NAC Products Celebrates 30 Years
 
May 1st, 2013

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Congratulations NAC Products on 30 years of industry service! (Photo above, Tom Duve of NAC Products, cuts cake and serves champagne at Coverings)


Awards at Coverings
 
April 30th, 2013

The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association presented its first Supplier of the Year Award to Florida Tile. The winner is selected by CTDA members who ranked candidates in ten criteria categories.

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In another presentation, the Clear family,owners of Fin Pan, accepted the Giving Green Award from Tile Partners for Humanity for their commitment to the organization. FinPan has donated more than 100 truckloads of backer board and related materials oner the last two years.


Smaller Partnerships Lead to Grander Plans
 
February 28th, 2013

A few years ago, CTDA, along with NTCA and TCNA blended their annual meetings into a single, industry-wide event, Total Solutions Plus (TSP). Although many participants initially viewed TSP as more efficient way to meet (and it is), by combining travel, time away from one’s own business and even the financial obligations that go along with attending major industry events, into a single meeting, the result has quickly become greater than the sum of its parts.

Today TSP is the most comprehensive industry event, offering networking across the supply chain, a broader variety of seminar opportunities, more dynamic keynote presentations, and a table top show to introduce the latest products to those professionals who really make the decisions.  This year, the Tile Contractors Association of America (TCAA) has joined the CTDA, NTCA, and TCNA to jointly host the 2013 Total Solutions Plus October 26-29 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Those of us who have been involved with TSP from the beginning realize that this growth underscores that what we are doing at TSP and in CTDA is moving the tile business forward in ways we’ve never seen before.TSP_new_logo


The Word is Commitment.
 
February 25th, 2013

Frank Donahue, CTDA president

Donahue

Last week, members of the Board of Directors  and all Committee Chairperson of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) took time from their busy schedules to travel to the association office just outside Chicago to meet and plan for activities in 2013 and beyond.  (You read this correctly: they traveled to Chicago in February; no golf, no poolside reception.) What drives this kind of commitment?

The first driver is leadership. These individuals are leaders. They are the industry leaders in ceramic tile distribution and manufacturing, many of them representing the second generation in the industry and in CTDA. They understand the power of face-to-face meetings and the energy they generate.

Involvement offers rewards. CTDA leaders and members alike have built their businesses and their reputations on contributing to the greater good of the industry, the power of networking and of industry education. They understand that although it’s not always easy to leave the business for even a day or two, they always return a little smarter for the effort.

 


Welcome Generations X and Y
 
November 14th, 2012

I’m just returning from Palm Springs and this year’s Total Solutions Plus. Initially, we were all a bit skeptical at the prospect of combining TCNA’s, CTDA’s, and NTCA’s fall events into a single event. But after three years of phenomenally successful events, I think it’s safe to conclude that it was a great idea. If you didn’t attend, I would strongly encourage you to get signed up for next year. And if you did attend, consider bringing additional members of your team next time. With the rich educational content, the event provides an excellent opportunity to train members of your sales team on topics ranging from thin tile to greenbuilding to a wide variety of installation demonstrations.

Attendees will also recall that I made a call for involving the next generation. When Connie Podesta, our keynote speaker, had everyone 35 and under raise their hands, I counted no more than a couple of dozen people in a room of 400. This is a problem. The long term health of our businesses and our industry will hinge on whether we make a smooth transition of leadership from the baby boomers to Generations X and Y. If we don’t bring the rising stars in our organizations to industry events like Total Solutions Plus and Coverings, how can we expect them to make the connections and get the education they need to lead our organizations in the future? Forward thinking businesses like Century Tile in Illinois and D&B Tile in Florida have consistently brought younger members of their leadership teams to industry events. Exposing the next generation to distributors, dealers, installers and manufacturers from around the country broadens their business perspective and provides them with peers to call upon when confronting challenges. Our young leaders also have the energy and passion to carry what they learn back to our organizations. Each year upon returning from TSP, we hold a series of trainings with our staff to convey the key information we learned. Who better to lead these trainings than your rising stars? Of course, we also want to make sure that we hold onto these young talents. By investing in their careers and continuing education, you communicate how much you value them.

The CTDA Board is transitioning to new leadership as well at the end of the year. Frank Donahue, of Best Tile, will be taking over the presidency. He brings a passion for our industry and our association that we will all benefit from. Frank’s agenda for the next couple of years centers on increasing active membership by engaging current members in our committees—the primary vehicle for action in our association—and by recruiting new members. While many industry associations are struggling to find their footing right now, the CTDA is experiencing a renaissance. Sound finances, great events, expanding membership, and dynamic leadership all ensure that the CTDA is a must for distributors.


A 9-Point Plan for Industry Optimism
 
September 12th, 2012

Every once in a while a good pep talk is in order. Here are nine reasons why we in the tile industry should be optimistic.

1. Housing Starts. The number of housing starts have been steadily improving over the last several months. As the number of foreclosures inches down and housing inventories fall relative to demand, builders and buyers are sensing opportunity. And to add a little icing on the cake, the size of the new homes is increasing once again, after years of decline. Larger floorplans equals more tile.

2. Affordable Care Act. After two years of back and forth on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the law provides small businesses owners with some certainty regarding their healthcare budget lines. The tax credits available to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees will also be a welcome relief after years of escalating costs from insurers.

3. Strengthening Dollar. For those of us who import most of our tile, a strong dollar is a welcome sign. In the last year, the Euro has dropped nearly 20% in value against the US dollar. If you haven’t already discussed better pricing from your overseas suppliers, you should be doing so now.

4. Better Materials. Advances in ceramic technologies have improved the performance and the look of tile. High definition glazes, large format porcelain and thin tiles are all the result of new technologies that are improving the products we bring to market. In addition, grouts, adhesives, sealers and other sundries have all made great strides in the last decade, resulting in fewer claims, longer lasting installations, and less maintenance.

5. Better Installers. The recession in the construction business had at least one silver lining: it drove out many of the fly-by-night installers who got into the business for a quick buck during the boom. The installer who survived the recession is of a higher caliber, both in terms of quality of installation and customer service. In addition, installer certification courses like those offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation raise the standard. Installers are our key partners in the industry, since even the best looking tile won’t look good if the installation is bad.

6. Echo Boom First Time Buyers. Pessimists fret over the retirement of the baby boomers. Optimists look to the Echo Boom–children of the boomers–as the new source of economic stimulus. The Echo Boomers are hitting their thirties now and starting to purchase homes. While their tastes may be somewhat different than their parents, the Echo Boomers will be buying tile for their kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces and, who knows, maybe even their bedroom floors. Just think how elegant and functional one of our wood-look tiles with underlayment heating would be in a master bedroom.

7. Conclusion of the Presidential Campaign. Whoever you happen to be rooting for in November, we can all agree that presidential campaigns are not good for business. Advertising costs skyrockets as campaigns buy up all the airspace, and the general uncertainty about the direction of the federal government causes businesses and individuals to put a hold on major initiatives. The good news is that it will all be over in just a few short weeks.

8. Healthy Homes. American consumers are paying closer attention to the importance of safe and healthy materials in the construction of their homes. They are concerned about increasing asthma and allergy rates among children linked to chemicals used in many of the products found in our homes. Unlike many of our competitors’ goods, tile emits no volatile organic compounds, does not require the use of harsh finishing goods and is simple to clean. Tile also is mold-resistant.

9. Sustainability. Last but not least, tile is the most sustainable flooring material on the market. There is plenty of hype around bamboo, recycled carpet, and whatever the latest green product is, but once all of the factors are weighed, nothing comes close to tile. The raw materials are abundant and available close to the point of production. Production is clean and energy efficient. Installation does not require harsh chemicals. Maintenance is simple. And, most importantly, tile lasts as long or longer than anything else out there. Ask a carpet rep to give an example of a hundred year old carpet installation and then show him a thousand year old tile installation in the churches of Europe.

Now is a great time to be in the tile business.

Ryan Calkins
Statements Tile & Stone


Are You OPEN for Business?
 
June 6th, 2012

As an early adopter of social media for marketing, I’ve had a number of distributors ask me why I put time and money into social networks. At the most basic level, not having a social media presence is like opening a business and not putting a sign over your door. Many of your customers will still find you, but why make it difficult? For most of your customers—especially the Gen Xers and Millenials who are buying their first homes—their first impression of your business will be through a web search. Social media is the OPEN sign on your front door.

Here are a few insights from my experience with social media:

Start with one platform. At this point there are more social media platforms than people to use them: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare and the list goes on and on. Trying to have a legitimate presence on each of them overwhelms even the largest of companies, let alone small businesses. My advice would be to begin with Facebook, as it is the largest of the social networks. Facebook serves as a referral for businesses. When researching tile and stone, your potential customer will turn to your website and your Facebook page for an initial impression. Have any of their friends “liked” your page? What do your customers say on your wall? Do you have beautiful installation images in your photo galleries?

Set realistic expectations. In social media circles, it’s not uncommon to hear about campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers. Is this really your goal? I hope not. Instead, set goals based on how many social media users you can convert to paying customers. You may only reach a few hundred people with your social media efforts, but if your campaigns result in ten new customers a month, that would certainly constitute success in my book.

Focus on your core constituency. One of the first revelations I had when tinkering with social media was to understand how my core constituency uses social media. Sure, a lot of 18 year-olds are lighting up Twitter with their constant tweeting, but they’re not buying my tile. Rather, it’s the forty-something, married mother-of-two updating her Facebook status with pictures from the family vacation. So where should I position my company on social media? Where my consumers are.

What should you say? Once you have your Facebook account set up, the next step is to start producing content for your page. But what kinds of things should you put on your Facebook page? The best content is to answer your customers’ questions. How will this tile look once it’s installed? (Create galleries of installation images.) What kind of adhesive should I use with glass tile? (Post a link to the installation instructions on your vendor’s website.) Can you recommend an installer? (Link to the CTEF page for certified installers or to the website of a trusted installation company).

Finally, set up automatic monitoring. Social media sites usually allow you to set up alert systems that will notify you daily or weekly of your results, including number of users, visits, comments, and clicks. By monitoring your social media accounts, you’ll be able to refine your content based on what works best and what flops. You’ll also be able to respond quickly to any negative comments.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, find the social media guru in your organization and let them take it on. Give them clear guidance and a couple of hours a week to devote to your business’ social media presence. They’ll make sure the OPEN sign is lit up.


Leadership Letter: You Are the Expert
 
September 1st, 2011

 

Ryan Calkins

I’m an avid reader. Books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, industry reports— you name it. I read because I love to. But I also read because I want to be informed. I want to know what’s going on in the world, what others think about issues that I’m addressing, and because it helps me understand the world beyond my own experience. And yet in spite of that, my advice for you this month is to stop reading. Correction: finish this issue of TileDealer, and then stop reading.

As business owners, executives, and sales professionals, we are under a constant barrage of information. Much of this information carries real value for us as business leaders, but we have to be judicious in the amount of time we spend mulling over the information. We assume, rightly, that availing ourselves of the best information before making a decision—on where to invest or how to plan the next marketing campaign or who to hire—will produce a better result. But then we take that assumption too far and have a hard time acting.

In business, sometimes making the wrong decision is better than making no decision at all. As an example, consider the decision-making process around new product selection. The potential benefits of a good decision can be huge, as can the consequences of a bad decision. We can all think of half a dozen lines that simply gather dust on the warehouse shelves, as well as those lines that sell like hotcakes. So we deliberate about costs, style, sizes, trims, and every other detail. Maybe we even conduct a little market research. We also think that waiting a little bit might buy us time to see what others are doing. But what happens if we take too long to make a decision? Inevitably the best lines are snatched up by our competition, and we are left with the lines no one else wanted.

While picking a great tile line is a big decision, who out there is better suited to make that decision than you? Your banker? The reporter who wrote the article in the paper about the housing crisis? The interior designer who is trying to keep tabs on tile, carpet, blinds, plumbing fixtures, paint colors and countless other finishes? None of the above. You are the expert. And the same can be said for every key aspect of your business. Who better than you to decide when to add a new location or hire a new salesperson? Only you have the overall understanding of your business and the broad view of your market to be able to assess these questions. No one else is going to make these decisions for you, nor should they.

My message is pretty simple. Trust your gut. Be confident in your ability to make the right decision. Stop reading, thinking, mulling, considering, and deliberating. Start doing.

Ryan Calkins
CTDA President


Editor’s Desk: Tougher Times and Tougher Solutions
 
September 1st, 2011

 

Janet Arden

Today one of the economic headlines reports that home prices are up for the third month in a row. But, the analyst cautions, this is at least in part a seasonal effect. Good news, it seems, is always delivered these days with a dose of caution. And there have been many days when good news has been hard to come by. I would be tempted to hide under the covers or, as a favorite children’s book recommends, move to Australia.

But the fact is the best way to deal with tough times is often to meet them head on. This issue of TileDealer has a few suggestions:

1. Give your customers great style. Manufacturers are tapping into technologies like high definition printing to produce tiles that mimic stone and wood so perfectly, even the experts need a second, closer look. Florida Tile has introduced a number of remarkable new lines using this technology, and in this month’s One-on-One, Director of Marketing Sean Cilona describes some of that company’s development process and aspirations for the future.
2. Give your customers affordable luxury. Underfloor heat has moved from the high-end marketplace to a mainstream position. It’s affordable, doable and homeowners love it. If you aren’t making it available and promoting it, you are leaving money on the table. It should be an upsell with every installation.
3. Give your customers a great installation. When it comes to the latest in tile trends, bigger is often better. Large format tile is among the fastest growing trends, and the formats are getting larger with each installation. But sellers and buyers need to beware: large format tiles have specific installation demands. Tile consultant Dave Gobis talks about why large format can fail and how to avoid it.
4. Give yourself the tools to succeed. Total Solutions Plus is November 7-11 in Chandler (Phoenix), Arizona. Jointly sponsored by CTDA, NTCA and TCNA, TSP offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to meet and network with industry peers, learn about the latest trends and techniques, sharpen your business skills at industry-specific seminars and, most importantly, shape your business for 2012. Attendees in 2010 called it one of the best business investments they made. Expect an even better event in 2011! For more information and to register, please follow this link: http:// ctdahome.org/tsp/2011/

There are no easy answers in today’s marketplace. The ideas here share traditional values like quality, customer service, and industry knowledge. These may not be short-cut solutions, but they are “tried and true.”

See you at Total Solutions Plus!

Janet Arden
Editor


Leadership Letter: Get Out!
 
July 1st, 2011

Ryan Calkins

As a CTDA board member and officer, I’ve had the chance to speak with many of our industry leaders about business and life. In those conversations, I’ve noticed a few traits that all successful leaders share. One characteristic is that the most successful business leaders in our industry make time to get away from their businesses. They take vacations. They attend conferences. And they go out and find new opportunity, rather than waiting for it to knock on their door.

Time away serves a number of purposes. First, it allows you to look at the whole business—the high-altitude perspective, so to speak. When you are immersed in the day-to-day operations of your business, it is simply not possible to take in the whole picture. The demands of AR or customer needs or next month’s marketing plan overwhelm the less urgent but much more important long term planning. Second, time away requires that your employees step up and take care of the shop while you are gone. Third, time away provides new perspectives on how to run your business. If all you ever see is how things are done in your neck of the woods, how are you ever going to get the inspiration to innovate your business in a way that makes you more competitive, more profi table, and more valuable to your customers? Finally, time away includes the conferences, exhibitions, and trade missions that create and strengthen relationships, reveal new opportunities, and educate you on the latest trends.

One essential event is the revamped Total Solutions Plus conference, which takes place each year in late fall. This year, TSP will be held on November 7-11 in Chandler, Arizona, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. TSP 2011 builds on last year’s highly lauded gathering of the CTDA, the Tile Council of North America, and the National Tile Contractors Association. As always, there will be ample time to network with other industry leaders in formal and informal settings, as well as educational sessions on pressing topics for the tile business (e.g. Donato Grosser’s report on changes in ceramic tile distribution, a session on navigating new customs regulations, and the latest on green building standards from Bill Griese). And this year’s keynote speaker is one we will all be talking about for years to come. Marcus Luttrell, a former Navy SEAL and the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, will share his inspiring story of extreme courage and overcoming impossible odds.

If you haven’t already, please visit CTDAhome.org to sign up for Total Solutions Plus 2011.

Ryan Calkins
CTDA President

One final note. The CTDA community is mourning the loss of a dear friend and colleague. Ronald Gilmartin of Design Materials, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas passed away in June.

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