Leadership Letter
 
January 1st, 2011

 

Ryan Calkins

The question is, are you going to soak a little longer or are you ready to jump?

We’ve all heard the parable of the cooked frog who, when dropped in a pot of boiling water, jumps out, but when placed in a pot of tepid water that is slowly brought to boil, contentedly simmers until it’s too late. It’s a parable of disruptive versus gradual change. The frog is trying to teach us that sometimes it’s the gradual changes that will get us rather than the abrupt ones.

In business, we are confronted by abrupt changes all the time: a major customer suddenly goes out of business, a primary supplier pulls their line, or a key employee leaves your company. These abrupt changes happen so often that we become adept at managing their consequences.

But what about the gradual changes? Is the water getting warmer without you noticing because you’ve got your head in the day-to-day challenges of running a business?

One of the main sources of change is technology. From B2B to e-commerce to inventory management, technology is chipping away at areas of value that distributors have traditionally provided in the supply chain. We face external threats from technology experts who have experience applying their skills to other product categories and are now targeting the tile industry. Internally, manufacturers are pursuing technology options that allow them to reach our customers directly. And consumers show up in our showrooms armed with their smart phones to do comparison shopping while drinking our coffee and taking up our salesperson’s time.

Ignoring technology is not an option; no matter how much we might want to put the e-commerce genie back in the bottle, it’s here to stay. Doing business like it’s 1995 is no longer going to cut it. So how should we respond? With a little bit of business jujitsu: take the threat that technology poses and direct it to your own end. Adopt the innovation in your own business. Easier said than done, right? How many of us have the time or resources to investigate B2B systems, setup and run a website that gets a high search page ranking, or incorporate a social media campaign into our marketing strategy?

There’s good news. Together we have the capacity to address these challenges. In fact, the CTDA was established to provide the independent importer/wholesaler with just that kind of support. At Total Solutions Plus and Coverings in 2010, we heard from B2B, social media, and e-commerce experts. (Those presentations are available in the Education section of the CTDA website.) In addition, we are renovating the CTDA website to better connect tile consumers to CTDA members and steer them away from the unscrupulous fly-bynight sites that undercut your business and leave consumers dissatisfied.

As the site comes online, members can expect to see more traffic coming to their own sites from the CTDA, a more engaged online community, and a richer source of content for use in educating ourselves and our customers. Now, more than ever, taking an active part in the CTDA is essential to staying ahead of the competition. So the question is, are you going to soak a little longer or are you ready to jump?

Ryan Calkins, CTDA president


Recession Lessons
 
January 1st, 2011

From the importance of building and maintaining solid relationships to the need to continually trim debt loads, lessons from the recession have been abundant in the tile industry.

by Jeffrey Steele

In the tile industry, the recession has meant very difficult economic times. For Barbara Cashman, president and CEO of Greensboro, NC-based GlasTile Inc., which has manufactured fused glass tile since 1990, the downturn of the past few years took both a financial and personal toll. “When I lost a dealer during this time, we were saddened,” she says. “We lost good friends. We lost people we’d been working with for years. They haven’t passed away, but we don’t hear from them anymore.” The steepest economic freefall to hit the United States since the Great Depression, “transcends business,” Cashman adds. “It’s personal.”

If she’s learned anything during the last two or three years – and she has learned a lot, she says – it has been about the importance of relationships. Investing time and energy to develop and support business relationships paid off in hard times, and is one reason her company survived the storm. “It’s not a contrived belief of ours” she says. “We have always had close relationships with dealers and customers, and some of our dealers actually took smaller profits, to support us, and so we could have the job. We would work those things out [and discuss] what we could do together to land a project.”

Tom Carr, president of Pan-American Ceramics, has given considerable thought to the recession and how his company responded to the downturn. Officials of the nearly 30-year-old City of Industry, Cal. tile importer took what to many might seem an unusual stance, Carr explains.

“From the very start, the message I gave our employees, customers and vendors was that we were not going to participate in a recession,” he says. “It sounds funny, but if you start talking about how bad things are, people can always find an excuse. We would still buy product, bring in new products, pay vendors and pay employees. The fact that others were less likely to bring in new products during the recession brought us new customers.”

Another company that refused to accommodate the downturn was Crossville, Tenn.-based Crossville Incorporated, which rode out the recession in fine style, says vice-president of business development Frank Douglas. “We never changed who we are,” he reflects. “We never drastically altered our product mix, never altered the way we go to market, never wavered in our support of our customers or our sales force. We continued our education programs. And when we had to make unpleasant cuts, we did it in a fair way, so that everyone shared in the pain.”

Crossville Inc. was fortunate in that it is privately held, constantly invests in its own future and operates in a sound financial manner, Douglas says. Having seen the recession coming, and made adjustments, company officials still experienced reduced sales. Being a domestic manufacturer worked well for the company. As customers cut back on overseas orders, they took advantage of Crossville’s domestic availability, he says.

Ironrock, the Canton, Oh.-based manufacturer of quarry tile products and architectural thin brick, took a different but equally viable strategy. When the slump turned severe, Ironrock shed its Meredith Collection, which had been developed as an independent firm in the 1980s and later was absorbed into Ironrock. A high-end niche product, the Meredith Collection was discontinued so the company could focus on its core business of more utilitarian offerings, says Ron Williamson, the company’s marketing services director.

At the same time, Ironrock worked on developing its marketing toward business segments that continued growing, such as school construction, green building and national restaurant chain accounts, he says. “It was basically a matter of finding segments that continued strong during the recession,” he says.

Like many, Miles Distributors, a South Bend distributor of glass, ceramic and natural stone tile, with locations in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky, responded to the recession by initiating a thorough reexamination of its labor force. It then began trimming employees. “When we got down to the size we needed, what we were left with was the ‘A’ players in the organization,” says sales and marketing manager John Zolman. “Those employees are the best, and are the more productive and stronger workers in the company.”

At U.S. Gypsum, field marketing and technical manager of the specialty products division Steve Rausch speaks for many industry observers. “We’re not convinced it’s over yet,” he says of the long recession. “But we’re getting through it because we had working capital put back [into the business]. And when all this started, we realized “We have always had close relationships with dealers and customers, and some of our dealers actually took smaller profits, to support us, and so we could have the job.” it would be bad. At that point, we didn’t overreact. But we cut overhead. That was our plan of survival.”

What They Would Do Differently

In hindsight, a number of industry players acknowledge they could have done things differently earlier in the downturn. The most common admission is wandering from the basics. “When times are good, it’s easy to expand, buy new products and add staff,” Carr says. “But you have to re-examine some of those ideas even when times are good. In the good times, maybe you should be looking at paying down debt, tightening inventory and maintaining a handle on expenses and credit lines to the bank. The basic things everyone is doing now should have been done at all times, including the good times. We realize that now.”

So does Cashman. She too gave into the temptation to add staff and equipment, as well as upgrade and expand facilities, in booming economies. It’s more important to eliminate all debt, she says, noting businesses that went under often did so because they were debt ridden when the slump arrived.

For GlasTile Inc., 2006 was a boom year. That’s when the company should have been taking stock of its line of credit and its equipment, and should have been exploring the idea of repairing existing equipment rather than buying new, Cashman reflects. “The focus really wasn’t where it should have been, because none of us expected we’d be in the situation we’re in now, and for the length of time we have been in that situation,” she says.

Speaking for U.S. Gypsum, Rausch says with 20:20 hindsight that many things could have been done differently. “USG’s in the entire building process: new construction, remodeling and commercial,” he reports. “In almost every past situation, you ended up with one or sometimes two segments going bad, but not all three at the same time. What happened this time is all three segments went bad, and we haven’t seen real recovery in any one of those segments. “We’re not seeing new jobs come on the boards. We’re not seeing jobs that were on the boards get reactivated. Commercial work has all but ground to a halt. When you look at residential home builders, you know what’s happened there.” Had anyone known how deeply the recession would be felt, more sizable cost cutting would have been undertaken immediately at USG, Rausch reports. “We’re still sitting on a lot of cash,” he adds. “We know there will be a lot of opportunities. You can’t drain yourself to the point that when the economy does start back up you can’t take advantage of it.”

Lessons to Carry Forward

Many industry observers report absorbing lessons during the slump they plan to take with them into a brighter economic day. At Miles Distributors, that lesson is the notion of redefining the word “busy,” Zolman reports. Now that the company has reduced its staff to “the A Team,” officials believe they won’t respond to very busy periods the way they formerly did. “When we pick up again, and get busy, it doesn’t mean we have to throw another body in there,” he says. “In the past, we were so intent on getting another staff member to handle busy times, that we didn’t ask whether that was the right person to hire, or whether we even needed another person.”

For Carr, one essential lesson has been the importance of always keeping channels of communication open. “Take time to communicate with employees,” he says. “They see the news and understand, and know you’re not lying to them. A lot of that communication is missing during the good times. The lesson I’d take forward is the need for communicating with employees, customers and suppliers. They’re all key components of your business.”

Another takeaway from the recession for Carr is the significance of teaming with the right suppliers. When times are difficult, he says, it’s critical to be on the same page with key vendors. That’s because a struggling economy can spur suppliers to make changes that may not be in your best interests. “You have to have an understanding before that happens,” Carr stresses.

Rausch reinforces the point about teaming with the right people. “You need to be dealing with substantial companies,” he says. “I’m all in favor of dealing with the local mom-and-pop store. But if you’re in the tile business and putting a job together, you want to make sure the tile manufacturer is solid, the setting materials maker is solid and the backer board people are solid. What your tile dealer is doing is putting together a complete assembly to make a job happen. Because of that, they’ve got to look at the whole system. They must have suppliers that can stand up with them and back them up.” The lesson to tile dealers, he says, is to align with solid suppliers who view them as partners. “The tile dealer has a customer in John Q. Customer, but he must have a partner on our side of the equation, or he’s going to wind up not having his own customer satisfi ed . . . You have to have value in that complete chain. The sweet taste of a low price quickly fades, under the bitterness of poor quality. That’s a huge problem for many people. You want value, not low price.”

At Ironrock, the lesson was the wisdom of maintaining a lean manufacturing operation, in which effi ciency is maximized and waste reduced to a bare minimum. “Everyone has a laser focus today on all those issues that can cost, and be cost prohibitive,” Williamson says. The recession also hammered home the benefi t of cross marketing. Ironrock cross marketed its architectural thin brick into new applications like brick veneers and stone veneers. The company gave its quarry tile distributors a chance to market its thin brick as well. “You’ve got to look for that kind of opportunity in a down economy,” he asserts.

GlasTile also recognized a silver lining within the dark economic clouds. Noting “the recession changed our whole market scenario,” Cashman says in better economic eras, her company had always created a very high-end product. But the calls it’s now getting as the economy rebounds are for custom work. That has resulted in GlasTile’s smaller accounts staying continually busy, while its production accounts languish. GlasTile is busy, but busy in a different way than before, producing custom work for Disney, and appearing on an HGTV program airing in mid-2011. That work doesn’t warrant keeping her 60-foot production kiln, Cashman says. “We can be flexible, gearing our product line to the custom market more readily than others can,” she says, adding with a laugh, “Between you and me, I hope that production kiln finds a new home.”

The long recession has also given Cashman a chance to reflect on the importance of technology in getting the word out about her product line. The future of tile industry marketing, she asserts, will depend to a great extent on social networking through forums like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “We’re going to have to be much more Internet focused,” she says.

SOURCES:
Tom Carr, president Pan-American Ceramics, City of Industry, CA 626-961-0051

Barbara Cashman, president and CEO GlasTile, Greensboro, NC 336-292-3758

Frank Douglas, vice-president of business development Crossville Incorporated, Crossville, TN 931-456-3912

Steve Rausch, field marketing and technical manager US Gypsum, Chicago 404-281-2218

Ron Williamson, marketing services director Ironrock, Canton, OH 330-484-7468

John Zolman, sales and marketing manager Miles Distributors, South Bend 574-234-4051


Vignettes: Artistic Tile Showroom
 
January 1st, 2011

by Diane J. Choate

From an ancient Chinese proverb comes the saying, “One picture is worth (a) thousand words.” Nancy Epstein has certainly brought the concept to life in her ARTISTIC TILE showroom at Suite 105A of LuxeHome in the Chicago Merchandise Mart. When Ms. Epstein decided to expand her Manhattan showroom of 22 years to Chicago, she collaborated with New York-based architect Stephen A. Wanta to create more than 30 separate vignettes that occupy the 3200-square-foot display area on the ground fl oor of the iconic Merchandise Mart. Breaking up the showroom into square spaces separated by simple dividing walls (reminiscent of the food markets of Paris and Barcelona), Wanta and Epstein used portions of two walls and a corner in each space to present four distinctive vignettes. artistic tile showroom.

To bring the vignettes to life, Epstein and Wanta overcame their initial trepidation at hiring a union tile contractor and agreed with IUBAC member Trostrud Mosaic & Tile Co. of Wood Dale, Illinois, to work on an open account basis. Trostrud demonstrated how the company’s well-trained professional installers made a difference, bringing the project in on time and on budget. “This was one of the most exciting adventures in tile installation we ever embarked on,” said Brad Trostrud.

The variety of tiles used gave each vignette its own distinct environment. Some tiles were made of art glass that was water-jet cut into complicated designs, parts of which were paperface mounted. Some of the tiles were very modern and trendy, including the new ultrathin tiles recently developed in Italy. Others were hundreds of years old, giving some installers their first glimpse of hand-made antique tiles from Europe. Certain materials were a real challenge to install – from fake brick to trimmed stone veneers. The installation of glass mosaics on compound curves in specially-designed vignettes presented their own unique challenges.

Strips of extruded steel separated the four vignettes in each space, while the spaces were separated from each other by five-inch-wide strips of limestone. Umbrella-shaped fabric canopies were suspended from the arched ceilings, dispersing the soft light from crystal chandeliers. Separate high-intensity task lighting, which enhanced accurate color definition in the tiles, also left no room for error in the installations. Trostrud placed the responsibility for a “perfect job” in the hands of Mike Miller, one of the company’s most experienced and knowledgeable team leaders.

Artistic Tile’s Retail Design Manager, Dana Borgerson, was on-site 24/7, and she got to see first-hand how well Miller’s capabilities met the numerous issues that arose. There was a huge diversity of products, and they all arrived at different times. Each box of tile was checked against Nancy Epstein’s guidelines and assigned to its particular vignette. Based on each individual crew member’s abilities, Miller decided who should install that particular type of tile. His astute planning kept the labor to 2466 man hours of work over a three-month period. Depending on the needs of the job, he supervised a crew of up to 11 workers on any given day. Since the tiles had to be easy to remove and replace as trends in the showroom changed, the crew began by lining each of the steel-framed floor spaces with an anti-fracture membrane. After that, the teams used Primer™ L and Ultraplan® M20 for self-leveling in the vignettes, because the tiles ranged in thickness from ¾-inch thick stone to 1/8-inch thick glass tiles and customers had to be able to move seamlessly from one surface to another. Trostrud used Planipatch® as a reliable standby for patching small areas.

Trostrud selected MAPEI’s Ultraflex LFT mortar for large format tile for the majority of the stone and tile installations. The installers felt it worked especially well with the peculiar and unique characteristics of the different tiles and that its nonsag properties simplified the wall installations. For the glass tiles, the teams used MAPEI’s Adesilex P10 bright white mortar. “This is the most incredible product!” Brad Trostrud said. “It grabs and just stays there, making glass tile installation so much easier.” All the tile joints were grouted with MAPEI’s Ultracolor Plus fastdrying, efflorescence-free grout. Looking over the completed project, Brad Trostrud commented, “This showroom is in a category by itself. Nancy Epstein’s creativity is boundless, and it shows in the great sales they have made in Chicago since the showroom opened. We have worked on jobs this year with their tile, and every installation has been beautiful.”

DIANE J. CHOATE is Public Relations/ Corporate Communication Specialist for the MAPEI Corporation, Deerfield Beach, Florida.

You can reach her at 954-246-8799 or email dchoate@mapei.com.


Crossing the Line: Tile Enjoys a Surge in Outdoor Installations
 
January 1st, 2011

BY WILLIAM & PATTI FELDMAN

Homeowners around the country are embracing the concept of expanded outdoor living space and, in many applications, tile is right there, providing attractive and durable horizontal and vertical surfaces, braving the elements and doing very well, indeed. Outdoor installations of porcelain, stone, cement and glass tile are increasingly popular. Aesthetically pleasing, durable and high performing tile installations are everywhere from on a deck or patio coming right off the kitchen (where the same tile used indoors may be extended past the door jamb for pleasing visual continuity) to wellequipped and comfortably accoutered outdoor kitchens and living rooms.

First popular in the sunbelt, the widespread availability of tile rated for outdoor use has made exterior tile more prevalent all around the country. Outdoors tile works well in terms of performance both on the fl oor, on kitchen counters, and around grills where it wipes up grease and other spills easily. It works vertically on the sides of cabinets and storage units. Tile is also increasingly popular on the ground and vertically around fireplaces, firepits, and chimineys.

In cool climates, the tile of choice is full-body porcelain tile rated for outdoor use, ideally with an absorption rate less than 0.5%. (In comparison, ceramic tile usually has an absorption greater than 3%.)

According to Doug Hayes, Director of Business Development, Florida Tile, manufacturer of porcelain tile, “There is nothing more durable for vertical and horizontal applications than porcelain tile. Unlike ceramic tile, which is porous and absorbs water and so can crack from freeze/thaw cycles, porcelain tile is not porous and does not absorb water, and won’t crack from freeze/thaw cycles.”

With so many porcelain offerings, some manufacturers provide guidance in matching tiles to applications. For example, Florida Tile delineates which of its porcelain tile should not be used outdoors; which can be used outdoors in covered locations not subject to standing water, ice, snow, leaves, oils or contaminants; and which can be used with some exposure to the elements.

Some grout manufacturers offer products formulated to perform well in exterior applications that can weather the elements. For example, Mapei’s Ultracolor Plus is an effl orescence- free, fast curing grout that contains polymer, so it is freeze/ thaw stable and includes Drop Effect technology, a hydrophobic additive that helps repel staining and dirt from the surface of the grout.

The rise in popularity of modular units for outdoor kitchens – the kind that arrives on a fl atbed, equipped with grill and countertop workplace – has also driven up sales of porcelain tile. They can take about 200 square feet of tile (or more) apiece on the ground and more than that if tile is used on the side walls of the units or on the workspace counters.

Though porcelain tile does not crack from weather, it can be slippery in standing water or if icy. Tiles with textures that meet ADA recommendations of 0.6 coeffi cient of friction (COF) or higher provide a more slip-resistant surface on the fl at and 0.80 COF for ramp surfaces. Use of the same fl ooring material in the same pattern and colors outdoors as indoors keeps space visually integrated.

Exterior Installation Products

Newly developed types of insulated sheathing that are designed to resist expansion and contraction when installed under outdoor tile and stone have eliminated a major problem that has plagued outdoor tiling over wood subfl oors – the high failure rate due to shrinkage or movement of the wood over time.

“Insulated sheathing under tile installations performs very well and is very effective against expansion and contraction of underlying wood in cold climates, which can cause failure,” notes Brian Turner, president of Tile DIY, the manufacturer of Ti-ProBoard, a composite structural material developed especially for tiling decks. When used on a deck and covered with porcelain tiles, Ti-ProBoard forms a solid tiled surface that is impregnable to the elements in all 50 states and won’t corrode, points out Turner. This allows use of the same tile indoors and outdoors in any climate. (The planks are 12” wide and come in 8’ and 12’ lengths for direct fi tting on joists 16” o/c. They carry E84 UL approval on fire rating and screw onto a stud, interlocking as they install.) “People like the look of tile outdoors. The aesthetics and the fact that tile is pretty much low maintenance combine to drive sales,” suggests Jeff Ketterer, National Sales Manager, Fin-Pan a manufacturer of backerboard building products.

Trends in glass and ceramic pool tile include:
• Continued use of various shades of blue, with customers either using one color to cover the whole pool or using random blends or even custom blends to satisfy precise customer taste, notes Marshall Malden, President of Hakatai Enterprises, importers of glass mosaic tile.
• Increased use of gradient tiling, with colors flowing from a dark blue to a medium blue to a very light blue in a column.
• Increased use of patterns at steps, around the perimeter, and even throughout the pool (This affords each pool, regardless of shape, a distinctive custom look, Malden points out.).
• Use of ¾” or other small sized glass tile to create a custom fine-cut mosaic mural at the bottom of the pool. According to Malden popular themes include birds, flowers, and abstract art.
• Use of mixed media tile that incorporates metal or stone on the tile sheet.

Commercial Application: Exterior Cladding

In commercial applications, there is a growing trend to use tile on the outside of buildings for cladding, at least in part because it results in good energy effi ciency. “The air space behind the tile provides a naturally insulating barrier so you get a very good energy efficiency in the building by using tile as a cladding,” explains Marvin. “Using tile for cladding started in Europe and is now starting to gain traction in the U.S. In Europe, the tile often goes up the entire height of a building but in this country tile as cladding is typically only on a first fl oor, with large pieces easily sliding into grids and secured with special fasteners.”

Used on a vertical surface, insulated sheathing that mounts directly to the studs is a lot faster and less labor intensive than having to put up traditional sheathing, cover it with a weather barrier and then mount backerboard to accept tile or stucco. In cold climates, it circumvents the problem of expansion and contraction of the sheathing under the tile. With some insulated sheathing, installers can mount stone, tile or thinbrick using an adhesive specially designed for mounting stone or tile on vertical surfaces. Some materials of this type can withstand up to 160 mile an hour winds and may, in projects aiming for LEED certification, qualify to contribute to LEED points, notes Dick Crawford, Director of Business Development, T.Clear Corporation, a manufacturer of an insulated wall system. The system, which installs faster than conventional building techniques, consists of a lightweight impact resistant concrete sheet laminated to a continuous layer of rigid insulation. For commercial projects, “we are seeing a lot of requests for white or other light-colored tile that reflects sunshine and improves energy effi ciency and, for projects aiming for LEED certification, can – if the tile has a solar reflective index of 29+ – help earn LEED points in the Site category,” points out Marvin.


One on One with Tile Doctor’s Curt Rapp
 
January 1st, 2011

by Jeffrey Steele

Many folks in the tile industry might be described as interesting people; few live up to that billing as formidably as Curt Rapp. Curt was already a respected industry veteran in 1999 when he launched The Tile Doctor, a web-based company (www.thetiledoctor.com) that provides how-to information and sells advanced products aimed at both tile consumers and professionals. Under Curt’s guidance as CEO, the website has reeled in tens of millions of unique visitors, who have come to trust the company as a total tile and stone resource, and provider of cleaning and protection products for hard surfaces.

In September 2010, Tile Doctor introduced its Shield line for the tile and stone industry. According to the company, Shield is a non-toxic antimicrobial, meaning it controls the growth of microorganisms without the use of chemical toxins. It is suitable for application on most hard surfaces and can differentiate and enhance service offerings of health care and hospitality environments, corporate settings, schools and homes. Shield is expected to accelerate company growth. In this interview, Curt identifies the catalysts for launching Tile Doctor and how Tile Doctor can help tile dealers. He takes us inside the development and launch of the Shield line of antimicrobials, and details how it is different from competitive products. He explains the founding and mission of Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH), where he is chairman of the board. And finally, he looks ahead at the future for both TPFH and Tile Doctor.

Q&A

TileDealer: What motivated the launch of Tile Doctor?
Early on in my career it became clear to me that U.S. consumers had a great thirst for information regarding tile and stone installations for their homes. During the Internet bubble in 2000 I launched www.thetiledoctor. com, with the thought that if we provided good and timely information direct to the consumer via the web, we could build something unique to our industry. Our website was acknowledged by PC World magazine as one of the “Top 101 Websites in the World” in 2003. We also trademarked the name to allow us to eventually launch a Tile Doctor product line.

TD: What industry need does Tile Doctor fulfill?
We strive to bring innovative and environmentally-friendly products and solutions to the tile and stone industry. We strongly feel our products are the most innovative and timely products to hit the market today.

TD: What can Tile Doctor do for tile dealers?
First and foremost we offer a selection of products that allow for additional sales and higher profits for dealers. Most of our products, such as Shield, don’t take the place of existing items; they simply add margin dollars for the dealer. Second, we offer high performance yet environmentally-friendly products, allowing dealers to expand their green products portfolio.

TD: How is your antimicrobial product different and better than others?
What sets us apart is how we are applied and how we work. The Tile Doctor Shield product is an invisible liquid glass barrier of “sword like” molecules that attaches permanently to anything it’s introduced to. It uses no biocides, poisons or heavy metals, and is broad spectrum. In other words, since many antimicrobials are very narrow in range of effectiveness, they can allow survivors to become what’s commonly known as “superbugs.” Shield will not promote adaptive organisms; it denatures the microbe via a stab with a sword rather than a poison, and doesn’t require the presence of light to be effective. Shield can be applied to many hard surfaces, especially existing tile and stone installations. It can also be factory applied, and we are working closely with contractor companies to provide a special application method and formula that can be used on new or existing large commercial applications such as schools, hospitals and other public areas of high concern.

TD: Why did you develop the antimicrobial product?
The product was originally developed by Dow Corning after a 10-year research project focused on how to make an effective solution against mold, mildew, algae, bacteria and fungi without the use of toxic chemicals. We licensed Shield under an exclusive arrangement that allows us to operate within our classes of products, including tile, stone, backerboard and sanitary ware. The call to remove outdated and potentially toxic chemicals from our homes and offices is very high right now. In fact, the Toronto Indoor Air Commission has published a study that reports, in the study’s words, “a woman who works from home has a 54 percent higher likelihood of getting cancer than one who works away from home.” It has also been found that traditional household cleaning products, those used for mold, mildew and bacteria removal, play a huge role in generating poor indoor air quality.

TD: What can you tell us about the history of your product vis à- vis the history of others? How do we know it won’t become a problem like the others?
The chemistry used in Shield is so significant that it won the R&D 100 award upon introduction. This award is commonly referred to as the Oscars of Invention. The flash cube won the award in1963, the ATM machine won in 1974, and Polarcolor film, HDTV and LED technology have also won. To win, the innovation must be a verifiable and scientifically-validated technology that will positively impact lives. But the biggest reason we are so confident is that Shield’s technology isn’t new. We’ve adapted it for hard surfaces. The solution is made up of sand, carbon and nitrogen and has more than 30 years of scientific evidence validating the safety profile. Chances are you’re wearing this very technology right now next to your skin. Many of the world’s leading brands use this for microbial, odor and bacteria control on textiles.

TD: What obstacles did you have to surmount bringing it to market?
Since we operate in the area of destroying “bad guys” like mold, mildew and bacteria, we are considered a pesticide by the EPA (other anti-bacterials/microbials fall into the same category). We are not a disinfectant you apply, and then it dries and is gone. We are a biostatic surface inhibitor first and foremost that works 24/7 after it is applied. Since so few of those exist, the EPA doesn’t yet have a regulatory group specifically for the category. The process of registration — and the regulations about what can and cannot be said — is many and it has taken us three years to get to this launch point. We are now hitting the market!

TD: Why did you establish Tile Partners for Humanity?
I wanted to find a way to unite the industry around a common cause. Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity Intl. (HFHI), was committed to providing sustainable housing for deserving families who are in substandard housing. And what flooring surface better fits the sustainable house than tile? When discussing ways to get involved with HFHI, a representative said, “When we are fortunate enough to get tile, we sometimes don’t have volunteers or the correct tools and installation materials to install, or vice versa, so we default to vinyl flooring simply because it’s easier.” After hearing this, I determined we needed to organize the system — the entire tile industry — around a common cause. And Tile Partners for Humanity was born.

TD: Can you discuss the organization’s success?
Tile Partners for Humanity has grown beyond my wildest imagination, providing in excess of $20 million in support since its inception. It’s also become a leader for our industry in keeping less desirable products out of landfills. Outdated inventory is recycled or reused in many other applications, rather than destroying it in dumpsters. We have been able to place hundreds of truckloads amounting to $10 million-plus worth of products that before would have gone straight to landfills. It is a rare and unique notfor- profit organization. It is the first time an entire industry has rallied to support such a cause. Emory University’s first year Non-Profit MBA class studied TPFH to better understand the model. It works so efficiently that less than 5 percent goes to running the operation, meaning 95 percent of donations go directly to the intended use. By any measure, that is a worthy and well-run non-profit organization.

TD: Where does Tile Partners for Humanity go in the future?
As with many non-for-profit organizations, it’s a struggle to maintain our existence. The donations of materials never are a major issue. The issue is continuing to find the small amount of funds required to operate. As of this writing we simply don’t know if we can make it through the next few weeks and months. This is not a call for donations, it’s simply a fact that many of our past donors have not given this year. I really believe we can do great things, like building Habitat houses dedicated to the industry and do greater things than we have already accomplished, if we can make it through these rough times ahead. But we simply don’t know what will be.

TD: What does or will the economic recovery mean to Tile Doctor?
A recovery probably means more to the established and mature brands. In our case we are building market share with each sale. We are looking towards some large advances in product sales for 2011 with exciting new things on the horizon. We are confident that these will make us one of the most valued brands in our industry. Let’s face it, big brands such as BASF, DuPont and others are entering this space. They see our industry as a ripe opportunity for consumer recognized brands, and we agree completely. Consumers know our brand, The Tile Doctor. The name is “sticky,” and we have more visits to our website each month than any other industry website in the world. With or without the recovery we are bringing products to the market that are exciting for our partner customers. They are providing additional opportunities for sales, and that makes for excitement!

SOURCE: Curt Rapp, CEO The Tile Doctor, Atlanta
770-447-0061
678-480-3023


Innovations & Insights
 
January 1st, 2011

New products and insight from the tiling industry

TILESIZER™ CONTINUES EXPANSION
TileSizer™ Inc. continues expansion into the tile store retail market, and more recently into the government contracting and subcontracting arenas as a 100% woman-owned business. “We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the government and hope this early market entry will help prepare TileSizer™ for the forthcoming SBA (Small Business Association) contracting program set for release in February 2011,” says CEO Laura Saitta. TileSizer™ is the fi rst adjustable tile cutting tool for wet saws that easily allows you to cut tiles in a variety of shapes and sizes – horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. It accommodates tiles as small as 1/4”x1” up to approximately 6”x6” tiles depending on the style of cut, and with a tile thickness of up to 3/4”. In addition, because the tile is secure throughout the entire tile cutting process, small tile pieces discharged during the cutting process are minimized. TileSizer™ uses rustresistant components so that it can be cleaned and reused in the future, across multiple projects. www.tilesizer.com

HONORING THE “HOTTEST NEW TILE & STONE PRODUCTS”
Choosing standouts among the hundreds of new and exciting discoveries in tile and stone to be found at Coverings 2011, March 14-17, at The Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas will be the task of Coverings Spectrum Select and a panel of judges. Coverings Spectrum Select is a partnership between Coverings and Contract magazine to honor tile and stone products that refl ect outstanding design, engineering and technological innovation, and that set new standards in aesthetics and performance. The Call for Entries is open only to Coverings exhibitors, who may submit up to four candidates in any of the following categories: Artisan Tile/Stone; Porcelain/Ceramic Tile Wall; Porcelain/Ceramic Tile Floor; Mosaic Tile; Glass Tile; Natural Stone; Installation Material Systems; and, Equipment and Machinery. For a product that might not fi t into these eight defi nitions, the judges will consider prospects classifi ed as Other. The deadline for submissions is Friday, February 4, 2011, with entry forms available at the Coverings website. “The prestige of being a Coverings Spectrum Select choice resonates long after the show ends and is an added value that exhibitors can effectively leverage in marketing their brands,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of National Trade Productions, which manages and produces Coverings. “The program is patterned on Contract magazine’s Best of NeoCon concept, which is revered in the contract furnishings industry,” she explained, “and we’re fortunate to be able to apply their level of experience and vision to the tile and stone industry, as well. Coverings Spectrum Select is a badge of distinction that helps bring to light the extraordinary caliber of these materials and tools of the trade.” According to Hoff, it’s on the show fl oor of Coverings in March where the judges’ fi nal scrutiny takes place, as they personally visit the exhibit space of each entrant, see the products fi rst-hand, and probe for additional details that may factor in their decisions. www.coverings.com

TILE OF SPAIN: REIGN IN SPAIN WINNERS
Four members of the US A&D community are going to Spain as winners of Tile of Spain’s Reign in Spain A&D. Tile of Spain is the umbrella brand managed jointly by the Trade Commission of Spain in Miami, FL and the Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) in Valencia, Spain. The annual media junket to Spain coincides with Cevisama, the International Ceramic Tile and Bath Furnishings Show held in Valencia. From Feb. 4-12, 2011, the group of architects, interior designers and journalists will travel to the cities of Zaragoza, Teruel and Valencia to take in Spanish architecture, culture, culinary temptations and of course, Cevisama. Winners are: Bob Borson, associate principal and architect at Bernbaum Magadini Architects in Dallas, Texas; Andie Day, an award-winning interior designer whose inventive solutions have been featured in the Washington Post, New England Home, Kitchen and Bath Ideas®, Design New England and in NECN’s inspirational television series: Dream House; Scott Knudson, vice president of design for Wiencek + Associates Architects + Planners; and Lira Luis, a global American architect specializing in organic architecture, who holds multiple licenses Asia, North America, and a Chartered Architect designation in Continental Europe. www.tileofspainnews.com.

BOSTIK ADDS KATZE
Inc.’s Consumer & Construction Division has added Doug Katze, a 20-year adhesives industry expert, to its talented team. Katze joins Bostik as Product Manager – Floor Covering & Ceramic Installation Solutions. He is responsible for managing the company’s extensive line-up of ceramic, carpet, vinyl, patch, and rubber floor-covering solutions. Katze also is charged with working closely with distributors, retailers and end users, as well as Bostik R&D and sales/marketing staff to innovate and meet unmet marketplace needs. With Henkel Corp. 20 years, Katze most recently served as a Global Marketing Manager for the firm’s Electronic Adhesives Division. Prior to that, he served as product manager, senior applications engineer, research chemist and technical service engineer. “It was a good fit and the timing was right,” Katze said, referring to the move. “Bostik is known worldwide for its strong people and products. This is what attracted me to Bostik.” Katze reports directly to Robert McNamara, Director of Marketing & Sales for Bostik’s Consumer & Construction Division.“It’s not often you can hire an adhesives expert with 20 years of knowledge and contacts,” McNamara said. “Doug is a proven marketing mind who has been there, done that, across all disciplines from R&D to marketing to technical service.” www.bostik.com

NEW FROM LATICRETE
Laticrete has announced the release of six exciting new grout and sealant colors set to launch in January 2011. The six new grout and sealant colors to join the LATICRETE color palette include Tawny, Desert Khaki, Hot Cocoa, Terra Cotta, Espresso and Dusty Grey, offered in LATICRETE® SpectraLOCK® PRO Grout, LATICRETE SpectraLOCK 2000 IG, and LATICRETE PermaColor Grout™. LATICRETE will also offer a coordinating LATICRETE Premium Acrylic Caulk to compliment each of the six new grout colors. LATICRETE will have the new grout and acrylic caulk on display this January in Las Vegas at Surfaces 2011. “Our customers were an integral part of our research in narrowing down to the six new colors. The palette will now offer a fresh look and new options in color to choose for installations of tile and stone,” said Maria Oliveira, LATICRETE, Corporate Marketing Manager. “The ability to accent tile and stone designs with LATICRETE grout allows industry professionals to explore options and personalize each space. The full range of LATICRETE grout products are GREENGUARD for Children & Schools certified for promoting healthy indoor air quality.

On other news, LATICRETE has continued to strengthen its technical services division at world headquarters in Bethany with the announcement that Dave Barbagallo has joined the team as Training Coordinator/Technical Services Representative. LATICRETE runs continuous training sessions and demonstrations throughout the year, and in his new role Barbagallo will primarily be in charge of the planning and execution of these programs. He will also work closely with the rest of the technical services team in recommending certain materials and methods for specific applications of tile and stone, as well as assisting with troubleshooting projects in the field. Barbagallo joins LATICRETE after nearly 20 years working directly in the flooring business. Positions in customer service, retail sales, and as the owner of a tile and stone installation business for the last 13 years, provided him with a broad range of experiences in the industry. At LATICRETE, Barbagallo will get to pass this knowledge along to tile and stone contractors, architects, designers and other specification professionals from around the world, largely through his main responsibility in coordinating the LATICRETE “Profit through Knowledge” training program. Utilizing classroom instruction and hands-on demonstrations, the intensive, two-day seminar covers a broad range of topics from product performance requirements to industry standards, while providing a complete overview of LATICRETE materials and methods for the permanent, problem-free installation of tile and stone. www.laticrete.com

ELIANE DETAILS SUSTAINABILITY
For years, the firm Eliane Ceramic Tiles has been focused on virtually every aspect of the worldwide green movement. Sustainability via the manufacturing process is one of them. The monoporosa (single fi red) manufacturing process at Eliane reuses 20% of the raw materials incorporated in the ceramic paste production process. These reused materials include E.T.E. Compound, a substance derived from the liquid effl uent treatment process which takes place in three Eliane factories located in Cocal do Sul, state of Catarina. This effluent is made up of residues from the paste and glaze preparation sectors, residues from the glazing lines, and water from the dye preparation of tile material that calls for water for washing. Solids and liquids are separated; the resulting solids are called “E.T.E Mud.” This mud material is subsequently channeled to the blending operation area, where it is combined with raw tile breakage material (before fi ring) and chamotte (from fi red pieces) into a blend which then forms the monoporossa/single fi ring compounds. “Return” is the name given to tiles which break during the manufacturing process. This breakage material can be material generated from tiles breaking during both wet and dry production procedures. After the composition qualifi es to meet technical characteristics for reuse in manufacturing, the residues are blended (return, chamotte and E.T.E mud), homogenized and then closely analyzed for verifi cation of established patterns. Once OK’d, the compound may then be reused in the ceramic paste. Eliane also reuses water in the ceramic paste preparation process. Most of the water used in all production processes is recycled. After it is separated from liquid effl uents, the water is treated and almost 100% reused. “Eliane has been a leader in energy conservation and in the recycling of waste material for many years,” stated Edson Gaidzinski, Jr., Eliane’s CEO. “We actually were an “ecofriendly” manufacturer even before the term was globally recognized as being synonymous with ‘green.’” www.elianeusa.com

BONEYARD BRICK™
Trikeenan Tileworks® has released Boneyard Brick™, a highly durable glazed thin brick product that combines reclaimed materials from two factories. Post-industrial waste from Trikeenan and Metropolitan Ceramics, a thin-brick manufacturer, creates the Boneyard Brick collection. Trikeenan uses salvaged thin brick from Metropolitan’s METROBRICK ‘boneyard,’ then glazes it with their own recycled glazes. Trikeenan utilizes a closed loop system, meaning there is no glaze or clay waste leaving the factory. Clean water in, clean water out. 100% glaze waste is reused in this process. The resulting products have 95% recycled content, and are 100% VOC free. “After 100 years of manufacturing brick and related products, METROBRICK had accumulated an impressive boneyard of perfectly serviceable thin brick,” says Trikeenan co-owner Stephen Powers. “The boneyard brick’s defects – slight shifts in body colour and size – are a natural palette for our glazes, and an ideal material for all interior wall tile and exterior thin brick applications. We realized that combining their scrap and our reclaimed glazes would result in a really unique, socially responsible new product with strong appeal to the commercial A&D market. We took the waste from two factories and created a beautiful, useful product that will last another lifetime.” Boneyard Brick can be specifi ed in the most demanding of interior and exterior wall cladding environments. Glazed thin brick has the added advantage of being suitable for wet areas, especially those needing sanitary surfaces such as commercial kitchens, bathrooms, pools and spas. The reduced absorption of glazed brick also reduces or eliminates spalling and effl orescence. Plus being fully green, Boneyard Brick helps in your quest for LEED credit. Boneyard Brick is offered in 15 colours and three sizes: Modular – 2 1/4 x 7 5/8”, Norman – 2 1/4 x 11 5/8” and Utility – 3 5/8 x 11 5/8”. Edge cap and corner pieces are also available, as are custom colors. All brick is 5/8” thick including a dovetail back that locks into mortar. www.trikeenan.com

QUARTEZ
Florida Tile has introduced Quartez, its newest HDP-High Definition Color Body Porcelain Tile collection inspired by the durability and beauty of natural quartzite. “Much like naturally occurring quartzite, which begins as a soft sandstone until the earth’s pressure and heat transform it into a robust rock resistant to chemical weathering, Florida Tile’s Quartez series is similarly as rugged as it is beautiful,” says Sean Cilona, Florida Tile’s Marketing Director.“Designer-wise, Quartez is full of rich earth tones, high shade variations and metallic highlights. Like its inspiration, Quartez is extremely resistant to wear and tear. Not only is it beautiful enough for the most highfashion residential interiors, Quartez is also tough enough to be rated for both commercial and exterior applications,” Cilona said. Because Quartez tile is crafted using a clefted punch, each surface features a heavy, natural- looking texture which contributes to slip resistance yet makes the tile soft to the touch.The initial Quartez release is in three main colors. Individual tiles are manufactured to achieve the highest variety of color for a truly natural and random effect: Citadel, the darkest and most varied option for the boldest of statements; Fortress, a gray-green adaptive to any environment and a cool look for today’s modern interiors; and Cornerstone, a neutral play on upscale, rich golden tones, ideal for brightening any room’s floor or walls. Quartez is featured in three sizes 12×12 and 18×18 and 12×24.“Quartez is available immediately as a full collection, including bullnose, cove base and corners, listellos and a host of mosaics (notably the a dimensional split-face mosaic for wall accents or backsplashes). This is what one would expect from a premium line with crossover appeal,” Cilona concluded. Quartez is MADE IN THE USA by Florida Tile. It is ADA-compliant and Greenguard® and Porcelain Tile certified. Each tile contains 10% recycled content. www.floridatile.com


Editor’s Desk
 
January 1st, 2011

by Janet Arden

Welcome to the pages of the new, improved TileDealer!

For some time now we have wanted to streamline our look with cleaner typefaces and clearer, easier-to-identify departments. And because tile is very much a fashion item, we also wanted the tiles and designs to speak for themselves. I hope we have succeeded.

However, good looks are just one aspect of TileDealer. We are committed to continuing to deliver industry trends, insight and information you can use now to run a more profitable, more successful business.

In fact, this issue meets all those needs:

1.“Crossing the Line” discusses the growing marketplace for exterior tile installations on decks, pools and those trendy new outdoor kitchens.

2. “Recession Lessons” takes a look at what survivors of the recent economic meltdown have learned about running a business in tough times and how they’ll use that knowledge going forward.

3. “One-on-One” talks with the Tile Doctor, Curt Rapp, who also happens to be the founder of Tile Partners for Humanity and the driving force behind a remarkable new product for antimicrobial treatment.

4. “Showroom Seminar” offers a case study in designing from the floor up for a new showroom packed with vignettes that sell! In the months ahead, TileDealer will continue to deliver the same first-rate industry information and business data you have come to expect.

A few of the upcoming highlights include the annual color preview in our coverings issue, along with a look at artisan tiles. This issue will also be available in print at Coverings. The May/ June green building issue will cover the latest green materials and the business of selling sustainability; the July/August back-to-school issue will consider training opportunities for the tile industry as well as trends in stone. September/October takes an important look “Beneath the Surface” at underlayment, underfloor heat and why floors fail. The November/ December issue is designed to help you plan for a more profitable 2012, including smarter shipping and warehousing and building your business by working with designers, architects and specifiers. As always, each issue will include Innovations & Insights, Showroom Seminar, One-on-One Interviews, and more.

Stay with us in 2011. It’s going to be a great year!

Janet Arden
Editor


Sales & Marketing: Listen Up!
 
January 1st, 2011

 

Take the Super Bowl ads. We talk about them before they’re even on TV. How many can you remember now? My guess is you’ll recall those that were of ‘interest’ to you. You listened to them. We all ‘heard’ them. We watched them. But again, how many did we really listen to?

Ok, heads up. Here are six easy steps to becoming a better listener. There are more, for sure, but starting with these will help you a lot.

1. Decide to be a better listener. That’s like an attitude. You can really decide to be a good listener. It’s a decision. Will everything be of interest or value to you? Maybe not, but not listening might be dangerous. So make a mental decision to listen better to those you talk with, especially if you have asked them a question and they answer. You need to LISTEN to them.

2. Welcome the customer on the phone or in person; in business or at a social event. We need to make the person feel welcomed. That in turn helps make you a much better listener. Be obviously friendly when you’re talking with a customer. And it’s got to be sincere. Most folks can tell when you’re not. So bring a welcoming phrase to the table and use it to make the customer feel as though he’s a long lost friend!

3. Concentrate. This is not the time for multi-tasking. And today, we can all turn to the left or right and catch someone texting and probably having an in-person conversation as well. One of these things will be in trouble. We simply cannot do two things well at once. Your concentration must be on the customer, again, in person or on the phone. Do nothing else but ‘listen.’

4. Keep an open mind. Why do we need to do this? I’ll tell you why. There are some of us who think we know what the other person is going to say before they say it and so we interrupt or interject our comments before the customer can answer. That’s not keeping an open mind. That’s interrupting. Some of the time we’re right and we do know what the person will say. But it’s important to put your teeth in your tongue and not interrupt. By keeping an open mind you’ll gain more information as well.

5. Give verbal feedback. Talking with someone and not acknowledging what they’re talking about is very frustrating for them; especially on the phone, because we don’t even have body language to check out. So a few “I see,” “That’s good,” “OK,” “Interesting,” and a few words and phrases like that help the person feel as though you’re listening and listening well. In person, you have the ability to nod and smile and they can SEE your expressions. However, on the phone, we need verbal feedback. And be careful we’re not saying the same word over and over. Like OK, OK, OK, OK. That’s boring to both of you.

6. Take notes as you talk. And yes, even in person. That’s perfectly acceptable! Taking notes and letting the person know you are doing it is a sign of great interest. I do it all the time when I’m on the phone. I tell the client, “I’m taking notes so we can refer to them later and so I don’t forget what you’re saying.” No one has ever said, “Don’t do that.” Most say, “Good, that’s super!” Taking notes so you can refer back is a big compliment. Don’t forget to do it.

NANCY FRIEDMAN, customer service and sales expert, is available to speak at your association conference or corporate event.  You can also contact Nancy directly via email nancy@telephonedoctor.com to discuss your specific needs.

Foster and Clark Real Estate
CTDA - Online Education
CTDA - Membership