From the Field – September 2013

NTCA continues efforts to promote membership in strategic planning

By Bart Bettiga

The NTCA prides itself on being the “Voice of the Tile Contractor” in our industry. Recently, our executive officers met at the home of current president Dan Welch in Grand Rapids, Mich. As the association continues to grow, with almost 850 members as of August 1, the Executive Committee spent several days reviewing the goals and objectives established by the Board of Directors and developing new initiatives moving into 2014 and beyond.

Saving NTCA members money, and finding them work

One of the most important objectives of the association will be branded in a stronger marketing effort moving forward. Simply stated, the NTCA continues to develop programs that will “Save Our Members Money and Find Them Work.” If we can show our members tangible results in this effort, there will be every reason for them to continue as members of NTCA.

Examples of programs that fit into this objective include the NTCA Partnering For Success Program, where associate members offer FREE product vouchers for products to offset the investment a contractor makes in membership in NTCA. This program has been one of the most successful efforts in the history of the NTCA, and now offers three times the cost of NTCA membership in FREE products for contractors to use on their projects. In fact, as of June 30th, the NTCA had issued over $570,000 in vouchers back to our members! This goes right to your bottom line! More importantly, many of our members have thanked us for this program because it has helped them to source new and innovative products that they continue to purchase for their company. This is truly a win-win program.

NTCA promotes qualified labor

Another key strategic effort our association continues to work on is to promote “qualified labor” to project owners, architects, builders, designers, etc. By working closely with manufacturers, distributors and other labor associations in our trade, we have made giant strides in this effort. Language promoting hiring qualified tile installers has been inserted into tile industry standards, specification programs, and manufacturers’ product recommendations. We continue to develop certification through the CTI (Certified Tile Installer) program offered by the CTEF and the ACT Program (Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers) jointly promoted by the leading tile associations in the industry. The NTCA Five Star Contractor effort is a comprehensive company recognition program that is also part of this effort.

There are many other discounted programs and services the NTCA offers to its members. If you are interested in learning more information about this, you can go to the NTCA website at or contact assistant executive director Jim Olson at [email protected]

Standards development

Perhaps the most important role we play on behalf of labor is in the development of industry standards. The NTCA Technical and Methods and Standards Committees develop the NTCA Reference Manual, which is being printed this year and for the first time ever being offered to the entire industry. In addition, these dedicated individuals develop proposed changes and new methods to the TCNA Handbook for Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation and ANSI A108 Committees; selected individuals participate in these committees on behalf of the NTCA and labor as well. I can attest to the fact that your “voice” is represented on these national committees thanks to the voluntary efforts of many NTCA contractor members.

I am amazed at the volume of work the NTCA staff does to fulfill our goal as the Voice of the Tile Contractor. Even more amazing are the volunteer efforts taking place all around the country by NTCA Members, State Directors, Regional Directors, and Executive Officers. Not only are we growing in membership at the NTCA, we are growing in the number of “active members” who regularly contact our office for business and technical support, attend our local educational and training programs like the NTCA Workshops, and come to national tradeshows we sponsor and support like Coverings and Total Solutions Plus.

The NTCA is committed to letting you know that one of our strategic missions is to “Save our Members Money and Find Them Work.” Join our growing association now and let us prove it to you.

A Year of Possibilities

By John Trent, John Trent Construction

With more than several hundred opportunities around the U.S. this year to attend industry events, access to continuing education within the industry has never been so abundant. Never before has it been so easy to participate with the industry, and never before has it been as necessary as it is today.

These days, many people enter this industry with their only exposure to installation training being what they learned from a big-box, one-hour presentation on Saturday morning or through trial and error as taught by the school of hard knocks. Scores more have only experienced managing a business from the shoebox of receipts stuffed under the seat of the work truck. Others have never heard of any industry associations.

Like many others in the trade today, I did not have the good fortune of being born into a tile family or knowledge of any apprenticeship. I installed for several years before working with an installer who possessed the desire to share with me the correct ways. I still had no knowledge of any industry associations, training programs or symposiums. It never crossed my mind that there could be these types of organizations out there willing to train me in the correct methods.

A rising tide lifts all boats

What’s your point, you ask? The point is that there is so much available knowledge out there to be shared – a lot of it free of charge – yet so few take advantage of it. Not only do we do ourselves a disservice by failing to utilize this information, we also keep our industry headed in the wrong direction by not taking advantage of the opportunities to learn and share the most up-to-date practices. From promoting industry standards through social media, encouraging less-engaged installers/companies to attend available opportunities, or taking the time to share our passions with those outside the industry, we should all take an ownership role in the industry, not just in our own businesses.  It is up to everyone involved in this or any other trade to make it the best it can be by becoming a good steward for the industry. By sharing practices, skills, knowledge and techniques we will help raise this trade back to the higher standard it enjoyed in years past. Everyone should take the initiative to help themselves by helping the industry. A rising tide lifts all boats. As president Theodore Roosevelt said, “Every man owes a part of his time and money to the business or industry in which he is engaged. No man has a moral right to withhold his support from an organization that is striving to improve conditions within his sphere.”

A knowledge-driven industry

It has been said that our industry used to be skills-driven but now is more knowledge-driven. Staying abreast of this ever-changing knowledge is paramount to success in today’s market. No longer are we installing only a half-dozen different types of tiles. Today you can have a half-dozen different materials in a single project! We are bombarded with hundreds of options and variations of tiles, mortars, grouts, waterproofing, sealers, floor prep, crack suppression materials, uncoupling membranes, drains….and the list goes on.

While most all of these materials are good products when used according to their given specifications, none of them are free from limitations and all will fail when used incorrectly. It isn’t unusual to have completely contradicting specifications for the very same materials. Learning their individual compatibilities is necessary for any successful installation. This is where the shift from skills to knowledge has taken us.

Many opportunities, many free!

With the industry supporting the relationship among the manufacturer, distributor and installer like never before, no one expecting long-term success can ignore the opportunities to stay abreast of this ever-changing information. With more than 80 NTCA Tile & Stone Symposiums, 35 Ceramic Tile Education Foundation Certified Tile Installer testing opportunities, Coverings, Total Solutions Plus, and more than a dozen industry-specific events, it has never been easier to find a way to grow within the industry. Whether you desire to learn more about the changes within the TCNA Handbook of Ceramic, Glass and Stone Tile Installation, how to set up and run your office, make the best use of social media, deal with problematic installation issues, or network with industry movers and shakers, the choices are abundant. And the choices listed don’t include the dozens of manufacturer-specific events available, all aimed at keeping installers up-to-date with each manufacturer’s specific requirements.

Return our trade to revered status

This is a year of possibilities: a year to embrace the opportunities and change the direction of our industry. We can take advantage of the wind at our backs and go with the current instead of continuing to paddle upstream against the tide.  This year, those with passion for the industry can step up and state “Enough is enough – I will no longer sit idly by and watch the industry and my livelihood stagger along into ruin. I will commit my time, skill and knowledge toward bettering my industry so that it can return to a position more deserving of the glorious place in which the artistry and skill are given the just notice as they were in years past.”

America was once revered as producing the best of the best. There was a pride in doing a job not only well but best. The tile industry enjoyed the rewards of this mentality for many years. It will be vital to return to this pride in our way of life, in producing the best of the best to lift our industry out of the hole into which it has slid. I am challenging everyone who reads this to embrace giving back to the industry as if you owned a piece of it. Commit to providing that helping hand both to ourselves and our competitors as a way of lifting us all.

Want to contact John? Reach him at [email protected]