NTCA Announces Winners of the 2017 Five Star Contractor Project of the Year

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association announced the winners of its sixth annual NTCA Five Star Contractor Project of the Year Awards at Coverings 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.

NTCA’s Five Star Contractor Awards were presented for both Commercial and Residential Tile Installations. Many submissions were received and judged via the following criteria: Scope (size of project), Complexity (challenges), Technical Soundness (resolution of challenges) and Design & Presentation (overall appearance, layout and artistic value). 

This year’s judges included: 

  • Kent Klaser of Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Inc., San Diego, CA
  • Gregory Mowat of Forensic Tile Consultants, San Diego, CA
  • Richard P. Goldberg of Professional Consultants International, LLC, Avon, CT

Sponsored by Daltile, NTCA Five Star Contractor Grand Prize Award winners received a custom plaque and were awarded two round-trip airfare tickets and a two-nights hotel stay in Atlanta for the Coverings Show.

GRAND PRIZE – COMMERCIAL
By Christian Brothers Flooring & Interiors

Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc. of Visalia, CA was the recipient of the Five Star Grand Prize Award for Residential Project of the Year. Workmanship and artistic qualities brought the Hoffman Residence in Fresno, CA to life. A challenging mixture of both natural stone and ceramic presented the opportunity for Visalia to showcase its Five Star Contractor skills. This residential project showcased new product and installation technologies, as well as the unique capability of tile assemblies to integrate other underlying building systems such as radiant heat and building envelope waterproofing.

GRAND PRIZE RESIDENTIAL
by Visalia Ceramic Tile

David Allen Company of Raleigh, NC was the recipient of the Five Star Grand Prize Award for Commercial Elite Project of the Year (over $1 million). Nearly 80,000 square feet of marble and tile were meticulously installed in the new Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel in Charlotte, NC. Of the many complexities which presented themselves working in a metropolitan area, the narrow doorways offered a unique opportunity for this contractor to showcase its innovative thinking. The team built custom narrow crates and stocked all of the materials required for each guest room into a single crate; saving time and labor on the job. 

GRAND PRIZE
COMMERCIAL ELITE
By David Allen Company

A trusted Five Star Contractor was preferred and required to partner with the General Contractor to address these many challenges, because the technical challenges associated with this project would need the involvement of an industry-leading trained expert.

 “We would like to thank our contest judges and sponsor for their support and of course, all of the Five Star Contractor Members who submitted incredible projects.” stated Bart Bettiga, Executive Director of the NTCA. “Each of these winning installations, as well as the other submitted projects, clearly demonstrates the value of engaging an NTCA Five Star Contractor in such complex arenas. Job site issues such as a confined urban site, mixed product media, material delivery and staging restrictions, new technologies, creative coordination with other trades, and solving problems quickly are exemplary traits of our Five Star Contractors.”

Call for Entries for the 2019 Five Star Contractor Awards will begin January 15, 2019.

CardConnect – NTCA Benefits Box – May 2018

A new benefit from NTCA is CardConnect. This credit card payment processing company gives you an easy way to process payments and manage your merchant account.

CardConnect offers best-in-class payments technology to ensure accepting debit and credit card payments is simple, secure and affordable.

NTCA members enjoy a wide range of services from CardConnect at deeply discounted prices. You can easily add secure payment acceptance capabilities into any application, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to process payments. Card Connect offers developer tools, enterprise solutions as well as ISV integrations, for point-to-point encryption. 

With Card Connect, transactions are protected with highly effective security solutions that ensure PCI compliance. A full range of reporting tools makes keeping track of transactions easy and efficient, from your office or on the road. 

For more information about CardConnect, or about joining NTCA, please contact Jim Olson at [email protected] or phone 601-942-2996. 

Member Spotlight – May 2018 – Rogers Tile Company

Springfield, Mo., contractor values vouchers, technical assistance

Kerry Rogers, in business 40 years, trained NTCA trainer/presenter Robb Roderick as a helper

By Lesley Goddin

Forty years ago, a school-age Kerry Rogers started helping out his dad and granddad in the tile trade, as a way to earn some pocket money and work with his hands at something he enjoyed. This hobby became a profession over the years, as Rogers gained proficiency and helped his family members tile the country’s first Bass Pro Shop and chain restaurants like McDonald’s, KFCs and Burger Kings in the Springfield/Kansas City, Mo., area. 

“I mixed my first bucket of grout in 1969,” Rogers said. “We didn’t have mixing drills – we made our own grout. I didn’t know how to work the tool, and I splashed it up and got it in my eye, and that helped me remember when I first mixed grout!”

After Roger graduated high school, he moved to Arizona in 1980, opening his first company and doing business in the Tempe area. He had his own employees – mostly running a crew of four, which was his sweet spot in being able to keep tabs on quality – but when working on a large hotel project, he had the challenge of maintaining quality while running a 15-man crew.

In 1989, he moved back to Springfield and started the Missouri Tile Company, installing tile at restaurants like Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King and Popeyes.

It was during this era when he took a tender, young tile helper under his wing – none other than the NTCA’s own trainer/presenter Robb Roderick! 

“In all of my years of helpers, Robb has really stood out as one of the best helpers I ever had,” Rogers said. “He was polite, on time and energetic.” Rogers also trained John Allsbury, who is now Schluter’s Director of Sales, Western Region. 

Missouri Tile Company continued till the dearth of work in 2008 during the recession forced him to shut down and travel the country doing any work he could find, until three years ago when the market improved and he reinvented his business once more as a solo contractor doing residential work, 98% of which is new construction. 

“We sold our big house so I could stop traveling, and find a little work around here until things got better,” Rogers said. “And then we rebuilt a house right next to the old house on six acres, since we loved this area.”

As a solo contractor, Rogers was attracted to the technical support and vouchers that the NTCA offered. Plus, he said, “Robb is a good salesman. Vouchers help out with supplies and 24-hour support is important when I need help and a question answered.” His local setting materials rep also offers great technical support, but the “vouchers, the Handbook and having technical support there when I needed” made it easy for him to decide to join. 

The satisfaction Rogers gets from his work keeps him going, earning a living doing something he enjoys. “I love to go into a place and it’s nothing but a room with sheetrock and when I walk out, it looks fantastic and ready to move into,” he said. “And to watch the smiles on [my customers’] faces and hear what they say even before we are done.”

His four decades of experience also provide a unique perspective over how things have changed. 

“Nothing now is like it was then,” he said. “We made our own grout and floated mud floors…we hardly used any thinset. It’s totally different now, but I get the same result. I think it has changed for the better. It’s safer, it’s neater and cleaner and you can get more done than we did in the old days.” And, he pointed, out, “Showers used to fail all the time. Now I can do 100 showers – and they don’t fail. Showers are changed for the better, and so is the education about how products work.”

President’s Letter – May 2018

The summer construction season is fully upon us. Let’s take hold of our schedules and not fall into the trap of allowing the
tyranny of the urgent to keep us from properly planning all our jobs for execution in the field. Best in Class contractors make it a habit of pre-job planning every project because they know that without this critical tool, they will underperform in one or more aspects. Often the final quality suffers as well as the final profit when this step is overlooked.

Pre-job planning is a simple process with many steps that need attention prior to starting every project. The purpose is to ensure that the entire team is fully informed of the project specifications, site limitations, owner expectations, labor budgets, and material delivery dates. This is the time to uncover and work to resolve any issues.

Here is a good start on what to include in planning to make this meeting with your project team a success.

  • Specific scope review should include everything about the installation your field supervisor and crew need to know, including the specific expectations of the end user and all the installation methods, materials, patterns and details. Make sure the superintendent, foreman and crew leader understand all specific details and have a copy of drawings, details, product data, and SDS. This can be on paper or digital; whatever works best for your team.
  • List of equipment, along with a schedule for getting it to the job site.
  • List of materials including quantity ordered, identifying any delayed or backordered items.
  • Contact information for all the people involved on the project, including cell phone numbers and email addresses.
  • Job labor budgets and production goals for each unique area. This usually creates some good conversation about feasibility and practicality and helps create buy-in from the team.
  • The overall project schedule with all trade-specific tasks broken out and identified with start and finish dates, and any float days. Doing this will provide the best chance to stage and staff the project in the most efficient manner possible. It will also identify any potential manpower issues.
  • Identify any expected obstacles and concerns, mapping out a plan to mitigate them as much as possible.

This meeting can usually be completed in an hour or less, but it can save you many hours of frustration and most if not all of your profit margin. When the phone never stops ringing – and it seems like the team on the job needs information before they can make the next move – you’re operating in what I like to call “Fire Drill mode.” When this happens, no one is efficient, and profit is being wasted.

That’s why Best in Class Contractors avoid this scenario by properly pre-planning every project and executing a turn-over meeting with their field team.

I’d like to hear how you handle this aspect of your projects, so send me ideas and help me discover what I’m missing out on.

Keep on tiling!
Martin Howard
NTCA President
Committee member, ANSI A108
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – May 2018

“An optimist is the human personification of spring.”  – Susan J. Bissonette

It is May Day and I am penning this letter amidst making final arrangements for Coverings and putting finishing touches on this issue. I just created the first posts from Coverings ’18 on the Tileletter and National Tile Contractors Pages on Facebook, where I’ll be posting a lot of news, announcements, products and developments during Coverings. And since nothing ever goes away on the internet, you can look back at our Coverings coverage there as well. Search for it at #ntcaatcoverings18. 

By the way, if you are on Facebook and aren’t following those pages, you are missing out on articles and information throughout the year, not just trade show time. And I hope you are also occasionally visiting TileLetter.com online – this digital site posts fresh news every day and you can access TileLetter past issues and archives too.

For this issue, we have a full slate of business and technical stories. Check out the Business Tip story about OSHA compliance for silica, and also Dean Moilanen’s story about using foam shower trays and the push towards establishing a standard for this product. 

In our Ask the Experts section, we explore the good, bad and ugly of wall lighting placement and how it can help make or break your project. Do you install a lot of stone? Check out the document in our Stone Section for pointers from the Natural Stone Institute on successful natural stone installation.

Have you attended a presentation or workshop with NTCA’s Robb Roderick? Well, meet the man who trained him as a helper back in the day – Kerry Rogers, a recent NTCA member, profiled in Member Spotlight. 

And they say all good things must come to an end. Such is the case for Lynnette Bloomberg’s career at the Noble Company. At the end of this month, Lynnette will retire after 33 years with Noble. Read a little about how she came to work for the company and what coworkers and colleagues have to say as they wish her well.

By this time next month, I will have reconnected or met anew many of you at Coverings, and will have spanking new topics to bring to you on the pages of TileLetter for the next few months. Anything specific you’d like to know more about? Drop me a line at [email protected] to make a request!

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected] 

NTCA APPOINTS ​2018’s FIRST FIVE STAR CONTRACTOR

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, announced the acceptance of Northern California Tile & Stone Inc. (NCTS), Sacramento, California, to its Five Star Program.

Founded by president, Roger Leasure, NCTS began in 2009 as a reliable subcontractor specializing in large commercial and industrial tile and stone installations. Leasure​’s vision was that the catalyst for success was a driven, trustworthy and high-level experienced team, diligently ​working ​on each project regardless of size or scope. Since that time, NCTS has grown to be a major​ ​installer  in Northern California and has expanded its services throughout Nevada, as well.

In 2014, NCTS set a goal to expand via training and mentoring employees on standards, stewardship and overall ​excellence. In 2016, Leasure put additional training into practice and implemented Certified Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) programs for NCTS installers. CTEF certification is a total ​validation of industry skills and knowledge, offering training and testing essential in promoting industry-recognized proof of each and every installer’s abilities. These programs effectively ensure that NCTS team members are properly trained on quality workmanship, while continually raising the bar on all quality standards.

 

Roger Leasure

“Becoming a Five Star Contractor is the culmination of many years of hard work and attention to detail by our team of Project Managers, Superintendents and most importantly our CTIs (Certified Tile Installers),” stated Eric Witcher, Chief of Estimating at NCTS. “Through their dedication, we have positioned ourselves to be recognized by the NTCA with this classification. It is definitely a distinguished badge of honor, reinforcing to clients​ ​just why we are the best contractor for the job.”

To obtain Five Star Contractor certification, contractors must be members of NTCA in good standing, and complete an application process that includes submitting examples of work, reviews and recommendations from peers and customers. Furthermore, they must demonstrate a proven commitment to service, quality, safety and superior job performance. Five Star Contractors are also required to certify a minimum of 10 % of their installers through the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) Certified Tile Installer program or, have completed a three-year apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor.

###

NTCA is a non-profit trade association serving every segment of the industry, spearheading education for the professional installation of ceramic tile, natural stone and allied products.  For more information, please contact NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga at [email protected], via telephone at (601) 939-2071, or visit www.tile-assn.com. For more information on the Five Star Contractor program, please contact Amber Fox at [email protected] or phone 619-247-1832.

DAL-TILE PROVIDES JOBS FOR CHARITY WORK-STUDY PROGRAM

Dallas, TX – April 20, 2018 – Dal-Tile Corporation is a founding member of the Dallas Cristo Rey High School and most recently hosted a luncheon to celebrate several of its students, who also work at Dal-Tile headquarters as part of an innovative corporate work-study program.

“Cristo Rey self-describes as the only network of high schools in the country that integrates four years of rigorous college preparatory academics with four years of professional work experience through their Corporate Work Study Program,” said Tena Boyd, HR support services manager, Dal-Tile.  “The Cristo Rey Network delivers a powerful and innovative approach to inner-city education that equips students from economically-disadvantaged families with the knowledge, character, and skills to transform their lives. Dal-Tile is so pleased to get to be a part of this program.”

Students generally work one day per week at Dal-Tile and the company pays the school for the student worker’s time, to help fund their tuition.  During the celebratory luncheon, each of Dal-Tile’s student workers presented the key things they have learned during their year on the job with Dal-Tile.

 

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]

Benefits Box – April 2018 – Insperity

Insperity System Integrator Program: a new HR solution from NTCA

Business challenges have HR solutions. Insperity®, a trusted advisor to America’s best businesses for more than 31 years, provides an array of human resources and business solutions designed to help improve business performance. Insperity® Business Performance Advisors offer a comprehensive suite of products and services. Insperity delivers administrative relief, better benefits, reduced liabilities and a systematic way to improve productivity through its premier Workforce Optimization® solution. 

Additional company offerings include Human Capital Management, Payroll Services, Time and Attendance, Performance Management, Organizational Planning, Recruiting Services, Employment Screening, Financial Services, Expense Management, Retirement Services and Insurance Services. Insperity business performance solutions support more than 100,000 businesses with over 2 million employees. With 2017 revenues of $3.3 billion, Insperity operates in 68 offices throughout the United States.

The partnership between Insperity and NTCA provides preferred member pricing on select Insperity® HR solutions.  As an NTCA member company, you can customize your back office from the many products and services Insperity offers. Visit http://bit.ly/2HPDyF3 and scroll down to learn more about Insperity while exploring member benefits on the NTCA Why Join? For information about membership, contact Jim Olson at [email protected]. 

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