President’s Letter – June 2017

Defining a “Best in Class Tile Contractor”

You have heard me use the term “Best in Class Tile Contractor” in past letters. So, what does that term mean? How do we bring our companies to that level of achievement? These are very good questions, and I’m glad you asked.

In a nutshell, the working definition of a “Best in Class Tile Contractor” is a professional contractor committed to excellence in every phase of their business, utilizing industry best practices, and has been recognized by its customers as a preferred contractor.

Other aspects of a “Best in Class Tile Contractor” are to use the right materials for the application and intended use, and carrying themselves in a professional manner, interacting respectfully with the client and other trades. And “Best in Class Tile Contractors” draft proposals and contracts that are well written and clearly identify the specific scope of work, while quoting a fair price — not a cheap price.

One of Stephen Covey’s principles of highly effective people is to “Begin with the end in mind.”  If we want to be successful, profitable, trusted, respected and preferred tile contractors, we must build our businesses on each of these principles. To become a “Best in Class Tile Contractor” we must be willing to invest in every aspect of our business. This means providing the best trained and skilled craftspeople, installing the best materials for the given application, while utilizing the current best practices of the trade.  Each of these elements requires consistent education and updating. Have you heard the statement, “I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years and never had a problem?” I’d say chances are high this individual is not part of a “Best in Class” organization.

Foundational to this is striving to hire and train the best people, and giving them the opportunity to stay on top of the latest industry standards and best practices. If we aren’t aggressively seeking to keep up with these improvements, we will quickly be left behind. Our level of professionalism will gradually decline until we become reactionary in nature rather than proactive.

When I visit job sites and talk with crews of installers and finishers, it becomes clear very quickly that they have received minimal training. They may have had a mentor for a short time, but most have just figured it out in the field, picking up a little here and there. Most of these crews are eager to learn “best practices” because they want to walk away from every completed job with pride in their finished work.

The NTCA has many options for you to take advantage of when considering training and education curricula for your craftspeople. The Finisher Apprenticeship on-line training program is an excellent place to start. Participation and involvement at Total Solutions Plus, Coverings or TISE West (Surfaces) can supplement your regular educational activities. Getting copies of the TCNA Handbook and ANSI A108, and beginning the process of learning how to use these industry recommendations and standards is another great step forward.

We all need to evaluate our businesses and find the areas where we aren’t using best practices and implement procedures to move us toward the goal. The health of our companies is at risk and so is the health of our industry. We all know that skilled craftspeople are in short supply and the only way to improve this is to train and educate those we have and those entering the trade.

Let’s all make a commitment to see the NTCA logo carry recognition and respect from the customers that employ us. Keep on tiling!

Martin Howard, president, NTCA Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

President’s Letter – May 2017

It was great to see so many old friends and meet new ones at Coverings in Orlando. I was fortunate to have several opportunities to work in one of the two NTCA booths during the show. This afforded me the chance to meet and talk with many contractors from all over the country working in several different segments of the industry.

I know that we are all challenged to find enough time each day to run a business, finish an estimate, meet with a client, get our crews working in the right direction, meet the payroll and oh yes, everybody’s favorite task, collecting the money we’re owed!!!! Yet that is what we signed up for when we decided to scratch that entrepreneurial itch and start our companies.

So, back to what I learned from these conversations at Coverings: some of our members — and those who haven’t joined NTCA yet — don’t really understand all that we offer to the industry. Early on, I had several encounters where a contractor would say, “I’ve got two minutes before my next meeting, so tell me everything I get if I join NTCA”, while their sales resistance slammed closed like a bank vault.

I changed my strategy to answering their question with a question, “What is your biggest need that will make you more successful and profitable?” This seemed to open a dialog on a different level, and I could explain the education and training available to them through the association. Some chose to sign up and some said they’d think about it. Either way, I hope that I communicated that the NTCA is here to be a resource and advocate for tile contractors. But that’s not all we do.

The staff of NTCA works extremely hard to put together a framework of industry involvement that will represent the tile contractor’s interest. From membership on the TCNA Handbook Committee to the ANSI Committee, to all the groups working with the NTCA Board of Directors on numerous committees, these individuals are tile contractors who donate their time and expenses to participate for the good of the tile industry and specifically for the advancement and protection of the tile contractor — regardless if they are a member of NTCA or not.

Maybe this will help explain a little better. Here is a list of the number of tile contractors working on each of these committees on your behalf.

7 – Tile Council of North America Handbook Committee

6 + 6 Alternates – ANSI A108 Committee

7 – NTCA Executive Board

19 – NTCA Board of Directors

60 + State Ambassadors

27 – NTCA Training and Education Committee

22 – NTCA Membership Committee

11 – NTCA Standards and Methods Committee

19 – NTCA Technical Committee

3 – NTCA Convention Planning Committee

These contractor businesses range in size from two-employee companies to hundreds-of-employee companies, and they cover the residential and commercial markets. Each of them has chosen to give of their time and resources to make this industry better. Your voice is needed and welcome so let us know what’s on your mind and how we might be able to help you. Consider getting involved if you are member and consider joining if you aren’t a member.

Underlying all of this is our strategic objective, which is to see every member of NTCA be a Best in Class Tile Contractor –dedicated to continuing education, training, craftsmanship, integrity and customer service. We all have the choice to purse excellence or accept mediocrity. The NTCA stands for Excellence.

And for those contractors interested in what they get for being a NTCA member, check out the list of member benefits here: http://www.tile-assn.com/?page=Membership.

Keep on Tiling!

 

Martin Howard

President NTCA

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

 

 

TRENDS 2017: PRESIDENT’S LETTER

Martin Howard

We are fortunate to be part of a dynamic and innovative industry, where change is normal with new products, methods and trends in design and installation. Here at David Allen Company, we have just completed several projects with 40 to 60 different tile types and numerous different color combinations. I don’t know of another finish trade that is so diverse and complex: gauged porcelain tile/panels in sizes up to 5’ x 10’ have been around long enough that most of us have some experience working with them. There has been a resurgence of handmade and extruded tiles with concave, convex and three-dimensional faces, just to name a few.

If you were at TISE West in January, you had the opportunity to see many new tile designs. While these tiles create beautiful projects and sometimes works of art when they are complete, they demand the highest levels of installation skills and management ability. Continuous training to keep crews updated on the specific installation requirements of 60 different products on a single project is challenging. It’s mes like this that a good working knowledge of industry standards and recommendations is essential. On more than one occasion recently after installing handmade tiles, the project architect rejected portions of our installation quoting the TCNA Handbook tolerances. Knowing that the TCNA Handbook standards only apply to tiles manufactured and tested to comply with ANSI A137.1 was the key to helping educate the architect that not all tiles can be judged by the same standard and installation tolerances. Following are excerpts from the TCNA Handbook that specify where standards can be applied.

Ceramic Tile Types

“Ceramic tile suitable for TCNA Handbook installation methods are those that meet the specifications outlined in ANSI A137.1 American National Standard Specifications for Ceramic Tile. ANSI A137.1 contains performance and aesthetic criteria for the five major types of ceramic tiles: porcelain, pressed floor, mosaic, quarry and glazed wall tiles.” – 2016 TCNA Handbook, pg.2

Specialty Tile

“Specialty tiles are designed to meet special physical requirements or to have special appearances characteristics. They are not required to meet all requirements of ANSI A137.1. Consult the manufacturer’s specifications. They are some mes manufactured to create an architectural effect toward the casual [sic]. These tiles vary in size, one tile from the other. Variations in plane may be expected. Larger les will usually require greater varia on in joint width. For each specialty tile being chosen, review installation guidelines supplied by manufacturer/distributor of specialty tiles and/or adhesive manufacturer. Specialty tiles include, but are not limited to, tiles made from non-ceramic materials.” – 2016 TCNA Handbook, pg.5

Keeping up with industry standards can keep you from replacing accept- able workmanship unnecessarily. If you are unsure if the tile you have been contracted to install meets ANSI A137.1 contact the manufacturer and request a Master Grade Certificate. If they can’t provide one or state that their product is not manufactured to meet this standard, you have the answer needed. This will allow you to educate your client and establish reasonable expectations for the installation.

Education is key to working more professionally and profitably. Keep on tiling!

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

 

PRESIDENT’S LETTER: NTCA enjoys great success at TISE West

I’ve just returned from TISE West/ Surfaces West in Las Vegas where the NTCA experienced its most productive and successful attendance at this conference to date.

What made it so special, you ask?

This is the fourth year NTCA has been responsible for the tile contactor education track and with the help of the NTCA State Ambassadors, we created quite a buzz around the conference hall. The NTCA booth was much larger, and featured lounge areas for networking and impromptu contractor roundtable discussions. The State Ambassadors worked the booth for the most part and signed up several new members. The Ambassador Reception and Dinner was very well attended by contractors who were excited to be there and exchange ideas and information.

The Board of Directors meeting started out with an update of the NTCA Strategic Plan by executive director Bart Bettiga.

The great news here is that the two-year Finisher program will be completed and available on-line at the NTCA University website by Coverings this year. The two-year Installer program is on track to be complete by the end of 2018. If you haven’t seen this tremendous learning tool, I encourage you to contact Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator for a preview (see NTCA University Update on page 84 of this issue).

Another major initiative that started at the end of 2016 is the hiring of Kevin Insalato, of California Flooring in Manteno, Ill., to work with Scott Carothers and CTEF. His major responsibility is to train and certify Regional Evaluators who will administer the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) examination. Kevin has nearly tripled the number of evaluators across the country and is seeking more qualified individuals. Our goal is to see the current number of 1,300 CTIs grow well into the thousands by the end of 2018.

Next up, the subcommittee reports

The Training and Education committee, chaired by Dave Rogers, of Welch Tile & Marble, Kent City, Michigan, now has five subcommittees as follows:

Safety – Chaired by Robert Showers. This committee is working on documents to be made available to all NTCA members as a resource for safety training, OSHA-approved safety programs and up-to-date changes in regulations and how they might impact our trade.

Promotion – Chaired by Paige Smith. This committee is working on initiatives to promote CTI and specific hot topics in distributor showrooms, along with talking points for workshops.

Certification – Chaired by Sam Bruce. This group is working hard to write scripts and study aids for those preparing to take the CTI exam. Its goal is to see those who possess the skills and knowledge increase their success rate by being properly prepared for the exam.

CEU Programs for Management – Chaired by Dirk Sullivan. This group is working to provide pro- grams and educational study guides for advancement in all areas of management.

CEU Technical – Chaired by Rod Owen. This group is developing scripts for educational videos to be used in training field foremen and superintendents.

These committees have now held two in-person meetings – at Total Solutions Plus (TSP) and TISE West – along with many conference calls and video conferences showing their commitment to grow the value of membership in the NTCA. There were nearly 100 industry professionals in attendance at the Board of Directors meeting, and it is very exciting to see so many new faces taking leadership roles within the association.

The Technical Committee, Membership Committee, Methods and Standards Committee and Convention Planning Committee also gave reports along with an update on the NTCA Five Star program from new Five Star Program director, Amber Fox.

As always, I invite your involvement and feedback and I look forward to seeing you at Coverings in April.

Keep on tiling!

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

President’s Letter – March 2017

I’ve just returned from TISE West/Surfaces West in Las Vegas where the NTCA experienced its most productive and successful attendance at this conference to date.

What made it so special, you ask?

This is the fourth year NTCA has been responsible for the tile contactor education track and with the help of the NTCA State Ambassadors, we created quite a buzz around the conference hall. The NTCA booth was much larger, and featured lounge areas for networking and impromptu contractor roundtable discussions. The State Ambassadors worked the booth for the most part and signed up several new members. The Ambassador Reception and Dinner was very well attended by contractors who were excited to be there and exchange ideas and information.

The Board of Directors meeting started out with an update of the NTCA Strategic Plan by executive director Bart Bettiga. The great news here is that the two-year Finisher program will be completed and available on-line at the NTCA University website by Coverings this year. The two-year Installer program is on track to be complete by the end of 2018. If you haven’t seen this tremendous learning tool, I encourage you to contact Becky Serbin, Training and Education Coordinator for a preview (see NTCA University Update on page XX of this issue).

Another major initiative that started at the end of 2016 is the hiring of Kevin Insalato, of California Flooring in Manteno, Ill., to work with Scott Carothers and CTEF. His major responsibility is to train and certify Regional Evaluators who will administer the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) examination. Kevin has nearly tripled the number of evaluators across the country and is seeking more qualified individuals. Our goal is to see the current number of 1,300 CTIs grow well into the thousands by the end of 2018.

Next up, the Subcommittee reports

The Training and Education committee, chaired by Dave Rogers, of Welch Tile & Marble, Kent City Michigan,  now has five subcommittees as follows:

  • Safety – Chaired by Robert Showers. This committee is working on documents to be made available to all NTCA members as a resource for safety training, OSHA-approved safety programs and up-to-date changes in regulations and how they might impact our trade.
  • Promotion – Chaired by Paige Smith. This committee is working on initiatives to promote CTI and specific hot topics in distributor showrooms, along with talking points for workshops.
  • Certification – Chaired by Sam Bruce. This group is working hard to write scripts and study aids for those preparing to take the CTI exam. Its goal is to see those who possess the skills and knowledge increase their success rate by being properly prepared for the exam.
  • CEU Programs for Management – Chaired by Dirk Sullivan. This group is working to provide programs and educational study guides for advancement in all areas of management.
  • CEU Technical – Chaired by Rod Owen. This group is developing scripts for educational videos to be used in training field foremen and superintendents.

These committees have now held two in-person meetings  — at Total Solutions Plus (TSP) and TISE West — along with many conference calls and video conferences showing their commitment to grow the value of membership in the NTCA. There were nearly 100 industry professionals in attendance at the Board of Directors meeting, and it is very exciting to see so many new faces taking leadership roles within the association.

The Technical Committee, Membership Committee, Methods and Standards Committee and Convention and Planning Committee also gave reports along with an update on the NTCA Five Star program from new Five Star Program director, Amber Fox.

As always, I invite your involvement and feedback and I look forward to seeing you at Coverings in April.

Keep on tiling!

 

Martin Howard, NTCA President

Committee member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

President’s Letter – February 2017

The NTCA logo: the mark of excellence for Best in Class tile professionals

According to several industry sources, the more than 1,300 members of NTCA account for only a fraction of companies working as tile and stone installers in the U.S. market. My sincere hope is that all 1,300+ members of the NTCA have joined because they are committed to being a best-in-class tile and stone professional. There are many benefits of membership, including a free annual copy of the NTCA Reference Manual, free technical advice, discount programs for shipping, insurance, vehicle purchases, safety programs, marketing templates and many more. The Partnering for Success voucher program allows each member to individually choose vouchers for free or discounted products with a total annual value of $2,000, far exceeding the cost of membership.

Collectively, these programs are more than enough reason to join the NTCA, but for me personally, the most important benefit of being an NTCA member is the right to use the nationally recognized logo on all my business communications.

One of my goals as your president over the next two years is to ensure that every member has the opportunity to increase his or her skill as a professional installer – and also grow as a professional business owner. I want the NTCA logo to be recognized by architects, designers, building owners and the public as the mark of excellence in the tile and stone industry. They should have confidence that when selecting and hiring a contractor member of NTCA, they are getting a “Best in Class” professional. Obviously, the NTCA is limited in its ability to ensure that all members are committed to this goal. However, we can make sure that we provide all the tools necessary to assist all members as they endeavor to grow their skills and business acumen. If this craft is providing the opportunity for us to succeed, we should be motivated to invest in expanding our capabilities and skills.

This comprehensive goal will take time, but I’m proud to share with you that due to the vision and dedication of the NTCA staff and volunteers, many of these tools exist today and are at your disposal. I encourage every member to invest in NTCA University, which allows every employee to have personalized access to a wide variety of educational opportunities. Access includes the new and developing Apprenticeship course, and the entire Business Plan section with over 50 classes that include  accounting, marketing, interviewing and hiring, business ethics, negotiating contracts,business continuation planning strategies and more. Over 30 live webcast seminars with the accompanying PowerPoint presentations are also included.

By definition, “professional” means that we are never finished learning, growing and improving our ability to be the best. I challenge every NTCA member to think about 2017 and what you are doing to continually educate and train yourself and your team. Spend some time looking at what is offered; tell us what we are missing and how we can partner with you to become a Best in Class tile and stone contractor that proudly displays the NTCA logo.

Sincerely,

Martin Howard, President NTCA

Committee Member, ANSI A108

[email protected]

President’s Letter – January 2017

A new year, a new president, and a new opportunity for success

The new year is here, and the holiday season and the election cycle are behind us, so it’s time to focus our attention on identifying our goals and developing a strategy that will help us succeed.

I am grateful to serve as the new president of the NTCA. I’d like to acknowledge James Woelfel, our past president, for his clear and determined leadership for the last two years. James will continue to serve in the NTCA as chairman of the Board. Thank you, James, for your tireless efforts to improve this great organization.

As I step into my new role as president, I am eager to get to work. For the last eight years I have served on the ANSI committee, NTCA Technical Committee, and contributed to the TCNA Handbook Committee. I’m grateful for the knowledge and experience I’ve gained from working with the best of the best in our industry; it has been rewarding both professionally and personally.

As we prepare for the new year, let me encourage you to take time to refocus your attention on identifying goals and developing strategies that will help your companies become more profitable and successful in 2017. The company I work for, David Allen Company, has greatly benefited through our participation in NTCA – most notably, from the ability to learn from the most knowledgeable individuals in our industry; from manufacturers of tile and setting materials to installers and business owners. In the past few years NTCA has become the largest and most influential tile contractors’ association in the world. As the “voice of the contractor,” we have earned a seat at the table where our collective voice is respected, and our knowledge sought out and often invited.

I hope to increase the value of membership by improving the educational opportunities at Coverings, Total Solutions Plus (TSP) and TISE West/Surfaces as well as bringing more craft training to members separate from our Tile & Stone Workshop programs.

My goals for NTCA are as follows:

  • Increase the quality and professionalism of our trade through education
  • Provide more craft training and certification opportunities at trade shows
  • Expand our international outreach by collaborating with our industry partners abroad
  • See our NTCA University Apprenticeship Program completed with Two-Year Finisher and Two-Year Mechanic certifications

The NTCA staff, Executive Board, Regional Directors, and State Ambassadors have been working hard these past months to chart this course. Total Solutions Plus in October proved to be a huge success with many important committees producing outstanding goals with some aggressive timelines. We have the opportunity to see our trade recognized as the noteworthy profession it truly is while gaining the respect it deserves. We’ll be able to retire the old stereotype of “unskilled thin-set jockeys” where tile was only used in utilitarian applications, save the occasional office lobby.

Events surrounding our industry are coming together to produce rapidly-expanding manufacturing technologies and increased complexity of installation methods and materials for tile. Add this with a rapidly-growing public desire to use tile with greater design variation and flexibility and we could see artistry and craftsmanship in high demand for those willing to embrace it.

When I’m not working for NTCA or ANSI, I’m the executive vice president of David Allen Company in Raleigh, N.C., where I have had the privilege of working for the last 24 years. I’m very grateful for the support I have received from David Allen Company as I have needed to put more and more time into industry duties. It is only because of the fantastic teams supporting me at the office that I am released to serve this great industry.

Thank you to the NTCA staff, Executive Committee, Board of Directors, and all the members of the NTCA for putting your trust in me.

Lastly, I’d like to thank my wife, Judith, for allowing me to be away from home much more than usual. If it weren’t for Judith, I would not be the person I am today.

I hope to see many of you at TISE West/Surfaces in Las Vegas this month. I encourage every member of NTCA to get involved, attend a workshop at your local distributor, join us at TISE West/Surfaces, Coverings, or TSP, and sit in on committee meetings to see the new endeavors NTCA hopes to accomplish. Most importantly, we want to hear from you and benefit from the years of experience you have in this industry. Come and take advantage of the many opportunities NTCA provides for its members. I can guarantee, you will get back far more than you give.

Respectfully,
Martin Howard
[email protected]

President’s Letter – December 2016

JWoelfel_headshotWow! Those two years went by quickly. I am writing my last President’s Letter and it is not a sad moment, but an appreciative moment.

Two years ago when I became president, I laid out what I thought were some important goals, like the NTCA taking its rightful place as the tile industry’s most important association, looking to domestic partners, and international conversations and meetings.

I believe we have attained those goals. We are now more than 1300 members strong, our voice at national installation standard meetings is valued and respected, and our international dialogue with manufacturers, installers and associated industry partners is being developed in a very positive way.

Next year is the 70th anniversary of the NTCA and our association is stronger than ever going into the future. At the same time we are looking to our past to affirm our values, training and education, quality installations, qualified labor, and continuing to be professional tile contractors. These values should never be lost. In fact, these values need to be shouted from the mountaintops to gain the attention of home builders, general contractors and owners, so that this or the next installation done for them is by an NTCA member.

board-officers

(L to r) Board advisors John Cox, Dan Welch and Nyle Wadford; outgoing president/chairman of the board James Woelfel; new NTCA president Martin Howard with 1st vice president Christopher Walker.

Before I ride off into the Arizona sunset, I want to say how fortunate the NTCA and its members are that Martin Howard of David Allen Company is the next president. I have sat with Martin many times at NTCA, TCNA and ANSI meetings, watching him save tile contractors money and grief. Martin is a fervent defender of tile contractors and of industry standards. He wants to maximize our membership value for all of our members. He will be a great president.

I would like to thank the NTCA staff for all of the help and guidance for the last two years: Bart, Jim, Mark and everyone else have been wonderful. I want to thank the Executive Committee for taking a chance on me and then giving me their full support – it means a lot. I want to thank my parents Butch and Mary for keeping the doors open while I bounced around the country the last two years. Thank you to my son Preston, who let Dad go out and play with his friends knowing there was less time for him. I am so proud of you.

Thank you to my wife Chris. As you know, she has battled cancer this last year, yet she has supported me 100% and has represented our industry with class, dignity and immeasurable strength. She is my foundation – I love you.

Thank you to all of you who read my letters. I know how valuable your time is and I appreciate the feedback.

Respectfully,
James Woelfel, President NTCA
Chairman, NTCA
Technical Committee
480-829-9197
www.artcraftgmt.com

P.S. I am still chairman of the Technical Committee; I look forward to seeing you all in the future.

President’s Letter – November 2016

JWoelfel_headshotIn the last month, my President’s Letter from September has generated a lot of feedback. In fact, Bart Bettiga, our executive director, has told me it has generated the most feedback he has received regarding any President’s Letter. That is great news. That particular letter was written to generate dialogue between distributors and tile contractors, and it has.

When there’s a lack of discourse, dialogue is more important than ever. Good people can disagree, but if you can discuss an issue in an intelligent manner, solutions are likely to be found. It is absolutely necessary for the entirety of our industry to be on the same page and support each other. This makes everyone more successful.

The reaction to the letter was mostly positive, but there were a few people who were not in agreement. I didn’t expect everyone to be. I have learned that if you try to please everyone, you please no one. But, as I have said in the past, I am a tile contractor first and foremost, and I will always defend the tile contractor when given the opportunity.

The reaction, emails, kind words and some not-so-kind words all tell me that people are reading the President’s Letter. That is great news! It also tells me that it is imperative for the president of the NTCA to take actual positions on matters that have an effect on tile contractors and the industry in which we are involved. Our past, present and future presidents are not potted plants – nor should we be. We have opinions, ideas, and solutions as well. Our membership and our industry profits from our association president taking on difficult issues, and taking a stand on these same issues as well.

I want to thank each and every one who shared their opinion with me, even the opinions that did not agree with me. This gives us a chance to do better and to find solutions for our tile contractor members.

Respectfully,
James Woelfel, President NTCA
Chairman NTCA Technical Committee
480-829-9197
www.artcraftgmt.com

President’s Letter – October 2016

JWoelfel_headshotAs 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.

Regards,
James Woelfel, NTCA President
Chairman, NTCA Technical Committee
480.829.9197
www.artcraftgmt.com

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