Greg Michael of Michael’s Custom Tile Inc. (michaelscustomtile.com) got his start in the tile industry early, beginning right out of high school in Bismarck, N.D.
“I learned the trade from a family friend and his two sons,” Michael said.
Michael knew that college wasn’t the way he wanted to go, and his dad, being a teacher, wasn’t super happy about his decision. However, he knew what he wanted and didn’t want to waste money on something he knew he didn’t want to do. So, when one of his peers from high school hooked him up with a summer job, Michael learned how to be a tile contractor from his friend’s brother and his dad.
He and his wife moved from North Dakota to Seattle, Wash., due to the economy in 1986. While in Seattle, he worked for a tile contractor. Four years later Michael and his wife moved to Jacksonville, Fla., where Michael’s small business was birthed. When he couldn’t find a reputable tile contractor to work for, he decided to become his own small business owner. From there, he built his business up to 10 employees – then came the market crash in 2008. Unfortunately, he had to lay off most of his employees and only kept three of them.
Joining NTCA to build success
Michael chose to become a member of NTCA in 2009. Two years earlier, he had attended a Coverings event to get more involved in the tile industry and got inspired. He joined NTCA in an effort to set his business up for success and set it apart from other competition.
“Joining the NTCA and getting involved really helped me reach out to better clients in my area who are looking for quality install, not just price shopping,” he said. “I am able to charge what I need to sustain my small business and not work nearly as hard just for a paycheck as I used to when I was younger,” he added.
Following his membership, Michael became an NTCA Five-Star Contractor, to advance himself and rise above the competition. His clientele reflects the wisdom of this decision.
In addition, he was also a Florida Regional Director on the NTCA board from 2013-2016.
“This was a fantastic experience for me as I have met so many passionate people who love our industry and work so hard to make it better,” Michael said.
Earning his Certified Tile Installer (CTI) credential from The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) was an essential part of becoming an NTCA Five-Star Contractor. Recalling his CTI test, he couldn’t forget the stress he had being tested within view of everyone at Coverings in 2010.
“I got my CTI #338, taking the test with Scott Carothers [CTEF Academic Director] on the show floor at Coverings — what an experience,” he said.
Solo operator revisited
After the pandemic struck in 2020, Michael made the decision for himself and his wife to operate solo once again. The result of this choice was the freedom to still run his business, but more importantly the flexibility to be able to focus on supporting his wife through her health struggles.
He said, “Best decision I have made for me in a long time, and really wish I would have done it 10 years earlier!” As a solo operator now, he concentrates on residential remodels, mostly bathrooms, from demolition to finish.
Michael tries his best to take advantage of all NTCA has to offer as far as training opportunities and conference events go. He likes to attend Coverings and Total Solutions Plus every year but especially appreciates Total Solutions Plus (TSP).
“I feel that TSP is the best industry conference due to its smaller scale and more chances to really get to know all the great people in our industry on a more personal level,” Michael said, “I would encourage every tile contractor to get to it at least once to see for themselves.”
Unfortunately, it has been difficult for Michael to attend these events as often as he would like due to his wife’s health issues in the last few years. “I hated missing Palm Springs [TSP 2022] last year!”he said.
With every thriving business come obstacles, Michael observed. “Right now I would say that my biggest challenge is still supply issues and trying to educate potential clients about why it is best to do your research on tile contractors,” he said. “It seems like lately there are a lot more people with unrealistic expectations and budgets. It is a constant battle.”
Beyond that, there are many things he cherishes about what he does.
“My greatest joy in what I do for a living is the end result and having a happy client at the end of a bath remodel who will enjoy their new bathroom for years to come,” he said,” I am so fortunate to still love what I do!”
If you know or follow Michael on social media, you know he is “living the dream!”
Michael’s Custom Tile project work
Amanda Mourelatos, daughter of John Mourelatos, Owner of Mourelatos Tile Pro, is a 19-year-old student in her second year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., where she is majoring in journalism with a communications minor.