One – on – One…with Mitch Dancik
 
November 2nd, 2007

“Growing Along with the Tile Industry”

By Jeffrey Steele

November-December 2007

Mitch Dancik, president of Cary, NC-based Dancik International, Ltd., didn’t always write software for the tile and flooring industry. At one time he wrote music.

The 53-year-old native of Brooklyn started his career in the music business, playing guitar and singing with a 1970s New York City band. “We had an independent record label as well as a band, and played on the same bills as New York bands like Blondie, the Ramones and Talking Heads,” he recalls.

He had an obsessive love for writing music, which turned into an obsession for writing software. “And the good news was they paid programmers better than they paid bands,” he laughs.

The good news for readers of TileDealer is that Dancik recently agreed to a One-On-One to discuss his company and the tile industry.

In this frank and engaging interview, he talks about the challenges of building Dancik International, the concept of super-customization and how he develops his software products for the tile industry.

TileDealer: Tell us about your early life and how you entered the tile business.

Dancik: I’d say the tile business came to me, more than I came to the tile business. And I would call that a fortunate event, because it has been a rewarding experience. I was working with IBM on some specialized software for businesses that could not use packaged software. Some of my earlier distribution clients included cosmetic distributors, aviation parts distributors, umbrella distributors, and subscription services. What they all had in common was they could not use general distribution packages.

There was a time in the 1980s when I had a lucrative consulting business, working in all of these industries. Someone heard what I was doing for other industries and asked me to take a look at the tile and flooring business. In the mid-80s, I did a study for one of the major ceramic tile factories. I saw there was no software available, and there was a great opportunity to write software specific to the tile industry, something in which everything from the plumbing up addressed the unique aspects of the ceramic and flooring industry. Once I had that opportunity, I realized there were only two types of software available to the ceramic tile industry. One was a professional but generic distribution package, the other encompassed small mom-and-pop custom programs. What was missing was a professionally engineered system written just for tile and flooring.

As early as 1984, I embarked on doing that for a few select clients. And a company called Virginia Tile Company was my first customer, and is still a great customer 23 years later. Five years after I started down that path, tile and flooring took over my business, and I no longer accepted independent consulting projects.

TileDealer: You moved your company when it was quite small from New York City to the Carolinas. Can you discuss your thinking about that?

Dancik: When we were in New York in 1993, we had seven employees, and I knew the growth was coming. We seemed to just be signing one customer after another. And our entire staff got together and chose Raleigh as a better place for our families, but also for growing the business, and setting up an education center that would affordably accommodate customer seminars and education.

Now we’re nearly 50 employees, so you can see how critical it was for us. Because the growth came in a very big way once we moved to the Carolinas.

TileDealer: Describe your business philosophy and how well it works in today’s business climate.

Dancik: Our philosophy is pretty simple. Just take care of your customers, your employees and your product. If you get those three things right, the bottom line will follow suit.

We’re really looking at knowing our customers’ businesses inside and out, and supplying a complete set of software and services that addresses their businesses, unencumbered by any outside influences. We respect the unique marketplace of the ceramic tile business, as well as the unique products and the unique way they’re handled.

How well does it work in today’s business climate? I think the Dancik method may be even more unique and important in today’s business environment. Companies are constantly trying to find out how to focus on their core business, and in today’s environment there’s less room for excess employees and overhead.

Therefore they need their business tools and software to address every single little nuance of what they do. There’s very little tolerance for work-arounds. They want the software to address exactly what they do.

There’s a buzzword called super-customization. In the past, that meant developing it yourself. In the future, super-customization means finding off-the-shelf products specifically targeted at a narrow range of businesses. Super-customization is really an answer to a modern need in business. Your software must be a really, really close fit to your business.

TileDealer: Please talk about your company’s leading products, and any new products that may be on the near horizon.

Dancik: We have a series of products. Our flagship product is our core distribution and retail system, and it’s constantly updated every year. Among our leading products, we also have the only integrated tile and flooring visualizer (where a room design on screen can turn into an estimate and order, and flow right through all of our systems). In addition, we have the industry’s only warehouse management system that is written completely for tile, flooring and stone. We just introduced a mobile system for reserving, sizing, and managing stone slabs in the warehouse or stone yard. Two other new products have been introduced this year. The first is Dancik RADAR, an executive dashboard for real-time Web-based analysis. The second product is called Dancik Navigator, which is a Web-based graphical version of some core distribution and retail modules.

TileDealer: How do you sell software to tile industry people who aren’t tech-minded?

Dancik: I would say our sales pitch is never tech minded. Our products are meant for the real people who work in the real tile and flooring business. Technology is a part of that, but we take the responsibility to ease you into it. The important issues are the business issues.

Our whole deal is that we’re a combination of service and software. Our job is to integrate the software into your organization; not just drop it off at the front door. We’re as much about education as we are about the software.

TileDealer: How widely embraced were software products in the tile industry when you started, and how has that changed?

Dancik: When I first started, you saw a lot more companies that did not use computers, or that had some tile software, but that software addressed only part of their needs. Today, it’s rare to find tile businesses without any software.

One big change is you’re seeing software used on the outer edges of the business, including the warehouse, Web sites, connecting to customers and connecting to suppliers. I’d add there’s still a long way to go in the tile industry, because even such close cousins as the flooring distributors are utilizing technology a lot more than the tile distributors. The reason is very simple. Margins are still higher in ceramic than in other flooring products, and where margins are higher, business processes are sloppier. When margins come down, suddenly everyone wants to become efficient.

TileDealer: How many competitors did you have when you started?

Dancik: You’re probably thinking of people related to Dancik’s niche in tile and flooring. I’ve always thought of competitors as anyone with the will to solve the customer’s problem. In the 1980s, there were fewer companies that claimed their software really could work in the tile industry. Ironically, today there are more companies making the claim that their software is built for ceramic tile, but fewer companies where the claim is actually true. Unfortunately, a lot of the companies that used to be in the market and could make that claim have closed down.

TileDealer: How has the competition grown and impacted your business?

Dancik: Our market share in the ceramic tile business is greater now than it has ever been. But good competitors always keep you sharp. There seems to be a number of companies that have put their toe in the water, but then quickly pulled it out of the tile industry recently.

They come into the tile industry thinking it’s a typical distribution business, and then they find out how many unique aspects there are, and how deep and affecting those nuances are. And they realize it’s only profitable to be in the ceramic tile software business if you’re willing to design the system from the ground up for tile. On the flooring side, the rolled goods are a nightmare for any software developer.

TileDealer: How much do tile manufacturers and other suppliers drive the development of your software products?

Dancik: First, I should mention that 20 percent of our customer base is comprised of manufacturers. In fact, we define ourselves as a tile and flooring solution, not a distribution solution. We handle retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. And sometimes a single customer can be all three.

Tile manufacturers and suppliers often drive software development, based on the ways in which distributors and retailers need to electronically communicate with them.

However, it’s interesting to note that the giant flooring manufacturers, such as Shaw, Mohawk and Armstrong, have a larger effect than the tile manufacturers, because they are embracing the “Flooring Industry B2B standards,” a set of standards all flooring and tile retailers are beginning to adhere to.

TileDealer: Are tile dealers increasingly required to have the right set-up for ordering, maintaining inventory and other business functions?

Dancik: Yes. And the modern tile dealer needs to be set up for total inventory and shade accuracy, whether they are selling on the counter, on the phone or on the Web.

TileDealer: How do you stay on top of your game?

Dancik: One, never think you’re finished, because every day you learn something new about this business. Second, hire people who are smarter than yourself and let them do your job better than you did. Third, always listen to your customer and you’ll think of your own next great product. The Dancik products are reflections of our customers’ needs and aspirations. And therefore in a sense, it’s a system written for the industry, but also written by the industry.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for Dancik International?

Dancik: Believe it or not, it feels like we’re just beginning. There’s more new development happening at this moment than ever before in the history of the company.

People constantly ask me, “Hey Mitch, haven’t you finished this program yet?” And I say, “Read this 700-page manual about what’s new that just came out this year.” The industry keeps changing, and as long as it’s changing, the software must keep up with it. People look to our company to make sure the software is always keeping pace with their businesses. And knock wood, our sales and customer retention rate seem to indicate we’ve been able to do that. So look for us this year at Surfaces and Coverings to see our new products.

SOURCE:

Mitch Dancik

President, Dancik International, Ltd.

Cary, NC

919-379-3800

mdancik@dancik.com

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