NTCA predicts that total membership in 2016 will exceed record numbers. As of the end of May, the association has already matched its previous record of 1,150 active members – and end of August numbers place total members at 1,234. That’s compared to 1,077 by the end of August 2015. By the end of 2016, NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga expects membership to reach 1,300 active members.
“We continue to have an active board of directors and a growing group of state ambassadors who have helped to raise awareness of the association in their respective markets,” said Bettiga. “This has helped us to grow membership on a local level.” Bettiga also cites the success of the association’s partnerships with flooring groups like Starnet and CCA Global Partners, which has allowed the association to provide education and training at their national events.
Another powerful driver of membership growth has been the Partnering for Success program, developed with NTCA’s affiliate members. The program provides for product vouchers from manufacturers, importers, and distributors, to help members offset the cost of membership.
Word of mouth has also played an important role, with communication on popular online networks such as the John Bridge Forum and Tile Geeks spreading the word of the benefits of NTCA membership.
“Awareness of the NTCA and our promotion of qualified labor has increased across the country through social media, our State Ambassadors program, the NTCA Workshop programs and at national conventions,” said Jim Olson, assistant executive director. “We are reaching tile and stone craftspeople who believe in what the NTCA is doing to promote them and qualified labor, and because of that, the NTCA is growing.”
Joining the NTCA is easy – there’s a simple form on the association website at www.tile-assn.com. Members have immediate access to all the knowledge, education, and industry connections of the largest tile contractors association in the world.
As we continue to develop courses for the finisher apprenticeship program, I wanted to address some questions that contractors have had. If you are considering a program of your own, hopefully the following information will be useful for you.
By Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator
Q: Do I have to have a Department of Labor (DOL) approved apprenticeship program?
A: No, this is your program to use as you wish. You can register it with the DOL if you wish or you can use the online courses to supplement training for your new hires and their on-the-job learning.
Q: If I have a DOL approved program, does the online learning take the place of the classroom learning?
A: With a DOL-approved apprenticeship program, you are required to have 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job practical work each year. The first six months of online learning will make up approximately 10 hours of the classroom training, so you will still need to have classes with your apprentices. Some members are requiring their apprentices to take courses before the classroom training, while others are using it as a follow-up to make sure they retained what was learned in the classroom. Either way is acceptable since it is YOUR program. While we would be willing to offer suggestions, the NTCA has only developed the supplemental learning materials for you to implement as you see best for your company.
Q: Do I need to sign up each of my apprentices or can I just buy one program for everyone to view?
A: This again is your decision. If you have a DOL program then you may want to consider each individual being registered since there are tests at the end of each module. You can then use this information to track how well each individual is doing, and you can document that they have completed the course and the time it took them to complete each module. Or you can gather everyone in a group setting and view the course, then take the quiz together. Some contractors are even using these courses as part of the evaluation of each apprentice when they do performance reviews.
Q: Do I need computers in the office for the apprentices to take the courses?
A: No. As long as they can log into their NTCA account, they will be able to access NTCA University from any computer, tablet, or phone so they don’t need to be in the office to learn. As long as they have internet access, they can take modules.
Visit the NTCA store at www.tile-assn.com to see the current listing of courses. If there is a course that you would like to see or if you are unsure of the types of courses available, please send me an e-mail at [email protected] or call me at 770-366-2566.
CTEF, NTCA partner to produce CTI orientation video
Nineteen-minute video addresses common questions for CTI process; available by end of 2016
By Terryn Rutford, Social Structure Marketing
Since Coverings 2008, tile installers across the country have been gathering at industry trade shows, product manufacturers, distributors, and installation contractors. Why? To take part in a hands-on test that demonstrates they have the skills to deliver an installation that meets industry performance and workmanship standards. This hands-on test is the second portion of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test conducted by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). It follows a 155-question multiple choice technical proficiency exam typically taken online.
Over the last eight years since the inception of the Certified Tile Installer test, the program has expanded, with more installers seeking certification. In fact, to date 1,252 installers from 46 states have been certified through the CTI process. As a result, the CTEF is taking steps to expand the number of test evaluators available to proctor the hands-on test. These test evaluators will be in place the last quarter of 2016.
To enhance this expansion process, CTEF director of Certification and Training Scott Carothers and National Tile Contractors Association Training and Education coordinator Becky Serbin partnered to create a video of the in-person orientation usually conducted by Carothers before the hands-on test. According to Carothers, this orientation video will tell soon-to-be tested installers “what they need to know about the test and answer common questions for the entire group. With our expansion plans for additional test evaluators, every potential CTI will view the same orientation and receive the same information to keep it consistent.”
In 2015, CTEF certified 101 tile installers and thus far in 2016, CTEF has already certified 83. Carothers “spent a lot of time during the orientation going over questions,” Serbin said. “Now the test takers will have an opportunity to review the orientation before arriving on test day, and they can ask any and all questions prior to test day.”
The video is about 19 minutes long. The video is still in beta testing and may undergo changes before being released on the CTEF YouTube channel by the end of the year.
Levantina rocks with natural stone for commercial or residences
Levantina (levantina.com), the multinational Spanish-based provider of natural stone, is supplier to the world in terms of natural stone. A recent installation of natural stone at the acclaimed annual Starlite music festival and a stunning installation of Crema Marfil Coto® in a Texas residence demonstrated the breadth of natural stone products from this company.
Once again, natural stone products from the company were chosen by architect Héctor Ruiz-Velázquez to embellish the Starlite Marbella (starlitemarbella.com/en/) arts festival that took place in the Nagüeles quarry in Marbella in July and August 2016. He created an astonishing mix of luxury and glamor for the VIP reception area, which houses and becomes a social entrance hall for a very exclusive audience, with granite from the Natural Stone collections from Levantina starring at the welcome desk.
For Starlite 2015, the architect chose Levantina’s Crema Marfil Coto to adorn the area at Starlight. “After last year’s great experience with the Crema Marfil Coto marble, I wanted to evolve and apply stronger stone, with more personality,” said Ruiz, who is the art director of all international editions of the event. “That is the reason I chose granite, unique and exclusive, to provide the welcome desk with a dramatic character.”
The whole space seems extracted from the quarry, with chiseled walls and floors integrated with the natural setting with the natural setting and all architectural elements such as desk, bar and fireplace, seeming to rise out of the raw stone itself. The sensation extends from floor to ceiling, and offers a unique feeling of authenticity, exclusiveness and luxury.
Starlite transcends a simple open-air setting for concerts. It is a meeting place, a social and cultural reference for architecture, haute cuisine, movie premieres, fashion shows, art exhibitions and exclusive parties including a Starlite Gala benefit, hosted by Antonio Banderas.
Westlake, Texas home
In July 2015, 2,500 sq. ft. of Levantina’s Crema Marfil Coto was installed in a grand Westlake, Texas, residence. The homeowner wanted a grand and elegant setting for this new home, which include 18” x 18” and 24” x 24” Crema Marfil Coto tile and special cuts for the spectacular staircase crafted from slab.
With six factories in Spain and one in Brazil, Levantina’s facilities are equipped with the latest generation of technology and its production processes are subject to exhaustive checks to guarantee the highest quality of its finished materials, maintaining ISO 9001 in its facilities that the company’s commitment to the continuous improvement of its manufacturing resources. Levantina presently extracts more than 2.2 million m3 a year from its quarries, including the Monte Coto quarry in Alicante, Spain, from which this internationally famous Crema Marfil is extracted.
Logistics for this project were handled out of the company’s Dallas, open-to-the-public showroom. The company has U.S. locations in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin and a new facility opening in Charlotte, N.C., this year.
Levantina is a world leader in production, transformation and marketing of natural stone. The multinational, born in 1959, has the world’s largest deposit of Crema Marfil marble, located in Alicante. Levantina has many quarries, seven factories and 25 distribution warehouses, with exports to more than 114 countries in the European Union, America, the Middle East and Asia. Levantina’s portfolio includes more than 200 different materials, among which Naturamia® Collection and Techlam® stand out.
Contractors offer value-added service, keep connected with customers
By Lesley Goddin
The tile or stone is installed, the area cleaned up, and you step back and admire your work, then go on to your next job, right?
Contractors say cleaners, sealers and maintenance packages can add protection to the project and its long-term beauty and performance, and keep contractors connected to their customers so they are top of mind for that next tile or stone job or referral to a friend or business.
Not a one-size fits-all proposition
Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five Star Contractor Heritage Tile and Marble, Mill Valley, Calif., said that manufacturers have mispromoted sealers over the years, giving the impression that “the installer applies a magic substance to a surface that allows them to abuse the tile and grout, when in fact it’s more of a protectant that gives added amount of time to remove a substance, over a non-protected surface.”
Brookes said that not all tile or grouts require a sealer, and sealers exposed to UV light may need regular reapplication. “It’s not a one-shoe size fits all scenario.”
Sealer applied and allowed to flash on the surface, possibly on stone that was too hot or sealer applied in direct sunlight.
Heritage highly recommends a maintenance package when stone is installed. “We recommend StoneTech® Revitalizer as maintenance cleaner, and always warn of not using harmful toxic cleaners around natural stone and metallic tile,” he said. “We have however noticed over the years that ‘green’ cleaning products don’t have the cleaning power of the more toxic, harmful ones so there is a compromise.”
Brookes also said that the combination of green cleaning products, shower gels, shampoo, body oils and the humid environment of a shower is contributing to frequent growth of the bacterium Serratia Marcescens. This gram-bacterium, which creates a pinkish-reddish-orange slimy bloom on surfaces, is a culprit in urinary tract and respiratory infections, especially in hospital settings and where instrumentation is involved for the patient.
“We educate the end user on the limitations of a sealer and inform them it’s not a one-time application; regular maintenance and reapplication will safeguard their investment,” he said.
An attempt to remove a stain with a poultice only made the situation worse.
STONETECH /LATICRETE sealers
Becoming the local go-to maintenance experts
For NTCA State Ambassador Dirk Sullivan of Portland, Oregon’s Hawthorne Tile, requests for repairs and recaulking or regrouting have been frequent since he started his business in 2000. This kind of work “helped pay the bills” during the 2008-10 economic downturn, he said. But once the business of larger, custom jobs picked up again, there wasn’t much time to pursue this type of work.
Until Sullivan had a revelation: “If we had a team to manage this specific line, we could become the go-to experts,” he said. “Not only that, but we could have a team ready to set up maintenance programs as we completed our high-end custom jobs.” Longtime employee Jason Ballard (CTI, ACT) was eager to take on this new role, applying his “eye for detail, understanding of TCNA standards and excellent customer service.”
Hawthorne Tile has evolved its selection of products, choosing Dry Treat, a relatively exclusive product in the region. It added in LATICRETE and AquaMix products to fill some holes in local representation.
After meeting Fila’s Jeff Moen at Coverings early this year, Sullivan was super impressed with the line of cleaners and the “top-notch customer service” offered by this company, which includes educating Hawthorne staff – and by the fact that Hawthorne would be the exclusive distributor of the line.
“As we complete our projects, we give our customers a gift bag with sample cleaning products and instructions as well as a refrigerator magnet with our restoration team contact number and info for re-ordering cleaning products as they need it,” Sullivan said.
“We have found that this type of full service means we have a loyal customer for life. Not just when they need tile installed – which as it turns out… is not often enough!”
J&R Tile crews applying sealer on different types of surfaces.
How do you combat lack of care in commercial kitchens, lack of sanitary cove base in restroom facilities and the darkening and residue buildup consequences of using dirty mop heads with regular detergent soap?
If you are Five Star Contractor J&R Tile, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, you offer custom maintenance packages free for the property owner of a new construction or remodel to pass on to the custodial staff, along with complimentary product samples with demonstrations to help staff members use proper procedures to maintain their warranty and keep the project looking great.
Free? Yep, that’s what NTCA State Ambassador Erin Albrecht of J&R Tile said. The company trains and educates maintenance/facilities personnel on application, leaving the door open for calls or questions. “Most don’t know – or don’t know where – to purchase professional strength tile and stone cleaners,” she said. “We offer services, but we leave the stickers on the bottles on where the customer can reorder and our cards to contact us to order and ship to them.”
Fila products are the company’s go-to, due to its outstanding customer support, and a useful iPhone app for staff and customers that displays a flowchart of the proper product for each application. Lori Coates, StoneTech rep out of Houston, also provides unbeatable customer service.
“If we had more partnerships like this in the industry commercially, our installations as contractors would be longer-lasting and more aesthetically-pleasing. That relationship would build customer loyalty with the contractor, and brand loyalty with the product. The staff always knows they can trust you because you care about your installation, long after the project is complete.”
In addition to the free maintenance service, J&R dialogs in pre-construction about cove base and other options like metal trims. “We believe when cove bases are deleted because trim pieces can be pricey with budgetary constraints, it is our due diligence to offer solutions for the life of the installation with the end user in mind,” she said.
And J&R has found in problematic commercial kitchens where they are called in to “regrout,” management has been inaccurately or incompletely informed about how to maintain their floors. “Most of these facilities have gotten to the point where standing water is in the kitchen and it is a health/safety hazard.”
Providing a custom maintenance package, with proper instructions from the get-go, eliminates these problems, and contributes to satisfied customers and repeat business.
Sense of family extends from business to industry, with membership in NTCA
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., got its beginnings back in 1946 when David Nichols started his career as a helper for Art Mosaic in Nashville, Tenn. After a leave of absence to join the Army, he returned from the Korean War in 1953 with a Purple Heart, and rejoined the private sector working on and managing out-of-town large commercial terrazzo projects. In the early 60s he left, and enjoyed two different partnerships with Glenn Arrington and Bob Dudley before starting Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc. in 1973, with his wife Juanita anchoring the office.
At Coverings 2016, NTCA’s Jim Olson (r.) presented Brad Denny with a Special Recognition Award for his efforts in promoting NTCA through social media and helping the association increase its membership.
In 1974, Nichols’ stepson, Billy Denny, joined the company straight out of college to help with the estimating until he could find another job. “He jokes that he has yet to find anything,” said Bradford (Brad) Denny, Billy’s son, who came on full time as an installer in 1998, after working four years as a helper when not in school. Billy’s daughter, Amber Hunter, started working in the office in 2001 and has gradually taken over the responsibilities of her grandmother.
Today, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., in Joelton, Tenn., is a NTCA member, focusing on commercial specialty projects and large custom residential, and has branched out into thin porcelain tile, while enjoying the challenge of large mortar beds, pools, fountains and waterproofing. Brad Denny, now project manager, serves the association as the NTCA Region 6 Director. He also moderates the online NTCA Members and NTCA Regional and State Ambassadors Facebook groups, and introduced NTCA to the Tile Geeks Facebook page, through which NTCA has gained new members. He was honored at Coverings 2016 as one of the Coverings Rock Stars, a group of some of the best and brightest young talent in the industry, and received a NTCA Special Recognition Award at Coverings for his constant voice in promoting NTCA in all forms of social media.
This project was a vignette for a manufacturer displaying at a hotel industry conference. It received a People’s Choice Award for best display.
“For many years and three generations our company has had the reputation for doing work that is technically sound and well installed,” Denny explained. “Our clients note their satisfaction with our attention to detail and their schedules. All of our advertising is word of mouth. Many of our competitors respect us and have reached out to us for help with difficult projects. We enjoy great relationships with our local distributors, and that has been an excellent help through the years. We are a tight-knit family – all employees included – and we look to work with others who reflect similar qualities. We strive to be fair and wise with the blessing to be able to work together and make a living from the works of our hands.”
From STTMAC to NTCA
Nichols Tile & Terrazzo was a member of NTCA’s precursor, STTMAC back in the day, but Denny said, the company “did not take advantage of the benefits of actively participating in the organization.” The company re-upped in 2010, through the influence of Tom “Hammy” Hambrock, who was then serving as NTCA Middle Tennessee State director.
This 3,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen was challenging due to the height restriction and over 35 drains. Pictured is Mario Bertoli, whose family has a rich history in the Nashville tile industry.
“We had met through the John Bridge Forums, and Hammy was adamant that I should join at a local workshop we attended together,” Denny said. “If you know Hammy, he was a force of nature and difficult to say no to, although I had been eyeing the benefits of the organization and admired the work they were doing for the industry.”
In 2005, many things started shifting for Denny. He married his wife Nicole, and became more interested in the overall workings of the family business as he considered the future of his own family. Through his new laptop, he discovered johnbridge.com and a community that was passionate about tile. Many professionals he encountered were connected or spoke about NTCA and it “sparked a desire to become a part of that.
Under this stunning mosaic is a heated floor. The sheet-mounted material did not enjoy staying together and many of the small mosaics were installed piece by piece.
“In the fall of 2014, after being a member and attending a few trade shows, I called Jim Olson to ask if I could anchor Hammy’s former position after we lost him in February of that year,” Denny said. “After a year of serving as a State Director, circumstances opened up a need for a board member in late 2015 and I was approached about filling the seat. After speaking with my family and realizing the honor and opportunity, I accepted and will serve as the Region 6 Director until the end of 2018 and possibly for another two years if needed.”
Denny has the highest praise for the opportunities afforded by NTCA, crediting it for helping him grow as both “an installer and businessman. Through relationships with others that are at a place we’d like to be as a company, all the while helping those who’d like to be where we currently are, the NTCA provides a network of contractors that are interested in continuing what is essentially an ancient art form, that can be profitable for many families,” he said.
Pictured is Chris Martin, a longtime Nichols Tile & Terrazzo employee, cleaning up the pool decking and coping the company installed to complement the new surrounding wall tile. This remodel was a major updating to the historical first indoor pool in Tennessee. It involved a very detailed slope design to the mortar bed in a cramped space, new floated columns, and waterproofing to protect the space below it.
Thin tile is something Nichols Tile & Terrazzo has become comfortable with, to the point of tackling difficult projects. Pictured here is a green marble overlay with epoxy mortar.
“The work that the NTCA does to represent the contractor speaks directly to what we see as most important, protection of those close to you,” he added. Sharing experiences in tile setting with others on the same path, “really gives us a common thread that can be knitted together for a common good,” he said. “I feel like the NTCA is the perfect vehicle for that. From methods and standards to benefits and networking, the NTCA is something we are using to join our family with the larger family that is present.”
Denny is also keen on being credentialed, having obtained his Certified Tile Installer status (CTI #1190) at TISE 2016, and is looking to gain ACT certification in 2017. Others at Nichols are also seeking CTI status in the coming year as well.
For Denny, the artistry and longevity inherent in tile setting is part of the satisfaction of his craft. “I personally love creating something that is beautiful to the eye that will last for many years,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of executing a design, the transfer of an idea from the mind and to physical reality. As a contractor, we enjoy providing the opportunity for a livelihood that is rewarding to individuals and families, all while satisfying our clients.”
This is another example of a difficult thin tile project. These concrete columns, in the middle of a preferred member lounge in a NHL arena, were clad with narrow strips of 3+ thin tile panels. Through training with one of the major manufacturers, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo was able to come in and finish this project started by another contractor.
The Crossroads Business Park is a modern, 1.5 million-sq.-ft. (139,354 m2) office and retail space in sunny Southern California.
Temperature fluctuations, large-format stone tile and high elevations pose installation challenge
By Arthur Mintie CSI, CDT, LATICRETE senior technical services director
The Crossroads Business Park is a modern, 1.5 million-sq.-ft. (139,354 m2) office and retail space in sunny Southern California. It features a host of modern amenities and a progressive design that includes large-format travertine natural stone tile on the façade of the building.
The developers were committed to a sustainable building process and employed a number of innovative approaches in the construction that posed several challenges. The building is four stories tall and was built using concrete, tilt-up walls, meaning that the walls were poured horizontally and then hoisted into place and tied together.
LATICRETE was brought in early in the process to identify the best materials and implementation to achieve the desired results for the exterior tiling.
“With more than 80,000 sq. ft. (7,432 m2) of stone tile on the exterior, reaching up four stories, proper installation with reliable materials was critical,” said Brett Spencer, LATICRETE regional sales manager. “LATICRETE was able to deliver not only the best adhesives and grouts, but also help the clients achieve their sustainability goals.”
A host of modern amenities and a progressive design was planned for the project, including large-format travertine natural stone tile on the façade of the building.
Builders faced two major challenges with this project:
DIFFICULT ENVIRONMENT – Surface temperatures on buildings in Southern California vary widely throughout the day, often swinging from as low as 60°F (15.5°C) overnight to 120°F (48.8°C) degrees in the heat of the day. Because of these dramatic shifts, expansion joints need to be larger than normal to avoid thermal shock and ensure consistent performance. In addition, the building is often exposed to wind-driven rain and must remain completely protected from that moisture.
SIZE OF THE TILE AND HEIGHT OF INSTALLATION – The 12” x 36” (30.5 x 91.4 cm) large-format travertine natural stone tiles used on the building façade are quite heavy, posing additional liability issues on a four-story building with walkways below. Permanent, dependable adhesion is absolutely required to avoid any potential issues with tiles falling from the building.
A LATICRETE solution
LATICRETE 254 Platinum thin-set mortar was chosen for certain adhesion of the large-format tiles, installed as high as four stories up.
Van Nuys, Calif.-based Certified Tile, Inc. chose LATICRETE for its proven solutions in these kinds of applications.
To address the location’s difficult elements, Certified Tile, Inc. used the right waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane and grout to ensure the installation would stand for years to come.
To waterproof the entire installation from rain, moisture and the elements and to provide anti-fracture protection from the substrate, Certified Tile, Inc. used LATICRETE HYDRO BAN®.
HYDRO BAN is a thin, load-bearing waterproofing and anti-fracture membrane. This single-component, self-curing liquid rubber polymer forms a flexible, seamless waterproofing membrane and bonds directly to a wide variety of substrates.
To accommodate the larger-than-normal expansion joints necessary to avoid thermal shock created by extreme temperature variations, Certified Tile, Inc. used LATASIL™ silicone sealant to treat the movement joints. The sealant was color-matched to PERMACOLOR® Grout, offering a seamless transition to the movement joints that allows for expansion and contraction.
The building is four stories tall and was built using concrete, tilt-up walls, meaning that the walls were poured horizontally and then hoisted into place and tied together.
PERMACOLOR Grout is a high-performance, fast-setting grout that provides a grout joint that is dense and hard. It also provides outstanding color consistency and improved stain resistance.
LATASIL™ is a high-performance, one component, neutral-cure, 100% silicone sealant designed for ceramic tile and stone applications.
Addressing the size and height of the project required use of another LATICRETE product. To ensure the project’s large-format tiles stayed in place, Certified Tile, Inc. used 254 Platinum to adhere the tiles to the structure.
254 Platinum, the ultimate one-step, polymer fortified, thin-set mortar for interior and exterior installation of ceramic tile, stone, quarry tile, pavers, and brick was used to adhere the tiles to the building. 254 Platinum, designed to just mix with water, has a long open time with unsurpassed adhesion and workability and contains antimicrobial protection to inhibit the growth of stain-causing mold and mildew in the substrate.
The heavy 12” x 36” large-format travertine natural stone tiles used on the building façade required permanent, dependable adhesion to avoid potential issues with tiles falling from the building.
“The stone tile is the highlight of the building as visitors approach, so we needed the best possible installation that will hold up over time,” remarked John R. Burroughs, LEED AP Commerce Construction Co., L.P. “LATICRETE products give us the performance we need and give the project’s owners peace of mind.”
The installation took a little more than three months to complete and the materials come with a 25-year warranty. With the right products, Commerce Construction was able to achieve the elegant look the client wanted while attaining an installation that will hold up well to the constant heat and occasional rain of the area. The building is a success and is a centerpiece of the business park, helping to draw a variety of tenants who appreciate the outstanding construction quality.
The installation took a little more than three months to complete and the setting materials come with a 25-year warranty.
Product and services remix could get your sales moving
If your company’s sales results were a dance floor, how would it look? Are the numbers jumping off the page, dazzling you with their lively performances? Or are they slow, sluggish – perhaps even disappearing entirely? To keep the party moving, every business needs to regularly remix its line of products or services.
There are many potential causes of a sales slowdown. But these troubles aren’t all bad — they can help you shape your revised offerings. Start with the obvious: Are your customers drifting away? Conduct market research to find out whether they still like what you’re selling or if their needs have changed. Evolution is normal, so be ready to adjust your menu to keep pace.
CTDA membership increases your opportunities to network – and travel. This group of CTDA members enjoyed a trade mission to Turkey in 2014.
There are a few telling market research questions that are key to successful market research. Ask the consumer for his or her biggest challenges/ frustrations regarding your product, i.e. ceramic tile, and what those challenges are costing them. Next ask what goals in the near future they have regarding your product. Present your product (which would solve their challenges) and ask if they would be interested in the product and how much would it be worth to them. Finally confirm the best method of marketing by asking for the consumer’s preferred method to receive information regarding your product.
Also look into how long you’ve been offering the same products or services, and whether you’ve saturated the market. Some things have enduring value, but demand for others can wane as new products take the spotlight. Regular evaluations can help you decide whether you should:
Test a product or service in a different market or geographic area,
“Reinvent” a product or service (for instance, by repackaging or renaming it), or
Finally, don’t ignore the economy – both national and local.Market conditions can influence the sales of even the strongest products or services. Try to bolster the strongest ones, but also consider discontinuing weak ones or adding new ones that reflect the strength of the local economy. In an economic downturn, you may also find that reinventing your weak products will increase their sales; package them differently or price them competitively and you may see an increase in sales.
An effective remix of your products or services can turn a sad song into a happy tune.
CTDA helps you succeed in your business through a variety of programs and services that include educational opportunities, webinars, and discounts on shipping, client collection services, telephone charges, auto rentals, and more. CTDA offers networking and relationship-building opportunities through participation in Total Solutions Plus all-industry conference and Coverings annual trade show. Membership in CTDA also increases your national exposure and gives you access to the annual membership survey, a valuable resource to evaluate your company in terms of profit improvement, employee compensation, distribution and company performance. The CTDA website, CTDA Educational Opportunities, Weekly Newsletters and TileDealer Blog are all free resources that will “keep you in the loop” as well. CTDA is always looking for ways to improve the benefits of membership. To learn more about membership, please contact [email protected] or 630-545-9415 visit the website at www.ctdahome.org. Like CTDA on Facebook and Twitter @Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA).
As president of the NTCA it is very gratifying to see our membership grow to almost 1,300 members – in fact it is amazing! The NTCA is the best investment I have made in my business, and I hope most of you feel that way as well.
One question I would like to pose to our contractor members is: “What would it take to get more of you to attend our annual meeting at Total Solutions Plus (TSP)?” We do not get a lot of attendance from our members. We have constantly sent out surveys and asked questions at other tradeshows trying to get more participation for this conference. In the past we have waived the registration fee, given product away and advertised in different media, trying to reach our contractor members. These have not worked very well. Our goal is to have 15-20% of our contractor members attend TSP. This would mean 150-200 contractors.
Some of the most common answers I get from contractors who do not attend are cost and timing.
In terms of cost, a lot of members think that the registration, hotel and traveling expenses are too costly. And members have also told me the time of year is bad; that earlier or later is better for them. Some contractors have told me that Coverings is a better fit.
These reasons and more are all understandable, but I would like to address some of them and give reasons why you should at least try to attend TSP one time.
The educational and leadership opportunities are second to none as pertains to tile contractors. The educational tracks are designed around the tile contracting trade, and address everything from dealing with distributors to documenting issues on job sites.
Networking with the leaders from the distributors and manufacturers of products tile contractors use every day. You get to meet the CEOs and presidents of these companies in a setting that is a lot more intimate than huge trade shows. Receptions and parties are designed that enable you to talk one-on-one with these leaders. You can make contact with them and get a heads-up on new products, and try them before they are introduced to the public. You can even share your thoughts on their products.
The time of year question is interesting. TSP is planned out 12-18 months in advance and we try to distribute the conference in an East, Central, West fashion to hit all parts of the country. The dates are such that they are not too close to Thanksgiving, but also we have to give the manufacturers time to get back from Cersaie (Italy’s tile show) at the end of September.
In terms of cost, we have tried to lessen the cost by using overflow lodging at less-expensive venues similar to the Coverings model. Registration costs are put in place for a couple of reasons, to offset the speaker and food costs. Plus we believe that people need to have a little investment in their education. Attending this show is not a last-minute decision; it has to be circled as a date on your calendar.
The most important reason I attend TSP is to network and learn from other tile contractors. There have been at least two occasions where conversations with other tile contractors dealing with my business have literally saved five figures in business losses – this is not an exaggeration at all. Being at TSP saved me big money.
Lastly, as I look back on over 16 events I have attended – nine Total Solutions and seven Total Solutions Pluses – I realize that I would have never had the chance to meet so many like-minded people, mentors and benefitted so much from their knowledge. I never would have had the opportunity to grow as a person or a leader without this conference. Frankly, I don’t think I would have ever had the chance to be president of our great association if I had not attended TSP.
It is worth your investment in both time and money, so do yourself a favor, make plans to attend TSP 2017 in Washington, D.C., November 4-7 at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park hotel.
James Woelfel, NTCA President
Chairman, NTCA Technical Committee
In this issue, we are beginning a new feature: NTCA Previews. You’ll find it under the NTCA News section.
NTCA Previews is excerpted news from a monthly report on association activity that executive director Bart Bettiga just started issuing to directors and staff. It gives you an idea of all the things NTCA is actively working on.
This was an eye-opener for me as to the vast extent of everything NTCA is involved in, and I hope it will be for you too. NTCA has its fingers in many pies, with committees for training and education, technical, convention planning, social media, business development, NTCA Reference Manual, finance, membership, methods and standards, and a new one being developed for social media. We have regional and state ambassadors who are supporting education and proper training – as well as NTCA membership – in all 50 states. We have a Youth Leader Scholarship and trainers who are on the road bringing education to local markets, as well as a vibrant seminar program that addresses industry issues with the convenience of a computer and our developing NTCA University program as well – plus we are becoming more of an educational presence at shows that cater to different segments of the industry, such as our participation at the recent Remodeling Show | DeckExpo | JLC LIVE (R|D|J) in Baltimore. It’s hard to know EVERYTHING that is going on with NTCA staff, volunteers and officers.
But NTCA Previews is meant to do just that – give you a sense of what your association is doing on a monthly basis to help you be your best in this industry, and help the industry be its best in developing training, standards and addressing issues that cause problems with installations. Check the NTCA Previews each month for ongoing news of new initiatives and updates on existing ones.
The other feature in this issue I’d like to draw your attention to is our annual Women in Tile feature.
We look at female leaders in three companies – J&R Tile, Visalia Ceramic Tile, and Soci Tile & Sink – and the positive, professional contributions they are making to our industry. Women bring a unique skill set to their roles in our industry. Combined with their expertise and success within their companies and in the betterment of the industry as a whole, the women profiled in this TileLetter issue, and in the industry at large, command respect and admiration among their peers for work well done.