President’s Letter – April 2018

Best Practices – Evaluating bid opportunities

Last month we talked about best practices for estimating. This month, let’s look at procedures that can help us reduce estimating costs, making us more focused and profitable. 

As we all know, our trade is often price-driven when that’s all the homeowner or a general contractor wants to consider. Rather than joining the rush to the bottom by competing on price alone, look at your company and evaluate its strengths in your marketplace. 

Now let’s take a closer look at one of the common practices of companies that are high-performing “Best in Class” contractors and take the challenge of joining them: evaluating bid
opportunities.

Keep in mind the 80/20 rule: most of your profit is probably coming from a smaller segment of all your projects. Begin looking at projects and evaluating their compatibility with your strengths. Let’s face it, some types of projects are a breeze and some are a struggle from day one. All that’s needed is to begin to move away from those that seem to always be a challenge. The three largest components of this filtering process are easy to follow.

  • Determine what market segments hit your sweet spot. Is it new residential or remodel? Is it custom homes or tract homes? If you’re in the commercial area, is retail up-fit and restaurant your best fit or office and institutional? 
  • Determine your best geographic range and project size. If your team is not designed for a continuous flow of out-of-town work, then you should keep them close to home most of the time or suffer the consequences of high turnover and low margins. I’ve seen the advertising pitch, “No Job Too Small or Too Big” many times. If you can make the same profit margin on a $2,000 and a $1,000,000 job, you are a unique company. Yet you should still ask yourself the question, “Where in this range do I most often make the most margin?” That’s the range where you should focus
    your efforts.
  • Determine your best customers. Simply identify which customers you almost always make profit working with and which ones you frequently lose money working for. This is simple and easy to figure out, and you can probably name the good customers off the top of your head. All you need to do now is stop working for those that cost you money on every job.

Analyze your approach to business and see if you are scattering your resources or homing in with laser-like focus. If you scatter your resources aiming at everything that moves, you will sell less and efficiency in your organization will only be a dream. The more focused you can be in directing your job procurement efforts, the more efficient and effective the results, with a higher return on investment.

The goal is to know your strengths as much as possible and put yourself in position to capitalize on them more frequently. This requires some analysis and study of where you have been in the last year or two so that you can chart a course toward higher profitability, team morale and success. This is a trait of “Best in Class” contractors. My goal is to help every NTCA member raise the bar in professionalism, craftsmanship and integrity to become more successful.

Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard,
NTCA President
Committee member,
ANSI A108
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – April 2018

“The spring wakes us, nurtures us and revitalizes us. How often does your spring come? If you are a prisoner of the calendar, it comes once a year. If you are creating authentic power, it comes frequently, or very frequently.”  Gary Zukav

By now, hopefully, weather has stabilized around the country, and the folks on the east coast who have been battling nor’easter after nor’easter are reaping the benefits of all that moisture in beautiful buds and blooming flowers and all of the glories of spring.

The tile industry is also reaping the benefits of budding ideas and emerging products. In this issue, you’ll read a summation of an in-depth paper on gauged porcelain tile panels that TCNA’s Bill Griese and Crossville’s Noah Chitty presented in Spain at the Qualicer 18 conference. This Tech Talk selection updates you on the evolution of GPTP and the standards that now guide successful manufacturing and installation of these products. 

Our product section in this issue presents a new crop of tile and accessory materials that blossomed at the TISE West/Surfaces show in Las Vegas in January. Many of these were shared on the TileLetter and National Tile Contractors Association Facebook pages during the show (so stay tuned to those social media outlets for the upcoming Coverings show), but we’ve gathered a sampling of them here, for the convenience of reading in print. 

In NTCA University Update, Becky Serbin has presented a number of testimonials from students who have taken the first wave of apprentice courses. Her article demonstrates how these courses are being used for personal enrichment and also for overall training within a company.

It’s no surprise that tile sizes are growing (and shrinking, but that’s a different story) and that large-format product is here to stay. In our Large-Format section, we present three case studies of challenging large-format installs and how the NTCA member contractors – all of whom are Certified Tile Installers or employ them in their crews – obtained high-quality, high-performance results. 

In Hot Topics, we again go to the field to present the follow-up to our February exploration of dealing with substandard tile. We explore suggestions for avoiding problems with tile that doesn’t comply with the manufacturing standards and that is sure to cause headaches if installed. 

We present information that makes your day to day operations successful, but what about when you are ready to retire? Read Vincent Mastrovito’s Business Tip story about wisely planning for your exit, and clearing the path of any obstacles that might interfere with you taking your leave.

Hopefully content this month will give you food for thought. Have opinions about what you are reading, or even suggestions for future articles? Feel free to pen a letter to the editor and send it to me at [email protected] We’re always willing to give respectful discussion a voice!

God bless,

Lesley

[email protected]

DAL-TILE EMPLOYEES READ TO LOCAL SCHOOL CHILDREN IN CELEBRATION OF DR. SUESS’ BIRTHDAY

Dallas, TX – April 3, 2018 – As part of its “Legacy of Giving” program, Dal-Tile employees recently conducted another installment of their ongoing reading program at Julius Dorsey elementary school in southeast Dallas.  This latest reading day was held as a birthday celebration for the iconic children’s book author, Dr. Suess whose talent for delighting children with stories that are clever, rhythmically rhyming, and delightfully silly knows no generational bounds.

“Giving is a core part of our Dal-Tile culture,” said Tena Boyd, HR support services manager, Dal-Tile Corporation.  “On an ongoing basis, we have many different ways in which our employees interact with the local schools to help make a difference in these young lives.  I don’t know who enjoyed the event more, the children or me!”

“Dorsey Elementary is always so appreciative of what Dal-Tile does to help make their students successful,” said Paula Calame, senior talent development specialist, Dal-Tile Corporation.  “It is always exciting to see what great things are taking place in our schools! I am so thankful that I work for an organization that values contributing to the community!”

“The kids really look forward to having us in the class, and reading was a lot of fun,” said Nellson Burns, vice president of information systems, Dal-Tile Corporation.  “I’m definitely going again.”

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About Dal-Tile

Dal-Tile is the largest manufacturer and marketer of ceramic tile, natural stone, and countertop products used in residential and commercial spaces across North America. Under its four powerhouse brands — Daltile, American Olean, Marazzi, and Ragno — Dal-Tile leads the industry in both design and product innovation, and is committed to incorporating environmentally-friendly materials, processes, and products throughout its organization.

Dal-Tile has more than 9,000 employees in North America and sells its products through a network of more than 300 company-owned sales service centers, stone slabyards, design galleries, and design studios, as well as through independent distributors and leading home center retailers nationwide.

Founded in 1947 and headquartered in Dallas, Dal-Tile is a division of Mohawk Industries, the leading global flooring manufacturer that creates products to enhance residential and commercial spaces around the world.  For more information on Dal-Tile and Mohawk Industries, please visit mohawkind.com.

 

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DAL-TILE EMPLOYEES SEND EASTER BASKETS TO CRITICALLY ILL CHILDREN FOR 27TH YEAR

Dallas, TX – March 20, 2018 – As part of its “Legacy of Giving” program, Dal-Tile employees recently conducted an internal fundraiser to send Easter baskets to critically ill children for the 27th year in a row.  The donations are annually given to the local charity “The Real Easter Bunny” that creates baskets filled with items for the “Special Needs” patients at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.  Special Needs patients are those children who have been hospitalized for longer than 60 days for reasons such as cancer or bone marrow transplants, heart transplants, severe brain trauma, or loss of limbs.

“Our hope is to bring some Easter cheer to these children,” said Tena Boyd, HR support services manager, Dal-Tile.  “Each basket is filled with items that will provide activities for the children to enjoy while ill or recovering from surgeries.  This particular charity has touched the heart of many of our employees and every year the employees rally around this cause with their donations.”

About Dal-Tile

Dal-Tile is the largest manufacturer and marketer of ceramic tile, natural stone, and countertop products used in residential and commercial spaces across North America. Under its four powerhouse brands — Daltile, American Olean, Marazzi, and Ragno — Dal-Tile leads the industry in both design and product innovation, and is committed to incorporating environmentally-friendly materials, processes, and products throughout its organization.

Dal-Tile has more than 9,000 employees in North America and sells its products through a network of more than 300 company-owned sales service centers, stone slabyards, design galleries, and design studios, as well as through independent distributors and leading home center retailers nationwide.

Founded in 1947 and headquartered in Dallas, Dal-Tile is a division of Mohawk Industries, the leading global flooring manufacturer that creates products to enhance residential and commercial spaces around the world.  For more information on Dal-Tile and Mohawk Industries, please visit mohawkind.com.

 

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Five Star Contractor Spotlight – March 2018

Premier Tile & Marble, Gardena, Calif.

 

High-profile projects get a professional Five Star Contractor touch

Greg Games, the owner and president of Premier Tile, began his career in the tile industry in the late 70s working for his father, Ray Games. The senior Games owned Orange County Tile, which focused on residential tile installation.

Greg Games joined the union and became a journeyman in 1982 while working for Venetian Tile. Soon, he began estimating and eventually became vice president until its owner retired.

In 1993, Premier Tile & Marble (www.PremierTile.com) was established in Gardena, Calif., with many field and office employees who had worked together for many years. This family-run business prides itself on employing second and third generations of highly-trained craftsmen, who have helped build Premier Tile into one of Southern California’s leading commercial tile installers.

2018 marks Premier Tile’s 25th year providing the highest-quality commercial tile and stone installation that clients have come to expect. The company’s reputation in the industry comes from its dedication to professionalism and strict adherence to the highest standards. The company is proud to have played integral roles in the building of many high-profile projects such as: the award-winning Oaks Mall; The Brickhouse at Playa Vista; Disneyland; Los Angeles Football Club; USC; UCLA; Entrada at Santa Barbara; Glendale Galleria; Santa Monica Mall; Westfield Century City Mall; PetCo Park; Kodak Theater; Del Amo Mall; Kaiser Hospitals; Torrance Memorial Hospital; Great Wolf Lodge; Los Angeles International Airport; LA Federal Courthouse; Waldorf Astoria; Rady’s Children Hospital and many more.

Premier Tile joined NTCA initially in 2010, re-upped in 2017, and recently became a Five Star Contractor. “Collaborating with the NTCA gives us the avenue we need to keep our finger on the pulse of our industry,” said Greg Games. “We believe the Five Star program is very reputable, and a good tool for contractors to use in hiring subs. We are proud to have qualified for the program. We believe that being a member of the Five Star program will set us apart from other companies, and general contractors will choose a company that merits this certification.”

All Premier Tile employees are either enrolled or have graduated from the Local 4 (previously Local 18) apprenticeship program, which helped qualify the contractor for Five Star status. “We encourage all our apprentices to compete in the annual contest, and we are pleased to say that Premier Tile employees have won that contest many times,” Games said. “We require our key personnel to take and pass the UofCT program offered by The University of Ceramic Tile & Stone. Other construction-related areas of education include: OSHA Training, Forklift Certifications, Scaffolding Certifications, ICPI Concrete Paver Installer Certifications and First Responder Certifications. Employees are always encouraged to continue their education and share their experiences with their fellow employees.”

As California continues to build and grow, Premier Tile forecasts continued growth and expansion.  Currently it is in negotiations with many general contractors for a variety of large and exciting projects. The evolution of products in the tile industry has opened many new avenues and Premier Tile is at the forefront of new and innovative installations, looking forward to another successful 25 years!

“After being in business for 25 years, we proudly look back at many successful projects,” Games added. “We have helped build a city where our families live and given employment opportunities to many long- time employees.”

NTCA Benefits Box – March 2018


NTCA offers numerous benefits for non-members

There are a tremendous number of benefits of being a NTCA member, not the least of which is the ability to participate in the new Members-Only Regional Training Programs touring the country right now.

However, NTCA offers a number of features that even benefit non-members. Any contractor or installer can attend one of the many free NTCA Workshops or CTEF Workshops that crisscross the country, bringing information and education to local markets. TileLetter magazine is free with a membership, but it can also be accessed online for free at tileletter.com or obtained for the price of mailing for non-members.

The NTCA Reference Manual, part of the triumvirate of industry documents that include the TCNA Handbook of Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and the ANSI manual, can be obtained by clicking on the link to the NTCA Online Store, located on the tile-assn.com home page. It brings you information about many tile issues in a problem-cause-cure format, and many other important resources that add to the success of your jobs.

Under the Education & Certification tab on tile-assn.com, you can access other free resources – Webinars (and archived webinars about an array of pertinent topics), free educational videos through NTCA’s YouTube channel, the NTCA Position Statement library, and Question Mark videos in which NTCA Training Director Mark Heinlein answers common questions about tile installation and more. Non-members can also view our monthly TileTV video magazines at tile-assn.com website under News & Awards.

For more information about all the benefits of being a member, visit www.tile-assn.com/?page=Membership. Networking, camaraderie, support, technical advice, the ability to truly shape the industry and help learn and teach industry-approved installation practices are all some of the things membership in NTCA brings. Check it out today.

For more information on membership, contact Jim Olson at [email protected]

President’s Letter – March 2018

Best Practices – Contract Negotiations

We’ve invested time and money in estimating a project, reviewing all the specifications, drawings and contract documents, communicated with our suppliers and vendors, priced out all the materials and labor, calculated the risks of the job and submitted our bid. Great news!! We have been awarded the project. It is critical that we not relax and assume the hard part is over. If we do, we put our entire investment at greater risk.
One of the biggest mistakes any of us can make is not negotiating a fair contract for our services. Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than you might think. One of the first things we all need to understand and accept as fact is that almost all general contractors write contracts that are slanted in their favor. In many cases, they are seriously slanted against the trade contractor and put us at a disadvantage before we ever start.
It sounds elementary and it shouldn’t have to be said, but rule number one is, we should never sign a contract we haven’t read and understood. We should never think that because we have a relationship with the customer that they will take care of us and not enforce the contract.
Another common belief is that trade contractors are never successful negotiating any of the conditions in their contracts. Well, that’s exactly what the general contractors want you to believe. When we read the contracts, the first thing we must determine is, “Am I willing to take the risks assigned to me and sign this contract? If not, then I must identify the objectionable clauses and either strike them or draft acceptable language I can agree to.” At the end of the day, if we aren’t able to negotiate acceptable language, we must make the business decision to either sign what we have or graciously walk away.
Some of the key clauses that need our attention are:

Payment terms, including any clauses about “pay when paid” or “pay if paid” as a conditional precedent. Some states have laws regulating this language. This means that the contractor only has to pay you “if” he gets paid or at some time “after” he is paid.

Set off provisions, which allow contractors to hold money on additional projects under contract with them other than the project in question.

No damage for delays, which puts all the risk of the construction schedule on the trade contractors and does not allow any reimbursement of costs for delays even if we are not at fault.

Work force supplementation, which allows the contractor to charge you if they supplement your crews, with or without notice or default.

Back charge clauses, which allow the contractor to backcharge the trade contractor without notice or with limited notice for an unlimited list of things.

Since I’m not an attorney and can’t give legal advice, the most important thing I can say is that you should consult with an attorney prior to signing contracts. Once you understand some of these clauses you can begin to negotiate with greater success. It’s always a good idea to work toward having your proposal with all your inclusions, exclusions and clarifying notes included as part of the contract.
Companies that regularly practice these principles are usually Best in Class contractors. That’s something we all aspire to achieve.
Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, President NTCA
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – March 2018

As I am writing this, National Tile Day, February 23, is just three days away. Our social media and online digital sites have been awash in Why Tile? news and hashtags, and posts that serve to boost tile’s popularity with consumers, illustrating the properties, artistry and performance characteristics of the floor and wall covering that we in the industry have dedicated our lives to promoting, selling, installing and using in design. Tile manufacturers’ associations – foreign and domestic – as well as contractors, designers, Coverings, and others are all getting into the act. Did you catch any of it? How did you get onboard with raising awareness of tile as a great finishing material in 2018?

Did you miss it? Well, mark it on your calendar for next February 23, 2019 and plan a promotion or awareness campaign in your segment of the market. Wondering what to do? Enter #whytile or #nationaltileday in your favorite social media and see some of the efforts that took place in 2017 and 2018, then plan accordingly and join the festivities.

Taking a look at our story lineup this month, please be sure to catch the Business Tip, written by Pat O’Connor. He takes a look at how the new Tax Cut and Jobs Act may affect your business. LATICRETE’s Sean Boyle also gives us a view into economic trends and growth that will impact our industry in 2018 and beyond.

Also take a look at the Coverings preview. It includes information about an exciting new activity NTCA is spearheading at the show – the Installation Experience. At press time, it’s still in the planning stages, but read and learn about what we’ve got up our sleeve for your enjoyment and education, and plan to attend Coverings May 8-11 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta this year.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Warming Hearts: Warmup’s Focus and Commitment to the Connecticut Food Bank

Corporate Social Responsibility describes efforts made by companies to improve our society. By embracing social responsibilities in the workplace, companies can inspire and empower their employees in new ways every day. Warmup® believes in giving back to the community where it lives and works, and is proud to announce a partnership with the Connecticut Food Bank.

In September, Warmup® made a commitment to have employees volunteer at the Connecticut Food Bank every month. Since this time, the Warmup® team has donated goods as well as hundreds of hours of service to the organization’s main distribution center in Wallingford, Connecticut.

Working Together to Help Neighbors in Need

 Warmup is pleased to join forces with the Connecticut Food Bank to help fight hunger in the state of Connecticut where 1 in 8 people struggle with hunger (CT Food Bank, 2018).

Warmup employees are encouraged to participate in open volunteer sessions at the Connecticut Food Bank the first Thursday of each month. Willing individuals rotate attendance to participate in a volunteer session, sorting food for our neighbors in need instead of spending time in the office on their regular responsibilities. Food sorted by volunteers is regularly distributed across the state through a network of community-based programs.

 

About the Connecticut Food Bank

The Connecticut Food Bank is the largest source of emergency food in Connecticut. Last year the Connecticut Food Bank distributed enough food to prepare more than 21 million meals to people in need. Through mission-driven programs, the Connecticut Food Bank is able to reach the nearly half a million Connecticut residents that struggle with hunger across the state (CT Food Bank, 2018).

Volunteers are needed at the main distribution center on a weekly basis. Shifts are from 9am- 12pm, Monday through Friday and 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Monday through Thursday.

 

About Warmup

According to the company, Warmup is the world’s best-selling underfloor heating brand. The North American Warmup headquarters is located in Danbury, Connecticut and serves the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Warmup products are sold through retail locations and Warmup actively supports our partners in promoting and installing our heating products for comfort, primary heating, and snow melting purposes.

Memphis Tile and Marble Co., celebrates its 50th anniversary

Today, February 7, 2018, Memphis Tile and Marble Co., celebrates its 50th anniversary.

“We are excited about the milestone and look forward to many more years serving Memphis,” said Ricky Cox, president.  “We have some of the most loyal customers and are blessed to be able to help build our city.  The NTCA has been a part of the majority of my life in some form or another.”

Ricky Cox

Memphis Tile and Marble Co. Inc.,  specializes in high-end, high-quality residential and light commercial work, offering expert craftsmanship in a range of tile installation, including Mexican, porcelain and brick pavers, as well as bathroom vanities, cultured marble tops and natural stone products. It provides skilled installation of whirlpool tubs and radiant floor systems for the Memphis and Midsouth areas, as well as full-scale kitchen and bathroom remodels.

Founded in 1968 by Thomas Cox, the company now employees 12 full-time employees and in addition to installing tile, fabricates counter tops. Several years ago, Thomas’s son Richard (Ricky) Cox took the CTI certification at BPI in Memphis in order to separate himself from the competition, and put the company on the road for its status as a NTCA Five Star Contractor, a credential of installation excellence in the tile industry.

“Memphis Tile and Marble  has been a strong member of NTCA for many years,” said Bart Bettiga, NTCA Executive Director. “Tommy Cox was our association Tile Person of the Year in 2008, and they were approved as a Five Star Contractor early on in this program. Tommy’s son Ricky has actively supported our training programs in his region and served two terms on our Board of Directors. We congratulate them on this milestone!”

Amber Fox, Five Star Program Director for NTCA added, “With Memphis Tile & Marble’s high quality installations and dedication to our craft it is no surprise that they are one of our longstanding contractors who have been part of our Five Star Group since 2009.  Congratulations on your prosperous 50 years and we look forward to being a part of your future successes!”

Cox said, “The contacts and friendships that I have made through the NTCA have helped Memphis Tile and Marble succeed in the tile contracting world. Here’s to another 50 years!”

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