President’s Letter – August 2013

dan welch imageI don’t know about your company, but August is typically an extremely busy month for our business. Work has to be done for the upcoming school season and many are finishing projects before the end of the summer. It just gets crazy!

This year is no exception. Our staff is pushing with everything we can to make this season’s rush.  This August is no exception for me either. Welch Tile tags January and July to finalize wages and benefits along with any profit sharing for staff. I just finalized a small incentive gift, and as always look through the list, check it twice, find out who was naughty and nice.

Calculating profit sharing can be challenging, since inevitably the bonus may not make everyone happy if staff gets to comparing incentives or judging who deserves what without having the whole story. But even with those disputes or confrontations, I feel privileged we are talking about profit sharing again after surviving the challenging economy of the last few years. I pray the bottom line is that we all are excited about the future.

2013 is a recovery year and – for all of you who are struggling – I see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. I see a number of changes in the overall construction climate that point to possible better times ahead.

2013 is the first year we have not dealt with an increase in health insurance rates. 2013 is the first year we believe we will hit and exceed our sales goals.  2013 is the first year we have a sizable backlog of work. 2013 is the first year we are short of craft workers. 2013 is the first year we are hiring multiple permanent employees. 2013 has gained many new customers and old ones calling for work to be completed because their staff or other installers are not keeping up.  Many subcontractors are pleased with the construction climate and  are discussing price increases with new bids.

This is all good news but you need to keep up with this change and be ready for more in the future. Welch Tile’s staff discussed our future workload with our supervisors in late June.  We were all optimistic about the future but not banking on it totally.  We still don’t see the big projects that sustain future employment needs and we still require out-of-town projects to keep our staff working steadily. Wage increases now may not be sustainable and we must be responsible as this economy teeters on our financial future.

The cost of living has sky-rocketed. Food, gas, hotel stays, goods, and services are all increasing prices. Company revenues are rising but are needed to pay for the past years’ losses or to keep up with depreciating equipment and vehicle needs.

Training and education are performance indicators that show me the shift has started; our superintendents are stretched out on smaller projects managing fewer people, requiring new future leaders. Along with new helpers, I believe training is the key to thriving in this new market.

2014? It’s anyone’s guess, but let’s train and educate to be prepared.

 

Dan Welch
Welch Tile & Marble
President NTCA

July 2013 Letter from the President Dan Welch

Wow, I’m half way through my first year! Where does the time go?  Like most of you, I continuously get stuck in the day-to-day, sometimes feeling like I’m neglecting what is most important: our people.

Last month, Welch Tile lost one of our company’s best – John Lovisa, 59, – to cancer. John was the perfect employee and friend. He grew up in the terrazzo trade, learning under the guidance of his father, and developed a passion for the craft. His work ethic was second to none. He would light up when you talked terrazzo with him. The amount of experience and history he possessed can never be replaced.

On my way to Coverings, I was fortunate enough to have the time to stop and see John in the hospital, for what would be our final visit. When I arrived, the hospice nurse was telling him that he would not make it home again. I don’t know if I helped any, but I told John that there would be terrazzo in heaven for him and his father and they would be there installing together once again. His characteristic smile hit his face and those eyes lit up.  “Do you think so?” he said.  “I am sure of it!” I replied.  Fittingly, his patient room was finished in the tile that we installed a few years earlier, and our conversation shifted to the work, his life with Welch Tile, and the good times we had on the jobsite. I took time to thank him, said my goodbyes, and headed off to Coverings.  He died two days later.

Life is fragile and time is precious. As you read this, I’m sure you are thinking about experiences with your coworker “Johnny” and how we all should take time to share together.

The Welch Tile family all receives the TileLetter magazine to enjoy at home just like you and the NTCA family. I suggest that you do the same with your coworkers. As I write these articles and hear feedback from coworkers, business associates, and friends, I am more convinced that this magazine ties our industry together.

We’ve implemented a few other things that work for us at Welch: we try to have a company event each quarter, including sledding parties twice (that’s over snow for you Southerners), roller-skating, golf, bowling, and a picnic at the beach. We are currently planning a trap-and-skeet shoot for next quarter. At first, our events had limited participation, but word spread and more families joined the fun. One of our workers said, “Dan, keep planning. Just because we are not there every time, doesn’t mean we don’t want to be. The timing isn’t always good for us, but it may be the next time.”

Don’t get discouraged when you plan events and people don’t come. The word will spread. Newsletters are one way to communicate. We offer “lunch trivia” in each monthly issue, giving the first person to answer the question correctly a paid lunch for their team at the jobsite. This takes very little investment and pays big dividends to staff.

Make sure your company is a place others will want to work. Take the time to enjoy time with your coworkers, friends, and family.

Sincerely

Dan Welch

President Welch Tile & Marble / NTCA

In loving memory of Johnny Lovisa, Welch Tile & Marble
johnny

June 2013 Letter from the President Dan Welch

dan welch image2013 is off to a strong start in West Michigan.  Compared to the past five years, workforce availability has constricted as work increases in our market.  Those business owners who depended on subcontracting their work force  have seen the available pool dry up. If you train your own workforce, this is a perfect time to build your talent pool. Training is crucial to the success of an organization. If done correctly, it builds the future of the tile industry.

As you all know, The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation/Certified Tile Installer (CTEF/CTI) is a way of certifying your team.  I am a strong proponent of the quality-labor movement that is promulgating through the tile industry today.  In fact, the movement has just taken a giant leap forward with the advent of Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT), a joint venture between leading union and non-union industry associations to build a testing model for installers and business owners.  ACT will help true professionals market their business.

 Supported by National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Tile Contractor Association of America (TCAA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), CTEF, International Masonry Institute (IMI), and International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, (IUBAC), ACT’s intent is to build a talent pool capable of installing tile and stone correctly.  Along with CTI, ACT will spearhead qualified labor in the tile trade.  You’d better be part of the movement, or be prepared to be passed over for highly technical installs.

This extensive program has been built over the past five months of this year, and the first group of installers showed off their talents by completing the inaugural ACT testing at Coverings. Union and non-union installers worked side-by-side to install the first four advanced modules for task-specific certifications.

I was fortunate to be one of these installers.  If you were there, you might have seen me on the show floor, toiling and sweating with the best of the best. Make no mistake; this program is not a cake walk. You must: install a single-coat mud wall and wire-reinforced mud bed; fix an unsuitable substrate; install large-format plank tile with minimal lippage; install a shower base with mud curb; and waterproof with both sheet and liquid membranes. It all took 3-1/2 days with ACT evaluators watching over your every move. I want to personally thank the participants for their dedication and vision to be the first of many, with an audience watching.  This was a very exciting program, and the comments I heard were all positive. 

As the NTCA president I want to thank TCAA, the IUBAC, the CTEF the IMI, and TCNA for their collective work and efforts to move this program forward. ACT truly took vision, desire, spirit, organization, teamwork, leadership, talent, and investment. It has truly made this endeavor a reality for the future of our great industry, for without these qualities we would all be drifting in an industry alone.

Tile installers can find ACT certifications popping up around the country, you can visit your local IUBAC and IMI training centers, visit the CTEF website at www.tilecareer.com, or call CTEF executive director Scott Carothers at 864-222-2131for an ACT program near you.

Sincerely 

Dan Welch

President NTCA, Welch Tile & Marble Inc.

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

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