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president's letter
Construction worker stereotype or true professional?
Sam Bruce
NTCA President
As members of the construction industry, tile installers and businesses often come under the stereotype of being “construction workers.” I personally take great pride in this, as we are able to use our craft to put the finishing touches into a home, commercial building, or any other structure and make it beautiful.
But often the perception of “construction workers” is reduced to negative stereotypes that are offensive, degrading – and unfortunately sometimes true.
Ask yourself, “How do I want to be perceived? How am I changing the public’s perception of a construction worker? Am I portraying myself and my business as professionals?
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I will never forget what a client once told me as she handed me payment at the completion of the job: “Please don’t spend all of this money at the casino and liquor store.” I was shocked, and later angry at the insult. However, these negative perceptions can be an opportunity to differentiate yourself – or your business – as true professionals and craftspeople.
You know the stereotypes: uneducated, unskilled, performing hard labor in dirty conditions because they are the only jobs that they can get, careless, dangerous, and living paycheck-to-paycheck.
You have a chance to explode these stereotypes. If you are a tile installer, become educated in the craft and the industry. Installing tile is more than just smearing thinset and laying tile. Know the standards and best practices, and stay up to date with them. Keep up with the ever-changing tile industry by constantly learning new methods, new products, new standards, and growing with it. Seek as much training as you can – this is what separates the skilled from the unskilled.
On-the-job-training alone is not enough. There are so many different opportunities for additional training through suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers. They all want to see us succeed so they continue to have good customers to sell their product to. Attend NTCA Workshops and NTCA Regional Training events (177 workshops and 64 Regional/Art Glass Panel events scheduled for 2023). These trainings are free to you as an NTCA Member. Click on the Community Calendar under the Training and Education tab at tile-assn.com to find an NTCA training event near you.
As a member of the NTCA, you also have access to NTCA University and the ability to implement the DOL-approved NTCA Tile Finisher and Tile Setter Apprenticeship Programs. You will become more knowledgeable and skilled from these trainings, setting yourself and your company apart from your competition.
Constantly look for ways to become efficient and improve your work processes, such as being organized and keeping your work area clean. This gives an impression of professionalism to your customers. Invest in quality tools that you need to perform the job such as large cutting boards, leveling spacers, and the right saw blades for the tiles you are installing. Using a tile saw on a 36" or 48" plank will waste time and slow down production, vs. using a large cutting board made for this size of tile. Having the right tools will pay for themselves and will help you provide a quality product.
And find ways to invest in these same opportunities for your employees. Equip them with expensive tools that will make them successful and more productive. Create a culture that promotes a career and a career path, rather than only a job and paycheck. Pay your employees well so they can support their families and make an impact in their lives. Provide opportunities for them to invest in themselves with health insurance and retirement plans. Hold yourself and your employees to a higher standard and do not settle for less. These are the things that will set you apart from other construction businesses. As a business owner you will only be as successful as your employees are. 
Become involved and part of trade associations. Most who are reading this are already members of the NTCA; take the next step and become more connected and attend as many of the industry events that you can. Be at the forefront of the industry and do not get left behind. Join other professional associations as well, such as Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC), Builders Exchanges, or any others that relate to your business. When you can show and share your knowledge with your customers, you gain their trust and you become the professional who is not “just” a construction worker.
Best to your success, Sam Bruce President, NTCA SamB@vctile.com