Who Needs Training and Why?
July 1st, 2011

Industry Education Gives Your Company a Competitive Advantage

Continuing education to keep up-to-date with the way things are, rather than the way things were, is a fact of modern life. This could not be truer in today’s tile and stone industry. Everyone who wants to stay ahead of the competition and take advantage of new marketplace opportunities needs to leverage the latest industry information, a.k.a., industry education. The tile and stone industry has a number of excellent education and training resources. Because some of the biggest challenges are fitting training into our budgets and schedules, there are a number of cost-and time-effective training options available.

Instructor led or traditional classroom training is most familiar. It allows interaction between teacher and student, as well as discussion among students. This is also the most effective way to deliver hands-on training, where the student is required to complete tasks in simulated real world environments. It’s also a costly delivery method due to travel and lodging expenses in combination with the loss of productivity due to time away from work. (According to Bersin & Associations, in 2009 as much as 40 cents of every dollar spent on training was spent on travel and lodging.) That’s why many professionals leverage classroom offerings that are part of a larger industry event, like Coverings or Total Solutions Plus.

E-learning uses web-based programs on the Internet. Online training can be either synchronous, where the learners and instructor meet at the same time in a virtual setting, or asynchronous, at one’s own pace. Synchronous training is typically done through webinars, which allow for live two-way communication between instructor and student. It is also used as web conferencing, where teacher and students can meet, or student groups can collaborate. CTDA maximizes this format in monthly webinars that allow companies to sign up as many individuals as they would like from one location making it even more cost effi cient.

Asynchronous training allows the student to login 24/7 to take a course at their own pace. In addition to cost benefi ts, online training respects today’s busy work schedules, as it can often be completed at any time or place (with exception to synchronous webinar training) as long as there is a computer with an internet connection. Online training also means employees don’t miss work or any opportunities to sell their products. According to ASTD, in 2009, 36.5% of learning was technology based.

Mobile learning (mLearning) that takes place through a device such as a phone or iPad is increasingly common although many of us are not even aware that we are doing it. Every time we Google from a phone, text 411 to get a phone number, text someone a question, or use a social media platform from our phone, we are taking part in the mobile learning phenomenon. The fact that much online training can also be completed on a mobile device makes it the most convenient way for people to learn on the go. Currently, technology is trying to “catch up” so that the traditional eLearning courses are accessible on all mobile device platforms, but for now there are still some limitations.

All of these training mediums have their benefi ts and drawbacks, which is why a blended learning approach is considered to be the most effective way for someone to learn. Blended learning is a combination of online and instructor-led training, which harnesses the benefits of both types of training in order to maximize knowledge transfer to the student.

Options in the tile industry
The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) has been providing industry training since 2002, with flagship courses on ceramic tile and stone training, as well as an upcoming course for tile installers on thin-set application. Tile and stone courses are designed to teach sales reps, installers, designers, and architects all of the many facets of tile and stone. With an emphasis in consultative sales techniques, these courses are popular among distributors and dealers who not only utilize them to train their sales organizations how to maximize every sales opportunity, but to train their customers so they can sell more of their products.

The upcoming thin-set installation course will teach industry standards and proper techniques for thin-set applications for all types of tiles. This course is for all industry installers whose goal is to limit liability and reduce the likelihood of failures.

The UofCTS also develops private labeled eLearning content for companies who need training on specific products. UofCTS offers a fully functional LMS online campus for providing self-paced or live courses. The Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) offers UofCTS online training courses to their members at a significant discount through their CTDA Online Education program.

These courses help CTDA members to increase revenue by making their employees more effective at their jobs, and at a reduced price, further increasing the benefit to CTDA members. CTDA members can log onto the CTDA website for more information and to purchase these courses. CTDA also offers the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program, the only certification designed specifically for salespeople.

CTDA’s monthly webinar series features industry experts who present information on various industry specific topics as well as general subjects such as economics, business, and how to increase sales. Webinars are archived so CTDA members can watch them at their convenience at a reduced price. NTCA offers hands-on symposiums, training seminars, customized training programs, and a library of training manuals, books and videos. The symposiums are fast-paced technical presentations hosted by NTCA’s director of training and education as well as by industry experts. The training manuals, books, and videos cover a wide variety of construction and installation topics and are available for purchase on the NTCA website.

In addition, NTCA plans to provide their members with privately branded UofCTS training courses. The Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) specializes in standards-based installation training and certification that covers installation techniques and best practices. They provide hands-on and lecture-based training to many industry segments with an overall goal of raising the quality of ceramic tile installation.

MIA offers a blend of educational offerings, from instructor-led to online webinars. MIA, in conjunction with Stone World Magazine, offers stone industry education events on topics from fabrication to installation and marketing. They also offer free webinars to MIA members on topics such as website optimization, employment practice liability, and making money in a tough economy. MIA also offers a wide variety of DVD training available in their online store.

International Industry E-Learning Academy (IIEA), sponsored by Italian Association for Machines for Ceramic Tile (ACIMAC), is an Italian company that develops and sells technical and business e-learning courses on an LMS platform for the global industry. UofCTS is representing IIEA in North America and will soon be offering online training for ceramic tile manufacturers and others within the industry.

There are other options for training and education in our industry such as Fred Jackson with Estudio Group, who provides instructor-led training on various subjects such as ceramic tile and stone basics, care and maintenance, and green issues. In addition, there are other online and instructor-led training providers in our industry as well as a plethora of “how to” videos on YouTube and even forums like John Bridge’s Ceramic Tile Advice Forum, where you can post questions and give advice to others.

Education should be proactive, not reactive. With the current state of the economy and no significant shortterm improvement in sight, it is up to us to improve ourselves and give our businesses a competitive advantage to increase our opportunities and our income. We are fortunate to have so many training options that are tailored to what we do, designed by people who are in this industry and who are passionate about training in order to better our industry. Those who take advantage of these resources are the ones who will truly thrive.

JOSEPH L. RUSS is Director of E-Learning and Training Director for the UofCTS, responsible for new course development and the creation of customized courses. Russ is chief administrator of the Learning Management System (LMS), the educational technology behind the University, and manages business development and client relations.


Learning opportunities at Total Solutions Plus
When Total Solutions Plus convenes late this fall, attendees will have a wide selection of seminars and presentations to help keep them “in the know” about the latest tile and business trends. Here’s just a sampling of what to expect:

  •  Robin Grove: Challenges Dealing with Customs on Import Issues
  •  Bill Griese: Understanding Tile’s Role in Green Building
  •  NTCA: Glass Tile Installations and Demonstrations
  •  NTCA Training Director Gerald Sloan, along with highly acclaimed glass tile installation experts Greg Andrews and David Palmer.
  •  Josh Levinson and Greg Mowat: Exploring The Science of Natural Stone Tile Installations
  •  Shauna Causey: Designing a Website That Will Market Your Business and Increase Sales
  •  Josh Levinson, Nyle Wadford and James Woelfel: Using Installation Standards in Sales and Installation of Ceramic Tile and Natural Stone

For details, please follow the link at www.ctdahome.org

Editor’s Desk: Learning as a survival skill
July 1st, 2011

by Janet Arden

Janet Arden

If there are lessons to be learned from the current economy, one is that change is a constant and we need to adapt – to new business models, new customers, new materials. Another is that some basics – like customer service – never go out of vogue. Make sure your customer cannot get the same attention from a website as she can from your showroom. This issue of TileDealer is all about giving you the tools you need to succeed.

Lesson 1: The devil is in the showroom details
When we first talked about this issue’s feature on showrooms we anticipated a look at the latest display ideas, some tips on new lighting techniques, etc. But, when Zoe Voigt started talking to dealers and distributors with successful showrooms to see what/how they had done in the recent lean years, we learned a lot more.

Know your business, your products and your customers. This means staying on top of trends, understanding where you fit in your marketplace and identifying what your end users are interested in. Are they trendy? Budget conscious? Green? More than one distributor talked about the importance of customer service. Lila Tully of Rubble Tile in Minnetonka, Minnesota, points out, “We aren’t salespeople, we’re design consultants: we sell emotion, beauty, art, and creativity.”

As Barbara Gilmartin of Design Materials Inc., San Antonio, Texas, puts it: “People can buy from the internet, from China, the competition, from factories that sell direct. But what we offer is a different animal, and the market is not the same as it used to be. There has to be that personal level.” Keep it fresh. As Michael Dowd of Paramount Tile in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, points out, “I think it is important to continue to change the look of my showroom — to stay on top of what’s hot and to show it.” Organization is important, but not necessarily by manufacturer.

Lesson 2: Industry education never stops.
Whether you are training new employees on tile basics or experienced professionals on the latest trends, industry education never stops. And thanks to the latest trends in learning – like webinars and online education – there are no longer any excuses for not staying on top of the latest in materials, installations, green building, sales, and more. Industry education has never been more accessible or more important. It gives you the edge to distinguish you and your team from the competition.

Take a look at the latest available training options in “Who needs training & why.”

Janet Arden

Innovations & Insights
July 1st, 2011

New Products and Insights From the Tiling Industry


Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell

“Total Solutions Plus was the best business investment I made in 2010. I made several great contacts at the Table Top event, learned some valuable lessons from the seminar program and came away totally energized for the New Year. I am taking additional staff this year so they get the same educational advantage and we can cover more seminars!” – Harold Yarborough Total Solutions Plus offers you education, new markets, and nonstop networking with industry leaders. Don’t miss this opportunity to join the members of CTDA, TCNA and NTCA when they convene November 7-11, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, Arizona, for a tile industry event unlike any other. Participate in a fi rst-class seminar program that includes Donato Grosser on “The U.S. Economy and Changes in Ceramic Tile Distribution” and David Parker on “It’s Not Up-Selling, It’s Selling Right.” Learn how to deal with the current challenges in Customs and other import issues. Share your story and learn from other attendees at Distributors and Contractor forums. See the latest products at the Table Top Showcase. In a very special closing keynote on Veterans Day, November 11, hear retired Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, author of the New York Times bestselling book, Lone Survivor, tell the harrowing story of four Navy SEALs who journeyed into the mountainous border of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Operation Redwing.

Noble Company announced the official release of BIM (Building Information Modeling) objects covering the company’s most popular new product line, the FreeStyle Linear Drain. Working in conjunction with SMARTBIM, a leader in development of BIM objects, Noble Company provides these models for the growing number of architects using BIM’s drag-and-drop capability as their design tools of choice. The FreeStyle Linear Drain’s library of BIM objects is fully compatible with Autodesk® Revit®. These objects are located on the Noble Company website. The FreeStyle Linear Drain is ideal for curbless, barrier-free and handicapped showers in new construction or renovation. It is constructed of one-piece, seamless PVC or ABS with no manufacturing seams or weldments. The drain is engineered with an exclusive membrane clamping mechanism to ensure a completely watertight connection with the waterproofi ng membrane of the shower base. FreeStyle Linear Drains are available in six lengths and four brushed stainless strainer styles. Custom sizes are available for quantity orders. www.noblecompany.com

Nuheat logoThe Harmony, exclusively manufactured for Nuheat by Honeywell, is a single thermostat compatible with both 120V& 240V floor heating systems. The 7-day programmable thermostat continues to boast its designer inspired aesthetics, mounting flush into a standard doublegang electrical receptacle (behind any decora-style faceplate). Nuheat’s Harmony thermostat remains the only one of its kind in the floor heating industry. Offering a fusion between form and function, it has become a popular item with many designers and renovators. The enhanced dualvoltage feature now streamlines the purchasing process. Dual-Voltage Harmony: Increases energy effi ciency of any electric floor heating system; Has built-in G.F.C.I protection; and Boasts a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty. www.nuheat.com

GFCI EQUIPPED THERMOSTATS FROM EASYHEATTo give an added level of personal protection, EasyHeat has upgraded its entire line of floorwarming thermostats to include built-in Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter safety (GFCI). Dubbed the G Series, the new thermostats are identical in size, functionality, use of the floor temperature sensor, and mounting configuration to existing EasyHeat thermostats, making installation in new and retrofit applications simple. GFCI protection minimizes the risk of electrical shock and short outs. In fact, it is required by the NEC (US National Electric Code) for floorwarming systems installed in bathrooms. Incorporating a GFCI into the thermostat also saves the expense of purchasing separate Ground Fault Interrupter. EasyHeat G Series thermostats are available in 120V and 240V, in programmable or nonprogrammable designs. www.easyheat.com

The Grandeur series is the latest High Definition Porcelain introduction from Florida Tile. Created with the newest digital printing technology, this Breccia Marble has been the staple floor and wall covering for centuries. From the civic buildings that lined Palatine Hill and the palatial villas of roman emperors to the modern steel and glass high-rises of our global cityscapes, Marble is a timeless, classic look. A natural color palette offers 5 traditional colors, all inclusive of the strong, multichromatic veining that makes this look a style icon. This glazed porcelain is available in a natural and polished finished, a first for Florida Tile. The company is the first domestic manufacturer to offer a digitally printed product with a polished finish. Made possible through painstaking R&D, the finish will not harbor dirt and other debris. Sizes include 12×12, 18×18 and 9×18 in natural as well as 17×17 and 8.5×17 in polished and rectified. Floor and wall bullnose, chair rails, stops, listellos, decorative accents and mosaics are included. www.floridatile.com

Rovin Ceramics, a supplier of moist clay, raw materials, and other pottery supplies, will be moving to Ann Arbor and coming under the wing of Motawi Tileworks. After owning Rovin Ceramics for 27 years, and managing the company with Stephanie Keene, Ron, and Barbara Ruth, and Stephanie decided it was time to move on and pursue other venues. Rovin has been making the Tileworks’ special blend clay for more than a decade, since their orders got too big for legendary Ann Arbor potter J.T. Abernathy, to handle. Rovin Ceramics supplies schools, colleges and professional artists all over Michigan and Northern Ohio, as well as throughout the country. Nawal Motawi says “A lot of clay people rely on Rovin. And it has definitely served the Tileworks well. I think it’s a good business and I believe that my staff and I can carry it forward, continuing to provide Rovin’s customers with the kind of great service they are used to.” Motawi will continue the business without drastic changes except to move it to 253 Dino Drive, off Jackson Road, just west of Baker Road. Signature products Rovin Moist Clays, Bright Ice glaze and Soft Touch underglaze can all be produced on-site, as before. Heather Kitson will run Rovin Ceramics in it’s Ann Arbor incarnation. She has most recently been the manager of Motawi’s Wholesale Gift Tile department. According to Nawal Motawi: “Ms. Kitson is an inveterate planner, quite exacting and personable, a great person to run the new Rovin Ceramics.“ Ryanne Arecheja, Andy Bell, and Dave Beyer, all from Motawi Tileworks, will round out the Rovin staff. Former Rovin manager, Stephanie Keene has agreed to help with the transition. nmotawi@motawi.com


David Getty

Activant Solutions Inc. announces that David Getty has been named vice president of product development for its Wholesale Distribution Division. Since 2007, Getty has been Activant’s senior director of product engineering and development. He joined Activant in 1992 following graduation from college, and was an original member of the development team for Activant’s industry-leading Prophet 21® ERP platform. According to Kevin Roach, executive vice president and general manager of Activant’s Wholesale Distribution Division, “Over the last several years, Dave has led the division’s product development team through several major strategic initiatives, including a transformation to Scrum agile development, the integration of our Prophet 21 software with our B2B Seller™ and Trading Partner Connect™ products, the creation of important extensibility tools like DynaChange™ Portals and Rules, and the introduction of a suite of tools to track project development and quality metrics. We look forward to his continued direction in the development of our planned next generation products.” www.activant.com

From celebrities to soccer moms, every woman wants that perfect Hollywood smoky eye effect. Bellavita Tile has translated that makeup trend to tile with the H Line of mosaic tiles that offer an ever-so-slight smoky look for designing with tile. Offering a softly blended mix to upscale interiors, the H Line series subtly accents the features of the home in several different sizes and color styles. Choose from 4” x 16” and 3” x 6” formats or 1” x 1” mosaics. The collection has a glossy finish and comes in seven colors. The mosaics are available in seven solid colors plus three blends. A full collection of trims is also available. www.bellavitatile.com.

Parex USA, Inc. announced the launch of Burst, an add-a-pack accelerator additive for portland cement mortars. Burst is a powerful additive accelerant used to give portland cement products a “burst” of energy for faster setting times. It can be used to help speed up work times in most any portland cement mortar such as mud beds, masonry mortars, underlayments, thin sets and grouts. Burst: Accelerates set times for cement based products; Is handy and easy to use; Does not impede mortar attributes; Has a minimal effect to color of grouts; Eliminates the need for Rapid-set SKU’s; and Is excellent for repair work. “We are very excited by the introduction of Burst into the market,” said Luciano Tavares, Brand Manager for Merkrete. “Burst is the first product of its kind in our industry. We have received an overwhelming response in the field and we are confident that Burst will be a welcome tool in the tile setting industry.” www.merkrete.com.

Mediterranea has announced the launch of the Exotica collection of plank-sized, exotic hardwoodlook glazed porcelain tiles in colors and surface textures that reflect the uniqueness of the prized exotic rainforests species. Exotica from Mediterranea allows flooring dealers and distributors the luxury of offering a vibrant, true-to-life exotic woodlook glazed porcelain collection with consistent, timely delivery for increased inventory turns and profits. The Exotica series from Mediterranea has been made available for architects, interior designers and private homeowners in one standard, 6” x 24” plank-style format and five rich exotic hardwood color styles. Mediterranea has designed the Exotica series to feature the true hand-scraped or hand-brushed, aged-worn surface texture and shade variations that only exotic specietypes can provide. Exotica is now available in Oak, Chestnut, Cherry, Walnut and Espresso. Exotica is ideal for fast-paced, high-traffic commercial applications, mainstreet retail projects or upscale private residential settings. info@mediterreanea-usa.com

Leadership Letter: Green Goes Mainstream
May 3rd, 2011

Ryan Calkins

In the heady days before the Great Recession, the subject of “going green” was about as popular as an aardvark at an ant convention. It seemed like an unnecessary impediment to sales. Why make the buying process even more complicated for the consumer? And, anyway, the thinking went, give it a couple of years and this fad will go the way of acid-washed jeans.

Fast-forward to 2011. The only construction segment to grow through the recession was green building. At Coverings, every booth focused at least some attention on sustainability and entire seminars were devoted to the subject. So let’s take stock. How does the tile industry stack up on green? There’s good news and there’s bad news.

First the bad news. Competitive goods like carpets and hardwoods got a head start on going green. They were the early target of criticism by green advocates (rightfully) for an utter lack of sustainability, while tile did not receive much criticism. As a result, their industry leaders responded quickly and decisively, rolling out recycling programs, retooling factories, and ramping up major green marketing and PR efforts. Meanwhile only a few tile industry leaders were examining the question of sustainability. This shortsightedness gave our competitors a head start, and, although great strides have been made over the last couple of years, we are still playing catch up.

Now the good news. We may have come late to the green game, but we’re fi elding an all-star team. From production to usage to disposal— throughout the entire product life cycle—tile matches or exceeds the performance of every other fl oor or wallcovering category. Our factory partners have invested in closed loop technologies to reduce waste, energy consumption, and pollution at the point of production. As an example of how effective these closed loop factories are, one of my suppliers reports that the single greatest source of wastewater coming out of its factory (one of the largest in Italy) is the employee restroom.

Even more important than green production methods is tile’s performance when installed. Tile requires no harsh cleansers or periodic refinishes, can last hundreds of years, and contributes to healthy indoor air quality. And when it comes time for disposal, tile is inert, creating no danger of toxins leaching into the local groundwater. In addition, tile can be recycled which keeps it from reaching the landfill in the first place.

The task that remains is to educate the consumer on why tile is the best choice for the green-conscious. Start by educating yourself. Read through the green resources on the CTDA and TCNA websites. Make sure to attend one of Bill Griese’s seminars during the next trade show or management conference. Highlight the green efforts of our factory partners such as participation in Greenguard or other third party certifications. Create a page on your website that outlines what makes tile green. Finally, and most importantly, get your employees on board too—especially the sales staff—so that being green becomes a part of your organizational DNA.

Ryan Calkins
CTDA President

Innovations & Insights
May 3rd, 2011

Precision Tile Pro 2.0 is a tile layout and design program that allows tile retailers to plan and quote tile layouts as they generate drawings for customers, the company said. According to Phil Rittenhouse, president of Laurel Creek Software, the software helps tile retailers close more sales while reducing costs.”Visualization software like Precision Tile Pro allows tile retailers to show a customer how a tile layout will look in the customer’s space and explore their options with just a few clicks of the mouse.” he said. “The software’s high-quality full-color tile layouts are much easier for the customer to visualize than the traditional sample board and hand drawn sketches. This greatly simplifies the buying decision for customers and helps close sales more quickly.” Precision Tile Pro users agreed: “We made sketches on small pieces of scratch paper, and if a customer did not have the ability to visualize their tile design from that scratch paper and a loose tile sample or concept board, they would leave to “think about it” and often did not return.” said Stuart Nelson, VP Sales and Marketing of Doma Kitchen & Bath Showroom in Bridgeport, PA. “Now, we are able to secure sales more quickly, especially for those customers who are not able to visualize from sketches and samples. We can work with the customer to build a tile design right in front of their eyes.” This release adds new drawing tools to improve user productivity while maintaining exceptional ease-ofuse. Savvy retailers have found that they can now charge for their design services, which adds directly to their bottom line.”[Precision Tile Pro] allows us to charge a fee for measurement and design services, because we can use the software to create a tangible product for the customer in the form of a professional, full color, rendered tile design.” said Nelson, Precision Tile Pro also generates a detailed material list and quote that eliminates the problems of over or under estimating.” In a slow economy tile installers and retailers have found high-tech tools like Precision Tile Pro help them differentiate themselves in a competitive market. www.LaurelCreekSoftware.com

Building on the success of Total Solutions Plus in 2010, the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) will host Total Solution Plus 2011 in Chandler, Arizona, November 7-11. The 2010 debut of TSP in Naples, Florida, was a huge success, drawing on the considerable resources of the industry’s leading manufacturers, distributors and contractors. Expectations for 2011 are even higher. “I was very pleased with quality of the speakers and the Table Top session, but for me the best part of the 2010 Total Solutions Plus was the chance to network with key industry personnel. We already budgeted for attendance for the 2011 event in Phoenix” said Rick Baldini, Owner Sponga US, LLC. TSP offers each industry group a setting for their traditional annual meetings, along with a platform for dynamic joint keynote presentations and unparalleled networking. A table top session on Thursday offers exhibitors an especially valuable opportunity for face-to-face meetings with industry buyers and decision makers. As David Scalise of Tileware explained, “Because TileWare is an entirely new value for the industry, we decided to launch our new products at Total Solutions Plus. This more intimate platform proved to be a fantastic success. We were able to shake hands and develop relationships with many of the industry’s most prolific and influential distributors. TileWare will not only recommend this new marketing platform, but will be participating in a more significant way in 2011.”

Florida Tile continues adding to its new product portfolio with the launch of Pristine, a porcelain floor and ceramic wall tile series. Inspired by the classic Crema Marfil, Florida Tile’s design team has updated the look with a modern and contemporary twist on sizes and shading. According to Marketing Director Sean Cilona, Pristine features coordinated porcelain floor and ceramic wall tiles in one line. “Pristine’s new 9×18 format wall tile adds contemporary styling to a classic look and further extends a designer’s ability to create unique spaces. It’s available in two colors and three sizes: 12×12 and 18×18 for floors and walls and the all-new 9×18 wall format,” Cilona said. “The result is a classic natural stone look with a perfectly coordinated modern large format wall tile. The smooth texture and subtle veining give the rich look of marble with none of the maintenance associated with natural stone,” he added. The Pristine line features a light background with very delicate veining in subtle Greys and Oranges, both unique to classic Crema Marfil stone. Pristine is offered in a natural finished porcelain floor tile and a shiny ceramic wall tile. “These two classic warm tones transform any interior into a richly decorated personal palace, especially when finished with Pristine’s luxurious decorative elements,” said Cilona. Pristine is a complete collection, featuring bullnose, chair rails, decorative inserts, listellos and mosaics. Pristine is made in the USA and is Porcelain Tile and Greenguard® Certified and contains recycled content. Said Cilona, “Pristine’s high recycled content draws on Florida Tile’s recent start-up of a new scrap tile crushing facility last year which allows more post-production fired tile than ever to be crushed for reintroduction into the body of all tile made at our Lawrenceburg, Kentucky facility.” www.panariagroup.it

Tile Redi®’s pre-formed Redi Bench™ is now available for new shower construction or tub-to-shower renovation projects in residential or commercial settings. Tile Redi has garnered an international reputation as the leading supplier of pre-formed, one-piece shower pans and bases for hospitality and healthcare interior designers and specification pros. The innovative new Redi Bench can simply be screwed into the shower frame and becomes immediately ready to tile over. Pre-formed, one-piece Redi Bench models provide developers and architects the chance to add luxury to private residences and large-scale projects that might otherwise go without. The Redi Bench, can be installed in a fraction of the time it would take to custom build perhaps hundreds of shower benches in resort or healthcare settings. The Redi Bench provides one more option for the luxury design of new showers or in the renovation of existing ones when designing with porcelain, glass mosaic, natural stone and other solid surface materials.

Mark MacDonald

In other company news, Mark MacDonald, a seasoned sales professional within the tile and stone industries, has joined Tile Redi® as the firm’s newest Regional Sales Manager. MacDonald’s former employment includes key sales positions at Trend Group/USA; Granite Transformations; EmilCeramica; Marazzi USA and Florida Tile. Representing those factories, he serviced wholesale distribution, architects & designers, builders, retailers, private label (OEM) and more. “We are delighted to have an experienced sales professional on our staff,” stated Farrell Gerber, Executive Vice President of Sales for Tile Redi. “Our company has grown at a very consistent clip, even during these embattled times. With a person with Mark’s industry experience and personal rolodex, we are planning to accelerate our growth. And in doing so, continue to keep our customers very pleased with our products and service.” MacDonald will be working out of Tile Redi’s corporate headquarters in Coral Springs, Florida. www.tileredi.com

Tile design artisans at Mediterranea have produced a new collection of glazed porcelain tiles as unique and life-like as the process in nature that inspired them. Using its exclusive Dynamic HD Imaging™ program, featuring advanced software and the very latest in digital inkjet design transfer technology, Mountain Timber glazed porcelain tiles from Mediterranea have the look and appeal of fossilized wood that’s been petrifi ed, or transformed into natural stone. Mediterranea discovered this incredibly rare stone material and perfectly recreated the array of colors and surface textures in a glazed porcelain tile series for architects, designers and homeowners. Mountain Timber is available in three true-to-life color shades and two fully-rectifi ed sizes of 6×24” and 12×24”, complete with 2” x 2” meshbacked mosaics. Produced in the USA with LEED and LEED for Homes required levels of recycled content. www.mediterranea-usa.com

Kirby Davis

LATICRETE announced the promotion of Kirby Davis to National Specifications Manager for the LATICRETE Specialty Products Division (SPD). Davis will work closely with top architectural firms across the country to secure proprietary specifications for LATICRETE materials and methods. Davis played an integral role in developing the LATICRETE MVISTM specification for the direct adhered method of thin brick, manufactured and natural thin-stone masonry veneer installations during her time as LATICRETE Senior Architectural Specialist in the Texas region. Davis offers the architectural and design community her in-depth knowledge in specification review, AIA education seminars, LEED submittal evaluation and industry organization reports. Davis has CSI, CCTS, CDT, LEED AP BD+C certification, and currently is vice president of the Dallas chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute. She serves on the national committees for CSI on the Marketing Task Team, the Sustainability Practice Group and Construction Documents Education Program. As CSI CDT, Davis focuses on helping architectural firms improve the green aspect of their specifications with the complete range of LEED-compliant products manufactured by LATICRETE.

Bob Duke

LATICRETE also announced the promotion of Bob Duke to Technical Support and Training Specialist for the newly formed LATICRETE Specialty Products Division (SPD). Duke joined LATICRETE in the Texas Region in 2005. Duke played an integral role in developing the materials and methods for the LATICRETE MVISTM specification for the direct adhered method of thin brick, manufactured and natural thin-stone masonry veneer installation. With 27 years of experience in the tile and stone industry, Duke now fills a national senior sales position and will work to seek out new opportunities for the LATICRETE MVIS specification, as well as for additional product lines that fall under the LATICRETE Specialty Products Division.

In other news, LATICRETE has continued its long-standing commitment to the education, training and testing of end-user installers by contributing as one of the top-sponsors or “Signature Level” partners for the 2011 Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF) tesing program. In addition to financial support LATICRETE will continue to make materials donations for specific CTEF host testing sites and provide further assistance by making LATICRETE technical sales representatives available in each region as the installer testing program makes it way around the country. The CTEF provides the only certified tile installer program with a nationally recognized set of standards that includes testing the hands-on skills of each end-user along with a written evaluation to produce a verifiable CTEF Certified Tile Installer (CTI). The CTEF has the full support of several of the tile industry’s most important organizations including the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA) and Coverings. www.laticrete.com.

StonePeaks’ newest collections introduced during Coverings 2011, Raja, Materia 3D and TheStandard, satisfy a range of tastes and use technology exclusive to StonePeak: advanced ink jet technology, full-body combined with ink jet, and a new polishing technique – Satinato. Stone- Peak is the only American company to produce porcelain tile using these new technologies. RAJA is engineered to inspire the exotic slate found in the ancient quarries of India. StonePeak uses the most advanced ink jet technology on the market to interpret even the smallest details of the quarried slate. Raja is available in three varying colors, three sizes and comes with a complete trim package. Classic meets contemporary in the elegant Materia 3D collection. Designed for the A&D community, Materia 3D embodies the new trends in design using the latest full-body technology combined with ink jet, making Materia 3D unique to any other product. It is available in 5 stylish colors, two fi nishes and complemented by trims and mosaics. TheStandard brings new life to neutrals with four shades ranging from Creme to Dark Gray designed to fit every space. TheStandard comes in three sizes and two finishes, honed and Satinato, which is a new polishing technique exclusive to StonePeak in the United States. The Satinato finish gives a new sensory experience to ceramic tiles, making these neutrals a step above the rest. All StonePeak field tiles are made exclusively in the domestic manufacturing facility. www.stonepeakceramics.com

Commercial and residential construction contractors looking for a multipurpose, simple-to-use and easy to maintain color grout need look no further than ProSpec® ProColor Sanded or Unsanded Tile Grouts. Introduced in 2010, ProSpec’s ProColor Tile Grout portland-cement-based blend is fast becoming the grout of choice among high-end commercial and residential contractors across the country. ProSpec offers 38 designer colors in the ProColor Tile Grout line, each selected to complement a variety of tile and stone options. With options ranging from Navy to Moonlight and Evergreen to Aspen, the line is certain to include shades to suit any color pallet. The company also guarantees the color consistency of its product, ensuring that the color selected for the project is the same color that end users see once the project is completed. The product also boasts multiple application-friendly features. ProSpec’s ProColor Tile Grout is polymer modifi ed, so mixing is as simple as adding water. Once it’s mixed, the ProSpec Easy Float Formula promotes an extended bucketlife and excellent workability, ensuring a smooth and trouble-free grouting process. Clean-up is also a cinch thanks to reduced effl orescence and the product’s low absorption, which leads to reduced staining. “We created this product with the tile installer in mind,” says Seco. “We’ve been in this business for a very long time and we understand the issues our customers face out in the fi eld. We want to help solve those problems with products like our ProColor Tile Grout.” Versatility is another installer-friendly feature. The same product can be used on interior or exterior projects to grout ceramic tile, porcelain tile, pavers, cement tile, glass tile, quarry tile, slate and other natural stone. The company’s smooth, creamy formula makes it simple to apply – even on vertical surfaces – making ProColor Tile Grout ideal for wall, fl oor and even ceiling applications. All ProColor grouts feature Micro Defense® Technology, an anti-microbial additive that prevents the growth of mold and mildew. This revolutionary technology ensures that a tile project will remain as beautiful as the day it was installed. Additionally, the grout’s low-absorption properties also make maintenance so simple that it’s like having a sealer built in. www.prospec.com.

Quick Drain USA, has announced that architects, interior designers and construction professionals can earn AIA CES learning credits for participating in its course that features the revolutionary ProLine Drain. The stainless steel, low-profi le drain system was quickly recognized by industry leaders as the ultimate replacement for the traditional round-center drain for new showers, wetrooms or tub-to-shower renovation projects. The ADA-compliant universal drainage system now also provides online and/or active participation AIA CES course approved credits for the architectural specifi cation of the ProLine Drain. Offering the ability for uninterrupted designs with large-format tiles and endless possibilites for ADA-compliant, barrier-free showers or wetrooms, the ProLine Drain has been architecturally-specifi ed for some of the most prestigious hospitality, casino resort and healthcare facility projects by leading design fi rms and hotel brands. With the list of high-profi le project specifi cations continuing to roll out, more and more attention became focused on the ProLine Drain. The next logical step was to further increase awareness on the time and labor-saving installation benefi ts and unlimited design possibilities by offering AIA CES credits as a way to improve and revitalize the industry. www.quickdrainusa.com

Imagine Tile is excited to announce the unveiling of a new program! No longer are you limited by the color range from a typical ceramic tile manufacturer, Imagine Tile gives you infinite color possibilities including metallic and bright colors, allowing your imagination to run tiled. The Color Tile program is the perfect tool when you need just the right color for your project. Virtually any color can be replicated perfectly in durable commercially rated and eco-friendly ceramic tile for both floor and wall use. The color match process is easy. First, you pick a color target, which can be a Pantone color, paint swatch, University or corporate color or logo, piece of fabric, or really anything you want to match. Then, pick a size, or several sizes and Imagine Tile gets to work, formulating a glaze to match your specific needs. Samples are sent and if any changes are necessary revised samples are provided for your approval before production. These vibrant custom tiles are available in a wide range of sizes and finishes for floors, walls and counter tops. These tiles contain no VOC’s, require little maintenance, contain recycled materials and are sustainable with a long life cycle. The product contains pre-consumer recycled materials, which are sustainable and are ecological throughout their life cycle. The tiles contribute to certifying the sustainability of buildings, in accordance with the LEED system. Imagine Tile is a commercially rated ceramic tile company helping customers turn imagery into reality. Using patented glazing technology, Imagine Tile offers specialty surface designs that allow for the reproduction of textures, patterns, photos, illustrations and even three-dimensional images onto ceramic tiles. www.imaginetile.com

Eye on the Environment: Distinguish Your Business By Going Green
May 3rd, 2011

by Kathleen Furore

There’s a lot of “green” in the tile world these days. There’s “green” manufacturing, “green” home improvements, and “green” buildings that get “green” LEED certification. There is also a green impact beyond selling green products. First, green businesses save energy and other valuable resources and this adds up to real dollars saved on the bottom line. Green businesses are mindful of the waste they generate, recycle as many materials as possible, and focus on creating a healthy environment for employees and customers. Along with saving resources and money, they are demonstrating an increasingly important environmentally responsible attitude. In today’s competitive marketplace, there are benefits to maintaining a green business. As more and more consumers patronize environmentally friendly businesses, crafting a green business plan, then promoting it to the marketplace, can distinguish you from your competitors.

“There are plenty of reasons for tile dealers and distributors to make an effort to ‘green’ their businesses, but the most important may be that it can save them money,” says Mark Newberg, Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, US Small Business Administration. “Whether it’s sealing leaky windows or ductwork in their shops, or installing energy efficient lighting in their showrooms, combining energy efficiency upgrades with regularlyscheduled maintenance cycles can help reduce the time and effort associated with making these money-saving improvements.”

Taking the first green steps for your business.

Do your green research.
Use the resources here and elsewhere on the web to identify where your business has the most impact on the environment and human health. Are you using toxin-free raw materials where possible? Are you recycling or reusing applicable products? Is your office energy and resource efficient? Are you providing your staff with safe working conditions? Recruit a “green team.” Implementing green practices takes time and commitment. It’s not a one-person job and you may find that “buy-in” from employees will lead to greater success. Look for green leaders among your employees and ask if they would like to lead and/or participate in your greening efforts. Work with them to develop a company green mission statement and list of your top five green initiatives.

Benchmark and reduce your greenhouse gas emissions.
Many of the choices we make as individuals and as organizations have both direct and indirect impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. For example, driving a car directly impacts emissions, releasing CO2 into the air. Purchasing 100% post-consumer content recycled paper has an indirect impact on emissions by helping to preserve virgin forests, which process CO2 in the atmosphere. (EPA’s Climate Leaders Program and Carbon Disclosure Project offer additional resources.)

Saving Energy = Saving Dollars
Volatile energy costs – like current gasoline prices – have a significant impact on businesses. The impact is even more significant at times like the present, when the economy is limping out of a recession. Right now, energy conservation is one of the most significant ways businesses can save money, combat climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers a number of valuable tips to saving energy and your bottom line.

Heating and Air Conditioning.
Tune up HVAC systems before each cooling and heating season. Change (or clean if reusable) HVAC filters as prescribed by manufacturer. Install ENERGY STAR programmable thermostats to optimize your HVAC system based on your schedule. Control the amount of direct sun coming through your building’s glass windows. Use fans to maintain comfortable temperature, humidity and air movement, and save energy year round. Plug leaks with weather stripping and caulking.

Turn off lights and equipment when not in use. Adjust lighting to your actual needs; use free “daylight” during the day. Replace incandescent light bulbs with ENERGY STAR compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), wherever appropriate. Install switch plate occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present and back on when people return. Install ENERGY STAR qualified exit signs and save up to $10 dollars per sign annually in electricity costs while preventing up to 500 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Upgrade to T8 (1-inch diameter) fluorescent lamp tubes with solid-state electronic ballasts.

Green Business Resources
The resources below are a good starting point for tile dealers and distributors interested in creating and promoting an environmentally friendly “green” business.

The SBA’s Green Business Guide.
Offers information on topics including Green Marketing, Green Business Case Studies, Green Business Practices, Green Certification and Ecolabeling, Green Marketing Regulations, America’s Green Cities, Environmental Grants and Loans, Green Commuting and Green Product Development. For more information, visit www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting- managing-business/managing-business/runningbusiness/ green-business-guide

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Green Business Initiative is a group of projects specifically aimed at helping small to medium enterprises (SME’s) save money and reduce their environmental impacts. The projects aim to actively help SME’s to become more “resource efficient.” This means that they will use less energy, less water and fewer raw materials, in turn producing less waste and costing the business less money. The program even offers an opportunity to meet a Greenbusiness Advisor who can visit your business and identify money-saving steps you can take. To register and use the online audit tools that can help your business begin measuring resource use and identify where savings can be made, visit www.greenbusiness.ie.

EPA’s Quick Start to Green Programs (www.epa.gov/greenkit/ quick_start) can direct visitors to resources such as GreenBiz.com™, Business Voice of the Green Economy (www.greenbiz.com). It is the leading source for news, opinion, best practices, and other resources on the greening of mainstream business. Launched in 2000, its mission is to provide clear, concise, accurate, and balanced information, resources, and learning opportunities to help companies of all sizes and sectors integrate environmental responsibility into their operations in a manner that supports profitable business practices.

Office Equipment
Turn off machines, including computers, when they are not in use. Unplug appliances, or use a power strip and the strip’s on/ off switch to cut all power to the appliance when not in use. Many appliances draw a small amount of power when they are switched off. These “phantom” loads occur in most appliances including VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. Unplug battery chargers when batteries are fully charged or chargers are not in use. Use rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs.

Water Savings.
Fix leaks. Use water-saving faucets, showerheads and urinals. Buy the most efficient water heater possible. Consider “tankless” water heaters to reduce “standby” storage costs and waste. Set water temperature only as hot as needed (110-120 degrees). Landscape using plants native to your climate that require minimal watering and possess better pest resistance. Consider “gray water” for irrigation.

Waste Management.
Examine all waste streams—process wastes, hazardous wastes, non-hazardous wastes, solid wastes, and office waste. Look in trashcans and dumpsters to see what materials are being discarded and consider wastes poured down the drain such as rinse waters and process waters. Examine your energy and water consumption and look for high and low usage trends in your utility bills.

  • Characterize each waste stream. Determine where the waste comes from, what processes generate it, and how much is being discarded.
  • Evaluate all wastes for possible reduction. Determine how you can reduce each waste, evaluate your purchasing policies, and determine what you can reuse.
  • Identify potential production changes that would improve efficiency, including process, equipment, piping, and layout changes.
  • Investigate opportunities for new products or ingredients that prevent waste generation.
  • Identify resources that will help  you conduct a waste reduction assessment. Trade associations and regulatory agencies might be able to provide technical assistance, and your equipment vendor might have suggestions. Also consider hiring a consultant who specializes in identifying potential waste prevention measures.

Converting ‘Bait & Switch’ Customers
May 3rd, 2011


There is a new type of customer in town! We call them “bait and switch” customers. They walk in your establishment in search of tile. They ask a lot of questions about features, prices and delivery conditions. You take the bait and get excited. You can almost hear the cash register about to ring up a large sale. Then suddenly, the customer walks out telling you “I’ll check it out on the internet” and you never see them again! Sound familiar? Customers have changed since the advent of the internet and the anxiety of the recession. They are picky—only interested in getting value for their hard earned money. They are fickle—slow to show loyalty and quick to exit with the slightest hiccup. And, they are vain—only interested the “what’s in it for me” pursuit of customized products and personalized service. But, let’s look at it from the customer’s perspective.

Wholesaler Offer: My warehouse is not big enough to store plenty of everything you can imagine, so I only stock based on demand. The key item you want right now may take a while since I am dependent on the manufacturer. When you come to buy from me, location could be a challenge; we’re not likely to be just down the road. Then, there is parking when you arrive. You may have to wait for someone to help you if we’re busy. And, we can help you only during store hours. So, don’t be calling at night or on a Sunday!

E-tailer Offer: My warehouse is limited to the planet! You need it; I can get for you…and, fast. Any size, any color, and any amount. I can have it delivered wherever you need it—in the morning! And, you can shop whenever you want…even in your Fruit of the Looms before anyone else gets up. We guarantee everything. Since we buy in bulk, we can pass the savings on to you. We also have a 24-hour help line if you have a problem or a question—smart people there when you need them. So, which offer would you take? Hold on. The good news is coming. Customers today also want a great experience. They assume the product will be as promised and the price fair. And, the e-tailer on line will have a devil of a time sounding like old Harry who knows the customer’s business like the back of his trowel. Your edge is the experience! Granted you have to be price-sensitive today. You can’t jack up the price, even if you could give your customer Disney World. There are three ways to keep the e-tailer from luring your customers away after you have educated them.

Make it Personal
Buy a book on Amazon and their computer remembers what you bought. On your next visit to Amazon.com they recommend other books that fit your buying preferences. Can your business do that? Why wouldn’t your customers be comparing you to Amazon? E-tailers are continually communicating with customers in a highly tailored and targeted way. Do you have a “Constant Contact” system that lets customers know about specials or offerings unique to their interests? Is your website entertaining, educational, or inspiring… or is it simply an on-line brochure? Does your newsletter communicate more than just specials or deals? Create ways for customers to get to know other customers. A barbeque on the back lot could go a long way to creating a bond enabling you to get to know customers on a more personal way. When was the last time you went to your customer’s location instead of the other way around? If Harley-Davidson can create a “Harley Owners Group” that brings riders together, why couldn’t you create your own version? What if you sponsored seminars like Lowe’s or Home Depot?

Decorate the Experience
 Reach the checkout counter of Dallas garden center Nicholson-Hardie and you can pet one of two big calico cats sprawled across the counter with business cards proclaiming them as “house cats.” Walk into a Bass Pro Shop and notice displays amplified by such eye candy as a giant fish tank and museum quality wildlife dioramas. All these examples are the five senses on steroids augmenting the service experience. When realtors suggest baking an apple pie before an open house and fancy retail stores put a pianist on the sales floor, all are declaring the common sense of uncommon senses. Consider the emotions you want to call to mind. Does that picture really add value? Are restrooms super pleasant? What music should customers hear? What sensory signals do customers get from the parking lot or front entrance? What does signage in the warehouse pick-up look like? What should customers see first, second…last? What do customers hear in the background when phoning? Take a walk through Bellagio, the Venetian, or the MGM Grand on your next trip to Vegas. Notice how they blend sound, sight, smell and touch? What is the mood you want your customers to have in your store?

Give More Than Customers Expect
Be a valued partner to your customers. Great partners give without condition; giving is a selfless act. For the service provider, it is service emanating from the inner joy of serving, not a calculated decision. It requires a focus, not on short-term financial benefi t but on longterm relationship value. While transaction costs are not irrelevant, they can become destructively dominant. Of course, there are some fi ckle customers on the prowl for a cheap “one-night stand” they can brag about as a fi nancial conquest. But effective partners know that such customers are a tiny minority and it’s folly to distrust the balance of customers because of the few who seek to “game” the system. They understand that by seeking win-win solutions and avoiding nickel-and-diming customers, their organization will be rewarded with grateful customers who return, often with friends or family in tow.

Fly your customer’s flag! Constantly look for ways to personalize. Let customers witness your deep and obvious respect for them. Respect can come in the form of deferring to a customer’s unique circumstance. But, its liveliest form is found in the exceptions that are grounded in customer understanding and fueled by generosity. “We don’t normally, but in your case,” “I went ahead and took care of that…,” or “I comped the charge since I knew…” are all the sounds of customercentric exceptions. Exceptions tell customers you are there for them, not just for you. Customers want you to be successful and profitable; they do not want you to be miserly or greedy. The customer world is rapidly changing. There have always been “bait and switch” customers; there always will be. But, the best way to compete with the ease and access of the internet is to create the kind of an experience a computer cannot. Inside the computer is a program; inside the distributor/contractor is a person—with the same hopes and aspirations as customers. Build “high touch” into your service operation and help the shopper discover there is more to value than price.

CHIP R. BELL AND JOHN R. PATTERSON are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About it. They can be reached through www.wiredandangero

Tile Products Go Greener
May 3rd, 2011

The tile industry may be thousands of years old, but it enthusiastically embraces new technologies with each new collection and introduction. For the last several years, green building and sustainability have been among the most significant technology drivers. As a result, the industry is offering cutting-edge solutions to environmental challenges.

Custom® Building Products has adopted one of the most innovative approaches by taking its longstanding Build Green® program to the next level with its new Emerald System™ of products. All Emerald system products comply with the standards of all five emerging green building agencies. Emerald system products have recycled material content and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) content. These products are manufactured to reduce their energy footprint and comply with all major green building initiatives, including ANSI (American National Standards Institute), CALGreen (California Green Building Standards Code) and USGBC (United States Green Building Council). Emerald products are also eligible for Custom’s System Warranties, including its Lifetime Warranty. In addition to simplifying compliance standards, Emerald Systems also offers an industry first — Carbon Offset Credits. During the manufacturing of Portland cement, which is used in many construction products including tile installation products, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the atmosphere. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions are believed to be a major contributor to increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. When a project using Emerald System Products is registered for a warranty, Custom Building Products will purchase Carbon Credits to offset the amount of CO2 created from the cement used in its products. Custom has partnered with TerraPass®, a leading social enterprise to obtain the carbon offset credits that Custom will then issue to the project owner. TerraPass then uses the funds to support projects that reduce CO2 emissions.

Custom has been using pre- and post-consumer recycled materials in manufacturing its tile and stone installation products, all of which carry Custom’s Build Green® logo, for almost a decade. As a result, more than 100 Custom products help contribute to LEED® certification in at least one of three categories. “Custom Building Products is continually searching for ways to minimize our environmental impact. With the introduction of the Emerald System, we are taking action today to made green compliance easier and move forward on reducing CO2 emissions,” said Steve Taylor, Director of Technical Marketing, Custom Building Products. www.customemeraldsystem.com

New entries to the category EcoSpec Tile LLC was launched in February of this year by a group of experienced, time-tested tile professionals who feel a strong responsibility to their industry and to their planet. The initial product offering includes sustainable tile material composed of 50% pre-consumer waste, 20% post-consumer waste and 30% new material recycled contents, all obtained in the Southern California area. Tile formats range from mosaic tile sized 2” x 2” up to 12” x 12” field tile. “Brick sizes” from 1” x 8” to 4” x 8” are available, as well. The company is also adept at producing custom colors and a choice of matte, gloss or crackle finishes. Ecospec expects to continue to launch additions, all meeting or exceeding its current recycled content, to its product line throughout the year. According to Kathy Stoffer of EcoSpec Tile’s sales and marketing department, “EcoSpec Tile has been strategically developed to make customers’ projects sustainable without sacrificing control or expense. We intend to not only meet, but clearly exceed, clients’ expectations within the green arena. “ Prior to its product launch, the EcoSpec team was determined to develop products which were LEED-certified. www.ecospectile.com.

Crossville®Tile has moved beyond traditional recycled products with Mixology, a new metal line crafted to replicate cast metal sculptural pieces as affordable and earth-friendly tile. Each tile in the collection contains a minimum of 50 percent post-consumer recycled content, making the line not only an attractive choice, but the responsible choice for our environment. Seven field tile designs in two sizes – 4” x 4” and 6” x 6”, plus 10 trim options and two random mosaics are available in four distinctive finishes, providing 98 pieces to “mix” and match for commercial or residential installations. All tile and trim in the Mixology line are given a protective, clear coating to ensure a durable, virtually maintenance-free finish. Mixology is just a fraction of the weight of solid metal and considerably more affordable; the series also cuts and installs as easily as porcelain or ceramic tile. “Mixology was designed for interior, vertical applications,” states Frank Douglas, Crossville’s vice president of business development; “the tile and trim are especially suitable for accent walls and molding, ceiling trim, chair rails, window and door borders, countertop edging, backsplashes, showers and other wet interior wall areas, fireplace surrounds… and the list goes on. www.crossvile.com

Marazzi’s Essentials’ sophisticated colors like taupe, smoke, coffee and gray are not just skin-deep. This strong glazed porcelain is designed to out-perform expectations. Indoors and out, commercial and residential, the broad palette of eight neutral-to-bold choices become either subtle backdrops or dramatic accents, solely based on individual preference. The duo of large sizes plus cove base and single bullnose trim only add to the versatility of the line. Create a stunning hotel lobby that is accessed from an outdoor valet area; or a family living area that transitions to a beautifully landscaped outdoor pool/spa/ dining space; or a formal restaurant that fosters a more casual feel for customers who want just a drink and appetizers on the outdoor terrace. Essentials meets current green qualifications with recycled content, no VOCs and domestic production that can contribute to LEED credits, making “eco-friendly” not only achievable, but also very exciting from a project design perspective. www.marazzitile.com

Slimmer is greener

Ultra-thin tiles, like Nanotech from Apavisa, offer a host of green benefits. A product with the technical and static advantages of porcelain tiles but with just 4,8 mm. nominal thickness, Nanotech is easier to ship and install, especially the bigger sizes. It’s easier to cut and drill which also makes installation easier. Nanotech has the technical characteristics of porcelain tiles, having an excellent resistance to abrasion, an almost zero water absorption value (+/- 0,1 %), frost proof, chemical and stain resistance properties.

Lea Ceramiche offers an even thinner product in Slimtech, the ultra-thin 3mm laminated porcelain that comes in extremely large formats. The collection has a total of 23 colors presented in 7 product series: Lines and Waves designed by Patrick Norguet; Mauk and Gouache.10 designed by Diego Grandi; Slimtech Basaltina, Slimtech Arenaria and Slimtech Shade. Thanks to the innovative porcelain compaction technology that revolutionized the traditional production process, Slimtech is produced in full slabs of 3×1 meter without using any mold. Starting with an accurate selection of raw materials wetgrinded and made into an atomized powder, manufacturing proceeds with compaction and pressing with a strength of 15,000 tons. The slabs are then sintered at 1200 Celsius through firing in kilns, reducing the CO2 emissions and the dispersion of think powders. It is available in a number of options: Slimtech 3 mm for wall covering only; Slimtech Plus 3.5 mm reinforced with fiberglass backing for both floors and walls; Slimtech Twin 7 mm with a double layer of material and fiberglass in the middle for extremely heavy traffic areas. info@ceramichelea.it

Slimtech and Nanotech both offer the option of installation on top of an old surface, avoiding demolition and resulting waste. This drastically reduces installation time and the existing doors don’t need to be cut or filed. They are easy to cut, shape, perforate and install, thanks to reduced thickness. Large sheets mean fewer joints less joints, reducing the problems linked to maintenance and sanitation, particularly in public areas.

Editor’s Desk: Tile Did Not Have To Reinvent Itself To Be Green
May 3rd, 2011

Janet Arden

Ceramic tile has always been green. It comes from the earth, is combined using age-old techniques, lasts indefinitely, and can be recycled into more tile. Long before it was stylish to do so, tile manufacturers had learned to recycle water and other byproducts. In fact, some industry leaders might say other construction materials have been playing catch-up to compete with tile’s green qualities.

As green building and sustainability became more important, tile reached farther to better meet green demands. Many tiles meet a number of the United States Green Building Council’s LEED point requirements, such as Recycled Materials Content, Regional Materials, Low-Emitting Materials, and Heat Island Effect. Depending on the project and the materials choice, there is potential for even more valuable LEED points to help achieve the desired LEED rating.

This issue features a look at some of the most recent green innovations in the tile industry, including new materials and Carbon Offsets. Stylistically, some of the most popular green innovations, like super slim tiles and those made from recycled materials, continue to morph with newer, more appealing colors, textures and finishes.

Going greener.

Environmental awareness goes well beyond the choice of an environmentally preferable tile. It increasingly means making conscious choices to reduce our carbon footprint and save energy, including in your business. Operating a greener showroom and/or warehouse is a money-saving proposition in the long-run (though it may require some initial investment). More importantly, however, it delivers a green message to the consumer choosing to do business with green companies.

According to the U.S. EPA, a green business holds a marketing edge over its non-green competition, is recognized as an environmental leader, and improves its bottom line with operating efficiencies that result from energy and waste savings. Employees benefit from improved health and morale. All of that sounds great in today’s marketplace where you need every advantage to distinguish yourself from the competition. But, greening your business is not a simple task. It’s a process, and we give you some tips to get started in our feature on Eye on the environment: Distinguish your business by going green.”

Greening your bottom line.

Finally, we have all had experience with the “tire kickers” who stop by our showrooms, drink our coffee and generally take up valuable time comparing and pricing products, only to leave and order from an Internet e-tailer who offers a seemingly lower price per foot (if you don’t count their delivery, handling and stocking charges) and no customer service. This issue’s Sales & Marketing feature, “Converting Bait and Switch Customers,” offers some practical insight on meeting – and beating — this competition.

Wishing you a very green season!

Janet Arden

One on One with Tena Wooldridge
May 1st, 2011

In her comparatively short time as marketing manager for Tulsa based Orchid Ceramics, Tena Wooldridge has hit the ground running to restyle Orchid’s image to an affordable luxury brand, one consumers ask for by name. She’s also repositioned Orchid to market to  lifestyles pinpointed through research into a half  dozen megatrends, including green building. Finally Wooldridge also helped the company establish itself as an industry leader in sustainability.

TileDealer: What is Orchid Ceramics?
Orchid Ceramics is an import and distribution company of porcelain and ceramic floor, wall and countertop tiles as well as trims and decorative accents. It is based in Tulsa, Okla. and is supported by a complete U.S.-based sales and service team built around a core of group sales, marketing, operations and financial professionals. The Corona Organization –the largest, multinational business in Colombia, South America, founded Orchid Ceramics in August 2002. Orchid Ceramics is defined by superior customer service. In just eight years the company has established a loyal group of distribution partners that continues to grow, and has created a reputation for stellar follow up, on-time delivery and an attention to detail that represents some of the highest standards in the industry.

TileDealer: What prompted the rebranding and the repositioning of Orchid Ceramics?
The pillar of Orchid`s strategy is customer intimacy. We are really dedicated to enriching the lives of our customers whom we refer to as partners, through one-on-one relationships with our U.S. sales, service and operations team with the added support from our Colombian team. This is our family. So the change that Orchid Ceramics is making is more of a repositioning. In a response to the changing economy and devaluation of the U.S. dollar, Orchid Ceramics worked with our partners to create a richer product portfolio. This has allowed Orchid Ceramics via Corona to invest heavily in porcelain products, polishing, and rectification and ink jet technologies, and to have a more balanced portfolio than that of a value-oriented ceramic supplier. We are committed to offering our partners outstanding quality with viable long-term designs that are affordable to the marketplace. Orchid Ceramics is committed to offering affordable luxury from the ground up.

TileDealer: Where does Orchid Ceramics see its marketplace going in the next two or three years?
Orchid Ceramics is committed to being an innovator of products, rather than a fast follower. We constantly review available research on the marketplace with respect to trends in various channels, residential remodeling, new construction and the commercial channel. We have also worked extensively with trend, color and design experts to determine “megatrends” that will support viable product development that fits broad consumer segments. These megatrends offer 5-to-10-year trend concepts, and enable us to focus our product development and positioning to meet current consumer preferences. It also provides us with a platform for solutions selling that our partners can use in their sales cycle as well. I have never been a big believer of selling a product. I like to sell lifestyles and this approach to trendcasting in our innovation cycle puts us closer to offering consumers a lifestyle choice. Choosing products for your home is a personal decision, even in commodity markets.

TileDealer: Does Orchid Ceramics have green products, and a green story?
Orchid’s position on sustainability is a three-fold holistic approach that encompasses environmental, social and economic responsibility both from our parent company, Corona, and Orchid Ceramics. As part of Corona, Orchid Ceramics is proud to be involved in some of the most advanced environmental practices in the tile industry. This is achieved through the research and execution of environmental manufacturing techniques including:

- Reuse of 68 percent of all waste generated by the manufacturing process
- Recycle and reuse of 100 percent of all water used in the production process
- Plans to reduce energy consumption by more than 1,462 kilowatts and thermal energy by 1,077 NM3
- Continued investment and proven results in sustainable mine-land recovery programs

Orchid Ceramics previously used its Tulsa corporate office as the primary source of distribution. In 2010 and 2011, Orchid has consolidated distribution centers in Florida, Houston, and Indiana that allow us to function as a domestic supplier. The consolidation drastically reduces wasted transportation and freight while reducing our carbon footprint. It really doesn’t get much greener than that!

TileDealer: The company was part of CTDA’s Management Conference, now called Total Solutions Plus. Will it hold to this commitment, and if so what value does Orchid Ceramics find in being part of that initiative?
Working with an industry trade association is critical to any business. In a former life I was a marketing director for a trade association, brought on to reposition it — go figure — a recurring theme in my career. There, we published an article touting the merits of being a member of a trade association. One tidbit from that article has always stuck with me. It was that business consultants say 85% of all business failures occur in firms that are not members of their industry’s trade association. If any other business opportunity presented itself and said, “You can use this tool to become much more successful, find new partners and suppliers and, oh by the way, 85% of the businesses that fail won’t have used this tool,“ any self-respecting business person would be silly not to find out more. While I was there, I also created a membership ROI calculator — my best claim to fame — where members could select the products, services and events that they participated in and compare that to their annual dues. Every member, even with minimal participation, had more than 100% return on their membership. If any other investment opportunity were presented to me with those types of guaranteed returns, I would say, “Yes, yes, yes!” (Right after I made sure it was legal, of course!) The point is that CTDA is critical to our success and other companies in this industry. Total Solutions Plus is a more appropriate name, and Orchid is fully committed to being a part of this initiative.

TileDealer: Where does Orchid Ceramics manufacture its products?
Our products are sourced and manufactured globally. We have company-owned manufacturing plants near Medellin and Bogota, Colombia. However, we do also look at other opportunities to source products with talented designers and manufacturers, when those fulfill a need in our portfolio or satisfy a need for our customer partners. We are always interested in looking for manufacturing partners who want to be part of the Orchid Ceramics brand.

TileDealer: Is the company sticking with a South American style, or moving toward American sensibilities?
Orchid Ceramics has always designed products exclusively for the American market. While it is the case that some products are shared between the Colombian and American markets, this is due to the overarching appeal of the design for both markets rather than an attempt to extend the production of a series. Orchid Ceramics’ portfolio is exclusively designed for the tastes and preferences of the American market. In 2006, we created the Orchid Ceramics Design Council as an integral part of our product design and innovation cycle. The council brings together key decision makers from the largest independent distributors in the U.S. to work with our R&D team, glaze manufacturers and Italian design houses. To help this team understand market trends, we provide in-depth research on interior design trends for both the residential and commercial markets. In the end, the team selects the product concepts they would like us to develop over the next cycle.

TileDealer: Do you see the American marketplace as essentially beige?
I think it would be a mistake to classify the marketplace as simply a “beige” market, although it is primarily made up of neutral colors. It is a conservative mix of warm and cool tones that change regionally across the U.S. depending on where you stand. This neutral pallet is always changing and we work closely with design firms to understand these subtleties. Designers like to build off of these neutral tones and add a splash of color to emphasize other parts of their design. We find that more and more are using vibrant features such as glass mosaics or colorful accent tiles to get that element of color into their concepts. So let me bore you for a minute. Or, if you are like me, you may be fascinated by the research. (I am a self-professed nerd and lover of this “stuff.”) Research we have commissioned with third-party experts also indicates that color is critical in the youth market, as the first generation to be born into what is known as the “creative class.” Forty percent of returning young adults have their own full bathroom in their parents’ home, while greater than 20% have their own mini-refrigerator. They are establishing their own living spaces. With that comes a desire to customize those spaces for their own personalities, where color is often used as the indicator. In addition, the median age of firsttime buyers is increasing, with firsttime buyers in 2009 having a median age of 30 and income of $61,000. The shift is away from five to seven years in the first home, and first-time homeowners are now projected to stay in their first home for 10 years (NAR). This has caused a shift to more personalized spaces that are filled with more color, since creating a neutral palette for the next buyer is not as critical. I’d say along with quite a bit of other research that I have is a pretty convincing argument for the popularity of design shows. And these create fabulously rich palettes of color used in home improvement, furnishings and accents. I personally fell in love recently with a great chocolate rug that had huge splash of orange, red and lime green flowers. So I bought the rug and furnished the whole room around it! It’s a great era of personal style!

TileDealer: Does Orchid Ceramics have another company division that sells just to South America, and not to North America?
Orchid Ceramics is a separate but wholly-owned subsidiary of the Corona Organization. We have a full staff of administrative, sales, marketing, service, and product development here in the U.S. The team in Colombia, in the Pisos y Paredes (Floors and Walls) division, sells products in Colombia and other South American countries.

TileDealer: What is it about South American materials and manufacturing processes that make them different and desirable, vis-à-vis European imports or North American manufactured tile products?
Amazingly few industries can say that production processes have remained relatively unchanged for thousands of years, although technology has made this process more durable, stable and efficient on a mass scale. Also, technology is able to improve the tile’s design quality and aesthetics to create products that are life-like copies of real stones, or create new looks altogether that do not exist in nature. Because all factories use similar technologies to produce their tiles, what becomes important are manufacturing costs, lead times and logistics. Our lead times, on average, are two weeks faster than most ceramic tile imports. Add this to our U.S. distribution and we are able to offer our customers a competitive alternative to U.S. manufacturers.

TileDealer: You’re new to the company, very young and finishing up a Master’s degree. How did you get where you are so quickly?
[LAUGHS] I appreciate the compliment and I will remind my husband of this when he lets me know that I am “not getting any younger.” I have simply had the fortune of meeting individuals and having mentors that have offered professional — and sometimes personal — advice that I have tried to take objectively and incorporate into the way I conduct myself. I recall a few — ok, few sets of few — years ago when I was brought into a room with about twenty other individuals and we were all simultaneously laid off from a dot.com. I thought at the time it was professionally devastating, but when that door closed I moved on to a company where I meant my long-time mentor, Ralph Gauer. He is one of the top five most intelligent and influential people in my career. I was perhaps 23 at the time, and I remember him telling me in an interview, “I like you and you have spunk. Now are you ready to forget everything you thought you knew about marketing, and learn how to get to the next level?” My younger, more absorbed and less witty self thought, “Who is this goofy man? I went to a top 25 business school and he wants me to forget everything? Oh well, I need a job!” His guidance was indispensable. I am obviously a big believer in education, but having a mentor along with experience bridges the gap between education and application. It’s not where you go to school or how much you paid for it, but how willing you are to open yourself to new ideas and experiences that creates success or causes failure.

TileDealer: Is there a family background, or some other background in tile, that makes you an especially appropriate leader for this company?
I have been fortunate to work with two companies prior to joining Orchid Ceramics that function in very similar ways to Orchid. They were both international manufacturers, importers, that sold through distribution channels in the U.S. market. As such, I think and hope I have been able to look at our company with a unique perspective that has a degree of applicability.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for Orchid Ceramics?
We are very excited about the future of Orchid Ceramics. And we are positioning our factories and suppliers to take full advantage. In Colombia, we have added a new high-definition digital printer to our manufacturing line that will give us the ability to produce large-format digitally-printed tiles. With digital printing, we are able to greatly improve the amount of variation that occurs in our tile and allows us to print complicated designs on heavy structural reliefs. This will also give us greater flexibility in our factories and greatly reduce development time in our design cycle. We are able to bring better products to the marketplace, faster than ever before.

TileDealer: Anything else before we close?
Thanks so much for the opportunity.

SOURCE: Tena Wooldridge, marketing manager Orchid Ceramics, Tulsa, Ok. Phone: 918.645.5721 tena.wooldridge@orchidceramics.com

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