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        Eyes on the Goal
        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007

        Early in my term as CTDA president, I shared with you my belief in the value of strategic planning—a collaborative effort to define long-term goals and the short term goals necessary to meet them. Setting and benchmarking goals for CTDA has been my proudest accomplishment. For the first time in CTDA history, we have set several key measurables for the year.

        In March CTDA leaders and staff met with a facilitator for a strategic planning session. We identified our goal for CTDA and the industry: Triple the US consumption of tile, measured in square feet by 2020, with 80% of the market going through CTDA distributor members. This supports CTDA’s mission to provide educational and networking opportunities for distributors of ceramic tile and their suppliers to further the consumption of ceramic tile.

        We set five intermediate goals for the next three years:

        1. Increase, identify and communicate value to members.
        2. Promote tile to end users.
        3. Create relationships with quality suppliers.
        4. Strengthen relationships between distributors and their customers (dealer, architect, contractor, etc.).
        5. Position association for long-term success.

        To measure our progress, we also identified appropriate metrics: increase actively engaged members; increase membership of total market by 20%; realize a 30% growth in total consumption; realize a 20% growth in CTDA members’ sales; and certify 500 Certified Ceramic Tile Salespersons (CCTS). These goals have annual benchmarks. For 2007 they include certifying 150 Certified Ceramic Tile Salespersons and growing the circulation of TileDealer to be the #1 magazine in our industry.

        Our September report of measurables indicates that we have certified 76% of the Certified Ceramic Tile Sales professionals targeted, and we are 65% of the way to meeting our new member goal.

        This is a process that is just getting started. It will continue in 2008 as Rob Henry takes office as CTDA president. The executive committee and committee chairs met in October with a professional facilitator to help with the goals and metrics for 2008. I’m sure Rob will be reporting to you regularly on their status.

        The 2007 CTDA Management Conference will feature the first meeting of a new, CTDA Greenbuilding Committee chaired by Howard Pryor of Conestoga Tile. Greenbuilding is a mainstream trend that will shape our businesses in the years ahead. CTDA’s new Greenbuilding Committee offers the opportunity for gathering information and developing education on this topic. Howard’s experience as Conestoga’s Director of Architectural Services makes him especially well-suited to helping CTDA steer the direction of this issue.

        I would like to thank you for your support and encouragement throughout my term as CTDA president. I have been both honored and challenged to serve the association, and I have enjoyed every minute of my term.

        When the executive committee and committee chairs met in October to set 2008 goals, I was reminded again of the significant contributions volunteer leaders make to CTDA. These are dedicated people who take an active part in every meeting. But their commitment goes well beyond that. They work between meetings, individually and in small groups, fine-tuning a proposal, reviewing materials, or making phone calls. They also arrange their personal and professional schedules and travel to participate. Their hard work and commitment make CTDA a great association.

        Please make it a point to personally thank these leaders for their time and commitment.

        I’m sure CTDA volunteer leaders will tell you they are paid back ten-fold for their commitment to the association. I know I am. The opportunity to network, make new friends and learn more abut the industry is invaluable. I encourage you to make your next personal goal greater involvement with CTDA.

        Thank you for allowing me to share this time with you.

        From the Editor’s Desk: How strong is your team?
        November 2nd, 2007

        by Janet Arden, Editor

        November-December 2007

        One of the continuing challenges across the tile industry is staffing. Genuinely good employees—team players who support other employees and their employers—are hard to come by but invaluable. Delivering the industry education to make them tile professionals adds yet another dimension to the problem. Here are some easy, accessible solutions.
        I recently came across an interesting bit of management advice to help you address part one of this dilemma. It’s from Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden of Contented Cow Partners, LLC, who help business leaders produce better results through a focused, fired-up and capably led workforce.

        You don’t need to implement all of these actions or spend a lot of money to see results.

        Conduct a morale survey. Find out how you’re doing in the morale department. Regularly (and formally) assess employee attitudes, morale and perceptions of the work environment through the use of a survey. Feed the results back to everyone and make use of them in the promotion, retention and compensation of all those in a leadership capacity. Use the data to manage, measure and reshape the organization’s strategic people priorities.

        Evaluate training feedback. The next time an employee attends any kind of training, ask them ahead of time to be prepared to tell you three new concepts or skills they learned, and one thing they will begin doing differently as a result. Assure them this is not a test, but a way to implement learning in the workplace.

        Show employees the fruits of their labor. Find a meaningful way to show employees how the product they make, service they support or work they do is actually used by your customers. Catlette and Hadden cite a company that meets this challenge with field trips. The company manufactures highly technical medical supplies. The plant manager started arranging tours of a nearby hospital where the assembly workers could see their products at work, saving lives and delivering drugs and pain relief to patients. They returned with such excitement and rediscovered appreciation for their work that the office staff began to participate as well. Now, everyone in the plant makes a couple of trips a year to continue reinforcing this message: “What we do here is important.”

        Investigate effectiveness of internal communications. Here’s a little pop quiz you can use to see if your internal corporate communications are working: Ask the next 10 employees you bump into to write down the company’s top three business priorities. If the answers are all exactly the same, congratulations! If they aren’t, you had better get busy —as former NFL head coach Jimmy Johnson once put it, “Confused players aren’t very aggressive.”

        Sit on the footlocker. Get in the trenches with your employees, because good leadership is involved leadership. Major General Melvin Zais, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division in Viet Nam, circa 1968, once said in a speech to future officers, “If you’ll get out of your warm house and go down to the barracks…and just sit on the footlocker…you don’t have to tell ‘em they’re doing a great job. Just sit on the footlocker and talk to one or two soldiers and leave. They’ll know that you know that they’re working hard to make you look good.”

        Leverage the wealth of industry education from CTDA
        CTDA and the University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (U of CTS) have developed a series of online educational programs to help ceramic tile employees be more effective at their jobs. For example, Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile is for new employees and those who haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the history and all the aspects of ceramic tile. The course teaches the History, Types and Uses of Ceramic Tile, the Manufacturing Process, Installation and Maintenance, How to Select the Right Ceramic Tile, and How to Avoid Problems and False Expectations. Designed to help sales people increase their sales of ceramic tile, the course also provides many sales techniques. Employees enjoy more credibility with customers and sell more tile with more upgrades.

        Participation is easy, since students only need a computer and internet access. Tuition includes 14-day, 24/7 access to the self-paced, interactive format which allows participants to come and go as time allows. There is no loss of productive employee time and there are no travel expenses. CTDA members enjoy a significantly discounted price (only $55/course; that’s $40 off the regular price!).

        CTDA’s Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program offers participating companies prestige, professional recognition, expanded knowledge and increased customer satisfaction through documented sales competence. It’s the first and only certification program specifically designed by and for ceramic tile salespeople! The benefits are significant: CCTS increases professionalism and employee pride, promotes focus on product features and benefits and provides a competitive edge. The bottom line is increased profits.

        Tile Training in a Box is an easy, affordable introduction to the ceramic tile industry. It comes complete with a tabbed binder of resource information, PowerPoint presentations for each lesson, and an updated stone section.
        CTDA’s Color/Shade Variation Program™ uses graphic representations of each variation along with full-color photographs of actual tile installations. This is the valuable industry tool that trains your salespeople to sell shade and color variations as part of the intrinsic art that is tile. As a result they can create appropriate shade and color expectations for your customers and save thousands of dollars each year in costly tear-outs.

        Industry training from CTDA. Use it. Require it. Reward employees for doing it.

        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007

        Q.E.P. Co., Inc. introduced the Brutus 10059, a 13⁄8" porcelain diamond hole saw, designed for cutting through porcelain, ceramic, glass, marble and granite tile. Mark Deutsch, Product Manager, explains, “The Brutus 10059 is ideal for faucet, pipe and showerhead installations, since the diamond grit edge offers the ability to easily cut holes in the hardest tile currently sold in the market today.” The Brutus 10059 offers consistent performance with a low wear rate, since the gulleted edge results in faster cuts, less dust and less chance of chipping. The patented water dispersion system that is included helps in extending the life of the hole saw by cooling it with water during drilling. It also acts as a drill guide, securing the saw’s position for quick and accurate cutting. In other news, the company has also introduced the Black Widow diamond blade, especially designed for very fast, chip- and wobble-free cutting of hard tiles such as porcelain, marble and granite. The unique diamond cuts around its perimeter keep the blade cooler for superior performance and a longer life. Independent tests have shown that the total average cut speed for the 10" Black Widow blade on 12"x12" grade 5 porcelain is 17.14 seconds, faster than other porcelain cutting blades in its class. Available in 4", 7", 8" and 10" blade sizes.

        Activant Solutions Inc. announces the availability of Activant Prophet 21 version 11.5. Based on industry trends and customer requests, the latest version of the Windows-based solution features new lost sales reason codes, improved profit margin tracking, and more. “The release of Prophet 21 version 11.5 reaffirms Activant’s commitment to providing distributors with the best enterprise software solution available,” said Steve McLaughlin, senior vice president and general manager of Activant’s wholesale distribution group. “Prophet 21 version 11.5 offers a host of new features, including enhanced commission functionality and the new portal view, all designed to help distributors streamline processes and run their businesses more efficiently.” Prophet 21 launches a portal view each time a new module is opened, which, when enabled, populates with role- and module-specific information that allows users to quickly view their open tasks and activities, as well as open quotes and open orders. Enhanced commission module functionality allows commissions to be calculated based on the order type, adjustments to be made for terms and late payments, and includes support for commission splits. The capability to Modify Existing Financial Statements Integration between Prophet 21 and Microsoft Excel has been enhanced to improve auditing accuracy by offering the freedom to insert, remove, or reposition lines on any Excel spreadsheet associated with a financial statement. Calculate Pricing by Product Group Profit Margin to ensure that all items within a given product group continue to yield the desired profit margin and to specify a gross profit percentage and cost source at the product group level. The solution then recalculates the price of each item within the product group, and when updated, displays the new sales price on all order lines. Lost Sales Reason Codes allow users to track if a sale was lost due to a data entry error, an inventory deficiency, or more, and provide insight into how inventory forecasting or internal processes must be altered to improve sale completion. Margin of Last Sale helps to keep margins and profit percentages predictable.

        Esquire, a Florim brand, has launched Hampton, a new line of glazed porcelain tile. Each of Hampton’s three earthen colors—Rockland, Stone Creek and Sea Cliff—feature slight shade variations from tile to tile to create the look of natural stone. The authentic colors interplay beautifully, offering opportunity for unique installations and patterns. Additionally, the line’s two multi-color 12"x12" mosaic tile options enhance the versatility of the product. All colors are available in 12"x12" and 18"x18" field tiles with accompanying 3"x12" bullnose trims. Hampton’s palette of stone colors and convincing detailing give the line an air of casual sophistication. Hampton’s Stone Creek and Sea Cliff colors PEI class IV products, and the Rockland colorway is a PEI III. Its adaptable styling, superior performance and slip resistance are excellent for wet areas and locations with high traffic—from kitchens and baths to entryways and waiting rooms. Hampton may be used on floors and walls. Esquire is manufactured domestically by Florim of Clarksville, Tenn. and is part of the family of brands of The Florim Group of Italy.

        Mer-Krete Systems introduced revolutionary and proven Dust-Less Thin-Set Mortar with its 7d10 Dust-Less Thin-Set. Featuring 80% less dust than ordinary thin-sets, this innovative product is remarkable for improved air quality, healthier working conditions, reduced mess and faster cleanup, thereby lowering total application costs. By eliminating most of the airborne dust, this new, groundbreaking product leads to a better quality installation. Mer-Krete 7d10 Dust-Less Thin-Set mixes just like ordinary thin-sets and spreads easily and evenly, with great workability. The product cures quickly and provides outstanding bond strength. The 7d10 Dust-Less Thin-Set is the first low-dust technology in the U.S. combining innovation and proven efficiency. Mer-Krete brings to the U.S. customers its group experience in Europe, where its Dust-Less technology has been successfully marketed under the brand Lanko. Over 50 million square feet of tiles were installed using the product within the past 18 months, providing extraordinary results to the great satisfaction of its users.

        Diteq’s new Rocket is specially designed to handle the larger tiles and stone slabs commonly used in commercial and upper scale residential jobs. It cuts very accurately—to within five thousandths of an inch—making it excellent for jobs where an out-of-aligned cut becomes painfully obvious; where few or no grout lines are specified; or whenever expensive materials are being used and waste must be minimized. The Rocket’s 24-inch square cutting cart has an extension that accommodates slabs up to 24 inches by 36 inches. It permits rip cuts up to 38 inches and rotates up to 90 degrees for precise angle cuts. The cart rides on six roller bearings located inside a rigid extruded aluminum track for smooth, precise cuts. The cutting head pivots, or “rocks,” to enable plunge cuts and accommodate operator comfort. The powerful 1.5 horsepower Leeson motor is located below the table for smoother, quieter operation. All this capacity and precision comes in a portable saw that is easy to set up, tear down and move around the job site. Dan Steiner, president of DITEQ, explains who the Rocket is for. “With the growing use of large tile and more expensive stone materials, the time for a saw like the Rocket has come. It’s not for everyone, but contractors who get into these larger jobs absolutely love the combination of precision, capacity and portability the Rocket delivers.”

        Specialty Construction Brands, Inc. announced the launch of its TEC family of lightweight mortars: SturdiLight™, FullLight™ and IsoLight™. The new mortars will join TEC 3N1™ lightweight performance mortar to provide the only complete family of lightweight mortars for virtually every application. The new products weigh 25 lbs or 30 lbs per bag compared to 50 lbs for conventional mortars, yet provide the same coverage rates as a 50 lb bag. They also provide excellent bond performance, superior handling characteristics and important environmental benefits with a minimum of 10% recycled materials. “Our lightweight mortars offer up to twice the coverage per pound,” says Rachel Gibbons, brand manager for TEC. “Installers have the benefit of smaller, lighter bags to carry. And once mixed, the product is also lighter to spread—reducing the physical stress associated with tile installation. Lighter mortar also means reduced construction dead load weight—very important for architects and specifiers.” In addition to the efficiencies of lighter weight bags, the new TEC mortars are notably easier to use. The formulation includes smooth-surface “microspheres” that provide a ball bearing effect during troweling. Therefore, the mortars spread very easily, resulting in less arm fatigue for installers. The advanced formulation sets a new standard in the lightweight category and provides clear advantages over other lightweight and standard mortars. TEC lightweight mortars do not ‘skin over’ as rapidly as traditional products. Installers can distribute mortar over a larger surface area before setting tile, leading to enhanced efficiency and productivity overall. Finally, because TEC lightweight mortars are formulated with a minimum of 10% recycled materials, they help contribute to LEED certification. The four products in the line are created to address virtually every application need in the market.

        Hakatai Enterprises Inc. introduced a new, stylish collection of twenty-six hand-cut, hand-crafted glass mosaic repeating patterns. All twenty-six patterns can be customized using Hakatai’s vast color selection of fashionable glass tiles from the Classic, Luster, Aventurine and Fantastix series. Each repeating pattern is hand assembled based on customer color choices. Hakatai’s new hand-cut custom repeating patterns gallery is available for browsing in the “Mosaic Murals and Design” section of www.hakatai.com. Gallery images feature each of the twenty-six patterns in full detail as well as installation illustrations. Hakatai also provides links to mechanical drawings that specify tile sizes, colors shown and options for pattern variations when applicable.

        DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional is introducing two new professional grade water-based stone sealers and a new water-based heavy duty coating stripper. DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional High Gloss Finishing Sealer provides a brilliant shine and enhances color while StoneTech® Semi Gloss Finishing Sealer provides subtle shine and color enhancement. Both products are ideal for use on natural stone surfaces including slate, Saltillo, limestone and travertine and will be available in 1-quart, 1-gallon, 5-gallon, and 55-gallon sizes. “These new water-based sealers and coating stripper represent some of the most effective and best performing products on the market today—solvent- or water-based,” Cathy Hampton, general manager—DuPont™ StoneTech®, said. “The sealers are perfect to protect a wide variety of natural stone surfaces and the coating stripper is effective on a variety of finishes that may be on the surface of stones.” StoneTech® Professional High Gloss Finishing Sealer and Semi Gloss Finishing Sealer offer numerous benefits, including water-based formulas, easy to use, low odor, resistance to oil and water-based stains, and durable finishes. DuPont™ StoneTech® Heavy Duty Coating Stripper removes coatings, lacquers, varnishes and epoxy grout haze and may be used on many natural stone surfaces including slate, Saltillo and marble. StoneTech® Heavy Duty Coating Stripper will be available in 1-quart, 1-gallon and 5 gallon sizes. Additional benefits include water-based formula, easy to use, low odor, non-flammable, high viscosity, allowing better user control. “DuPont is committed to continuously improving our products and raising the performance bar in the industry,” Hampton said. “Every day, we are working hard to provide customized solutions needed to solve problems, create new opportunities and give our customers the freedom to innovate.”

        The Marble & Granite Gallery is marketing an exciting new and rare Fossil Fish limestone. The limestone contains fossils of the fish species Knightia Eoceania from the Green River Formation of Southwestern Wyoming deposited 50 million years ago. These specimens, found in light colored limestone, measure 5" from head to tail and are similar to today’s herring. The Green River system was composed of three lakes: Lake Ulinta, Lake Gosiute and Fossil Lake. These Eocene lakes lay in a series of intermountain basins formed by geological events that uplifted the Rocky Mountains during the early Tertiary time. The climate was much different from the desert-like climate of this area today. Both the fauna (crocodiles, alligators, boa constrictors and some subtropical fish families) and the flora (such as large palm trees) indicate a climate much like that found along the Gulf Coast today. Large amounts of ash found in the sediments indicate that volcanoes were particularly active at this time. The fossils of the Green River Formation—each one unique—are some of nature’s finest. They are highly valued by collectors the world over. This new limestone is on display to builders, developers, contractors, architects, designers and individuals in metropolitan Detroit who want to create a one-of-a-kind kitchen, countertop, bathroom, fireplace, floor or patio.

        Questech has introduced elegant cast stone switch plate designs that beautifully coordinate with natural stone, ceramic and porcelain tile. Questech’s switch plates not only meet consumer demand for matching and coordinated finishing touches, but also add timeless style that lasts a lifetime. Crafted with natural stone, the switch plates are virtually indestructible and easy to install. All are available with Questech’s revolutionary Q-Seal™, a factory-applied sealant that is guaranteed for life, protecting the plates from fingerprints, smudges and stains. “Use with a stone backsplash and they appear part of the design,” said Gary Marmer, vice president of Marketing for Questech. “Put them against a painted wall and they pull the room together.” Questech’s cast stone switch plates are available in nine configurations, from singles to triples, toggles to decora-styles. Coordinate or contrast with your décor—the switch plates are offered in natural travertine or a darker noche finish and can accommodate fan controls, sliding dimmers and phone and cable jacks. The switch plates come with coordinating mounting hardware and are recessed in back to fit perfectly on the wall for a seamless, custom look. Questech’s cast stone switch plates were recently honored with Design Journal’s 2007 Gold ADEX (Awards for Design Excellence). The coveted Awards for Design Excellence are bestowed annually and constitute the largest and most prestigious awards program for product design of furniture, fixtures and finishes marketed to the design trade.

        MAPEI Ultraflex™ 2 mortar with Dust-Free Technology
        MAPEI Global Research & Development has engineered an innovative new technology that significantly reduces dust generation from MAPEI products used on tile and stone installation jobsites. Performance testing has recorded a 90% reduction in the amount of dust released during production, pouring, mixing and use of products containing Dust-Free Technology. Lower amounts of dust being released from the product on the jobsite leads to a cleaner workplace environment. To view a video demonstration of Dust-Free Technology, please visit the following URL: http://www.mapei.us/DustFree.htm.

        The technology will be applied to a wide range of cement-based products as part of MAPEI’s long-range operations strategy. Management selected Ultraflex 2 professional-grade, polymer-modified mortar as the first product implementing the new technology because it is the most widely used MAPEI tile installation product in the Americas. “Dust-Free Technology does not affect Ultraflex 2’s excellent setting characteristics, and it has tremendous benefits,” said Jeff Leone, Director of Strategic Marketing. “The only change installers will notice is the much clearer air and easier jobsite cleanup.” Rainer Blair, President and CEO of MAPEI Americas, considers Dust-Free Technology another example of the company’s “continuous innovation” strategy that has made it a technological leader over the past 70 years. “We feel that Dust-Free Technology will enable us to provide our extended family of customers with a cleaner jobsite environment,” Blair said. “MAPEI always supplies ‘Technology You Can Build On.’”

        Industry Insights
        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007


        Coverings is indisputably the leading global exposition and conference in the Americas dedicated exclusively to tile and stone. And, soon headed into its third decade, the show also is heading westward with a new edition. Coverings LA Boutique is being planned for November 19-20, 2008, at the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, California. “Coverings has come of age and our expansion of this remarkable franchise is the most natural evolution,” said Glenn Feder, president client events, of National Trade Productions, which manages and produces the show. Feder explained that the spin off will be “by invitation only” and selectively focused on no more than 100 exhibitors. Unlike the flagship event—which is next scheduled for April 29-May 2, 2008, at Orange County Convention Center, Orlando—Coverings LA Boutique will not include any tool manufacturers and will only aim for the retailer, distributor and specifier visitor. “This show is for the crème-de-la-crème among the world’s resources for ceramic tile and natural stone, and our goal will be to host an equally elite caliber of wholesalers and retailers, plus the specifier community of architects and interior designers who also dominate the high-end of the market.” According to Feder, the projected attendance for the first year will be limited to around 2,000. Since the conference and seminar component of Coverings is one of its signature traits, this also will be offered by the Boutique edition, with CEU credits provided as well. The West Coast, particularly Southern California, has long been an important market for the industry, and to ensure that Coverings extends its reach there, it was chosen as the first stop for this new initiative. Other future destinations for this exclusive edition are under consideration. “Coverings has increasingly grown its attendance from the West Coast,” said Feder, “But, Coverings LA Boutique will really help to open the doors and acquaint the right people with the show. We’re confident that a significant number of those who’ve never attended Coverings, but who come to the Coverings LA Boutique in November ’08, will have their appetite whetted for 2009 Coverings in Chicago and future shows, as well.” Coverings is sponsored by ASCER (Ceramic Tile Manufacturers Association of Spain), Confindustria Ceramica (Italian Association of Ceramics), Tile Council of North America (TCNA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA).


        Orchid Ceramics, LLC, manufacturer of ceramic and porcelain tiles, announced several personnel and organizational changes as part of their continual process to improve service. Kyle Smith will assume the duties of Marketing Manager for Orchid Ceramics effective immediately. Smith has been with the company for the past year as Customer Service Manager and has extensive experience in the tile industry. He served previously at CAPCO in Denver, CO and began his career in the tile industry at Laufen in Charlotte, NC. Brian McKeown previously held the responsibility for marketing and product management at Orchid Ceramics, and will now focus entirely on product development as Orchid Ceramics’ Product Manager. McKeown has been with the company since August 2002 and has been instrumental in Orchid’s success with the red body ceramic tile lines. He was also a key member on the product development and marketing teams that just recently launched the new Orchid Porcelain brand of products. Christina Hupman has been hired for the newly created position of Customer Relationship Supervisor. Hupman previously served at Hilti, Inc. where she led the Mid-Atlantic & East Great Lakes Regions inside sales team. Hupman’s new position will allow Orchid Ceramics to place greater detailed focus on providing outstanding customer service.


        Bonsal American, Inc. has acquired Amerimix Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of bagged and bulk mortar and stucco mixes for commercial contractors and distributors and a major supplier to Home Depot with bagged mortars, stuccos, portland and masonry cements. Amerimix is based in St. Petersburg, Fla. “Amerimix is an excellent strategic fit with Bonsal American’s existing operations in Florida and will enhance Bonsal American’s position with Home Depot in the state,” said David Maske, President of Bonsal American. “This acquisition also complements Oldcastle APG’s growing masonry presence in Florida.” Amerimix will continue to operate as a separate entity under Bonsal American. Jorge G. Chiappo, President of Amerimix, will remain with Bonsal American after closing and will continue in his current role.


        Best Tile Distributors of New England, part of the East Coast Tile family, the largest importer of ceramic tile and stone in the Northeast, unveiled a new tile contractor service area and Bargain Center at the grand re-opening of its Dedham, Massachusetts showroom this August. Best Tile, as part of its concentrated efforts to re-enter the commercial sector, recently completed extensive renovations of its Dedham location to create a new tile contractor service area, which is staffed by two full-time professionals. Best Tile Dedham’s new facility provides plenty of space for training, a larger selection of tools and materials, and features a new Bargain Center stocked with discounted tile. Best Tile Dedham’s re-opening celebration was sponsored by LATICRETE?, Blanke Corporation and Hardibacker?. Industry friends and family in attendance were treated to live performances by a crowd-roving magician and a stand-up comic before a vacation package for two was raffled off for a two-night stay at Mohegan Sun Casino. In other news, the company has promoted Leslie Cote to the position of Retail Product Coordinator. In her new position, Cote will focus on developing a consistent product mix for all New England Best Tile locations representing the full spectrum of tile and stone products. With 18 years of experience in residential and commercial tile design, Cote will also recommend and implement effective merchandising strategies for each showroom. Cote has been with Best Tile since 1999, serving as sales/design and assistant showroom manager at Best Tile’s flagship showroom in Williston, Vermont.


        Designed by Parsons-trained Turkish product designer Can Yalman for Kale Group’s leading market brand ?anakkale Kalebodur&Seramik, the company’s Reptile Collection won an award from the Annual Design Review. The award, which is given by the USA’s leading magazine ID Design, is regarded as the Oscar of the design world. This brings the total number of awards won by the Reptile Collection in 2006-2007 to three. The reptile collection was produced by Kale Group in the second half of 2006. Parsons-trained Turkish product designer Can Yalman’s tile line was inspired by the scaly skins of snakes and crocodiles. Yalman aimed at recalling Turkey’s ancient tradition of tiling and shingling buildings in repeated geometric patterns. The Reptile Collection, inspired by nature, consists of two series named Snake and Crocodile. Each diamond-shaped snake piece has a molded central ridge, and each crocodile square a high rim; the colors and finishes are based on reptilian pelt variations. The collection brings a new dimension to tile with the modular cladding of square tiles. Reptile lives up to its promises of functionality, transformability, durability and recyclabilitiy.

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

        “Growing Along with the Tile Industry”

        By Jeffrey Steele

        November-December 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        TileDealer: What’s ahead for Dancik International?

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

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


        Mitch Dancik

        President, Dancik International, Ltd.

        Cary, NC



        Tiles of Spain
        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007

        Is it stone, wood, metal or fabric? No, it is ceramic tile. Tile of Spain, a branded manufacturer encompassing 220 ceramic tile manufacturers, presents a collection of tiles that capture the essences of nature that look almost identical to the “real thing.” Tile of Spain manufacturers have risen to the forefront as innovators of digital printing technology and used it to create many look-a-like ceramic tiles. For instance, with the help of technology, Tile of Spain manufacturers have created a vast range of ceramic tiles that take inspiration from various genres of fabrics, recognizable and iconic patterns as well as exotic animal skins.

        Another look-a-like ceramic tile trend is natural elements of the earth like stone, wood, and metal. These tiles add a thoroughly innovative dimension to traditional decorating and building material. They’re not the real thing. They are better. They serve a dual purpose of projecting the beauty of natural elements as well as providing the key benefits of tile such as durability and easy maintenance. In some cases it may be more cost efficient to use a virtual twin made of ceramic tile vs. limestone. Or imagine an outdoor shower to exude the look and feel of wood, a complete outdoor theme, but constant moisture is a huge dilemma with wood, warping, rotting, etc…With ceramic tile that looks almost identical, there is no issue and maintenance is hassle-free.

        From natural wood to oxidized steel or even cement, Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, Roca Ceramica, presents the Rock & Rock Collection. The Shellstone series is a marriage of technology and aesthetics. Developed to mirror the natural look of stone the series is available in 21×21 and 13×21 and comes in three colors—gray, beige and maroon. Many times tile is not as heavy or cumbersome, which makes it easier to install than some steel, cement, stone or wood.

        Venus Ceramica, another Tile of Spain branded manufacturer, introduces its Mother Nature Collection, wood-made tile series with a finished look available in four different wood species tonalities. Each wood tonality is designed to coordinate with decorated wall plugs that allow a unique, different and stylish decoration in places real wood my not be climate appropriate.

        Also from Venus Ceramica, The Beverly Hill series, as well as Eponymo Too and the Very Fashion series, all nod to classic designs now so prevalent in high-end fashion. Sure to make any room elegant and refined, these ceramic tiles have been developed in hard-paste porcelain to make the most of the unique characteristics of this material. Imagine redesigning a floor in a master bath or closet with your favorite designer pattern or floral brocade. These chic tiles are all available with truly unique listellos.

        Many of the other fabric inspired tiles gather inspiration from both contemporary and classic fabrics, heavy brocades to light florals. Grespania introduces their Orsay, Floreste, and Toile series, all of which embody this trend and mimic the warmth, texture, and design of favorite upholstery. Floral tiles are a perfect addition to a sunroom or even as a great alternative for wallpaper. Animal hide inspired tile from Tau, Grespania, and Garogres offer an exotic look sure to bring attitude to your powder room or walk-in closet. With unique leopard, zebra and even elephant hide-inspired ceramics, enhancing your living space has never been so easy.

        The look-a-likes are a category unto their own—they can create a myriad of new ways to specify ceramic tile in residential and commercial variations. Ceramic tile isn’t just for the bathroom or kitchen anymore. As far as commercial use, hospitality spaces can benefit greatly from this new innovation. Ceramic tile headboards, spa facilities, wall-coverings, and flooring can be decorative and creative as well as practical and functional. In the healthcare industry a hospital room or long term care facility doesn’t have to look industrial or lack-luster. Style doesn’t have to be compromised for safety or hygiene. Ceramic tile has taken on so many new attributes, that the look-a-likes can add a whole new dimension to any space that may have only run a close second in the style category with the “real thing.”

        The Spanish Ceramic Tile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) is the private organization whose primary objective is to support Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers and the industry as a whole by stewarding and promoting the Tile of Spain brand worldwide. A strong global leader in the industry, the Tile of Spain brand comprises 220 manufacturers concentrated primarily in the province of Castellon.

        For more about tile produced in Spain, contact Tile of Spain Center at the Trade Commission of Spain, 2655 Le Jeune Road, Suite 1114, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Call 305-446-4387 or visit www.spaintiles.info.

        Upselling: How to sell more in 2008
        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007

        By Zoe Voigt

        Stories of gloom and doom in the new construction industry do not necessarily translate into sluggish business for tile dealers. Growth in an economic slowdown might seem counterintuitive but there are measures that dealers can take to maintain, and even improve, the bottom line. Upselling, using the right software, targeting the right markets, and providing exceptional customer service can help your productivity.

        Although new residential construction is stagnant in many markets, the commercial real estate market continues to improve. Also, in the current environment, the renovation and remodeling business is a good place to look for growth potential.

        The remodeling market
        “We’ve experienced some sales drop in the new home market, based on the economy,” says Donna Triolo, showroom manager at Mid-America Tile. “On the other hand, business has really picked up on the other end. People are staying where they are and renovating.“

        According to Leanne Barker, showroom manager at Antique Floors in Dallas, “We haven’t really noticed a slowdown in home sales yet. Our area was never hit with the skyrocketing prices, so we haven’t seen extreme changes.”

        “Depending on our customers, and what market they’ve targeted, the slowdown could be an issue,” says John Zolman, sales and marketing manager for Miles Distributors in South Bend. “Some of them didn’t pay as much attention to the remodeling market when new home construction really took off. If they didn’t give as much time and effort to that part of the market, then some of the remodelers might have taken their business to the big box stores. Our customers are trying to get back those sales.”

        Whether or not homes are selling well in your area, people may be nervous about spending right now. Homeowners may not necessarily be ready to commit to re-doing the whole house at once. So, this is a good time to remodel just one bathroom or the kitchen. Triolo, whose showroom is in Elk Grove, Illinois, says, “In my market, we are seeing a lot of remodels and add-ons.”

        With the housing market slowing, people who might have considered moving may be thinking of just staying in their current home and fixing it up. These folks are likely to want to customize their home since resale is no longer their top priority.

        Zolman says, “There’s an interesting trend in remodeling right now. What we’re seeing is that young people who bought a new home in a subdivision a few years ago are now ready to upgrade their the kitchen and bath. They bought these homes with the basic package, and now, as their incomes grow, they are able to make improvements and renovate using tile and stone.”

        For several years, upselling in tile sales has focused on adding listellos, trims and borders to the job. This approach is still relevant depending on the market. Zolman says that he sees the large format and high-end decoratives as good opportunities to upsell.

        If the client wants an elegant, custom look, this is the opportunity to work more upscale products into sales. There are so many new styles of accent pieces, loads of unusual sizes to choose from, better field, and high end trim. Triolo calls these pieces “eye candy.” She says, “One hot look right now is glass used as an accent. It just keeps getting better and better. Metallics are really popular right now too, as are stone mosaics.

        “What a change from a few years ago. Now people are willing to add eye candy. They want to add on to the basics. We sit down with them, listen, and see what they are trying to do. We can give them a creative look and give them a little splash, but it is cost effective too.”

        Customer service
        According to Triolo, “The key today is good customer service, good product and pricing. If you offer good customer service, and your customers had a good experience, they will come back. We see lots of referrals, too, and that also stems from customer service.”

        Barker is finding that in Dallas the trim pieces aren’t selling as well. She says, “As for boosting sales, the first thing that comes to mind is offering to add other elements like listellos and decos to the job. But what I am finding here in Dallas is that more and more the trend is a cleaner, contemporary look. That mid-century modern style is finally starting to catch on in Texas, so people want to use a lot of field tile and keep the design minimal.”

        For Barker, upselling doesn’t necessarily equate to adding decorative tile to the sale. “If the homeowner wants a minimal look, we might suggest using tile in some other areas besides the kitchen and bath. We’ll see if they want to tile the fireplace, bar area, or we’ll suggest a wainscot in the breakfast nook to complement the backsplash.”

        “People will still use some decorative tiles in the master bath or the powder room, unless they are really going for a modern, clean look throughout the whole house,” she adds.

        “More than trying to boost sales, we are focused on customer service,” says Barker. “We try to help customers find what they are looking for. We sell to the trade, so we focus on really great customer service and then the designers, contractors and builders come back.”

        Large format
        You’ve seen the larger and larger format tiles at Coverings and Surfaces for several years. By now, your customers are seeing these tiles in consumer shelter publications. They may be ready to move in this direction. Zolman says, “The Midwest can be a bit slower to pick up on some of these ideas, but we’ve seen an increase in sales of the 18"x18", 20"x20" and even the 24"x24" tiles.”

        According to Triolo, “The stone look is very popular, people want the appearance but not the expense and the upkeep of stone. That’s where we have some nice porcelains to get the look.”

        Radiant heat
        Floor warming is an option in bathroom and kitchen renovations. With the new electric radiant heat products on the market, floors heat quickly and create comfort underfoot. Radiant heat was seen as a luxury, but with several price points to choose from, it need not be suggested to only the high end clients. Some of the systems are energy efficient, or even solar powered, so the green movement has brought more interest to this product.

        An opportunity to sell new products
        Triolo says that one thing they are doing at Mid-America Tile is analyzing their product lines. “We’re taking a look at all the lines,” she says. “We’re looking to see where we should be and to increase the market area where we’ve been missing.”

        Zolman says, “Something to think about for upselling is offering the simple care and maintenance items. I suggest making sure these aren’t forgotten in the initial sale or afterwards. When you sell those, you bring people back into the store to buy more when they run out. When they come back in they see your new lines and start to think about their next project.”

        Software Choices

        BVH Gregg has software solutions for stone, tile, terrazzo and carpet dealers. This product has estimating, slab optimization, accounting software, and a template digitizer.

        Comp-U-Floor by Aya Associates offers integrated software to run your business; from point-of-sale through ordering, purchasing, inventory and accounting. It includes managerial reports and audit-trails for an efficient operation.

        Dancik’s Enterprise Solutions has a large percentage of the market share in the flooring software industry and works for retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Dancik provides order entry, delivery warehousing, sales, margin, and cost analysis. They also offer visualization tools, point-of-sale, distribution management, scheduling, inventory management solutions, and B2B.

        FloorEstimator by Sigma Micro Systems is a cost-effective estimating software that can integrate with QuickBooks for a complete solution, including accounting and inventory management, B2B.

        FloorPro III is designed specifically for the flooring industry by American Business Computers. Reports can be exported to Excel and the program can be accessed remotely via the Internet. Radio Frequency Identification tracks inventory within the warehouse. If used with the GPS option, it allows for worldwide, automated inventory control. Order processing, purchasing, receiving, sales analysis, accounts receivable and payable are all included. Customer online access, (COLA) allows your customers to check stock and pricing and to place an order remotely. Retail includes point-of-sale, deposits and special ordering. Also, ABC will write conversion programs from your old system.

        Gartman Systems DMS provides integrated information about profitability, sales, financial commitments, cash flow, operational efficiency, resource availability, product performance, suppliers and customers. They also offer accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, payroll, order management, inventory and warehouse management, sales management, summary and analysis information.

        Infor Global by Earnest & Asso-ciates has an integrated software package that works for all flooring businesses. Orders can be easily created from estimates. This program can handle purchase orders, special orders, automatic warehouse transfers and inventory management, including handling of special inventory items. It also references vendor catalogues, and has multiple conversion factors. Bar coding, electronic data interchange import costing, job costing, payroll counter sales are also all available.

        Moraware JobTracker job management software provides job management, quotes, scheduling, purchase orders, inventory, accounts and customization.

        Oneir Solutions offers an Enterprise Level Point of Sale POS, Business Accounting Software and Inventory Management System for single location companies bursting at the seams or for companies who want control over multiple locations in a sophisticated solution.

        Plan Point by Blue Cove Technologies develops business management software for the tile and flooring industry. PlanPoint helps flooring professionals plan, manage, deliver, and analyze profitability. Estimating, purchase orders, work orders, material pick lists, financial reports, production schedule, and a contact manager are all integrated with QuickBooks.

        Prophet 21 is Activant’s enterprise software solution for distributors. Features include order and inventory management, purchasing, pricing, financial, management, customer relationship management, business reporting and analysis, e-business and wireless warehouse management.

        QFloor offers a user-friendly software program to manage retail flooring companies. This integrated system organizes, records, administers inventory, sales, accounting, ordering, payroll, scheduling, job costing, work orders, and B2B.

        RFMS is a business management software solution, run by flooring dealer Terry Wheat. The software handles inventory, job estimating, order entry, sales analysis, banking, and general ledger. There are also job cost, profit analysis, AR/AP and human resource manager. Companion products include Bid Pro, Scheduler Pro, Inventory Bar-coding and B2B.

        Roll Master/NetFloor Software by Textile Management Systems has different options depending on your needs. NetFloor is web based and Rollmaster works on your server. These modular systems manage inventory, job information, customer databases, estimating, accounting, sales analysis and marketing.

        TileGem software creates scaled layout drawings for installations. This free program estimates the required materials needed to get the job done, integrates tile layouts with online tile shopping, and works out inlayed patterns.

        Brief Review of Software

        Of course, anything that can be done to automate systems that would otherwise be done manually will save time and money in the long run. Software specific to the floor covering business can help no matter the size of the office. There is a program for every tile business. Most offer a system to manage inventory, purchasing, receivables, job scheduling, estimating, visualization, or to do sales analysis.

        Zolman says, “The correct software is good for relationship management and can help you target your marketing efforts.” Using software to track customers, keep records, and follow up with customers will improve sales.
        Since your business sells tile and not generic widgets, there are advantages to using vertical software applications. There will be systems in place to deal with lot matching, measurement calculators, and inventory issues such as converting palettes to square feet. “Our software is helpful for information like how many pieces are in the carton, how much it will weigh, and if the tile is in stock,” says Triolo. “Whether tile is available or not matters when the client wants it yesterday. We listen and help them choose based on their time frame, too.”

        Estimating software allows dealers, retailers, and installers to compute the most effective use of the materials. It helps figure costs from time, materials and quickly and accurately. Professional and accurate estimates help dealers make more money because there are fewer mistakes and less waste. Some companies provide business management and either offer estimating software as an add-on or within the product. Visualization tools and B2B (business to business) are available with some of these systems.
        If your current software isn’t specifically for use by flooring dealers, you might simplify, save time and money by switching to another program.

        Sales & Marketing: Customer Relationship Management The days of flipping through a Rolodex are gone.
        November 2nd, 2007

        By Frank Heenan

        November-December 2007

        Everyone knows that keeping customers happy is a key to success, but have you ever thought about what good customer management truly entails?

        For today’s tile distributors, strong customer management demands you do more than simply satisfy your customers’ needs and conduct service with a smile. Take, for example, the case of partnering with a housing developer. You must not only satisfy his tile needs, but those of his customers as well.

        Coupling an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution with your enterprise software solution can take your customer service capabilities well beyond a simple list of names, phone numbers, and addresses by including customer-specific buying history, current and previous deliveries, billing, and product lines, to name a few.

        Broad Customer Base, Specialized Contacts

        As the growth of a housing development broadens your list of customer locations, the developer’s centralized structure considerably narrows your list of contacts. Contacting a customer is not as simple as calling the homeowner where you wish to make a sale or collect on an invoice.

        Centralization has established the need to manage multiple contacts—many of whom coordinate ordering procedures at more than one location. Effective customer management means knowing who is who at every level—from the site manager, to the head designer, to the appropriate purchasing or billing contact in the developer’s business office—and under which circumstances each should be contacted.

        CRM technology offers proactive and detailed customer management capabilities that clearly distinguish between contacts in an intuitive interface that directly integrates with your enterprise software solution and reduces the time it takes to access and manage the necessary data.

        The Sales Formula

        With the diverse product groups a housing project requires, your sales team must understand and readily differentiate between the basic tile choices offered by the developer and the high-end options his customers may choose. Since these product groups contain many specialized items that may not be suitable for a project, a general, basic sales history will not provide enough detailed information to know how much and which type of tile is required for the kitchen of Model 1 versus Model 2.

        CRM offers a more intuitive form of sales history—one that serves not only as a repository of sales information, but as a tool your sales team can utilize to expedite the sales process. With the ability to understand the history and needs of a particular project, your sales team can analyze factors such as amount and color preferences to quickly fill repeat orders, while tracking proposals, quotes, invoices, and making proactive sales decisions that steer dollars to your bottom line.

        Chain of Command

        Of course, understanding and designating product preferences is only part of reaching your customers in an efficient and service-oriented manner. Once you have the proper project and items identified, you need to know whom within the developer’s business to contact to set the purchasing process into motion. Given that many developers work on several projects at one time, you may be filling and shipping an order to one project, but your purchasing contact may be located in a central office far removed from the actual job site.

        By storing a list of designated purchasing contacts, your CRM solution serves as the engine that powers your sales force. With the strength of centralized information driving their activities, your sales force can contact a purchasing agent, quickly retrieve the required items, and finalize the sale—all in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

        This structure also influences your accounts receivable processes, which often require that you manage a list of contacts equally as stratified as those used by your sales team. When an order is placed, your AR personnel need access to the proper contacts, so they can work toward bringing money into your business in less time. Your CRM solution will streamline your AR processes by presenting information in an integrated, easy to navigate interface that organizes billing contacts and streamlines data collection, entry, and access.

        The Power to Progress

        With CRM, you have the power to meet the challenges posed by industry changes, and the flexibility to accommodate change. Many CRM solutions utilize the power of a Windows interface, which provides added familiarity and ease of use for your employees and dramatically cuts the time and costs required to train new ones.

        By coordinating, integrating, and streamlining the quoting, order, expediting, AR and all customer activities, your CRM solution will provide you with the power and flexibility you need to understand and manage your customer base, so you can focus on increasing efficiency and boosting your bottom line.

        Frank Heenan, director of product management and marketing for Activant Solutions Inc., is a well-known technology expert for tile supply distributors. A leading technology provider for the distribution industry, Activant develops technology solutions and services that help wholesale distributors improve customer service and maximize the return on their technology investment. For more information about Activant, please visit www.activant.com or call 1-800-776-7438, press 1.

        ress 1.</p>

        Showroom Seminar – The How-To’s of Hardware: Selling Decorative Accents Can Enhance Your Bottom Line
        November 2nd, 2007

        by Kathleen Furore

        November-December 2007

        Customers who visit one of Klaff’s three retail showrooms in South Norwalk, Danbury, or Westport, Connecticut, find everything from custom cabinets and fireplace mantels to lighting fixtures, tile and stone. But the home design stores’ extensive selection of upscale, decorative hardware often helps staff seal the deal with clients.

        “Hooks, switch plates, cabinet knobs, and hinges are all visible things that will add to the beauty of a room. And being able to offer finish-match accessories is a fairly important aspect of the business,” Jay Gonzalez, Klaff’s Hardware, reports. “These small items will sometimes make or break a sale.”

        As Gonzalez notes, hardware has taken on a life of its own, as today’s fashion-savvy shoppers show they’re more willing to invest in decorative hardware and accessories. Tile dealers who purvey unique knobs, towel bars, switch plates and other accent pieces for the kitchen, bath and beyond can reap the benefits these “add-on” items bring.

        “Carrying decorative hardware has the potential to both raise profits and increase the customer base for tile dealers,” says John Pelka, vice president of marketing for Hickory Hardware, a Nashville, Tennessee-based company that designs and manufacturers hardware for kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, interior and exterior doors, storm doors, and furniture hardware. “Homeowners do seem more willing to invest in unique pieces when it comes to their cabinet and door hardware than in previous years, and much of that has to do with changes in the housing market. These days, people are staying in their homes longer, choosing to renovate rather than relocate,” he adds.

        Wade Rompel, national sales manager at Innovis Corporation—makers of the Better-Bench® bench forming system and Recess-It® niche for bath and shower areas—echoes: “Ceramic tile and stone dealers have always understood the value in ‘add-on’ merchandising.’ In fact, due to the extremely competitive nature of their market, many rely on this very concept due to the higher profits they can provide.”

        With profit margins for decorative hardware often exceeding 50 percent in showroom environments, according to Pelka, it is simple to see how selling hooks, knobs, switchplates and other add-ons can impact the bottom line.
        While the sale of a switch plate might at first seem like a small add-on, it becomes apparent how much revenue dealers can generate when they learn the average consumer buys seven switch plates at a time,” says Gary Marmer, vice president of marketing for Questech, makers of cast stone switchplates, as well as cast stone corner shelves and soap dishes for shower installations. “They begin discovering they can make the sale almost every time they sell tile for a kitchen, bathroom or any other room in the home.”

        Hardware Trends
        Knowing what to offer can be a challenging first step in building a hardware and accessories lineup. While demographics ultimately will impact the product mix you carry, industry experts have identified some general trends.
        According to Gonzalez, Klaff’s customers currently favor rustic bronze hardware as well as un-lacquered brass—“basically anything that looks like it has been around for a long time,” he says. Interest in contemporary items is on the rise, with polished nickel gaining popularity for powder room and bathroom installations.

        Pelka reports that cool, sleek finishes such as satin nickel or Sausalito silver are consistently popular because they complement a range of styles from contemporary to traditional and allow customers to easily coordinate all of the hardware in their homes. Warmer finishes like copper and bronze, however, are breaking through.

        “We’ve seen an increased interest in darker finishes, including oil-rubbed bronze with an underlying bronze or copper patina, as well as the even darker espresso finish,” Pelka says. “We’ve also seen an increasing tactile need: When people feel their hardware they often want something with rustic or hand-wrought textures.”

        Brass and plated zinc continue to dominate kitchen, bath and door hardware, but Pelka says the demand for stainless steel hardware to match stainless steel appliances in modern kitchens is on the rise.

        “We’re also expecting to see continued interest in rustic designs made from iron as well as an increasing trend in the use of leather, woods like bamboo, and other tactile materials that offer a warmer feel than metals,” he says.

        Glass, too, is a popular material in hardware design today. Rick Barron of Adagio Art Glass in Boulder, Colorado, says orders for the company’s handmade fused glass knobs and pulls that coordinate with its glass tiles have been up about 75 percent a year for the past three years.

        The size of hardware also has evolved, with sales of larger handles gaining steam. “As kitchens get larger, cabinet doors and drawers are also getting larger. Cabinet handles have increased in size, now ranging from 3-inch to 96mm, 128mm and even 8-inch in length,” Pelka says. “We’ve seen very strong demand for appliance pulls, for both cabinets and wood-paneled appliances, which can range in size from 8 inches to up to 24 inches in length.”

        Baths are getting bigger, too—a trend that is making shower benches popular add-on items. “With the advent of larger showering spaces, shower bench installation has become a popular project request. Shower spaces used to be tucked away in a corner, but are now becoming the focal point of many master bathrooms,” Innovis’ Rompel reports. “Ask any woman if she would like a comfortable way to shave a leg. Sold!”

        Anoher trend—one Questech’s Marmer calls “a mega-trend impacting the home hardware and accessories market”—is the heightened consumer demand for products with anti-microbial protection. All Questech products are protected by Q-Seal, a permanent sealer with the anti-microbial ingredient Ultrafresh®, he notes.

        Merchandising Magic
        The way you showcase your hardware and add-on accessories is almost as important as the products you carry. Most customers want to see and feel the items that will grace their homes. And the better job you do of getting your tile customers to look at knobs, towel bars, and switch plates, the less likely they are to head to the nearest hardware store or Big Box home center!
        “Historically a hardware or home center product category, cast stone switch plates that coordinate with stone and ceramic tile can now be captured as an add-on to tile sales,” Marmer says. “Homeowners who have invested thousands of dollars in their kitchens and bathrooms don’t want cheap plastic covers.”

        Specially designed display units, merchandisers and boards are effective merchandising tools.

        “By purchasing a display unit or merchandiser to display the hardware, the dealer is not required to carry inventory in the store, but is able to give customers many different product options,” Pelka explains, adding that display boards usually best catalogs as a sales tool. “Display boards let customers see and feel the hardware before they order it. “When a customer settles on a product or product line, the dealer simply places an order that will generally ship within two weeks.”

        That approach has worked successfully at Klalff’s, where customers find hardware mounted on “beautifully made walnut boards.”

        “We have taken the focus off of company name and grouped like items together for shopability,” Gonzalez notes. “We have a spec program that allows us to print out pictures and specs for our more popular items and are working toward getting all of our product in there.”

        “There are many ways to merchandise hardware, but it’s about finding the one that makes the most sense for the store in terms of investment, but also in regards to styles and appearance,” Pelka stresses.

        Know Your Customers!

        If you want to establish your dealership as the place to shop for tile, hardware and other accessories, getting to know your customers is key.
        “The best way to drive sales is to know your target customer and develop an integrated marketing program to reach those customers,” advises John Pelka, vice president of marketing for Hickory Hardware. “The success of the campaign is dependent upon an integrated marketing program that targets customers who may be remodeling, who have just bought a new home, who are in the process of selling their home, or even customers who are just looking for something special for the holidays or the new season.”
        It’s worth the time and effort to research your customer base because the information you gather “can help determine the key buying factors,” Pelka says. He suggests asking customers the following questions when embarking on this kind of marketing mission:

        • What styles are you looking for?
        • What do you consider today’s hottest finishes?
        • What level of service do you expect?
        • Will you wait two weeks to get a special order, or do you want the product in stock?
        • What price points do you expect to pay?
        • Do you want experts who can explain the benefits of certain products to be available?

        “Once these factors are defined you need to develop a promotional plan to reach customers, then have an attractive showroom and a trained staff to complete the sale,” Pelka adds.

        As Rick Barron of Adagio Art Glass concludes: “The salesperson is the most important interface between customer and product. A pleasant environment and beautiful displays are important, but they can’t substitute for a dedicated, creative, empathetic salesperson showing ideas and working with customers.”

        Installer Update: Updates to an American Method for Measuring Coefficient of Friction
        November 2nd, 2007

        November-December 2007

        By Eric Astrachan

        Did you know that the cost of injuries related to slips and falls exceeds 20 billion dollars a year in the United States? In addition to the medical costs and human suffering associated with slips and falls, there are also legal costs, which reportedly are second only to the costs of asbestos claims in the total value of awards made.

        As good citizens, we are all concerned with how to reduce the number of such injuries that occur each year. As manufacturers, distributors, retailers, installers, or owners of floor tile, you could be involved in this issue.
        This year, the method generally used in the tile industry for measuring the coefficient of friction of floor tile (ASTM C1028) was revised and updated. This article explains the most important revisions and provides some insight.

        First, let’s review some basic background information about ASTM C1028. “ASTM” stands for American Society for Testing and Materials. This is an international organization in which TCNA staff and many others in the tile industry belong, and whose members develop standards according to established international consensus rules. These standards can be “standard” test methods or criteria for the manufacture or use of various products. To be accepted as a standard requires a minimum of 90% consensus and the discussion of all negative opinions—a very high requirement indeed! “C1028” is the number assigned by ASTM, International to our tile industry standard method for measuring coefficient of friction.
        To measure the friction between a surface and an object, you must first determine how much force is required to move an object horizontally across the surface. The heavier the object is, the more force required moving it—so we must also know the weight of an object to evaluate the frictional resistance (or resistance to movement between the object and the surface). The ratio of the horizontal force divided by the weight of an object (also called the vertical force or normal force), is the coefficient of friction (COF). The higher the coefficient of friction is, the more resistance there will be to movement. There are two more important terms: static COF and dynamic COF. Static COF refers to the coefficient of friction when an object is stationary; dynamic COF refers to the coefficient of friction when the object is already moving—i.e. the force required to keep an object already in motion—in motion. Dynamic COF is lower than static COF.

        This year when the ASTM C1028 method was revised and approved, there were three important changes:

        • A new calibration tile was approved
        • A table explaining the precision of the method was added
        • The procedure for running the test was clarified testing with a reference tile

        When measuring COF, many things can affect the measurement. This is especially important to remember if making measurements in the field (i.e. outside of a laboratory). It is well-established that temperature and humidity both affect the measurement of COF. For the same reason a basketball player dampens the soles of his shoes for better traction, humidity can increase the COF measured between a surface and the neolite sensor used to make the measurement. You can also understand how the preparation of the sensor can affect the measurement, so it is important to relate all measurements back to standard conditions. By checking a reference tile (or calibration tile) whose values are well-established, it is easy to insure correct COF measurements are being made. Compensation can also be made for small discrepancies through an arithmetic correction factor by comparing values measured in the field on the calibration tile to the values seen under standard conditions.

        We have seen where unscrupulous litigants obscure this issue by manipulating the results they measure in the field and failing to correlate their measurements back to standard conditions. Because the existing supply of reference tiles was nearly exhausted, two new pallets were manufactured under controlled conditions for this purpose and generously donated by Dal Tile. The tile was tested extensively in our TCNA laboratory and in an official ASTM, International inter-laboratory study. The 2007 version of the C1028 method is based on this new reference tile. It includes an equation to correct results for reasonable variation in humidity, temperature, or sensor preparation. Methods that do not include a reference tile should be considered rather suspect, subject to manipulation, and not capable of comparison back to standard conditions.

        For example, it is common for the architectural community to ask for tile with a static COF of 0.6 or better for public projects, with such values measured under standard conditions. Without a reference tile to check in-situ installations, there would be no reasonable way to determine if the completed project was being maintained according to the criteria set by the architect for floor traction.

        In addition to evaluating and establishing a new reference tile, the official inter-laboratory study evaluated the precision of the method on five differing surfaces, representing a cross-section of surfaces commonly found in tile installations. Understandably, the precision of the method will vary according to the variation in the surfaces being measured. This is because the values reported by the C1028 method are an average of four measurements (each in a different direction) taken on each of three tiles, for a total of twelve measurements. In this fashion, the C1028 test provides an average reading across a three-tile sample, and the more variation there is in the tiles being measured, the more variation there will be in the precision of the method.

        After traveling to laboratories around the country as part of the effort to revise and improve this method, we were able to define tighter controls for how the method should be run to avoid errors being made in the field. These criteria, having to do with how to prepare the sensor to make a COF reading and how quickly to pull the weight, resulted in improvements in the precision of the method, as seen when comparing the new precision section with the precision section before revision. The exact criteria for running the method are contained in the body of the test method itself.

        Using the test data
        One thing the C1028 test method does not provide is how to interpret the results of the test. That is left to those using the data, and unfortunately the data is often misunderstood. The C1028 method provides a measurement of COF, which is but one of many criteria that should be considered when evaluating the slip potential of a surface.

        When using C1028 data, one cannot assume a linear scale. For example, a tile that measures 0.6 when wet may have a low slip potential (i.e. be slip resistant), but a value of 0.4 is not 4/6ths (or 2/3rds) as slip resistant. That would assume a linear relationship, while in fact a tile with a value of 0.4 when wet can be quite slippery. Similarly, a tile with a value of 0.7 when wet often is much more slip resistant than a surface with a COF of 0.6.
        It is also useful to evaluate the dynamic coefficient of friction when determining slip potential, as both static and dynamic COF are important when people walk on a surface. While the C1028 measurement does not provide a measurement of dynamic COF, the methods commonly used overseas (British Pendulum, TORTUS, and German ramp) do assess dynamic COF. We have seen that surfaces that have a high static and high dynamic COF (note—the dynamic value will be lower than the static value) generally have a low potential for slip. Similarly, surfaces with a low dynamic and static COF have a high slip potential, but surfaces with one value high and the other low may indicate an anomaly in how the coefficient of friction was determined. For example, it is well known that the German ramp tends to incorrectly report metal plates with a traction surface. Also, the British Pendulum can misread surfaces with an extensive amount of texture. The C1028 method can over-report highly polished surfaces that tend to “stick” (the way two glass plates will stick to each other when there is water between them). By comparing both dynamic and static values, a better assessment of the slip potential of a surface can be made.

        Often plaintiffs in slip/fall litigation will try to substitute a dynamic measurement of COF for a static measurement. When comparing against a specified value (for example a static COF of 0.6), one cannot substitute one measurement for the other. Also, as noted previously, any measurement must be correlated back to what it would be under standard measurement conditions to avoid misleading data.

        The Tile Council is now evaluating a device, the BOT-3000, that allows both static and dynamic measurements to be made in separate passes. The data is encouraging and over time standards for the BOT-3000 test method may be established much as the ASTM C1028 standard test method has been established. You can be sure that a calibration reference and a careful inter-laboratory study would be included in such a method to receive industry support. As with ASTM C1028, the input and involvement of manufacturers, distributors, retailers, installers, and users, in addition to slip/fall researchers and consultants would also be sought. On behalf of TCNA, we thank all those that contributed this year to the improvements to C1028.

        Eric Astrachan is the executive director of the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). Established in 1945 as the Tile Council of America (TCA), TCNA has a leadership role in promoting the use of ceramic tile and in developing North American and international industry standards. To learn more about TCA, please go to www.tileusa.com.

        1It is worth noting here that this common request for tile with a static COF of 0.6 or better stems from a now outdated ADA Access Board document in which a 0.6 static COF recommendation was made. Commonly misunderstood, this document never set a requirement and has now been withdrawn. The United States Access Board subsequently published a document called “Bulletin #4: Ground and Floor Surfaces” that clears up much of the confusion about this issue and which has no COF recommendation or requirement.

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