for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA). The booth,  designed by NTCA’s Michelle Chapman, presents NTCA programs in a dynamic, graphic format.

The booth will debut at Surfaces, in space B4276, beside the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation’s space, where  hands-on Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) evaluations will be conducted. Stop by and find out more about NTCA programs and benefits and  the Certified Tile Installer and ACT credentials . For more information www.tile-assn.com.

NTCA will debut a new 20' booth at Surfaces, space B4276

NTCA will debut a new 20′ booth at Surfaces, space B4276


NTCA's new booth, designed by NTCA's Michelle Chapman, shows NTCA programs in a dynamic, graphic format.

NTCA’s new booth, designed by NTCA’s Michelle Chapman, shows NTCA programs in a dynamic, graphic format.

December 2013 Letter from the President

I’ve been your NTCA president for 12 months now. After a year where I have much to be thankful for, I’d like to reflect on why I am an NTCA member, dan welch imageand why I am thankful to be involved with the NTCA.

Have you ever sat through an advertising presentation for your local Yellow Pages or an online directory wondering how this will bring me business? Me too, and far too many times. So, I finally started asking the sales rep, “What do you do, specifically, for my business, or other tile contractors?” The response is either a blank face, or hip-shot talking points about metrics, viewership, or whatever.  That’s when I  realize how valuable my NTCA membership really is.

I joined the association over 12 years ago because my company (and I) needed craft training and education. Although we have brought training “in-house,” the manuals offered by NTCA are still used for our apprentice training today. The continuing education we receive from the association is worth the price of admission for any and all tile contractors.  However, for Welch Tile, I can confidently say, the NTCA is the #1 marketing and advertising tool we use – but only valuable if we stay involved.

So, you could spend your profits advertising with companies who want to sell you ads, or you can spend your time involved with the NTCA which gives you credibility in front of:

Architects / designers

Home builders associations

Manufacturers / distributors

Prime contractors and building owners

Other tile contractors

Getting in front of these groups can definitely lead you to revenue opportunities. Don’t believe me? Here are 2,000,000 reasons why Welch Tile values our NTCA membership:

NTCA Member Partnering:
Food Processing Project
An opportunity for a food processing plant in the southwestern region of the United States presented itself in August of 2013, during a time when we were unable to provide staff. I contacted an NTCA Five Star Contractor member in the region, and it turned out that their business had a hole in their schedule large enough to accommodate this project. I was able to provide our client the service they needed and two NTCA members were able to make a nice profit: $323,000.00 in gross sales.

NTCA Member Partnering:
Large Hospital Project
Three NTCA Five Star Contractor companies were able to team on a large hospital project on the East Coast to sell a total flooring bid with tile, terrazzo, stone and carpet. This project came about during the worst of the economic downturn, and we were out of local work. The joint venture was able to provide work for our staff and partner along with other NTCA tile contractors who also needed the project to weather the economic storm: $830,000.00 in gross sales.

NTCA Knowledge:
Large Local Hotel Shower Renovation
Currently, we are starting a large hotel renovation with 270 rooms. This project bid in mid-2011, then again in early-2013. Initially, we were severely under-bid by a competitor using entry-level products with subcontracted labor. We battled the price-versus-value war, and provided substantial information with regard to peace-of-mind, product performance, and TCNA guidelines. Our ability to specify product and knowledge acquired through many years of listening and contributing to the NTCA Technical Committee gave us just what we needed to close this job: $879,000.00 in gross sales.

These case studies, totaling $2,032,000, are just a fraction of the reasons why Welch Tile is an active member of the NTCA. We joined the NTCA to learn; we stay a member for the return.

The NTCA is a unique group that I hold in strong regard. Our membership in the NTCA yields the largest return on investment each year, leaving all other advertising (combined) a very distant second place. In fact, all ad salesmen now get sent to voicemail. I’d rather spend that time involved with the NTCA. I challenge you all to invest, get involved, and tell others.

Thank you,
Dan Welch

Benefits Box – December 2013


New NTCA/Firestarter VT online training partnership features key factors

wally_adamchikOnline training systems are flooding the inboxes of contractors as they become must-have tools for training employees. But leadership consultant Wally Adamchik asks, “How can a busy manager in a construction firm decide which system is the best to use?”

The good news is NTCA has done the research for you. NTCA has partnered with Adamchik to provide contractor-focused, time-efficient, engaging, online employee training as a new benefit to members, starting in 2014. Adamchik is president of FireStarter Speaking and Consulting, a Raleigh-based leadership consulting and development firm, and a presenter of keynote speeches about leadership, management and training issues at construction industry meetings and conventions, including Coverings. He is author of Construction Leadership From A to Z; 26 Words to Lead By.

“Online training has come a long way in just a few years. It doesn’t have to be the clunky, ineffective, and painful process many of us have experienced,” said Adamchik. “Savvy contractors are aggressively integrating online learning into their training curriculum. Previously hard-to-teach subjects, such as supervisory skills, are finding a new home online. The payoff is having a better-trained employee while maintaining production because you don’t shut the job site down for a few hours to bring the leaders in for training.”

“In the past few months I researched what is out there from a technology perspective and what is actually being used by contractors,” Adamchik said. “I did user demonstrations on nine different online platforms. I interviewed more than 20 contractors across disciplines. This research led me to 13 key factors to consider when buying training systems,” said Adamchik. His new system, FireStarterVT.com, has all these essential features. View it at www.firestartervt.com.

He suggests considering these four tips when contemplating bringing online training into your company:

1. It is not about the technology – it is about the return on your investment. The technology you select to meet your needs should actually train people and improve performance.

2. Full-motion video – is the instructor talking to you directly? Most online learning is mind-numbing voice-over-PowerPoint or a bad recording of a live presentation. That is so 2010! Best-in-class today features the speaker delivering content.

3. Interactive questions – Just like in a live classroom where the instructor asks questions, in the best virtual classrooms the instructor asks questions, too, before users can continue.

4. Other language subtitles – In our increasingly diverse society, it is important to make training available to students who are not fluent in English by using subtitles. However, most programs do not support this option.

Adamchik listed several benefits for contractors with the NTCA/FirestarterVT partnership.

• New employees will view you as a progressive firm that invests in people.

• The cost advantage gained from effective implementation of a blended employee development curriculum is compelling. You train more people for less money.

• You maintain production while training employees.

• You make yourself more attractive to the next generation while educating all your leaders.

“We are finally at a time where new technology is creating real value in employee learning,” Adamchik said. “Your key to recognizing maximum value is to get the right system. These tips will point you in the right direction. Ask your training provider or potential technology provider if they have these features. The savvy buyer recognizes the payoff delivered from these features and reaps the benefits.” Contact Adamchik at [email protected] to learn more about the NTCA/FirestarterVT partnership.