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Workplace wellness
Coaching, self-investment, tough decisions transform life and business for Rhode Island tile setter
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Sixteen years ago, Matt Blood, now owner of Paragon Tile Installation in Cumberland, R.I., claimed fire fighting as his main job, with a sideline solo tile-setting business. The intervening years saw him leave fire fighting, embrace his business 100% and expand into artisan tile setting, public speaking and starting a blog. Plus, his personal life has improved and he feels great, mentally, physically and emotionally.
How did he make the leap? On February 28, 2023, Blood said goodbye to the firehouse. Over the years, things changed for him there – a 20 year commitment with a pension bait and switched to a 30 year commitment with a downgraded pension. Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the firehouse had become a “race to the bottom,” filled with negativity that drained the life out of Blood every time he walked in the door for his two weekly 24-hour shifts. He hated it, and couldn’t see himself putting in ANOTHER 15 years to get a measly pension. He did tilework when not at the fire department, but found little time for family life. His fitness was waning. “I was overweight and out of breath,” he said.
In 2017, he took what he thought would be his next professional step as a manufacturer’s rep, but he missed both his son’s and his wife’s birthdays due to travel commitments with the company, and the owner turned out to possess paltry people skills. He decided to go back on his own in 2020 a month before the pandemic hit with his newly-named Paragon Tile Installation company.

“I was in Vegas for KBIS in 2020 – that was the last thing I was to do for that company,” he said. “I went home sick and didn’t know what I had – of course, I got COVID right out of the gate.”
Fortunately, after recovering, there was a good job on the books with Paragon, and work could continue.
Dedicated to firefighting for 15 years, he realized it was time to change the trajectory of his life. Working with coaches and investing in himself made it possible.
Enter coaching He was connected to a group of local contractors who had hired a business coach. Blood experimented with a few coaches’ podcasts and free materials and finally decided to go all in with personal coach Tom Reber at The Contractor Fight (https://thecontractorfight.com/). Reber’s Marine perspective and Blood’s firefighter background made a great fit. He continued the group coaching sessions. In 2022, things began to change.
He was still firefighting at this point, but was “watching people make good money, taking care of themselves, turning their businesses around.” After conferring with his wife Courtney and developing a plan to clean up a few bills, Blood decided to leave firefighting in October 2023 – his hiring anniversary date. But both coaches came at him “with the gloves off” to not wait. After a little excuse-making, Blood realized he had plenty of work and could do this thing NOW. So he moved his leave-by date to March 1, 2023.

Though he admits fire fighting was his identity for a long time, he got strong support from his coaches and those in his coaching group who urged him to “bet on me,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without coaching.” Like many tile contractors, he was good at what he did, but not so adept on the business side. “I’m still recovering from some of that,” he said. “I am constantly learning.”
Blood with wife Courtney, who came up with the name Paragon Tile Installation for his business.
He’s made changes in leaps and bounds. Even while still at the fire department, he signed up for the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) Training in Milwaukee last June, with the intent of growing the artistic side of his business that he said fits his DiSC personality assessment scores well. He’s a high “C” – a detail oriented perfectionist and says, “That’s why I like taking on the hard jobs.” And, with forethought, he got his Certified Tile Installer credential early on, in 2016.
At the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) Training in Milwaukee last year, Blood perfects his 107-piece koi mosaic.
Be intentional: Be your own hero! His life now is very intentional – 4:30 a.m.-7:00 a.m. is gym time, breakfast, making lunch; there’s his workday and Friday is his in-office paperwork time. He’s hired an employee, who he calls a “godsend” and another one is joining soon. “Both want to be CTIs,” he said.

“I can’t tell you the last time I worked a weekend,” he said. “Last weekend we went skiing on Saturday and spent the day around the house. It’s all around so much better. I wish I found this sooner, though I can’t change that.” He spends more time with his boys, and practices guitar with his youngest every night, both father and son learning from YouTube. “I am home in the evenings, home for dinner every night.”
Blood said he also has never read so many books as he did in the last year. Two books stand out: Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALS Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, both retired Navy SEALs. This book taught Blood that “Everything is in my control. If it’s in my world I have to take ownership of it.” At the complete other end of the spectrum, Blood said, is The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael Alan Singer.
Two books Blood has read in the last year that have changed his life.
“I thought that book was written about me,” Blood said. “It’s about the inner roommate in your head – you can’t do this, negative self talk. That was a massive thing for me to get through.”
But Blood decided to jump in with both feet, “rid myself of the imposter and start a weekly blog called Be Your Own Hero.” Check it out at matthewblood33.blogspot.com.
Blood grabbed the imposter syndrome by the horns and accepted an invitation by his coach to share his story at The Edge 2024 event early this year – his first public speaking engagement ever. But he thought, “If I can’t invest in me, what can I invest in?” The “imposter” slammed Blood with fear until about 10 minutes before he went on and realized that there were 37 people in the audience who paid to hear what he and the other speakers had to say. “Ten people came up and thanked me for sharing,” he said. “I am a perfectionist and I need to know a thing will be right before I do it. Now I know it’s okay to be wrong. No one is perfect. But it’s MY story! It’s not going to be wrong!”
Blood had his first speaking engagement on January 12 of this year with this group of leaders, coaches, motivators, nutritionists, and fitness experts. His topic? Be Your Own Hero.
Taking control of his future Pushing further, Blood will join a team of artisan comrades from the A.R.T. Training for TileFest next month at the TileWorks in Doylestown. Together, they will demonstrate the artistic capabilities of tile to a new audience of the tile curious. He will also participate in presentations with said comrades at the Artisan Stage in the Art Tile Village at Coverings this month.
“I am blown away and thankful to have the trust of the artisan leaders to be able to share what I know at these events,” he said. “To have the knowledge and capability to share with anyone interested what can be done with tile...I’m blessed!”
In addition to all this, he enrolled in the NTCA’s Emerging Leaders program to take his business to the next level. His driving reason?
“I was reading TileLetter the other day and flipped to [NTCA President] Sam Bruce’s article,” he said. “I told my wife – ‘My picture will be there one day.’ I really enjoy everything there is around NTCA and what it is about, and building the industry in all the ways I can. I want to see it through for the next group of leaders.”
His business goal is to shift from regular tile setting into selling and keep jobs coming for his employees, as well as focusing on his tile artwork.
This recent Paragon install shows Blood’s dedication to precision, excellence and artistry.
Sharing wisdom His closing words of wisdom? “Whatever I am doing, I go all in on that thing,” he said. “Working out – that’s what I am doing. Playing guitar – focus 100% on that thing at the time.” In terms of goals, he echoes Nike’s slogan: “Just do it. Stop thinking about it and just do it. It’s never too late. I am 45 years old. I could have thought, ‘I’m [stuck being] a firefighter…it’s too late.’ Or I can do what I am doing.
“My biggest thing,” he concluded, “is to be your own hero. Do what you need to do, so you can be who you want to be for those around you. No one is coming to save you – it’s up to you to control your destiny. Be selfish to be selfless.”