The tile industry is populated by many seasoned, experienced veteran old-timers (written with affection!) who have made the industry what it is today. But a new generation of tile industry professionals is coming up, bringing fresh energy and new perspectives to all roles and levels of the industry. This new TileLetter section – Rising Stars – will check in with young talent in our industry throughout the year to keep our finger on the pulse of the direction young leaders are taking us, and what their concerns and visions are for the industry.
Coverings pays homage to these emerging leaders with its Coverings Rock Stars program, which honors and recognizes the best and brightest young talent in the tile and stone industry. Candidates who are 35 and under are nominated by peers and industry leaders, drawing from professionals in the following fields: architecture, design, distribution, retail, contractor/installation, fabrication, specification, trade association, and manufacturer.
We talked to a couple of Rock Stars from the 2020 programs to get their take on the industry, problems and challenges they face, what gives them joy and how they think the industry can improve. Hear what Janice Hill, project manager for NTCA Five-Star Contractor D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting in Marietta, Ga., and Joseph Mattice CTI #1155, CTEF Board Member and owner of NTCA member On the Level in Simpsonville, N.C., say about the state and future of the industry today.
Hill and Mattice took very different routes to enter the industry. Mattice was raised in the flooring trade, but at 15, felt a strong pull to tile. “The different designs and materials really resonated with me, and I wanted to learn how to do something special with them,” he said. And he noted that tile work demands precision from the get-go, since it’s not easy to change mistakes once you start.
Hill graduated from the University of West Georgia in spring 2014 with intentions to get her Masters degree. But a friend who works in the restoration side of D.W. Sanders Tile & Stone Contracting recommended her for the position in April 2015. “Not really having a direction, I took a plunge into the tile and stone industry,” she said. “I am so happy and thankful that I did because it’s a unique, valuable trade that showcases team work and true craftsmanship.”
Working in the industry has brought a lot of joy. For Hill, the perspective of seeing a project from start to finish gives her a sense of completion and satisfaction. Being in on early budgeting, planning and estimating, she may not see the installation begin for a year or two, but she gets to oversee selections as they are finalized, “work through details…and build the project files for our crews in the office,” she said. “Once the installations come along, it is so rewarding to see what the final product looks like. What started with a set of plans, many meetings and a whole lot of planning turns into everlasting masterpieces. Atlanta has such beautiful, immaculate homes and getting to see our work completed in them brings me joy.”
Mattice grooves on helping a client with even a “simple small project” realize their vision. “A genuine smile from them and knowing that their work is done right gets me every time,” he said. It galls him when unskilled contractors damage property and put health in jeopardy. “Clients deserve better for their money,” he added.
Amidst the joy are challenges and concerns that can weigh heavily on these professionals’ minds. Hill agonizes over getting answers and details needed for accurate budgets and correct quantities for layouts to ensure all parties are on the same page. “It just sometimes feels like I am pulling teeth and/or having to nag to get answers,” she lamented. “Having all of the details means I am able to get our crews in the field the information they need to keep momentum, have a successful installation and to achieve the desired looks of the homeowners, designers and architects.”
Mattice worries about generating enough business to sustain his company while competing against unqualified and low-priced labor. “Educating the market is my current project to combat that,” he said.
In terms of the industry overall, Hill and Mattice commented on where it excels, and where it can improve. Hill praised the industry’s sense of community and the vast amount of information that it’s ready to share. “If I don’t know the answer to a technical question, I have the tools to find it or know of someone I can call and ask,” she said. “The National Tile Contractors Association is an awesome association that provides a community for all professions within the industry, which I think is very beneficial.”
Mattice extolled the level of customer relations between manufacturers and contractors, calling it “unmatched” in the flooring industry. “However, turning that into education for contractors and exciting the next generation continues to be the biggest challenge I see in the near future,” he concluded.
To learn about the other 2020 Rock Star Award recipients, visit www.coverings.com/coverings-rock-stars/. There you can also submit an application to for 2021 Rock Stars honors – deadline is March 26, at 11:59 p.m.