April 2013 Letter from the President Dan Welch

dan welch imageRecently, I had a chance to spend a few days with NTCA member, Barry Kemna. While visiting a project in northern Pennsylvania, and on our way through Ohio, we stopped for dinner to meet with Vince Casey of Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo, Norm Barron of Barron Tile, and Charlie Renner from TEC.  Competing against cheap labor was the main topic of the night, but the discussion quickly turned to the glory days when quality labor and business ethics were abundant. We found ourselves asking, “What happened?” But what we were really asking was, “Why do we allow price to dictate our business practices?”

We’ve all had the opportunity to offer our services with “shades of gray.” Although each of us had a story to tell, we all agreed that the tile industry is being eroded by contractors who think they need to cut corners because if they don’t, they think others will. We all agreed that striving for “black and white” bids, proposals, and contracts is something our industry must take seriously.

Through conversations with other people, I’ve come to realize that when you choose to play in the gray because you think others will, it becomes much more difficult to return to the black and white. Over time, you find yourself unable to differentiate. You find yourself changed as a person.

The NTCA has invested in many quality labor programs: partnering with CTEF, creating CTI, ACT, and Five Star, to name a few.  Manufacturers and distributors have spent millions of dollars to provide solutions to difficult problems, funding countless programs promoting innovation and educating industry partners. And yet, many tile contractors focus on the easy solution: cut corners and sell on price.

I feel that quality will sell, and in the past, it did. Today however, we are in a battle of ethics with an attitude of “Buyer Beware.” I see undefined specs, unproven methods, and unethical labor practices that do not provide buyer protection or a fair playing field for tile contractors who provide “black and white” VALUE propositions.

How can we as NTCA tile contractor members resolve this issue?
Ask RFI (request for information) questions. Tile contractors need to point out undefined bid documents at the start of the bidding process.

Provide budgets that have specialty items listed as a checklist. Owners must see a defined budget number upfront. If they don’t budget for necessary specialty items, they have a hard time adding costs during construction.

Provide price breakdowns for unforeseen items like crack isolation, floor prep, specialty grouts and sealers, soft joints and pattern layouts.

Provide a proposal that speaks of quality and identify value investments with pay back.
Sell your company’s accomplishments (CTI, ACT, Five Star Contractor, and Trowel of Excellence).

This is the high road to success. I challenge you to work with your prime contractors to define challenges and provide value to consumers. The fact is, general contractors and construction managers have several scopes to analyze, and if you don’t discuss value, they can only make decisions based on price. Those who are successful – and who will continue to be successful – promote and provide value.

Sincerely,
Daniel Jay Welch, President NTCA,
Welch Tile & Marble Inc.

March 2013 Letter from the President Dan Welch

For 10 years the cost of an installed piece of tile has remained stagnant. The rising costs of fuel, health insurance, and education have accelerated dramatically. Workers are forced into longer hours for the same pay. As an industry we have done many things to help you with training, education, marketing, and business development. We have not given much attention to the issue of hiring labor. This topic may be controversial, but I believe it to be one of the major educational issues NTCA must tackle.

The old way

When I started in the trade as a helper, labor was purchased through an hourly method. You would be expected to be on the site at 7:00 am – 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Overtime, night premium, and holiday pay were all identified in an employee handbook. The work seemed to just appear and the company would operate without major issues.

Evolution of sub-sub

Many in the flooring trade have moved to sub-subcontracting labor. An individual or partnership operates only as an installer and provides that service for a predetermined price to a business that either specified the job, sold it, or was low bidder. The installer is paid as a separate company and issued a 1099 tax form at year’s end. This is a way many businesses can manage the costs of having traditional employees due to the fluctuation of labor over a period of time. It has become appealing to owners and employees alike. The business owners have more time to sell, while the tradespeople can work for other companies, decide which jobs they want to do, and concentrate on working and honing their skills. Both then can make money. The business owner may benefit from not having to pay as much in payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, health insurance, and other benefits that they offer to their office staff. If the tradesperson gets busy, he or she may hire a helper, for whom he or she will assume the burden of employment taxes and related insurance.

Today

Today, labor pricing has not adjusted for inflation. Estimators have current pricing for materials, tools, and equipment, but are using labor rates from 1997. Today’s workforce – in a down market – has no way of forcing more pay when they need to feed their families. The majority of commercial work in our area is earned through a low-bidder strategy – those who estimate labor at early-2000 prices get the job. But who’s ensuring that 1099 subs are covered for worker’s comp, unemployment, or social security? Who is responsible for their payroll taxes? Should they really be employees rather than independent contractors? Do you hire the same subs week in and week out, and does the majority of their income come from you?  Could you be at risk of tax penalties?

Legislation

As many of you have experienced, the federal government has cracked down on the practice of employee misclassification (1099 v. W2). Here in Michigan, the state is focused on eliminating employee misclassification in the construction trade. And with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, who will be responsible for health care costs?

As an industry, we need to start the discussion.

Thank you,

Daniel Jay Welch
President, NTCA,
Welch Tile & Marble.

February 2013 Letter from the President

dan welch imageThis month, I want to talk about certification. On April 30, 2008, I became the first CTEF Certified Tile Installer (yes, my card reads: CTI #01). I am proud to have been involved in our industry when this monumental task was accomplished.

I remember executive director Scott Carothers stating, “I feel we are building the Model T from the ground up.” Over the years, certification has changed from the four-day class to a two-day evaluation, and eventually evolved into a very intense one-day certification with an online written exam. Many tough decisions were made to get this program streamlined without diluting the rigor of proper knowledge and skills testing. It also had to be marketed to our customers so they understand what it means to be a tile professional. Today, I feel that Scott and his crew have got it nailed.

Over four years later, we are now working (as an industry) with many new groups to bolster the program. Groups including the CTEF, IUBAC, IMI, NTCA, TCNA, and TCAA have banded together to offer advanced certification. From industry feedback, including our own, we know that basic certification does not necessarily mean an installer can confidently perform difficult installations like showers, mud-bed, wall mud, large-format tiles, and waterproofing. I am proud to say we can look forward to these advanced modules of certifications in the very near future. As a committee member working on the shower certification, I’m excited to be a part of this ground-breaking joint venture. My goal for advanced certification is not to make it difficult for tile setters to attain such certification, but to identify a standard for quality and build the confidence of our customers.

Welch Tile & Marble has succeeded in the tile industry by offering a professionally-installed tile job with quality, service and value in mind. Unfortunately, many of our projects are re-doing another contractor’s mistakes. Tile jobs are unique because they can initially be aesthetically pleasing, but soon reveal the installer’s lack of experience with loose (unbonded) tile, cracked tile, lippage, tenting, and leaking showers. This can happen in a few months, or it could take years. The unsuspecting consumer may hire a contractor who sells them on their ability, with few resources to verify his/her qualifications. The advanced certification program bridges this gap and helps protect the consumer. It also protects the qualified contractor who bids the job doing it right the first time.

If you are reading this article, you are the contractor we need. Your knowledge and experience is what sells. If you think low price is your only sales tool, think again. Consumers will pay more if they understand the value of peace of mind, and the cost of doing a job twice.

The CTEF is working very hard on your behalf to educate your customers. Tile should be a “life of the structure” choice. Certification is an easy way you can prove your value, provide peace of mind, and earn more work without sacrificing profit.

My advice: get involved, get certified, and provide knowledge and experience to support your ever-changing industry.

Sincerely,
Daniel Jay Welch
President NTCA,
Welch Tile & Marble Inc.

January 2013 Letter from the President Dan Welch

Thank you for the opportunity to serve the tile industry for the next two years!

dan welch imageMy name is Daniel J. Welch of Welch Tile & Marble Inc. (www.welchtile.com). It has been my pleasure to work with many of you, either through the NTCA Board of Directors, or on the Technical Committee. Wow, have we made great progress in the past few years! For those whom I have not met, I look forward to serving you as the first NTCA president from the great state of Michigan!

I am a second-generation tile contractor who learned the trade from my father, Richard Welch. During long days at his side with bucket and trowel in hand, he taught me the value of strong ethics, family-first leadership, and time-tested hard work. My father  provided me with the knowledge and leadership I need to survive and prosper in today’s tile industry, along with my family at Welch Tile: Aaron (field supervisor), Rick (estimator), Jennell and Marnie (office). I owe my success to their support.

Welch Tile & Marble is a specialty tile, terrazzo and stone contractor, installing both commercial and residential projects guided by our mission statement “People, Creating Change.” To me, our People are the most valuable resource we have. I believe we must Create relationships of trust, and embrace Change throughout all aspects of our daily lives, professionally and personally.

Over the next 25 issues I hope to provide common-sense articles focused on the relevant issues tile contractors face today. Welch Tile has been in business for 25 years and I assure you we have made our fair share of mistakes. Although this may not be the cheapest way to learn, mistakes are lessons you don’t forget. Along with our success stories, I will offer experience from the many business decisions that we have made – good and bad – to form what I think is a clear vision of the tile industry today. I believe that if we understand our past, and stay aware of our business climate, we can work together to provide a better future.

I want to thank our past president and my friend, Nyle Wadford for his past term and new responsibility as our Chairman of the Board. Nyle has provided strength in turmoil as this industry has adapted to great change. I also want to thank John Cox as he steps down as our Chairman of the Board. John, you have been a great resource and a beacon of leadership for our great organization.

Sincerely,
Daniel J. Welch
President NTCA,
Welch Tile & Marble Inc.

November 2012 Presidents Letter

Greetings,

You have probably received this issue of TileLetter after all the rancor of our truly American election process is over. Our future leadership has been determined and by now it is. charged with the task of forging our paths to restoration and prosperity. I am incredibly thankful to live in a country that allows this process to occur and I hope you were a participant in it. Regardless of the outcome, we have elected people who hold great sway over our collective futures, and our best hope is to stay engaged and active as the process unfolds.

John F. Kennedy once said “For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” This has certainly been evident in our nation, our industry and your NTCA. As such we must press on. As we move toward yet uncharted goals, it is my hope that we can do so by embracing the shared goal of “coming together for the greater good” This phrase may not mean much inWashingtonany more, but it is alive and well at the NTCA.

Together we have forged relationships for the betterment of our industry. We have extended olive branches to accomplish goals with partners that were once considered adversaries by some; and we have held firm when needed, remaining steadfast when we thought installation ideals were being compromised. We would hope that our elected leaders will come together as the NTCA and our industry have done and provide leadership, which will allow unparalleled growth in the face of daunting circumstances.

I have no doubt that a visionary future will continue as the benchmark of your NTCA. By the time you are reading this, we will have elected new leadership for our association too. I know our new President, Executive Committee and Board of Directors well and also know the passion they share for our industry. Rest assured that the current and future direction of our association is in good hands. I am sure that their efforts will take us to future heights not deemed possible by past comparison. This almost sounds like I am campaigning, and I am — I’m campaigning for the unbridled ascension of professional tile and stone installation and for making those products the unquestioned leaders of the finishes segment of the construction industry.

There you have it….. one of my last “stump speeches” in this format for our industry. I look forward to what the future holds. As always, I encourage your involvement and ask you to grasp the opportunity to share in the excitement for our industry and our nation by participating in the process.

All the best,

Nyle

President’s Letter – September 2012

Greetings,

Wow, is summer winding down already? I guess it is because the Olympics are over, we’re getting inundated with political ads and information as we get closer to the election and – hallelujah! – football season has started! That’s all part of the passage of time. As time waits for no one, and we can’t control it, we must move forward with our best efforts and the most knowledge we can acquire to make good decisions.

Your NTCA is here to help you do just that. I hope each of you consider the NTCA a resource to assist you in connecting to our industry and, as a result, bettering your business.

I consistently hear “I didn’t know the NTCA was involved in that” or “Thanks for providing that information. It really helped.” These comments are a direct result of the “education” I have received as a member of our association. I am happy and proud to pass this information along to others for the improvement of our industry.

Remember, you get out of your membership what you put into it. So, in order to receive more, you will need to be more involved. As President Rutherford B. Hayes said “As knowledge spreads, wealth spreads. To diffuse knowledge is to diffuse wealth.” Be a part of acquiring the knowledge so that you can attain and attempt to hold onto the wealth.

One way to do that is by attending Total Solutions Plus in Rancho Mirage, California October 27-30. This promises to be an exciting event shared by NTCA, CTDA and TCNA and a great place to attain some of the “education” of which I was speaking. Take time to register today at www.ctdahome.org/tsp/2012/. It will be a venue that presents renowned speakers, educational seminars and displays of the latest materials and equipment. Please check out the preview of this event and features about mosaic tiles and glass products in the pages of this issue.

Being the best you can be is not just a slogan, it’s a mantra; I desire for each of you to achieve the success you seek. That may come in many different forms, as each of you probably define it differently.  Even so, it is my hope that the road to that success is one on which we – as individuals and companies – are able to pursue the prosperity and fortunes we seek as we think they should be acquired, with fewer restrictions from those entities who see their role as shaping the marketplace rather than preparing us to prosper from their efforts.

I hope you think diligently about this in the coming days as you make choices to improve your businesses, our industry and our nation.

All the best,
Nyle

President’s Letter – August 2012

Greetings,

In many of my past letters, I’ve encouraged you to stay the course. To do what is right professionally and search for niches that require your company’s skills. Not everyone can be good at everything, but there are pockets out there that allow you to increase your knowledge base within segments of our industry, while excelling in that area of proficiency. One of those segments is the sustainability of tile and setting materials.

Green is the buzzword today. You see it everywhere, from the clothes we wear to the power we generate. Tile is no exception. Ceramic tiles have a long history of sustainability. To quote from the 2012 TCNA Handbook, “Tile’s inherent durability, and the perpetuity of the natural materials out of which tiles are manufactured, have made ceramic tiles the natural choice for centuries.” This should be cham-pioned by everyone in our industry. It should be used by our membership to create opportunity.

The door is wide open for the tile industry to take advantage of this perfect marriage of need and function that tile allows. By becoming proficient in all things “green” where tile is concerned, you can become, once again, the “go to” company that can fulfill the ravenous appetite for green of the architectural and design community. I urge you to explore how green and sustainability are integral to our industry, are becoming even more so, and how you can benefit. It won’t happen by resting on your laurels. We all must strive daily to improve. This is one terrific — albeit somewhat uncharted — area to explore in an effort to capture market share in the arena.

Consumer demand for sustainable products is at an all-time high and growing. Our industry fits well within this demand. The information is slowly spreading. With rapid saturation on the horizon, it makes sense to be proactive about the emergence of this facet of our market. One great way to do that is by reading this issue of TileLetter. It’s packed with information on tile’s sustainability and can help cut through some of the marketplace confusion on the subject.

As usual, your NTCA has been very involved in the promotion of tile and its green attributes. Several members recently contributed to discussion and passage of the ANSI Green Squared® standard (A138.1):  a “multi-attribute, total-system approach to sustainability.” The standard addresses a range of criteria pertinent to sustainability of tile and setting materials.  Since many manufacturers’ products will be Green Squared-certified by one of three third-party organizations, customers and end users can be assured that they are choosing some of the most sustainable products on the market today.

This is truly great news. I for one, hope that it is one of the factors that heat up the construction markets as we sprint on through the blazing days of summer.

I hope this letter finds you and your businesses doing well. I implore you to remember what was stated by David McNally: “The circumstances of our lives have as much power as we choose to give them.” I pray your circumstances are favorable and you grasp the opportunities found before you in our industry.

All the best,

Nyle

President’s Letter – July 2012

Greetings,

I have had the great pleasure of traveling to and for NTCA-related events over the past few years. These have been tremendously gratifying experiences as I have worked alongside great thinkers to better our industry and have been fortunate to have witnessed the results of our efforts.

Each time I travel has also been a humbling experience for me. Every time I leave the cocoon that is my little tile world in North Carolina, venture to the airport and fly off to the next working venue, I gain a perspective that is really striking. This was evident once again as I had some “observation” time recently in the Atlanta airport while waiting to return home from our recent TCNA Handbook Committee meetings. I watched thousands of travelers and employees walk across beautiful tile floors. Every trip to or through a major city makes me realize that we are all “small fish in a big pond” as my grandmother used to say. The immense melting pot of America causes me to stand amazed at the sheer number of people who populate our great nation and the unique way each of them must impact their immediate worlds. I often wonder if they have any influence beyond that or if they even care to.

Many times I think of the ways all of us, in and out of the tile industry, impact our surroundings. Sure, we influence those we see every day: family, friends, coworkers, etc. But does influence go beyond that? It is certain that our actions affect each other, so it is important to remember the golden rule to “do unto others” as we interact with those around us. Before I get too philosophical here, the point I’m leading to is this: as a NTCA member, you may or may not know that your influence can and should be profound.

You can have impact in your tile sphere of influence that is immediate and lasting. Your professionalism is on display as you interact with those around you and you carry the banner of the NTCA. In doing so, it is imperative that you strive to provide your customers with the best possible installations, service and quality through each of these interactions. Whether you realize it or not, your daily commitment to these efforts does have a power to influence, not only yourself and your business, but those with whom you come in contact.

You also may not be cognizant of it, but those same efforts have a profound national influence as well. By employing the best practices developed through NTCA’s  work in helping to shape our industry globally, you spread the results of those efforts. You are the feet on the ground that make it happen. You shape our industry daily and your efforts do not go unrecognized. Without you there would be no “us”, and we appreciate all that you do.

I hope that you think about this often. You are indeed one of many, but remember what Mac Anderson said, “Sometimes one single choice not only changes the direction of our lives, but that of many, many others.” Thank you for choosing to be a part of the NTCA and, as such, influencing the direction of our industry.

All the best,
Nyle

President’s Letter – June 2012

Greetings,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits as we all work diligently to make professional tile installation the norm in the finishes industry.

This month’s issue reviews the recent Coverings expo in Orlando – and what a great event it was!

It is always interesting to gather at a place where everything in the tile world comes together for a few days. Exhibitors from around the world displayed everything from maintenance products to elegant stone.

Of course your NTCA was right in the thick of it as our staff manned several areas of the show and had an enduring presence throughout the week. NTCA membership and staff were well represented as we gave educational presentations, spoke with new and existing members, recruited new members, participated in an ANSI meeting and hosted, for the first time, Contractor Tours of the show. These tours proved to be a great success along with the Contractor Lounge, and were enjoyed by the contractors and manufacturers alike.

The NTCA and three of our Five Star Contractors were highlighted in the Installation Design Showcase, where tile installation took place over several days right on the show floor. I commend all of the companies for their brilliant efforts as they brought to life the culmination of ideas from top designers and top-line products of sponsoring manufacturers to create simply stunning tile installation artistry. Many thanks to those contractors: Cox Tile, Collins Tile and Stone and David Allen Company, and to the sponsors for all their hard work to make this venue the success it was.

Your NTCA also hosted the first Coverings Installation Design awards which again displayed the artistry of contractors from around the country. These contractors and designers received  awards for their outstanding projects as recognition of their efforts.

That evening culminated in what proved to be the highlight event for me: a tribute to the NTCA for the 65th anniversary milestone it achieved this year. I was honored to narrate a presentation that toured the history of our association, demonstrating our influence, accomplishments and leadership in the industry. In typical eloquent style, NTCA executive director emeritus Joe Tarver then offered a moving speech, recounting many details of our history and helping to chart the future.

Suffice it to say the NTCA was everywhere during Coverings week. We continue to strive to make the contractor’s voice heard throughout the industry. We will do so again this month as our representatives join a strong labor contingent at the TCNA Handbook meetings in Atlanta. Speaking of Atlanta, go ahead and make plans to attend Coverings next year at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center April 29th through May 2nd, 2013.

I thank each of you and the NTCA for the opportunities presented that allow us to listen and learn from others. It’s how we grow. Come join us as we pursue excellence and take adages to heart like the words of Jerry Rice, who said, “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I will accomplish what others can’t.”

All the best,

Nyle

President’s Letter – June 2012

Greetings,

I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits as we all work diligently to make professional tile installation the norm in the finishes industry.

This month’s issue reviews the recent Coverings expo in Orlando — and what a great event it was!.

It is always interesting to gather at a place where everything in the tile world comes together for a few days. Exhibitors from around the world displayed everything from maintenance products to elegant stone.

Of course your NTCA was right in the thick of it as our staff manned several areas of the show and had an enduring presence throughout the week. NTCA membership and staff were well represented as we gave educational presentations, spoke with new and existing members, recruited new members, participated in an ANSI meeting and hosted, for the first time, Contractor Tours of the show. These tours proved to be a great success along with the Contractor Lounge, and was enjoyed by the contractors and manufacturers alike.

The NTCA and three of our Five Star contractors were highlighted in the Installation Design Showcase, where tile installation took place over several days right on the show floor. I commend each of the companies for their brilliant efforts as they brought to life the culmination of ideas from top designers and top-line products of sponsoring manufacturers to create simply stunning tile installation artistry. Many thanks to those contractors: Cox Tile, Collins Tile and Stone and David Allen Company, and to the sponsors for all their hard work to make this venue the success it was.

Your NTCA also hosted the first Coverings Installation & Design awards which again displayed the artistry of contractors from around the country. These contractors and designers received  awards for their outstanding projects as recognition of their efforts.

That evening culminated in what proved to be the highlight event for me: a tribute to the NTCA for the 65th anniversary milestone it achieved this year. I was honored to narrate a presentation that toured the history of our association, demonstrating our influence, accomplishments and leadership in the industry. In typical eloquent style, NTCA executive director emeritus Joe Tarver then offered a moving speech, recounting many details of our history and helping to chart the future.

Suffice it to say the NTCA was everywhere during Coverings week. We continue to strive to make the contractor’s voice heard throughout the industry. We will do so again this month as our representatives join a strong labor contingent at the TCNA Handbook meetings in Atlanta. Speaking of Atlanta, go ahead and make plans to attend Coverings next year at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center April 29th through May 2nd, 2013.

I thank each of you and the NTCA for the opportunities presented that allow us to listen and learn from others. It’s how we grow. Come join us as we pursue excellence and take adages to heart like the words of Jerry Rice who said “Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I will accomplish what others can’t.”

All the best,

Nyle

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