Editor’s Letter – April 2014

Lesley psf head shotHere we are, on the cusp of Coverings, about to be filled with knowledge, networking and inspiration.

I don’t know about you, but I love to learn (OK, maybe not math, but everything else). Even more than that, I love to be inspired. My favorite parts of Coverings and Total Solutions Plus conferences are the speakers that spark my imagination, ignite new ideas, provide me with a new perspective and inspire me to tackle a challenge in a way I never dreamed.

I know that business is largely about planning and strategy. You need to project, predict, look ahead and foretell. It’s good to know what’s coming so you can be ready.

But sometimes you can’t. And sometimes the best things come from an inspired choice in the moment, or in a situation that you didn’t see coming.

I’m not always a fan of the risk-taking path. I am a planner extraordinaire (as anyone who knows me well will tell you). I like to plan out a project and then plan for contingencies and then plan for the contingencies of the contingences. But sometimes something vital and alive gets lost in that extreme planning.

I recently drove from Albuquerque to Denver to attend an inspirational conference that gathered together cutting-edge thinkers and speakers in the realm of medicine, spirituality, communication, neurobiology, psychology and health. It was an impulsive thing for me to do, right in the middle of our busiest work cycle of the year. And yet, it felt necessary – I felt a strong pull to break free of my usual nose-to-the-grindstone first six months of the year, and take a weekend to get inspired.

So I did it.

I don’t have enough space here to share with you all I learned. But a few messages stand out – actually variations on a theme.

The first is a quote from Alex Woodard: “You can make your way through life with a compass; you don’t necessarily need a map.” I literally found that to be true, using GPS to navigate my way from Albuquerque to Denver (pretty much a straight shot up I-25, until you get into the city). I needed a general idea of where I was going, with guideposts along the way. And I realized that works best in my life as well – a general direction, with course corrections and updates as I navigate the sometimes bumpy ride that is known as life.

Your business can be like this too. Sure, you are an ace tile and/or stone contractor, and you know you want to do excellent work. But sometimes you need to course-correct. Maybe a recession hits (we all know THAT experience all too well) or you have changes in your staff or suppliers. You’re aiming for a goal, but you might need to take a detour or look for the lighthouse to get you further down the road.

The next message was from Dr. Joe Dispenza, who said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it from the unknown – NOT from the comfortable or familiar.” This is akin to Albert Einstein’s famous quote, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

What this says to me is that sometimes we need to break out of the box of our own thinking and expertise. This does NOT mean throw knowledge and expertise to the winds or disregard them – it means climb atop them and use them to get a fresh perspective of how you can do what you do. See from a new vista. Don’t ignore the facts of your business, but don’t be weighed down by them either – they are a factor in your success, not the complete predictors of it. Your creative mind – and the creative minds of your co-workers and staff – has what it takes to overcome any problem that comes your way.

What inspires you? Maybe it will be something you learn at Coverings. Maybe it’s something that you’ve learned from your mentor and has been your watchword all your life. I’d like to know it. Inspire me and TileLetter readers! Please share your greatest quote or inspiration with me at [email protected], and I’ll share it with our readers in a future article.

Stay inspired,


Editor’s Letter – March 2014

Lesley psf head shotThis month, it seems NTCA president Dan Welch and I are thinking along the same lines – pondering the frailty of human life and appreciating and valuing those who impact, guide or accompany us on our paths on this planet.

You’ll notice in this issue, we have an “In Memory” section for two folks who are well known in the industry, but who passed on in February: NTCA regional director Tom Hambrock, and Stone World’s Mike Reis. In addition, at the 11th hour of putting March to bed, we learned of the passing of industry legend, Dr. Henry M. Rothberg, founder of LATICRETE International, Inc., who you will find honored in a special section in this issue. They join a growing crowd of industry (and personal) friends, acquaintances and family who have left us in recent months and years.

Tom, Mike and Dr. Rothberg’s dedication to this industry was clear to anyone who knew them. And they made many important business connections and sparked many deep friendships during their time with us.

But their passing makes me stop and pause as I consider the larger context. Since you are reading this article printed in an industry magazine or its corresponding website, I assume you work in this industry. I hope you get great pleasure and fulfillment from your job, from your craft, from the network of great people that this industry is and from the opportunities to exercise your skills and creativity within the daily scope of work.

If you aren’t enjoying what you are doing, stop right now and put plans in motion to do something else.

Life is short. Damn short. It’s way too short to invest decades of your precious time into something that doesn’t bring you joy.

Here at TileLetter, we bring you motivational articles about how to excel at your business. We have articles about how to lead, how to motivate yourself, how to motivate employees. Perhaps the best motivation is loving what you do and engaging in work that brings you pleasure. It is said that those who love their work, never “work” a day in their lives.

If this doesn’t describe you, stop and take stock right now. Maybe there are changes you can make with your team, your employer or your employees that would bring you greater satisfaction and service. If the company culture does not support that kind of change, and you’re in charge, seek to change the culture. If you are an employee in a company that does not support your wellbeing on all levels, it might be time to find one that does.

As far as any of us know, this time on earth is our one chance at life on this planet. At any rate, it’s our one chance at life with this unique set of skills, relationships, challenges, gifts and abilities. Make the most of them. Make the most of your life. Make your life count and choose a joyful path. It’s the best stewardship you could employ for this gift called life.


Editor’s Letter – February 2014

Lesley psf head shotWell, we’ve done it, folks. We’ve made it through another year and the holidays and the start (and perhaps the failure already) of New Year’s resolutions.

And now we are squarely into 2014, which in the Chinese calendar is the Year of the Horse. To be exact, it’s the Year of the Green Horse, or the Year of the Wooden Horse.

Just to get a little woo – woo for a minute (hey, I live in New Mexico), the Year of the Horse is all about ACTION. The last two years have been “water” years – years steeped in contemplation and introspection, caution and planning. All together, we have completed five years of a degenerative cycle (how has THAT shown up in your personal life and your business?) and now we are primed towards intuitively-guided action, freedom, optimism and extroverted energy. The “green” of the Green Horse corresponds to the element associated with 2014 in the Chinese tradition – wood. Wood represents new budding and branching out of life we are now embarking upon – symbolized by green.

So, what has this got to do with tile and stone contracting?

This time of year kicks off the trade shows, which for me means Surfaces, and its new Tile Expo, which trumpets the importance of this surfacing material and its installation. Each year while I am at Surfaces, hotels and casinos in Las Vegas are decked out for the Chinese New Year. That got me interested in researching a little about what is in store this year.

I see some echoes of truth in the Chinese predictions in our industry. These last few years have been cautious ones, slowly emerging from the struggling economy of the recession into more palpably optimistic times. There has been a lot of loss and chaos, pruning away and planning as we hung in the balance between a crashed economy and one poised to bloom. Those who took this time to get prepared are smart, because the Chinese astrologers say this is about to change – and hang onto your hats when it does, because it will be a wild ride.

And oh – because my mind works this way – wood is a huge style trend in the tile world right now. As I mentioned in a previous issue’s report on CERSAIE – you couldn’t turn around at that Italian show without seeing wood represented in some way in ceramic or porcelain. I expect that to continue at all the shows I attend this year as well. And I’ll take it as a good sign, symbolizing growth and the blossoming of opportunity, action, energy and prosperity for us all!



Editor’s Letter – January 2014

“Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it’s business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don’t love what you’re doing and can’t give it your best get out of it. Life is too short. You’ll be an old man before you know it.”
– Al Lopez

Lesley psf head shotHappy New Year one and all!

We find ourselves with a blank canvas stretching before us – 12 months of 2014. What are your plans to make it a good year, both personally and professionally? With what attitude will you enter the new year?

I’d like to draw your attention to one new section in TileLetter: Qualified Labor. We are dedicating some ink each month to bringing you news about certification events that are upcoming – or notable ones that have been held recently, like the Albuquerque certification for TWENTY local installers held last month.

Now that qualified labor language is in both the TCNA Handbook and is part of Master Spec, it will be easier for the A&D community to recommend qualified labor on their jobs. And why wouldn’t they? With highly technical products in the marketplace, like huge porcelain panels, A&D professionals aren’t going to want to specify beautiful product and leave its installation to the unskilled. Be sure you are taking full advantage of educational opportunities sponsored by manufacturers and suppliers as well as taking part of the NTCA workshops in your area. We list the upcoming ones in each issue of TileLetter, or you can go to https://tile-assn.com/Training/EducationOpportunities.aspx?mid=41 to see a list of workshops planned for the year, as well as a list of upcoming webinars.

0114_qualified_installerAnd if the workshops weren’t enough value in themselves, this year, NTCA is giving away a free NTCA membership at each workshop and giving you a chance to win a free trip to Coverings in April or Total Solutions Plus in October. We offer 70 workshops this year, so you have a one in 70 chance of winning – you can’t beat those odds! If a workshop is in your area, be sure to attend!

Also consider VALIDATING your skill with a Certified Tile Installer evaluation or if you are already a CTI, with ACT – or Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers – credentials. This is a tool that sets you apart from the competition and brands you immediately as the cream of the crop to potential clients. To help prepare you for the tests, this year there are a number of pre-test programs in select cities around the country that give you a sense of what will be asked for and expected on the test to increase your chances of passing. Look for more information in the Qualified Labor section of this issue.

It may only be January, but I have Vegas on my mind – that’s the site of the 25th edition of Coverings this year, from April 29-May 2. Those of you in the West who have longed to visit Coverings, now’s your chance. It promises to be a winning experience!

It’s my privilege and pleasure to begin this new year with you and journey along its winding paths together. Here’s to a prosperous, passionate and powerful year for us all!

God bless!
[email protected]

Editor’s Letter – December 2013

“I’d say this year in flight together has been fun; What say we make one more circle around the sun.” – Peter Mayer, One More Circle

This end of year issue is one fi lled with glad tidings – or at least tidings that are a lot gladder than they have been in recent years past. Things have been starting to look up for a little while now, but Sean Boyle from LATICRETE offers an economic report withLesley psf head shot growth numbers that may bring more smiles than those on a child’s face come Christmas morning: new housing starts at 23%; residential remodel- ing in double digit growth; 15-20% commercial growth forecast for 2014 over 2013; and tile consump- tion up 6-10% in 2014 to 2.9 billion square feet, inching ever closer to our industry’s all-time high in 2006 of 3.3 billion square feet. Paired with this is great news from your association, which you’ll fi nd in the Business Tip report from NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga. Member totals are up again for the fi fth year in a row, exceeding our goal of 800, and stretching toward our goal of 1,000 members in 2014. A set of four objectives form the backbone for our strategic planning in 2014, and new programs bring ever-more benefi ts to our members. The triumvirate of glad tidings culminates in NTCA president Dan

Welch’s letter in this issue. Dan’s brilliant letter details 2 million rea- sons why his company values its NTCA membership. That’s right – I said TWO MILLION. Enjoy scary ghost stories? Check out our Technical Talk section for an astounding tale of “pattycaking” that unfolds in its horrifi c glory for one Florida homeowner who turned to both NTCA and TCNA for support with his builder. It’s enough to make Jacob Marley shiver. Wondering about products in the next year? Walk the halls of CERSAIE with me as I unwrap some of the new styles and trends that I discov- ered at this annual Bologna, Italy, trade fair that will be making their way to our shores soon. In the midst of perusing this issue and attending to work, it’s my hope that you take the time to enjoy your family and your friends this holiday season. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays – no matter which holy days you celebrate (and any time spent with loved ones makes a day holy), may you be blessed with joy and full- ness of heart that carries you one more circle around the sun. God bless! – Lesley

Editor’s Letter – November 2013

LesleyFor those of you who are not convinced that we have come a long way, baby, in the tile industry, let me offer this photo:

passion-4-tilesAwesome multi-dimensional tiles, right? Actually, no. This was a totally flat wall at the Vidres stand at the Cersaie show in Bologna, Italy in September. I was on my way to Tiling Town, where live tile installation demonstrations were scheduled like those on our Live Demonstration Stage at Coverings. But this booth – and others from digital equipment and pigment suppliers – stopped me in my tracks with vibrant color, and optical illusions of depth and three-dimensionality. WOW!

Digital printing has literally changed the face of tile. Rotocolor was a stunning development for its day, but modern digital printing technology can create the look of ANYTHING, with the illusion of texture and depth that we’ve never witnessed before. Marry this with the new slim porcelain panels that are being produced today (and that I got to see manufactured at Lea Ceramiche during the visit to Italy) and the possibilities are endless. We’ll explore a few of those possibilities in our December issue, but I just wanted to whet your appetite for what’s coming.

digital_printing_tileWhile I’m at it – and we’re talking about optical illusions – let me offer another photo:

This is a sort of antithesis of digital printing. It’s solid stone designed, cut, and installed in a dazzling pattern by skilled craftsmen of old in the floor of the breathtaking Duomo del Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. The technology here is superb design, cutting, placement and installation that has lasted since the 16th century (with some restoration after the 1966 flood of the Arno river in Florence). Longevity is a key part of our trade – the work you do, when done well, will last for eons. And it’s something you can be proud of.

As for THIS issue, we have some great comments from John Bridge Forum members who attended the recent Schluter training in Reno, and the announcement of the first eight installers to gain Advanced Certification for Tile Installers at the exam held at Coverings. See some wearable tile fashions in the NTCA News story about the Handmade Tile Association Festival in September, and examine tile patterns that might be a boon to your next project in our story by Corintha Runge, Daltile Design Studio manager. We have a special Business Spotlight by Custom Building Products’ Dave DeBear that is a cautionary tale about assuming too much on your project bid. Our Tech Talk feature by TEC’s Tom Plaskota tackles thin tile installation, while our Five Star Contractor spotlight shines on Lambert Tile & Stone in Eagle, Colo.

One more thing I want to mention – before you settle in for the Thanksgiving holiday this month, drop in on the free webinar sponsored by NTCA on November 20. Custom’s Mike Micalizzi will present “Grout in Tile Specifications – What is the Real Cost of Grout?” Visit www.tile-assn.com and click on Training & Education/Education Opportunities to register.

Have a great Thanksgiving, counting your blessings at work, at home and with family and friends. God bless!

– Lesley

Editor’s Letter – October 2013

LesleyI am just putting the finishing touches on our October issue as I am getting ready to wing my way over the Atlantic to the CERSAIE expo in Bologna, Italy. It’s been a while since I’ve attended this stunning international showcase of tile trends and products, located near Sassuolo, the heart of the Italian tile manufacturing district. Look for a wrap up of the CERSAIE show in our December issue!

It was my pleasure to write our annual Women In Tile story for this October issue. Each year, the number of female movers and shakers in our industry seems to grow, so it gets more and more difficult to narrow down the selection for our print issue. But that’s a good problem to have. Please take a moment to meet these talented mavericks in our industry.

Many thanks to Tom Meehan, who wrote our Tech Talk feature this month about working with and installing electric floor warming systems. This is a product that brings value and comfort to a range of settings – and not just in cold climates. Here in New Mexico – typically considered the warm and sunny Southwest – we get cold winters and most of our homes are build on concrete slabs. Radiant floor warming systems are perfect additions to home comfort, not to mention the luxury it brings to spas and other settings. Consider if adding this product to your installation repertoire wouldn’t offer your clients value and equate to more money in your pocket at the end of the day.

This issue also includes a story about the coming deadline for converting testing to the new dynamic coefficient of friction DCOF AcuTestsm, which will be upon our industry in early 2014. This test protocol will be the standard, so our story is a gentle nudge to be sure your test methods are up to date, and for those specifying to be sure you are receiving DCOF test values with your specs, not the old static coefficient of friction values.

Finally, enjoy the review of the recent Silver City Clay Festival, held in August in Silver City, N.M. There were murals to marvel over, amazing clay and tile projects and stunning exhibits. Established last year by Lee Gruber of Silver City-based Syzygy Tileworks, the eventual goal for this festival  is to involve different cities and regions of clay-centric New Mexico – and stand in support of the work The Handmade Tile Association is doing to bring exposure to beautiful handmade and decorative tile.

There are a lot of wonderful things going on in our industry – not the least of which is Total Solutions Plus, scheduled for the end of October in Bonita Springs, Fla. There’s still time to plan your trip there – visit www.tile-assn.com for details. I hope to see you in Florida!


Editor’s Letter – September 2013

Lesley beach picIn early August, I attended the Clay Festival in Silver City, N.M. – which you will be hearing more about in coming months. This event wound up setting the stage for an amazing cascade of serendipity catalyzed through social media.

Social media – love it or hate it. It can be a huge time waster, a fabulous way to stay in touch with friends and colleagues and an efficient way to get your message out to your audiences. Because we at NTCA/CTEF believe it to be the latter, we recently conscripted the services of Social Structure Marketing to manage our TileLetter/TADA, NTCA and CTEF online presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the like, so you’ll be seeing more from us there.

But here’s the kicker – the day I was back in the office after the Clay Festival, I noticed I had a friend request on my work Facebook account, from a Jeffrey Castillo. I checked his page and he appeared to be connected with others in the industry. And, it just so happened that he was from Silver City. I friended him and private messaged him, to find out that he is not only the NTCA State Director for New Mexico, but a tile contractor who performed much of the installation on the historic circa-1938 Murray Hotel in Silver City, which I toured, since the proprietor is using both original tile and
recreations to renovate the facility. The missing piece of the story was details about installation, but social media had brought it right to my laptop! Holy cow! Amazing!

But it doesn’t end there. Newly enthused about handmade/decorative/art tile from my immersion in it at the Clay Festival, I friended the Handmade Tile Association on that same Facebook account. The VERY FIRST post from that association that day turned out to be work from Cirrelda Snyder-Bryan, a New Mexico clay artist who I knew from a church we attended together years ago, but had lost touch with over the years. I re-established contact with her online. A few days later, I happened to be in a coffee shop in town when I quite literally ran into her – a person I hadn’t seen in about a decade, and yet had only hours before re-established contact with via Facebook. You can’t make this stuff up!

Social media also brings me news of fabulous work contractors around the country are doing. It may seem like frivolity to have a Facebook account. Be advised: it is not. In our evolving world, social media is a key way to connect – a way that is only going to get more prevalent as technology advances. Do yourself a favor and establish a presence for yourself and your business, website (you DO have a website, don’t you?) and stay connected to those who want to do business with you. See you online!

Lesley Goddin

TileLetter/TADA Editor

Editor’s Letter – August 2013

LesleyRecently, I did some painting. House painting, that is – getting my sweetie’s place ready for the arrival of his sister for the wedding of his son (which took place July 20!). Three of us were painting two bedrooms and a hallway on a hot July Saturday in the Southwest.

At one point I was holding a plastic cup filled with paint only a few inches from my face as I cut in around the ceilings and baseboards. I had the sarcastic thought, “Oh boy, these fumes are REALLY good for me.” Except, in the next breath, I realized I didn’t smell anything. Then my sweetie revealed that he chose zero-VOC paint since his sister is sensitive to chemical odors and emissions.

Wow, what a huge benefit that was! This personal encounter with a product designed to improve the environment, air quality and the planet brought to mind what the tile industry – and the building industry overall – is doing with the tremendous efforts being made through Green Squared®, GREENGUARD, LEED, and a range of other programs and certifications. I’m proud to be part of an industry that is investing in our personal health and the health of that spinning rock we call home. Read about some of those efforts in the pages of this Green issue of TileLetter and see how they apply to what you do and how you do it.

This has been a busy summer for many of us and maybe the busiest year I’ve ever lived through personally or professionally. On my way back from a visit with my family in New Jersey, I swung down to Kentucky to tour the Florida Tile corporate headquarters, manufacturing and distribution facility. Check out the chronicle of my experience at the tile producer in this issue – a tile producer, I might add, that is one of only 11 companies who currently have Green Squared Certified® products onboard.

One of the events that took place on July 18 was the birth of 7 lb., 2 oz. Jared Conner Sloan to NTCA trainer Gerald Sloan and his wife Connie. (Meet him on the Family Snapshot Page in this issue!) Want to congratulate Gerald? Contact him at [email protected]

Finally, I want to give credit where credit is due. In our April 2013 TileLetter On the Road story, we cited some information about water management that is presented in our 2013 Workshops by Michael Whistler and Gerald Sloan. That information is derived from the work of nationally-recognized shower expert Don Halvorson, CTA, CTC, CMRS, CRMI Forensic Tile Consultant. Don’s work is the basis for a lot of essential information on water management in our industry. To reach Don, contact him at [email protected]

You’ve picked the right publication to stay on top of what’s happening in our industry! Thanks for reading!

Editor’s Letter – July 2013

Greetings everyone!

Hope your summer is going well. It seems impossible to be looking ahead to our fall industry event, but indeed we are – Total Solutions Plus, scheduled Lesleyfor October 26-29 at Bonita Springs, Fla., at the lovely Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa. This year, the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA) joins the Partners in Progress that traditionally stage this conference: National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Flip over to page 66 for a sneak peek of the events in store at this growing must-attend annual industry summit. This is a perfect setting for relaxed networking, learning and inspiration from industry experts and a great chance to talk to suppliers at the tabletop exhibit portion of the conference. Be sure to visit www.tile-assn.com to learn more and register for the event!

Dan Welch’s July letter got me thinking that it was a good time to try to squeeze that page in again – we love our work, but also love our workers, friends, family (even furry ones as you will see) and colleagues, and it’s important to celebrate those whom we treasure.

And in editing this issue, I’ve noticed a few places that TileLetter seems to really make a difference in people’s lives. The first was Dan’s assertion in his letter that it helps tie our industry together. The second comes in the Five Star Contractor Spotlight of Rimrock Designs Inc. Founder Micah Linton got his very first job out of the pages of TileLetter! It’s gratifying to know that this humble publication has played such a role in our industry. Have you benefited from something you’ve read in TileLetter? If so, drop me an email and let me know:
[email protected].

Be sure to also read Donato Pompo’s technical feature about hollow-sounding tile. He gives some important tips for “sounding” tile, what to do if the tile sounds hollow, and installation conditions and methods that may contribute to the situation.

Finally, as you know, the NTCA Tile & Stone Workshop is currently touring the country with NTCA presenters Gerald Sloan and Michael Whistler bringing training and education to local host sites. In this issue, we take a look at the May ISC Surfaces event in Lenexa, Kan., and St. Louis, Mo. – and the impressive showroom setting provided by the ISC Surfaces folks.

Have a great summer, and remember to take time to for the balance of relaxation and quality time with family and friends.

Be well, Lesley

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