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Greasers and Socs

Coverings is just around the corner and we have an exciting plan for CTEF booth #4243! Come see ACT GPTP exams and be a part of hands-on demos. We would love to see you there. 

But before we move forward to Coverings, let me dial it back a bit. 

My 8th grader, Abigail, just completed a study on The Outsiders, a 1967 novel by then 16-year-old S.E. Hinton (pen name for Susan Eloise Hinton). Although I vaguely remember the book and the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola movie (incredible cast, by the way), I’ve enjoyed brief conversations with Abigail about the plot, society, and the struggles between people with different backgrounds. It’s been fun! If you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, I encourage you to do so, especially in relation to this article.

In early February during her study, a parallel conversation blossomed on social media and in several circles about the Certified Tile Installer program. During the exchange of dialogue between tile installers, it occurred to me there exists, sadly, some themes of the main conflict from The Outsiders in our own industry story. I didn’t know CTEF had an opposing gang, but it seems we do, and they feel like the CTI test has concerning inconsistencies and questionable integrity. To address this issue and offer transparency, we have scheduled a Zoom Town Hall Meeting on March 6th, which will occur before the release of this article. Fingers crossed no one gets verbally stabbed.

How do you identify? Greaser or Soc?

Please, Reader, allow me to make some generalizations I do not actually hold, but have eerie similarities to The Outsiders. In the story, the local social classes are divided into two gangs, the Greasers, and the Socs (short for Socials). The main difference between them: the Greasers drive fast cars, wear leather, and come from struggling households, and the preppy, advantaged, well-to-do Socs live on the other side of town and look down on their opposites.

In our own industry story, I think we can create two distinct parallels from the Greasers and the Socs. The Greasers can be likened to some installers and the Socs to those not struggling in the trenches.  

Maybe it’s natural tendency to be divided based on background, education, and income, but what concerns me most is the divide being created becoming too difficult to bridge. Through viewing a sunset, Ponyboy (Greaser) and Cherry (Soc) realize the humanity in each other. Does anyone want to look at a sunset with me?

Here’s a similar divide: a project manager in an office sees the big picture of profitability for the project at hand, but doesn’t grasp the details necessary to make it successful, versus the installer onsite who knows what’s really necessary to make the job successful, but doesn’t grasp the numbers aspect to make it profitable. That has and will always exist. The best and most successful companies are the ones that acknowledge the importance of both and create clear lines of communication to better understand one another. I don’t think it’s any different from those of us in different places in the industry. 

Am I a Greaser or a Soc? At one point, I could clearly call myself a Greaser. I lived the construction worker life with day in and day out on commercial jobsites. Maybe I traded my blue collar for a white one, although some days I get a bad case of ring around the collar. I still work, but in a different manner and in short spurts (remember to stretch Brad; it’s been three weeks since you last unloaded a pallet of tile). Does that make me a Soc…maybe so? Regardless, I do feel like I come from, and see, both sides of many of these issues. 

Whatever you identify with, here’s the rhetoric I hear:

  • The “suits” don’t get it.
  • Installers aren’t heard and need a voice.
  • People in industry organizations don’t actually know how to install tile.
  • Organizations supported by manufacturers can’t be trusted.
  • Installers can’t learn new ways. 
  • A consensus isn’t possible.
  • Installers can’t grasp the big picture of the industry.
  • It’s too hard to help installers understand how larger organizations work.
  • Installers do not have an opinion worth hearing. 

What I have found: so many of these statements are completely false

Rather than enter a lengthy debate about each of these points,  I hope to encourage you to stop and ask yourself: “Have I said (or thought) these things before?” If so, maybe take a second look at your position. 

  • Doesn’t the industry have an organizational way for “voices” to be heard?
  • Is your perspective best for the industry as a whole, or only a very small segment of it?
  • Do you really try to understand the person who may dress differently than you do, use different words in their speech, enjoy and engage in different things than you do, or conduct business differently than you do?
  • Do these “others” have something valuable to offer, and are you both taking time to trade ideas in a way that benefits each other?
  • Are you using your position to sow discord or unity in the industry?
  • What can you do to put yourself in a better place and frame of mind to consider new information or opinions?
  • Do you regularly take time and energy to engage others?
  • Do you retain your professionalism when discussing these ideas and issues? 

I think frustrations can arise when we arrive at a point where we are not able to see past the struggles we are facing. Not all is lost and not all things are broken. Let’s agree to disagree on some issues but strive to look past absolute negatives. 

In The Outsiders, the characters felt thrown into a situation where they had no hope, and the only solution was solving it with violence. We don’t have to do that. My message – along with the point of the book – “Stay gold,” installers.   

Brad Denny
Executive Director at Ceramic Tile Education Foundation | + posts

Brad Denny CTI #1190 has been intensely active in the tile industry for many years. He has served as Region 6 Director for the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), received the NTCA Dedication to Membership award – a recognition specially created just to honor his passion for methods, standards, and the internet – and chaired the NTCA’s Social Media Subcommittee as well as moderated the Tile Geeks Facebook group.

Brad also served as the Co-Chairman of the NTCA Training and Education Committee with Sam Bruce of Visalia Tile for 2020 and 2021.

In 2021, Brad received the prestigious NTCA Tile Person of the Year Award. This award is given to someone who has positively impacted NTCA through participation in the Association's programs.

Before becoming Executive Director for CTEF, Brad was vice president and COO of  Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co, Inc.,  a family-owned tile contractor business located outside of Nashville, Tenn., and NTCA Five-Star Contractor Member of the NTCA.

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