OCTOBER 2017: EDITOR’S LETTER: Lesley A. Goddin

It is currently September 8, 2017 and I am wrapping up this issue and our November issue. Why so early you say? Many of you contributors and sponsors are REALLY asking this question, since I’ve been giving you fits and pressing you on deadlines.

Because on September 15, I am flying to Barcelona, and then taking a train to Leon, Spain, where I will walk 200 miles of the Camino of Santiago de Compostela, a 500-mile pilgrimage route in northwestern Spain traveled by thousands and thousands
of pilgrims for over 1,000 years – all making our way to the Cathedral of Santiago, where the remains of St. James the Great are enshrined (Never heard of it? Watch “The Way” with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. It’s on Amazon Prime). Carrying all
I need in a 15-lb. backpack, the next month promises to be a life-changing
experience. I’ll be back in Albuquerque October 16, just about the time you’ll be receiving this magazine – and just in time to jump into compiling our

December issue. The crunch is to be sure all the issues are ready to be designed, produced and printed before I leave. With only one week to go, honestly, it’s hard to think of anything else. I hope to see beautiful examples of tile and stone along the way and will share those with you on my return.

But I DO have to think of other things (for the next week at least), so let me draw your attention to some of the features in this issue. We have our annual Women in Tile installment in October, in which we talk with mosaicist Angie Halford, and designer/ installer Chanel Carrizosa about their journeys through the tile
industry.

We also have a couple of social media-derived stories:
Decorative Tile and Hot Topics. The Facebook tile groups are great founts of opinion and encouragement and catalogs of beautiful jobs as well as failures. I love the support and encouragement I see being offered from contractor to contractor, supplier or association to contractor, regardless of gender, race, color, creed, country of origin, or political persuasion in these groups. If you can do the job – or you are striving to do better or refine your skills – NTCA Members Only, Tile Geeks, Tile Love 2.0, Global Tile Posse, (and
possibly others I have not yet discovered) are there for encouragement, inspiration, commiseration, and sometimes some ribbing (it comes with the territory).

We also have a story about NTCA’s new Career Center, which is a fantastic resource for both those looking to fill positions and those looking for work alike. So there’s plenty of inspiring, encouraging, useful and heartfelt information for you as you journey through your days the next month. I wish you well with the pilgrim greeting I will be giving and receiving countless times before mid-October: Buen Camino! Because all of life is a journey.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – July 2017

“Without labor, nothing prospers.” – Sophocles
“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance, and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”  – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Yesterday, June 8, I happened to see a clip of Ivanka Trump on Fox & Friends in which she discussed the upcoming trip she, her father and labor Secretary Alexander Acosta will make today to Wisconsin to address the skills gap and workforce training. The plan is to tour Waukesha County Technical College with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to discuss these issues, and the value of apprenticeship programs.

Although the White House has proposed cuts in overall job training programs, and no actual proposals for work-force training have been announced at this writing, clearly shining a light on the importance of skills training to bridge the gap between available jobs and people qualified to fill them – and to provide a viable career path alternative other than a four-year college – is a good thing.

Reserving the right to not be political in this column but to simply draw attention to efforts being made that may benefit our trade, let me just say that I hope this attention will stimulate a groundswell of enthusiasm towards establishing apprenticeship and skills training programs again in this country. I’m proud of the apprenticeship program NTCA is offering through the hard work of Becky Serbin, Dan Welch, Dave Rogers and others and others, and promise of additional training opportunities that will roll out later this year.

By the time you receive this issue of TileLetter, this may be old news on the national front or proposals may have already been made. But in our industry it’s front and center news every day.

On May 28, on the Tile Geeks Facebook page, Phil Green posed a question about people who are concerned that trades are not attracting new blood. He said a friend recently asked, “Why don’t you look into being a partner with [this] organization and mentor a couple of kids that MIGHT have an interest in the trades?”

Green got varying responses to his post. There were the true but predictable responses that shop and trade training has been eliminated from high schools over the years. Some posters indicated upcoming high school programs being formed that earn students credits for working in the field with local contractors, or programs that have attempted this with either high-school students, veterans and ex-convicts that have been tabled due to budget cuts. Some posters shared that they have spoken at classes at their vo-tech schools or churches. David Rothberg of LATICRETE noted that the company holds a masonry/tile trade day at its Connecticut facility for local state trade school students with hands-on demos and information on available opportunities, and offered its help to support such an effort.

And Ken Ballin, of Skyro Floors in Tuckerton, N.J., got fired up and suggested, “I’ve already sent a message to a teacher friend of mine about putting a ‘tradesman (and women) night’ together and it will go to administration this week. I encourage all to do the same. Let’s brainstorm and get some ideas together. Let’s stop complaining about what’s happened in the schools and do something. There’s no time like the present and there’s no better reason to do something for our kids.”

Let’s think about it. And do something about it. Is there an opportunity at a technical school, high school, community center, church, synagogue, mosque or spiritual center to organize or participate in a career night for trades people and technical workers to come together to expose kids making decisions about their future to the possibility that a trade might be the ticket to a lucrative, fulfilling future for them; something that would never be in danger of being outsourced or automated?

Everyone is busy; everyone is tired at the end of the day. But hopefully, you have some enjoyment and pride in the work you do, and would like to see our trade continue. I’d love to hear the ideas you come up with and actions you are taking to promote our trade and ensure there is a new generation of skilled craftspeople to carry it forward into the future. Write to me at the email below!

God bless,

Lesley

[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – June 2017

I wouldn’t wish any specific thing for any specific person – it’s none of my business. But the idea that a four-year degree is the only path to worthwhile knowledge is insane. It’s insane.” – Mike Rowe

There’s a Mike Rowe video making the rounds on social media that prompted me to write this letter as a follow-up to the April Editor Letter that addressed the ersatz “job shortage” in our country.

In this recent 58-second video, which can be viewed at Rowe’s website at http://mikerowe.com/2017/05/quixotic-attempt-to-close-the-skills-gap/, Rowe asks the question, “Why do we only glamorize expensive colleges?”  He shows covers of popular magazines that rank top colleges in the U.S. – but points out that NONE of these rankings ever include a trade school. His video notes that even though more students than ever are entering 4-year colleges, trade jobs account for 54% percent of the labor market. His video explains that over the next 10 years, 3.5 million trade jobs will need to be filled, but 2 million of those will go unfilled due to the skills gap.

Every parent wants to be sure his or her child is well-equipped to make it in the world in a fulfilling job that keeps them in good financial health. And yet it is clear that a huge swath of opportunities are going unheeded, ignored and overlooked because they aren’t “college” positions. And jobs available NOW don’t require incurring massive debt from a four-year college.

Maybe part of the evolution to greater respect towards trades- and crafts-people is to start referring to trade schools as “trade colleges” to get them on the radar of those high school students (and their parents) looking to take the best angle for the future.

Rowe’s comment that trade schools are never mentioned in top colleges got me wondering, so I did a Google search for Top Trade Schools.  There ARE resources out there, but they don’t get quite the attention, or seem as valued, as traditional college educations. Or it could be that young people, assessing their future opportunities, don’t want to work with their hands, when technological devices have familiarized them with skills that are attached to keyboards and computer screens.

A little of what I found follows. Trade schools seem to lean heavily on medical, dental, mechanical and computer careers, but some schools offer construction training as well.

https://www.thebalance.com/best-trade-school-graduate-jobs-4125189:  Top 10 Jobs for Trade School Graduates

http://www.10besttrade.com/schools/: 10 Best Trade Schools, which includes Centura College in Virginia and South Carolina that offers studies in tiling and flooring in the Building Maintenance and Repair program; and Stratford Career Institute in St. Albans, Vt., and Fortis Institute Erie in Erie, Pa.,  have study in Construction Management.

https://www.trade-schools.net/articles/trade-school-jobs.asp gives a listing of 43 Trade School Jobs Among the Highest Paying Trades, and includes a search engine for trade schools.

http://www.abouttradeschools.com/overview/vocationalcareers/ provides a listing of trade schools in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and a list of top 10 trade jobs, with construction jobs coming in at #6.

There are other groups that have made it their mission to promote, educate and prepare young men and women for careers in trades and crafts, such as the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia (cefga.org) and its involvement with the SkillsUSA (skillsusa.org) competition – which NTCA has supported —   and the National Center for Construction Education & Research (nccer.org).

There is heartening news afoot. On its website, CEFGA notes that Georgia public schools have over 150 skilled trade construction and metals programs and the 2016 Annual Report on the SkillsUSA site reports that in 2016, 1,299 middle-school students were enrolled as members of SkillsUSA, and 385 new chapters were added in 2015-16 according. It counts 385,488 members in its 2016-2017 year, which includes 316,197 students, primarily high school members.

What I DON’T see listed that often are tile installer training and programming. Masonry, contracting and construction management are popular curricula, but tile installer training still seems to be the purview of passed on family knowledge, apprenticeships, manufacturer and association training and self-learning.

This is one reason that NTCA University offers such an essential value – courses that support positions as finishers/apprentices in our trade. Visit http://www.tile-assn.com/?page=NTCAU to check out the offerings in apprenticeship, business and continuing education. And maybe pass it on to a young person who’s contemplating their future.

God bless,

Lesley

[email protected]

May 2017 Editor’s Letter – State of the Industry Report

“Prosperity belongs to those who learn new things the fastest.” – Paul Zane Pilzer

Although June is the issue we have slated to more closely examine all the news, information, awards and products coming out of Coverings, we ARE managing to squeeze in a few tidbits from the show that really bear early exposure. For instance, check out the Tech Talk section which discusses the long-awaited  ANSI product and installation standards for gauged porcelain tile; the NTCA News section has information on awards and accolades presented during NTCA Awards Night at the show, which also happened to be our association’s 70th Anniversary celebration, and the news item on the Why Tile campaign launched at the show. Here, in this letter, we present the TCNA’s 2016 Ceramic Tile Industry Update, in terms of consumption, outlook, exports and imports.

So, without further ado, here it is:

U.S. tile consumption overview:

Strengthened by steady growth in the housing and construction markets, the U.S. economy

continued to expand in 2016, helping lift the U.S. ceramic tile market to a seventh straight year

of growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the Tile Council of North America, U.S. ceramic tile consumption in 2016 was 2.90 billion sq. ft., up 5.8% vs. 2015 (2.74 billion sq. ft.). For perspective 2016 is the fourth highest level ever reached by the U.S. ceramic tile market, topped only by the pre-recession boom of 2004-2006, when consumption was more than three billion sq. ft. annually.

The following table shows U.S. tile shipments, imports, exports, and total consumption in thousands of sq. ft.

 

The chart below shows total U.S. consumption of ceramic tile (in sq. ft.) over the last decade.

 

Imports:

In 2016, 1.99 billion sq. ft. of ceramic tile arrived in the U.S., up 5.7% from 2015 (1.88 billion sq.

ft.).

Imports in 2016 made up 68.6% of U.S. tile consumption (in sq. ft.), down slightly from 68.7% the previous year.

According to the Department of Commerce, in 2016 China remained the largest exporter to the U.S. (in sq. ft.) with a 29.4% share of U.S. imports (in sq. ft.), followed by Mexico (23.4%) and Italy (19.4%). Spain and Turkey rounded out the top five with a 9.3% and 5.1% share of imports, respectively.

The five countries from which the most tiles were imported in 2016 based on sq. ft. were:

Italy remained the largest exporter to the U.S. on a dollar basis (including duty, freight, and insurance) in 2016, comprising 35.8% of U.S. imports. China was second with a 24.7% share, and Mexico was third with a 12.6% share.

The five countries from which the most tiles were imported in 2016 based on total U.S. $ value (including duty, freight, and insurance) were:

 

Total ValTotal Val2016/20152015/2014

Country2016 (in $)2015 (in $)% Change% Change

Italy751,114,262695,055,4358.1%9.5%

China518,147,970521,010,646-0.5%11.0%

Mexico265,221,959287,867,792-7.9%-4.3%

Spain245,640,675194,031,27326.6%20.1%

Turkey107,800.576  93,315,61113.1%19.5%

All Countries 2,099,383,040 2,006,173,353 4.6% 10.1%

 

The average values of tile1 from the five countries (based on sq. ft.) from which the most tiles were imported in 2016 were:

 

U.S. Shipments:

U.S. ceramic tile shipments in 2016 increased for the seventh consecutive year and were at an all-time high of 909.0 million sq. ft., up 6.0% from 2015.

In dollar value, domestic shipments (less exports) in 2016 were $1.35 billion, up 7.3% vs. 2015 ($1.26 billion). 2

 

Exports:

U.S. ceramic tile exports in 2016 were 36.2 million sq. ft., down 11.1% vs. 2015. The vast majority of these exports (in sq. ft.) were to our North American neighbors, Canada (62.8%) and Mexico (8.1%).3

 

Economic Highlights:

New Home Starts: New home starts rose for the seventh consecutive year and were at their highest point since 2007. The 1.17 million units started in 2016 represented a 4.9% increase from the previous year. Even so there is still a long way to go to reach the prerecession peak level of 2.07 million units set in 2005.4

New Single Family Home Sales: New single family home sales increased for the fifth consecutive year and were at a total of 563,000 units in 2016, up 12.2% vs. 2015.5

While this recent growth is encouraging as the U.S. continues to put the recent recession behind, new home sales were still down 56.1% from the all-time high level of 1.28 million unitsreached in 2005.

Foreclosures: Foreclosure filings, which are a key indicator of the U.S. housing market’s health, declined by 13.9% in 2016 to 933,000 units. This was the sixth consecutive year-over-year decline and the lowest annual foreclosure total since 2006.6

 

1 The average value is significantly affected by the mix of tiles imported, with different types of tiles impacting the average value, in addition to differences in pricing for the same types of tile.

2 Tile Council of North America

3 U.S. Dept. of Commerce

4 U.S. Census Bureau

5U.S. Census Bureau

6 RealtyTrac

March 2017 EDITOR’S LETTER: Lesley A. Goddin

Welcome to spring. The long, dark winter (for some – here in New Mexico, we’ve had 80 degree temperatures in March already!) is over and the tiling season has begun.

Of course, for most contractors, the tiling season is all year round, though the warmer weather affords some flexibility (and struggles – with wind, humidity, high temperatures, sun and rain) and opportunity for indoor and outdoor tiling projects.

Though warm weather is upon us (or nearly upon us, for those of you in the Northeast), cool weather will come round before we know it. That’s why it’s worth discussing electric floor warming with your clients. Today’s technologies make it easy to install and the benefits of a warm, cozy floor (even enjoyed on cool summer nights) will be appreciated for years to come. Take a look at our Tech Talk section for some discussion of electric floor warming challenges straight out of the NTCA Reference Manual.

Despite the push towards spring, we’re taking a look back at The International Surfaces Expo West

(TISE West) that took place in the dead of January in Las Vegas. Take a gander at the events and activities that NTCA sponsored and supported at the show, which has really grown into a vibrant and vital opportunity for tile and stone con- tractors. Our product section this month also contains a sampling of what was seen at the show, both in terms of finishing product and set- ting materials and accessories.

We also have a fun Business Tip this month – Riding Shotgun with Connie Heinlein. Connie is wife and intrepid assistant to NTCA technical trainer/presenter Mark Heinlein, and accompanies him to workshops around the country (many of the excellent photos of Mark you see in TileLetter or on social media are courtesy of Connie). She has a unique perspective on the value of NTCA to installers in the industry, and in the Business Tip section, she shares it with you.

At Total Solutions Plus, Training and Education coordinator Becky Serbin interviewed some of our prominent contractor members on video about the value of being a

Certified Tile Contractor. TileLetter freelancer Terryn Rutford has extracted some salient quotes about the importance of this credential and how it helps in business, and presents it as our Qualified Labor story this month.

And in closing, a little tidbit that came to my attention from the Tile Geeks social media group on Facebook. Schluter’s Shannon Huffstickler had shared some information about Tim Daly – known for his role in television hits Wings and Private Practice, and currently appearing as the husband of the Secretary of State in Madame Secretary opposite Tea Leoni – that she had heard during an interview with him on NPR that morning. It turns out that Daly (whose sister is Tyne Daly, by the way) once had a tile company in California called Silver Dollar Tile Company, because they “signed” their work by installing a silver dollar in every floor.

Do you “sign” your work? Send an email to [email protected] and let me know how you make your mark on the installation (apart from your excellent work, of course).

Make this day your best one yet. God bless,

 

Editor’s Letter – March 2017

“Spring is the time of plans and projects.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Welcome to spring. The long, dark winter (for some – here in New Mexico, we’ve had 80 degree temperatures in March already!) is over and the tiling season has begun.

Of course, for most contractors, the tiling season is all year round, though the warmer weather affords some flexibility (and struggles – with wind, humidity, high temperatures, sun and rain) and opportunity for indoor and outdoor tiling projects.

Though warm weather is upon us (or nearly upon us, for those of you in the Northeast), cool weather will come round before we know it. That’s why it’s worth discussing electric floor warming with your clients. Today’s technologies make it easy to install and the benefits of a warm, cozy floor (even enjoyed on cool summer nights) will be appreciated for years to come. Take a look at our Tech Talk section for some discussion of electric floor warming challenges straight out of the NTCA Reference Manual.

Despite the push towards spring, we’re taking a look back at The International Surfaces Expo West (TISE West) that took place in the dead of January in Las Vegas. Take a gander at the events and activities that NTCA sponsored and supported at the show, which has really grown into a vibrant and vital opportunity for tile and stone contractors. Our product section this month also contains a sampling of what was seen at the show, both in terms of finishing product and setting materials and accessories.

We also have a fun Business Tip this month – Riding shotgun with Connie Heinlein. Connie is wife and intrepid assistant to NTCA technical trainer/presenter Mark Heinlein, and accompanies him to workshops around the country (many of the excellent photos of Mark you see in TileLetter or on social media are courtesy of Connie). She has a unique perspective on the value of NTCA to installers in the industry, and in the Business Tip section, she shares it with you.

At Total Solutions Plus, Training and Education coordinator Becky Serbin interviewed some of our prominent contractor members on video about the value of being a Certified Tile Contractor. TileLetter freelancer Terryn Rutford has extracted some salient quotes about the importance of this credential and how it helps in business, and presents it as our Qualified Labor story this month.

And in closing, a little tidbit that came to my attention from the Tile Geeks social media group on Facebook.  Schluter’s Shannon Huffstickler had shared some information about Tim Daly –known for his role in television hits Wings and Private Practice, and currently appearing as the husband of the Secretary of State in Madame Secretary opposite Tea Leoni– that she had heard during an interview with him on NPR that morning. It turns out that Daly (whose sister is Tyne Daly, by the way) once had a tile company in California called Silver Dollar Tile Company, because they “signed” their work by installing a silver dollar in every floor.

Do you “sign” your work? Send an email to [email protected] and let me know how you make your mark on the installation (apart from your excellent work, of course).

Make this day your best one yet.

God bless,

Lesley

Editor’s Letter – February 2017

Lesley Goddin, Editor

“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”
– Alice Waters

I just returned home from Surfaces a.k.a The International Surface Event (TISE) West in Las Vegas. You’ll read more about the show in our March issue, since in the wonderful world of magazine publishing, the February issue is already designed and ready to be produced except for this letter. But here’s a little taste of what took place at the show.

What I noticed is a LOT of people – crowds seemed fuller from day one through the end this year. People were excited – about the products, about the conferences, about what they could find to enhance their businesses and take them to a higher level. For instance, there were standing-room-only crowds at presentations by NTCA presenters Mark Heinlein and Robb Roderick conducted at the installation stage.

This crush of people was echoed at the NTCA booth, where State Ambassadors, members and curious showgoers clustered to talk about tile, education, business and membership, and where member volunteers like Chris Dalene of Five Star Contractor Dalene Flooring, and staffers like Amber Fox, newly hired Five Star Contractor Program Director, signed up seven new members. 

Also percolating at the show was Certified Tile Installer testing, with nine installers taking a timed test to lay tile on the CTI modules.

The effort was supported by several of the new Regional Evaluators, which will allow more frequent CTI tests to take place with smaller class sizes across the country. Twelve new Regional Evaluators are on the job, led by Kevin Insalato of California Flooring. In the testing area were also workshops and testing conducted by other industry sectors like carpet and vinyl.

For NTCA, the whole show kicked off with an executive committee meeting, followed by a well-attended Training & Education Committee gathering, led by Training & Education Committee chair Dave Rogers of Welch Tile and Marble.

NTCA Training & Education Committee chairperson Dave Rogers (l.) with NTCA assistant executive director Jim Olson.

That first evening, NTCA held a reception and dinner in appreciation of its members and State Ambassadors with an address by NTCA president Martin Howard, presentation by Eric Astrachan of TCNA and a video on the history of NTCA and its accomplishments in the last 15 years.

David Allen Company’s Martin Howard, NTCA president, addressed the State Ambassador and Member Appreciation Dinner.

Wish you had been there? Stay tuned to our March issue for more details on the show. For now, enjoy all the information in this issue, from the Bostik’s cover story on the stunning mosaic installation in a Utah lodge to LATICRETE’s Sean Boyle’s economic update, to an exploration of the confounding problem of discoloration of natural stone used in shower installations, to the list of installation track seminars at the Coverings show, coming to Orlando in April. We also have a bonus story on measuring wet film thickness from MAPEI, and voices from the field in our new Hot Topics section, focused this month on grout.

The new year is building momentum. Let’s make it a good one!

Be well, and God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

EDITOR’S LETTER – JANUARY 2017

“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves – to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”
– Steward B. Johnson

1947. Do you remember what you were doing then? Maybe you were graduating from high school or starting a business, or maybe you weren’t even a twinkle in your mom’s and dad’s eyes yet.
1947 is a popular date here in New Mexico, where I have my home office, since that was the year of the “Roswell UFO Incident,” which purports that an unidentified flying object crashed near Roswell.

It was an important year for India and Pakistan, since both countries gained independence from Great Britain.

 
Harry Truman was the U.S. president, and signed The National Security Act of 1947 into law; the Cold war began; The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank was in the bookstores; The United Nations voted to create an independent Jewish State of Israel; the film “Miracle on 34th Street” premiered in the U.S.; The first of the Dead Sea Scrolls was discovered in Qumran; Princess Elizabeth married the Duke of Edinburgh; Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers; and “I’ve Got a Crush on You,” and “Always” sung by Frank Sinatra were on the top song charts.

 
1947 was important for another reason too – that’s the year that NTCA began as the Southern Tile Contractors Association (STCA) in Birmingham, Ala., under the direction of executive director Jim Trimm. STCA catered to tile contractors in 13 southern states, promoting ceramic tile and quality installation. From humble beginnings (and several name changes), it has evolved into the largest tile contractor association in the world. Joe Tarver took over the leadership of the association in 1972 when it was known as the Southern Tile Terrazzo Marble Contractors Association, and with other dedicated industry members, spearheaded the NTCA Workshop Program which took education on the road around the country; and then in 2002 Bart Bettiga took the reins to develop it to where it is today – expanding the nonprofit association’s charter of education, training, networking.
You’ll undoubtedly be hearing a lot about NTCA history over these next 12 months as we celebrate our 70th Anniversary – from the evolution of the industry convention into Coverings and then spinning off a little management and leadership conference we now know as Total Solutions Plus; the development of the Technical Committee and those first NTCA Reference Manuals and of course TileLetter, which was produced tirelessly by Myra Caldwell, who passed away last year.

 
As we skip down memory lane, I invite you to share with me your favorite memories of NTCA over the years. Maybe you were part of those early “road shows,” committees or conferences; maybe you have a unique perspective of how the industry and association has evolved over the years. Please share at [email protected], and let’s skip down memory lane and celebrate our association’s accomplishments together!

God bless,

Lesley
[email protected]

 

Editor’s Letter – December 2016

Lesley psf head shotHere we are, at the end of yet another year. It’s incomprehensible that the year has flown by so quickly. Personally, I remember like yesterday being at Surfaces/ \TISE West in January and getting a call that my dad’s health had declined, then scurrying to make plans to be with him in his final days in New Jersey. In many ways, the rest of the year has been a bit of a blur, punctuated with many celebrities and musical greats leaving our planet, and people in the industry and their loved ones struggling with health or professional challenges and changes.

There have been victories and there have been disappointments. Our country seems poised for major change. Some fear those changes, some look forward to them with hopeful anticipation. But to reference the Nobel Prize for Literature winner quote that opens this article, “The times, they are a-changin’.” That is for SURE.

We’ve had many changes and developments in our industry, from progress on gauged porcelain tile/installation standards, to reaching the 1300th member for NTCA, to hiring regional evaluators for the Certified Tile Installer testing program and a coordinator to oversee it all. Changes to the NTCA Strategic Plan have been made to include:

  1. Adding value to NTCA membership
  2. Growing apprenticeship and online education programs
  3. Promoting quality through further development of training and education programs
  4. Taking the Five Star Contractor program to a whole new level

This comes with aforementioned investment in new personnel and programs including a Spanish-speaking presenter for our workshops and translations, new coordinators and office support. You’ll learn more about NTCA accomplishments and 2017 plans in our January issue, but hopefully the NTCA Previews section we started a few months ago is giving you an idea of the tremendous progress the industry is making, working together, pulling together, talking and debating together and moving ahead. As I said in my November letter, that quality of collaboration demonstrated by our industry makes me particularly proud to be a member of it.

Several things are well known about change – not many people really love or embrace it – and that change is necessary, will happen and is a necessary factor for growth.

That being said, how do you handle change? Are you a step-on-the-brakes kind of person or a full-speed-ahead person? How do you navigate the roller coaster that change inevitably brings? If negotiating change brings a lot of stress to you and your team, this could be a time to refresh and refine your relationship with it to provide a smoother, more manageable path for the foreseeable future – and beyond. And if you have words of wisdom or experience to share, I’d love to hear about them and feature them in a Business Tip article early next year.

In the meantime, enjoy the coming time that provides a lull or a respite from the regular busyness of life – sometimes by replacing it with busyness of its own. The time known as “The Holidays.” Enjoy those you love and those who love you. These are precious days. May you be blessed with health, joy, prosperity, love and laughter to take you through the end of 2016 and provide an excellent launch pad for 2017.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – November 2016

Lesley psf head shotBoth times I was in India, I could not get people to listen to each other. I had to literally tell people to listen to each other and tell them that they can’t get creative and find alternate solutions if they don’t listen to each other. There’s a lot of arguing and justifying. – Stephen Covey

Here I sit in my Albuquerque home office, as designer extraordinaire Michelle Chapman in our Jackson, Miss., headquarters is feverishly putting the finishing touches on our November issue, pondering my editor letter. It’s a little hard to think of anything else but the election, because tomorrow is Election Day, and by the close of day tomorrow (hopefully), we will have a new president.

Unless you have been living on another planet or under a rock (and even then!) you’ve likely been besieged ad nauseum on television, newspaper, radio, social media or via phone with information, misinformation, memes, opinions, polls and reports about the candidates. It hasn’t been pretty. And no matter who walks away a winner tomorrow, I have a sneaking suspicion that the days of “pretty” are long past us and it will be an uphill battle on The Hill either way.

The contentiousness in our country has grown to alarming proportions. So much so, I see many indications that people forget that we are all still AMERICANS , with a common goal – to live a good, prosperous, free and enjoyable life in our country. Of course, there are diverging views on how to do this, but in this election cycle instead of disagreements being merely that, people on opposing political sides have been couched as “enemies.” That’s a really sad development and does not bode well for our future if we can’t reframe and go forward as a nation with an attitude that pushes for our particular world view while not demonizing the other side.

This experience is in stark contrast to my recent experience at Total Solutions Plus (TSP), the all-industry conference held this year in Indian Wells, Calif., towards the end of October. I liken our industry to our country – an environment where people want to make a good, prosperous and enjoyable living. We have different players in our industry: manufacturers, distributors, union and open-shop contracting companies and installers; and associations and organizations which speak out for these players. Though we are all doing our part to contribute to a prosperous industry, we all come from our own point of view, and try to get the best deal for our constituencies. (Take a look at our Letters to the Editor in this issue as proof of that!)

But we hold true to a common purpose of making and distributing beautiful products that can be successfully installed, and developing products that make that installation perform better and be enduring. At TSP, there were roundtables and opportunities for people from different sectors to come together and share ideas and impact development of standards and products and methods. Is there contention? Sure. But there’s also understanding that demonizing someone or a company that has a different role in the industry than we do will serve no purpose and will not move us towards our goal. Cooperation and respect is the name of the game. And we accomplish AMAZING things by following this motto.

I wish the political powers that be in our country, including Congress, could witness one of our Total Solutions Plus conferences, as a model to how to structure its own discussions and campaigns for the variety of bills and pieces of legislation that are generated there. I am proud of what we accomplish, of how far we’ve come, and how we are moving intelligently into the future with good information and people willing to come together to work out solutions. I hope – and pray – that after tomorrow, we can reconnect with this same kind of cooperative spirit in our country and remind ourselves of our common heritage as American sisters and brothers – then move forward to work respectfully toward solutions that can continue our country’s history of greatness.

God bless,
Lesley
[email protected]

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