Terra-Mar, Inc.

Oklahoma contractor prides itself on doing the job right

Mike DeGuisti, Terra-Mar, Inc.

Back in 1964, Mike DeGuisti’s father started Terra-Mar, Inc., in Oklahoma City, Okla., with an emphasis on terrazzo and marble (hence the name Terra-Mar). The company installed tile, but got away from it for awhile in the early days. DeGuisti himself – a third generation Italian craftsman – got involved in the company in 1968, and around 1980, the company started turning back to tile. 

Back then, “setting tile was simpler, and it was easy to find qualified tile help and people who wanted to work,” DeGuisti said. 

Time brought a lot of changes to the company, including DeGuisti becoming a second generation owner. The company is very hands-on and family oriented, with his sons Adam and Noel, who are both Certified Tile Installers (CTIs), running all of the tile jobs.  

“They are hands-on, and do their own estimating from start to finish,” DeGuisti said. “The two of them know everything that is going on. As the superintendent, Adam goes by every job almost every day; he pulls up tiles and checks coverage. We play by the rules.” 

In the late 1980s, Bob Young, who purchased the other half of the company the DeGuistis bought in the ’60s, encouraged Terra-Mar to join NTCA. 

“I learned all the things I thought I knew,” DeGuisti said, adding, “I do not see how you can be a tile contractor and not be an active member of NTCA.” He contends that there’s so much that tile contractors don’t know. When he does local workshops, he says, “I am not here to teach you to set tile, but I can teach you how to make more money. You should get paid for leveling, control joints, etc.” 

This Oklahoma University Football team locker and training room project challenged Terra-Mar to be done by football season, after other trades took so long. The NTCA Five-Star Contractor ran into pools built wrong, which required the crews to chip out considerable concrete and rebuild. In addition, pools would not hold water, and logos came with unacceptable mounting. But DeGuisti said, “Through it all, thanks to our excellent crews, we were done on time, with a job to be proud of.”

About five years ago, DeGuisti took his NTCA membership to the next level by becoming an NTCA Five-Star Contractor. Because Terra-Mar was already a high-caliber company, it was a perfect fit. “We didn’t do anything except fill out the paperwork, and wait for Adam and Noel to complete their CTI exams,” DeGuisti said. “I tell A&D professionals who ask why we are Five-Star Contractors and others are not: ‘I don’t know if we are any better than [our competition], but I’ve gone through the trouble to prove it.’ Any other trade that is licensed has a continuing education program like our Five-Star Program. So why shouldn’t we?”

DeGuisti currently sits on the NTCA Board of Directors for Region 8, the NTCA Technical Committee, and chairs a committee for a new section in the NTCA Reference Manual called “Submerged Applications.” 

For DeGuisti, tile work is a good living, and he enjoys cashing the check at the end of the day. But the joy and satisfaction he has in his company’s work comes down to pride. “I love to take my grandkids or customers to see some of the beautiful, hard, complicated work we do,” he said. 

What’s more, by doing things by the book and keeping on top of jobs – knowing everything has been done right – he leaves the job “with a clean conscience,” he said. Though a GC may not hire his company back because of cost or Terra-Mar wouldn’t agree to cutting corners or skimping  on prep work, he explained, “We’ve never had litigation on a job, and we have never not been rehired due to our craftsmanship.” That allows him to sleep well at night, confident in a job well done and proud of the craftsmanship that went into the project. 

This private residence took three two-man crews just over 12 months to complete. The pool area floors and walls were done using stone from Jerusalem, and floors had to be fresh set and laid dry first to ensure a similar pattern from end to end. The pool interior encompassed six different tiles from different manufacturers, ranging anywhere from 3/16” to 5/8” thick, which made the mud work critical. The entry speaks for itself, with stones up to 24” x 24” with mosaic emblem.  

NTCA Five-Star Summer Meeting Offers Education and Connections

NTCA Five-Star Contractors Summer Meeting attendees sharing insights.

The National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the world’s largest tile contractor association, hosted its 2019 NTCA Five-Star Contractor Annual Summer Meeting in Montreal, Canada. The objective of this year’s meeting, hosted by Schluter Systems, was not only to provide valuable education, but also to help the attendees form connections so they would feel comfortable reaching out to one another when advice or support is needed.  

“The NTCA Five-Star Contractor group is grateful to Schluter Systems for their support in this endeavor,” said NTCA Five Star Program Director Amber Fox. “They helped us create a unique experience to connect and to refine and grow our businesses together.” 

The NTCA Five-Star Contractor designation recognizes NTCA members who have demonstrated integrity, professionalism, and craftmanship and has a proven track record of success in tile and stone installation and business management.  

“One of the great benefits of being an NTCA Five-Star Contractor is the custom educational opportunities that come from generous supporters, said Fox. “This meeting creates multiple opportunities for NTCA Five-Star contractor members to come together and work on their business through speakers and from each other.”   

Keynote speaker Mike Moore speaking to NTCA Five-Star Summer Meeting attendees.

Keynote speaker Mike Moore speaking to attendees.

Keynote speaker Mike Moore opened the event with a session on how to approach the task of attracting, developing, and retaining inspired motivated employees. Moore’s process will help the NTCA Five-Star Contractors separate themselves from their competitors by creating an organizational culture that delivers a higher quality of work and customer experience. Besides being a professional keynote speaker, Moore is the author of Build Trust and a leadership, sales and peak performance coach. 

While at the meeting, attendees had two opportunities to attend sessions that focused on addressing current challenges they were facing. The first consisted of small peer groups that tackled specific obstacles attendees were experiencing. Attendees benefitted from insights and solutions offered by their group members. The second session was structured as an in-depth roundtable discussion that covered topics attendees had pre-selected via a poll that was distributed before the meeting. The four topics chosen were: 

  1. Growing and improving your labor force 
  2. Customer and employee engagement/communication 
  3. Vendor relationships 
  4. Profitability 

“This year’s attendees returned home with new plans and strategies designed to help them start, manage, and successfully finish their jobs and reinforced connections that will offer them support they need to help their business to continue to be prosperous,” Fox said. 

To learn more about the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program, visit www.tile-assn.com/page/FiveStar