NTCA Five-Star Contractors – “Créme de la créme” of tile contractors

“As far as creative, technical and business resources are concerned, [NTCA Five-Star Contractors] are the crème de la crème!,” So said Buck Collins, of Collins Tile and Stone, a NTCA Five-Star Contractor in Aldie, Va. “The knowledge is deep, with a proven track record of successful installations. The proud employment of Certified Tile Installers is also a trademark of the Five-Star contractor. My ability to personally contact some of the most respected tile contractors in the U.S. has proven to boost our credibility and knowledge.”

These are just a few benefits of membership in this elite group of tile businesspeople. Earlier this year, the group gathered at Crossville’s headquarters in Tennessee for a leadership and networking summit that equipped them with additional resources for success and fostered connection and camaraderie that, in some cases, led to business partnerships with distant contractors.

“I was called by a client of mine to help with a project that another tile company was installing was running behind,” said Kevin Fox, PE, of Fox Ceramic Tile, Inc. in St. Mary’s, Kan. “Since my mechanics were busy, I sent out an email to the Five-Star members. The result was longtime NTCA member Williams Tile (Maryland Heights, Mo.) sent 2-1/2 crews to the project for three weeks, and now Welch Tile (Kent City, Mich.) is there with two crews.  Result: I was able to take care of my client using the Five-Star network with the confidence of having competent installers on the job, which was very important – because even though I was not able to send my in house mechanics, the work that was performed still has my name on it.”

Standards of excellence

This group of contractors, currently 25 strong, is dedicated to upholding standards of excellence in their work and their operations. The NTCA Board of Directors created this program as a way to recognize companies in our association with a proven track record of excellence in our trade. Each contractor goes through an accreditation process, which includes recommendations from customers, suppliers and peers; participation in continuing education and training programs including educational seminars and events; maintenance of an active safety program; and of course, active membership with NTCA.

In addition to being prominently listed on the NTCA member locator site, having a direct link from NTCA’s national website to yours, and being able to use the Five-Star logo on your letterhead and marketing pieces, NTCA is actively working on growing this program and the benefits for members (see sidebar). This translates into more potential top-level business for you and leadership within the tile industry.

How? Take it directly from some current Five-Star members.

“In addition to being extremely proud to carry the Five-Star designation, we feel that when we convey this to a customer, whether a big contractor or a homeowner, we also convey credibility in our knowledge and skill,” said Libby Morgan, Battles & Battles Tile, Knoxville, Tenn. “We are very appreciative for the opportunity to be in a class of professionals who care about quality, and we always search for better methods. A great tile job speaks for itself. A bad tile job turns the end user against tile altogether, so we are doing everything we can to spread the word of the best methods, even to our competitors. We are seen as the tile experts in our region, and our Five-Star designation proves it!!!”

Kevin Fox added, “We just recently installed a stone floor/wall bathroom and shower in a residence for a good general contractor client. We typically do not install residential projects as we specialize in commercial, but make exceptions for these types of clients.  The project called for us to use a self-leveling underlayment with electric heat. Because of the relationships created with this Five-Star Contractor group, I knew just the person to call: Jan Hohn with Hohn & Hohn, Inc., as I know she has performed this type of installation many times. She was very willing to give advice which helped us perform the work: just another reason why this group has had value in my company. I had the application sitting on my desk for well over a year. I guess it never got high enough on the ‘to-do list.’ Wish I would have sent it in sooner.”

Buck Collins summed up: “Recently, I received a call from a prospective customer who had just read an article in the Holmes magazine. They featured an article which made mention of the NTCA and their commitment to quality installations. She visited the NTCA website and was impressed with what she read, and ultimately found us there.

“The NTCA is an organization that is passionate about the success of the tile industry as a whole,” Collins said. “We are grateful for all their leadership and commitment to the needs of, and promotion of, the contractor – it has truly benefitted our business.”
For more information on the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program, visit www.tile-assn.com and click the Five-Star link on the scroll bar at the bottom of the page.

2011 NTCA Tile & Stone Symposiums

Having evolved from NTCA’s longstanding workshop program, the 2011 NTCA Tile & Stone Symposium program began in December 2010. NTCA staff and industry professionals from Custom Building Products, LATICRETE, H.B. Fuller and MAPEI collaborated on the 2011 road-show program, keeping the core format but adding custom-tailored elements that distinguished it from past year’s programming. For instance, the flexibility of this year’s PowerPoint presentations gave each location host the opportunity to select a topic of discussion that was important in their area of the country: The topics covered included updates to the 2011 TCA Handbook, as well as one of the following: membranes, large format tile, use of backer board, installation of glass mosaic tile, and shower installation/water management.

Interactive format

NTCA training director Gerald Sloan reviews the information on standards in during a Symposium.

But the biggest change – an Open Forum – was intended to get attendee participation. At each Symposium, the third and final hour (first hour is a catered dinner with plenty of time for networking, and second hour is presentations) was devoted to the Open Forum, and moderated by the NTCA presenter – either Gerald Sloan, NTCA training director, or Michael Whistler, NTCA workshop presenter/technical consultant. A panel of technically-informed industry professionals was featured at each location, fielding questions from contractors, distributor employees, architects and designers in the audience.

“This interaction between the audience and the manufacturer’s technical representatives with Michael or me as moderator has been very well received by all participants,” Sloan said. “It allows the technical representatives to answer the audience’s questions in a non-proprietary way and give explanations on cautions and limitations for the products, tools, and methods that we work with to ensure a high quality tile or stone installation.”

High praise

Attendees at the Symposium hosted by Best Tile in Rochester listen intently to the material presented.

This new Symposium format has received an enthusiastic response from hosts and attendees alike. For instance, Pamela Johnson, of ProSource Wholesale Flooring in North Little Rock, Ark., praised Sloan for a “very informative, organized, and timely seminar you gave at Daltile in North Little Rock, Arkansas on the 28th of July. I realized after commenting to a number of my colleagues how much I enjoyed your demonstration that I had never taken the time to tell YOU.

“I am correcting that error now by letting you know I cannot count the number of events like that one I have attended and yours was by far the best,” she added. “Keep up the good work and I look forward to catching another of your events when you’re in our fair town.”

David Kocienda of Best Tile of N.C., in Raleigh was grateful for the “three great events” in the area. “Gerald did an outstanding job keeping everybody who attended interested in the message that we as an industry are trying to get across. Nyle (Wadford, NTCA president) also was a big part of making our Symposiums a great success; being a ‘local boy’ the contractors felt he understood their concerns. All of our vendors were equally impressed with the turnout and the professionalism displayed by all involved.”

Devin Steele of Triangle Flooring in Cary, N.C. felt warmly welcomed by the Symposium team. “Meeting several of you (Nyle Wadford, NTCA president, Dan Welch, NTCA first vice president, NTCA regional director Martin Howard of David Allen Company, and NTCA’s Gerald Sloan)…was great,” he said. “The camaraderie between members was very much like a fraternity, friendly and open though most in the room are my competitors. Everyone was there to help each other as well as gain additional knowledge. “This was our first NTCA meeting and I would describe it to being similar to the Master Craftsman Guilds found in Europe,” he added. “The sponsors and coordinators did a great job in communicating the NTCA focus: expand members’ knowledge base and bring a high degree of professionalism in this highly unregulated trade.”

Eric Schlundt from Daltile in Fresno, Calif., said that the contractor attendees at the Fresno Symposium “learned a lot and found the meeting to be a benefit to them in their daily business. Michael Whistler did a great job in his presentation as he spoke about the TCNA Handbook and the upcoming changes to it: larger format tiles, thinset coverage and expansion joints to just name a few. We actually ran out of time as questions kept coming from the attendees throughout the evening.”

New membership opportunities

There was a great turnout for the Symposium hosted at D&B Distributors in West Palm Beach (shown) and Doral, Fla.

This year’s highly interactive format also resulted in many new members joining at the Symposiums.
For Steele, “becoming a member of the NTCA was a no brainer for us. Our business and our construction projects will be at less risk because we are plugged into the NTCA resources. My crews and I will forever be students of this ever-changing trade due to advanced leaps in construction materials, technology and complex construction schedules.”
New member Andy Carlson of Checker Tile Limited said, “I have enjoyed TileLetter for years, but the seminar we had here in Madison, Wis., really convinced me to join. I really enjoyed it. I look forward to learning more about NTCA. I have been doing mud work for 25 years now, but there is always something new to learn.”

In addition to being free of charge to all attendees, all NTCA Symposiums are worth two AIA CEUs (HSW-CEUs), and are as welcoming to members of the architect and design community as they are to tile and stone contractors.

Many thanks!

A lot of work and planning goes into hosting a Symposium and I want to personally thank the distributors who stepped up to make 2011 the most successful year ever. They include: Artistic Tile, Best Tile, Big D Floor Covering Supplies, D&B Tile Distributors, Emser Tile, Floor & Décor Outlets, GranQuartz, JP Flooring, Louisville Tile, and Miles Distributors. We want to extend a special thank you to Daltile for their huge commitment of hosting 45 Symposiums in 2011.
I want to also thank all the NTCA Symposium sponsors. We have over 45 companies that have stepped forward to sponsor the NTCA trailers, helping to offset the expenses incurred sending two trainers across the country.

One of NTCA’s accomplishments this year is that despite these tough economic times, we set a record of holding over 80 Symposiums. One of them is being held this month and is a very tough assignment (wink, wink). On October 26 Gerald and Michael will travel to Hawaii to give a Symposium in Honolulu hosted by Daltile. With a workshop held in Alaska a few years back by Joe Tarver, we can now say that we have covered the whole country.

Our Symposium season is coming to a close for this year, but we are already planning for the 2012 run. Contact me at [email protected] or phone 601-939-2071 if you’d like to be a host or sponsor; and keep an eye out for a Symposium coming to your area. We’d love to meet you!

The Great Recession Not Slowing The NTCA Train

“What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.” – Alexander Graham Bell

At Total Solutions Plus last month, Nyle Wadford (right) takes on the mantle of the NTCA presidency from outgoing president John Cox.

As executive director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), I am proud to say to all of our readers that I believe the organization is on the brink of major growth and influence. I do not say this lightly; the road has not been an easy one. Like many of you, the past three years have challenged our staff and Board of Directors like no other time. In fact, in the past two years our association suffered significant financial losses that had us concerned about the future.

Thanks to a hardworking staff — and more importantly, a group of dedicated members of our Board of Directors and standing committees — a clear direction for the association has been selected and a plan of action is already experiencing positive results.

On November 2nd, our Board of Directors met at Total Solutions Plus and formally approved our 2011 budget. In addition, the Finance Committee was pleased to report that a profit in 2010 was anticipated, creating a remarkable turn of events in these challenging times. It appears as if the financial health of our association continues to be sound. We will continue to utilize our assets to promote the proper installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. Following is a list of 2010 highlights of what the NTCA has done and will continue to do for our members and the industry:

  • Stone Supplement to the 2011 TCA Handbook
    The NTCA Standards and Methods Committee, chaired by NTCA 2nd vice president James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., in Mesa, Ariz., worked closely with leaders from Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the Marble Institute of America to develop approved methods for natural stone tile installation. This new section will be a part of the 2011 version of the TCA Handbook, which the NTCA will make available to its members.
  • Certified Tile Installer Program
    The NTCA continues to support the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation in developing and promoting installation certification. Through 2010, the CTEF reports that 500 installers will have successfully passed the criteria to be a certified tile installer. With strong support by the TCNA, Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Ceramic Tiles of Italy, Tile of Spain, and Coverings Show Management, plans for 2011 include even stronger marketing and management support of the Foundation, to expand the program in size, scope and effectiveness.
  • Installation Design Showcase at Coverings
    The NTCA continues to spend considerable time and energy developing and promoting programs and seminars at Coverings to bring value to the show. The result in 2010 was an initiative proposed by the NTCA called the Installation Design Showcase. Five leading South Florida designers were paired with NTCA Five Star Contractors to show the importance of both design and installation in our trade. All Five Star contractors used certified tile installers on the job. Attendees at the show indicated in post-survey results that the Installation Design Showcase was one of the main attractions at Coverings 2010. The program will continue in 2011 in a brand new Las Vegas venue.
  • Total Solutions Plus
    In partnership with the CTDA and the TCNA, Total Solutions Plus proved to all attendees that we are united as an industry. It was so powerful to see contractors, distributors and manufacturers interacting with each other during this groundbreaking week in South Florida. With over 450 people in attendance, the future looks bright for this leadership conference.
  • Active Membership
    The association is clearly headed to 1,000 members and beyond. Innovative programs like Partnering for Success will help NTCA members offset any investment they have in being part of our growing association. But the driving indicator to our staff that has us feeling so optimistic is the active involvement of our members. It was never more evident than at Total Solutions Plus. The contractors involved in the NTCA at the Executive, Board and Committee levels are engaged, passionate and united in their support of our mission and goals. The energy of the volunteer officers of the NTCA has motivated the entire staff to match their enthusiasm.
  • Training and Education
    Thanks to a strong partnership with Dal-Tile Corporation, the NTCA Workshop Program reached thousands of installers with important information in 2010. In 2011, we will continue our association with Dal-Tile, as well as other leading distributors of ceramic tile and natural stone. In addition, customized training programs that go into more depth than a traditional evening Workshop will be expanded. The development of installation videos and a renewed focus on training through manuals, videos and webinars will be a part of our 2011 emphasis.
  • TileLetter and TileLetter Canada
    Tile professionals continue to list TileLetter as a leading publication in our industry. We have expanded our digital coverage, reaching over 7,000 email subscribers monthly with our magazine; in addition to our mailing subscription list. We annually publish 13 issues in the United States and three issues of TileLetter Canada, and we are committed to expanding our reach in 2011 to include more professionals involved in design and specification of our products.
  • Final Thoughts
    As executive director of the NTCA and publisher of TileLetter and TileLetter Canada, I am so excited about the future of the association. Our newly elected president is Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Service, Inc., in Youngsville, N.C. This excerpt from his highly-effective presentation upon his election sums up my feelings about the NTCA best:

    “As I have continued to watch our industry grow and change, I am constantly reminded that it is people who make this change happen –PASSIONATE PEOPLE. Passion for the tile industry is the common thread that you will find running through this business and your association. It is this passion and love that drives us to better this industry on a daily basis.”

Our staff is proud to be working closely with these great tile contractors who are driving the association. I urge you to join us in 2011.

Coverings Spectrum Select Call for Entries

Coverings has issued a Call for Entries for its Coverings Spectrum Select competition, now in its second year. This partnership between Coverings and Contract magazine honors those tile and stone products that reflect outstanding design, engineering and technological innovation, and that set new standards in aesthetics and performance.
The Call for Entries is open only to Coverings 2011 show exhibitors who, may submit up to four candidates in any of the following categories: Artisan Tile/Stone; Porcelain/Ceramic Tile Wall; Porcelain/Ceramic Tile Floor; Mosaic Tile; Glass Tile; Natural Stone; Installation Material Systems; and, Equipment and Machinery. For a product that might not fit into these eight definitions, the judges will consider prospects classified as Other. Coverings 2011 is slated for March 14-17 at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 4, 2011, with entry forms available at www.coverings.com/coverings_spectrum_select. Visit the website for entry details and fees.
Patterned on Contract magazine’s Best of NeoCon concept, judges personally visit the each entrant’s exhibit space on Monday, March 14 to see products first hand and probe for additional details that may factor into their decision, said Jennifer Hoff, president of National Trade Productions (NTP), which manages and produces Coverings. Spectrum Select honorees are announced the following day—featured in a flyer that is distributed to attendees. Additionally, all “selectees” will receive added exposure in an upcoming issue of Contract, as well as on the Coverings website.
“Coverings Spectrum Select is a badge of distinction that helps bring to light the extraordinary caliber of these materials and tools of the trade,” Hoff said.

For more information on Coverings Spectrum Select, or on Coverings 2011, visit coverings.com or contact NTP, Coverings Show Management, at (703) 683-8500.

Spectrum select logo.jpg

New Benefit: ServiceMagic

NTCA has entered into a new agreement with ServiceMagic, the nation’s leading website that connects consumers with pre-screened, customer-rated service professionals. Since 1999, ServiceMagic has matched millions of consumers with service professionals, resulting in billions of dollars in various home improvement projects for service professionals that include tile and stone contractors. ServiceMagic was recently named Colorado Technology Company of the Year and draws nearly four million unique visitors to its website each month.

ServiceMagic’s rigorous pre-screening process – including state-level licensing – gives consumers confidence in the recommendations, making it a highly sought-after resource.

As a NTCA members, you can benefit from $799 in valuable discounts when joining this highly trusted network of professionals. Discounts include:

  • FREE enrollment worth $99
  • FREE market hardware starter website worth $450
  • Pre-paid bundle options (up to $250 in value).
  • Prepay up to $750 towards future leads and receive up to 33 percent in additional leads for FREE.

ServiceMagic is conducting nationwide on television and radio campaigns, urging millions of customers to hire professionals with the Seal of Approval. This campaign and use of the ServiceMagic seal builds credibility with your customers, by showing you are screened and approved. You can use the seal on your website, and custom materials and signage.

The ServiceMagic seal carries even more weight since Meredith Corporation, publisher of Better Homes & Gardens, recently partnered with ServiceMagic to bring its free “find a pro” tool to BHG.com. This gives millions of magazine readers the ability to instantly connect with professionals like you for home improvement projects. The Meredith Women’s Network draws 16 million unique visitors each month.
Every six seconds a consumer sees the Service Magic Seal online. Wouldn’t it be great if your name was next to it? For more information, contact Jim Olson at (601) 939-2071.

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