FocalPoint business coach Luca Setti offers webinar series to help leaders succeed

Luca Setti, former Chief Sales and Marketing officer of Florida Tile, helped turn the tile manufacturer return to a profitable multi-million-dollar company. He did this by redefining a vision and mission and then honing product, distribution, people, process and procedures for the company.

Setti fell in love with this process, and after leaving Florida Tile, went through training to become a Certified Executive Business Coach and Trainer with FocalPoint. His aim is now to help many companies excel and succeed. The challenges posed by COVID-19, led him to develop a series of webinars for leaders, executives and business owners.

His April webinar, entitled “Top 7 Actions Leaders Can Take in Challenging Moments” offered the results of a few studies that FocalPoint conducted on leaders. Setti said the focus was on actions leaders took in good and bad times to be great, including “examples of how we can take those same actions into our own life and business.”

In the webinar, Setti explored the mindset and principles of successful leaders, including the Law of Attraction (what you think about, you bring about). His presentation also unpacked the concept of Victor or Victims, which encourages a positive, proactive, visionary mindset focused on excellence and a clear and specific goal that leads to being a victor, versus blaming, excuse-making, negative, denial and scarcity-based mindsets that lead to victim mentalities. “Nothing GREAT in life or in business comes out if we don’t have a proper mindset,” he said.

flyer of man advertising next webinar

The webinar also offered seven actions that all leaders employ consistently in good and bad times. These 7 C’s of Leadership are: 
 • Clarity: Leaders develop a clear vision of where they want to go, or what they want to become. They invest time in learning about themselves, starting from what they love to do and what they are good at, and then learning about others, and what they need or want.
• Competence: Leaders know that in order to be great, they have to become very good in something or in a few things: really, really good!  That’s why they constantly work on mastering their skills.
• Continuous Learners: Leaders never quit learning, never quit adapting to changes and continually get better.
• Constraints Analysis: Leaders aren’t scared to assess themselves, or recruit the help of others, to discover what their constraints, limitations, and weaknesses are or what’s holding them back. They do this because they know that no matter how good they are, they can only go as far or as fast as their limitations.  Understanding their constraints is key because they can then create plans to improve them and so reach their goals faster.
• Creativity: Leaders develop an ability to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, or just new ways to communicate. This is something that can be achieved by engaging employees, clients, peers or can be cultivated with the help of a trusted advisor, a coach.
• Concentration: Leaders focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking is not effective or efficient. It’s been proven over and over again that it is impossible to really succeed while doing many things in life. Leaders instead do one thing well.
• Courage: Leaders believe so much in their ideas that they are willing to do whatever it takes to get there, starting first from the things they most fear.

The webinar was well-received, and has laid the groundwork for another webinar, scheduled this week on Thursday, June 4. “Back in Business with Less Stress? Let’s Build a Strategic Plan” is directed at business owners and executives, encouraging a back-to-the-drawing board approach to strategically position businesses for post-COVID success. Click here for more information and to sign up. For more information about Setti, visit https://lucasetti.focalpointcoaching.com/.

COVID-19 Supplier Perspective: The Best Tool in the Box

Ceramic Tool Company Sales & Marketing Manager April Short shared her thoughts about coping with business — and life — during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Ceramic Tool Company staff. April Short, author of this article, is third from the left.

I think it’s right about now that for many of us, panic is starting to set in, and we are frantically calling anyone and everyone we know in our industry to see if possibly they will buy something — anything — from us. We are getting inundated daily with little news clips with more dire warnings about the danger of believing in the end of the tunnel (as in, there is an end… but it might not have any light). We are asking about commercial projects that we already have the answers for, meeting virtually — virtually every day to try and think of how to weather this storm, and to see if there’s a profit to be made in cross stitching hearts on industrial face masks. 

So it’s also right about now that we need to pull out of our toolbox one of the most deadly weapons of defense the construction industry owns: a sense of humor. From the moment we were deemed “essential” to a world closing down bars, churches, bowling alleys, bars, hotels, and hotel bars, we knew that what was most essential to us was also (conveniently) something we are damn good at, and that’s the camaraderie of a good laugh. I (of course) DO have a healthy respect for political correctness and being sensitive to the line between what is funny and what is offensive. And know your audience – it’s incredibly important to understand if the person you are talking to isn’t a fan of your top five loudest belches. 

We are connected through compassion, and shared interests, knowledge and enthusiasm for our industry. But I know one of the biggest building blocks for me when creating and maintaining relationships is the telling of a good joke, be it appropriate or not. We are so lucky to work in a business where we can legitimately call our co-workers friends.

We have some hard times ahead of us, all jokes aside. Fear and worry for our livelihood are as real as it gets, and some of us might not make it through. I’m not saying laugh this off, but knowing that a sense of humor is in your arsenal to combat daily stress and also as a thread that connects us to each other will help. Sometimes it is the only thing that gets us from one moment to the next, and sometimes that is exactly what we need to stay strong. 

COVID Contractor Perspective: Martin Brookes, Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc.

Martin Brookes, President of Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., an NTCA Five-Star Contractor member

On March 16th, 2020 our tile world changed. In Mill Valley, Calif., we went from being overwhelmed with work in a vibrant economy with the labor shortage as our biggest challenge  — to a shelter-in-place order.

I thought I had a grasp on this. I didn’t know the extent of changes that COVID-19 would bring upon us. To prepare, I got jobs stocked with tile and materials,  sent emails to our client base letting them know how we would work responsibly, and had tailgate meetings with my crews daily on the importance of social distancing.

But it soon became quite clear that this situation was going to have far more impact than any of us could have imagined.

The public announcement of government relief available to small businesses added confusion and anxiety. Who would — and who wouldn’t — get financial help to see them through this unknown time period? Uncertainty was an understatement for both the employer and employees.

I thought we could weather the storm with the pre-planning and jobs we had ahead of us. How wrong I was! We worked through the jobs that got stocked ahead of time; then systematically our job sites were closed down. Restrictions got tighter as the local building inspectors teamed with the police to start closing down job sites with the threat of a fine if not in compliance.

I suffered sleepless nights wondering how I was going to be able to ride out the storm, keep my doors open and make sure my hardworking employees could take of their families and pay the bills. I decided that I would pay them to the best of my ability, for the foreseeable future or until all my resources had been exhausted.

I had applied for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) $10k grant and the Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loan for payroll and some other expenses, but was not holding my breath on these programs. I bank with a large institution. The initial application program was not easy and changed frequently, so I thought my chances of getting funded would be minimal.

Since I do all my payroll, bookkeeping and timecards through QuickBooks, it was easy for me to pull reports and paperwork.  Forms 940 / 941 were just a click away, and easy to attach to the required paperwork for what seemed to be a remote chance of being funded.

I’m a small business — I mean a real small business; forget the 500 or fewer — we are 7 or fewer. So I thought, “Who really cares whether I survive or not?”

I was assigned a business advisor at my bank and he supplied me with his cell phone, because due to COVID-19 he also was working from home. We talked and he changed my mind on how I though the bank perceived me.  He was friendly, informative and seemed to care. He reassured me my application was in line for funding and I would be getting an email by the end of the week (yeah, right!). A few days later – nothing.  I sent him a polite but assertive email explaining my banking history and loyalty. I also mentioned that I just might have to reconsider my banking choice, after hearing that my peers had been funded from community banks and credit unions.

He again reached out and told me to hang in there because he was hopeful I would be funded by the end of the week. Shortly after, my bank sent a midnight email informing me that we had been funded. I felt a wave of relief knowing I could take care of my employees for at least the next 2.5 months.

Lessons learned

A few things I have learned from this experience to date is that having access to like-minded business owners through NTCA gave me perspective. I learned that the bank does value me and the business I bring them.  And operating my business with professional recordkeeping allowed me to produce the paperwork I needed to justify what I needed to maintain my business.

I’m hopeful we can all learn and grow from this unfortunate situation – though I’m sure we are not even close to realizing how this situation will change the way we do business, not to mention how it will affect our personal lives.  I’m hopeful that others will have the same experience as I did, and can keep their doors open to take care of their hardworking employees.

Yesterday, as part of the Learning Opportunities offered by Coverings Connected, Wally Adamchick, president of Firestarter Speaking and Consulting offered a session on “Acting on the NTCA Culture Survey – Leadership in the Face of COVID-19.” He quoted an article from Fortune magazine that stated that the three key factors in keeping employees engaged is 1) trust in their supervisor 2) pride in the organization and 3) camaraderie with those they work with. I’m hopeful our hardworking employees will remember how loyalty, respect, and genuine caring is helping build a culture that separates our company from run-of-the-mill companies, and that’s why they choose to work for us. It can be an opportunity for all of us to show leadership – and respect  — for workers bring to the party. And in the long run, it can make us an even stronger team.  

Federal Guidelines released for “Opening Up America Again”

On Thursday, April 15, President Donald Trump released federal guidelines for “Opening up America Again,” his three-phase plan for getting the country back to work and more regular social interaction.

Contrary to a unilateral nationwide effort that he had previously touted, “Opening Up America Again” will rely heavily on governor discretion to implement county and state and wide.

Calling it a “gradual process” Trump did not specify any dates, but instead set safety requirements to be met at each phase.  Core state preparedness responsibilities hinge on testing and contact tracing, healthcare system capacity and plans to protect the health and safety of workers in critical industries, those living and working in high-risk facilities like senior care facilities, and employees and users of mass transit. They also address social distancing and face covering protocols and steps to limit and mitigate rebounds and outbreaks by returning to previous phases. There is an emphasis on protecting vulnerable populations such as the elderly and those with health conditions that would put them at greater risk.

Standard COVID-19 hygiene practices are advised and those who feel sick should stay at home and follow advice of their medical provider.  Guidelines are also recommended for all phases for employers, such as social distancing, temperature checks, restrictions on business travel and more.

“Gating criteria” is established before states or regions can continue to the phased opening. These include “downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period” or a “downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests).” For hospitals, it involves treating “all patients without crisis care” as well as putting “robust testing programs in place for at-risk healthcare workers, including emerging antibody testing.”

Each phase specifies guidelines for individuals, employers and specific types of employers.

Phase One

In Phase One, vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place and those in households with vulnerable individuals should recognize the risk of bringing the virus home from work or other public environments and distancing is encouraged. Distancing in public is encouraged, and gatherings of more than 10 discouraged. Non-essential travel should be minimized and CDC post-travel isolation guidelines should be followed.

Employers are advised to continue telework and return to work in phases, if possible, while closing common areas that would breed congregating. Non-essential travel should be curtailed  and special accommodations made for vulnerable populations.

Schools and organized youth activities that are currently closed should remain closed and visitors to senior living facilities and hospitals prohibited. Large venues like restaurants, movie theaters, sporting venues and places of worship can operate under strict social distancing protocols. Elective surgeries can resume; gyms can reopen if adhering to strict distancing and sanitizing protocols. Bars remain closed.

Phase Two

The second phase would kick in for states and counties with no evidence of rebound, satisfying the gating criteria a second time. Groups should still practice distancing in gatherings of no more than 50 people. Non-essential travel can resume. Schools and organized youth activities can reopen, and bars may reopen with limited standing room occupancy.

Phase Three

Areas with no evidence of rebound that satisfy the gating criteria a third time can move to Phase Three. This allows for vulnerable individuals to resume public interaction with appropriate distancing, and low-risk populations should limit time in crowded situation. Employers may resume unrestricted staffing of worksites. Only at this stage may visits to senior care facilities and hospitals can resume, with visitors practicing recommended hygiene protocols. Large venues (sit-down dining, movie theaters, sports venues and places or worship) can operate with restricted physical distancing. Bars may increase their standing room occupancy where applicable.

Governors will determine the appropriate timeline to begin this process, on a statewide or county-by-county basis as appropriate.

Read the guidelines at https://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/

NTCA contractors sound off on Coronavirus and their businesses

We’ve been reading a lot about legislation being rushed through to address the Coronavirus pandemic and related economic crisis, amidst rumors of work slowdowns and layoffs. But how are our members dealing with the new normal? How are their businesses being affected, how are they keeping safe and healthy and if there is downtime, how are they using it to their best advantage?

The weekend of March 28, TileLetter.com contacted a number of NTCA member contractors to take their pulse on the state of business in the time of Corona.

Dan Welch, Welch Tile & Marble

Working status: green light

All of the NTCA contractors contacted are still working, to various degrees, with residential and construction projects deemed essential. But some areas are cutting back such as Michigan, where Dan Welch of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Welch Tile & Marble admitted that they have ceased in-state operations, except for food plants, and hospitals that are only employing a third of his team.

Chris Walker, David Allen Company

Chris Walker of NTCA Five-Star Contractor David Allen Company said that DAC was told that “as long as there are successful efforts to follow all protocols, construction is considered an essential activity — even in shelter-in-place states – and work will continue.”

For Martin Brookes, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Heritage Marble &  Tile located in Mill Valley, Calif., right outside San Francisco, his area was one of the first hit by shelter-in-place (SIP) orders, which were vague on which industries could continue operation. Brookes swung into action.

Martin Brookes, Heritage Marble & Tile

“I immediately stocked jobs with tile and setting materials to the best of my ability,” he said. “I was able to implement an infectious disease mitigation strategy with my employees and general contractors. We started to have morning tailgate safety meetings practicing social distancing measures. The conditions we put on our GC’s was that only ourselves (limit 2 man crew) be in the workspace and have access to clean water and hand soap. They all agreed to these conditions and to date it’s worked out well.

“I also created a letter with the current SIP order referenced and check with each county and city to see if it differs from the state,” he added. “The information clearly states the order and has my information on the letter for them to contact. This will hopefully resolve any issues if law enforcement enter a job site. They are also told to have the infectious disease mitigation strategy document with them on the job site and practice good personal hygiene throughout the day.”

John Cox, Cox Tile
Gianna Vallefuoco, Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC

Though contractors are working, for many, phones have virtually stopped ringing and no new work is coming in. “People are in fear of what’s happening,” said John Cox, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Cox Tile in San Antonio. “They are no different than us, and not spending money unless it is a necessity.”

For others, things are still percolating. “Some jobs are delayed indefinitely due to social distancing concerns by clients, especially in buildings where there are bylaws restricting work,” said Gianna Vallefuoco, of Maryland-based NTCA Five-Star Contractor Vallefuoco Contractors, LLC. “We are definitely slowing down, but some jobs are still being pushed to finish. Our trade clients, like builders and remodelers, are trying to stay busy. We are still bidding many new jobs. We’re staying positive, but realistic.”

Protecting workers

Contractors say their worker safety is top priority. Brookes added, “The most important thing is the health and safety of my employees. They are asked if they feel safe and well protected, and if they are in any doubt about their health and safety they are welcome to stay home. The talk every morning is repetitive but is important to understand how the virus is spread and how to protect against it. It is so far working, but we are in the early stages and we hope through social distancing and isolation measures that the risk will be reduced.”

John Mourelatos, Mourelatos Tile Pro

In Tucson, John Mourelatos of Mourelatos Tile Pro said, “We are only working on remodeling projects where we can isolate our work area from the main part of the house. For example, we are working in a master bathroom project and we can access the area through a master bedroom door. We don’t have to access the main part of the house at all, using a separate bathroom from the homeowners. We are wearing gloves and washing our hands and tools frequently.” 

Walker said that for DC area work, DAC is eliminating crew vans and paying for parking or gas/mileage for out-of-town crews. “Construction  by its nature, is typically in social-distancing mode,” he said. “Superintendent’s offices are essentially their trucks, so those are controlled environments.” He also said that high-touch surfaces are wiped down several times a day, limited unannounced visitors and asked delivery services to leave and pick up packages without signature.

Bradford Denny, Nichols Tile & Terrazzo

Bradford Denny, of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Nichols Tile & Terrazzo Co., Inc., in Joelton, Tenn., said “We have asked everyone to check their temperature daily and stay home at the first signs of not feeling well. To further separate ourselves from one of our clients, we created a negative air space with HEPA filtration unit in our working area and have been sanitizing areas outside of the working area we travel. After finishing for the day, we’ve encouraged employees to return home and remain as isolated as possible.”

At Vallefuoco Contractors,  installers are using gloves and masks, though they are in short supply, and disinfectant. “We are implementing a 6 foot social distance protocol. We are moving toward single man crews for many jobs, especially small jobs,” Vallefuoco said. In the office, desks are separated and workers are at their own work stations. In addition, new technology will allow office staff to address tasks remotely from home. Health is number one, and we are taking this seriously. We need to respect social distancing protocol vehemently. None of us wants to put ourselves, employees, clients, vendors, fellow tradesmen/women, nor their families at risk. We are truly in this together.”  

Dealing with layoffs

New laws designed to provide support for workers and small businesses are creating some hope, confusion and prompting a learning curve as to how to navigate the details.

“This is definitely new territory,” Vallefuoco said. “Our future financial needs and our eligibility for benefits are still unclear, and we are always looking for guidance and insight from those who understand the options. Our goal is to keep employees on payroll for as long as possible, with the hope of riding out this storm with minimal financial consequences to employees.

“As a small business, this is of course a big concern,” she added. “Our main goal is to protect employees from becoming ill. We have specifically instituted measures to keep our employees safe and well, and home if needed. Fortunately, we’re able to provide excellent health insurance. For installers who are subcontractors, we are doing our best to keep them as busy as they desire. By implementing one man crews, we hope to keep people working safely, while respecting social distancing measures.”

Welch said, “The new law that requires people to be laid off and gives them a bonus to be laid off is creating issues. Some workers don’t want to work because they would rather be unemployed and make more money. When the government offers this, it cuts our hands off to be able to handle these essential projects.

“We’re trying to see if overhead can be cut,” he said. “A lot of people are working, but how to do that at a lesser cost? If we are going to lay them off, do we go part time or PTO; we’re not sure yet. We have until Thursday to make that decision.”

Ricky Cox, Memphis Tile & Marble

Denny said, “The uncertainty of their income and livelihood, as well as the pandemic, has given some of our employees justifiable concerns. We have been forced to sit down as a collective (employees and owners) family and consider our responsibilities to the company, our families, our community, our country, our economy, etc. These challenges have seemed to  knot us tighter together.”

And Ricky Cox of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Memphis Tile & Marble added, “I have been keeping up with this last stimulus package and will be applying for the small business loan.  It will cover payroll, rent, and utilities for 8 weeks and won’t have to be repaid.”

Lack of PPE

Early on, masks were one of the elements of personal protective equipment (PPE) in huge demand by the public at large as well as for health care workers who are face-to-face with Coronavirus on a daily basis. This has left the construction industry wanting for dust masks, and respirators that protect against respirable silica. Welch said he hasn’t been able to procure masks for months, though gloves are plentiful.  Mourelatos said that in addition to limited PPE, cleaning supplies are scarce. Cox, at Memphis Tile & Marble, said. “Masks are VERY hard to come by,” he added. “We were low on stock when all this started and had to order online.  Shipment of masks was two weeks out.”

Technology  helps keep business alive

One of the unintended positive consequences of COVID-19 upsetting the apple cart is the blossoming of the use of technology like Facetime, Zoom and more that will surely open up additional opportunities once the crisis has abated. Vallefuoco said, “I’ve been doing tile design and selection meetings with clients and vendors using Zoom platform. Our vendors have been offering great virtual showroom services.” Welch Tile is using the BombBomb video software to create videos and talk directly to staff “with words of affirmation that we are all in this together.”

Helpful resources

In addition to the news and CDC recommendations, contractors are turning to a range of resources to keep abreast of changes in legislation that may affect their businesses and workers, and their health. Welch taps into the .gov websites, and is grateful for webinars on insurance developments his attorney offers. Mourelatos mentioned a COVID-19 Facebook group that LATICRETE’s vice president of sales and marketing Ron Nash established, as well as the NTCA website (www.tile-assn.com) that “has a wealth of resources and links that have been helpful.”

Using your time

For some, since work is not bustling, there is opportunity to channel downtime into useful activities.

Vallefuoco is working from home, and has used the time to get “back on track with things formerly put on the back burner. I’ve been writing our INTENTIONAL SPACES blog , and addressing life during the COVID-19 era as part of it.”

At Welch Tile, work is afoot on a new logo and sales and marketing projects, as well as refining company purpose and values statements.

Finally, some contractors are evaluating priorities and making time to spend with the special people in their lives.  “We, and our team, are spending much more time home with our families,” Vallefuoco said. “This has truly been an unforeseen gift. We are all concerned for our health and our livelihoods, but we continue to look forward and find the positive.”

Evaluate your team’s competitive advantage

It’s still fairly early in the year, with most of it ahead of you, affording you the ability to make positive changes to take you in the direction you want your company to go in 2020. To assist in that endeavor is the following checklist from Firestarter founder Wally Adamchik. He encourages you to use these questions to assess your business and make course corrections now before heading down the wrong road too deeply into the year.   – Lesley Goddin


Here are a few quick questions to ask yourself to identify potential competitive advantages or areas for improvement.

Check the box if your answer is yes.

ο Have you completed or is your annual planning meeting scheduled for 2020?

ο Do you have your annual kickoff meeting scheduled for 2020?

ο Do your teams consistently improve margins on jobs?

ο Is your overall profitability/ROI above industry average?

ο Is your safety better than industry average?

ο Is safety trending in the right direction?

ο Do you have a clearly articulated vision or mission and values?

ο Do your people understand and buy in to the vision, mission and values?

ο Are you innovating in ways that add to the bottom line and increase customer satisfaction?

ο Are you comfortable with your voluntary turnover or are people leaving that you don’t want to leave?

ο Is your bench strength solid with 75% of supervisory positions having an identified and 75% qualified successor?


THE GRADING SCALE –––––––––––––––

• 8 or more YES answers indicate a strong team. Keep it up!

• 6-8 YES answers indicate your team needs to address some key issues.

• Less than 6 YES answers indicate some major concerns.

Need some assistance in reaching your goals? Contact Firestarter at www.firestarterspeaking.com or call 919-673-9499.

NTCA Business Manual

NTCA has a strong focus on training and education for the technical aspects of your business. But we also realize that being in business isn’t solely about the physical, hands-on aspect of setting tile – if you are to be a successful business person, having a clear, well-crafted business plan can mean the difference between just getting by and thriving in your work.

To that end, NTCA has created a Business Manual for the small contractor – a publication that is currently under review by our Business Committee. Elements of the business plan contained in the document detail:

  • Executive Summary
  • General Company Description
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organization
  • Personal Financial Statement
  • Financial History and Analysis
  • Financial Plan
  • Appendices
  • Refining the Plan

With the recent addition of two new NTCA staff members – Stephanie Samulski, Director of Technical Services, and Avia Haynes, Director of Marketing & Communications, the Business Committee will be moving ahead to update, refine and prepare this manual for widespread use within the membership. Stay tuned!