By Louis Iannaco
Volume 27/number 15; December 3/10, 2012
Rancho Mirage, Calif.—Officials at the recent 2012 Total Solutions Plus (TSP) conference were pleased that more than 400 participants took part in networking and educational opportunities in the ceramic tile segment. The significant growth encouraged guests to deem the event the best Total Solutions Plus show thus far.
TSP was sponsored once again by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA)—the third consecutive year of these combined efforts.
Attendees had access to the latest industry education on stone tile installations, glass tile pool installations, concrete substrates installations, grout residues and thin tile installations, as well as the most current business information regarding building a sales and service team, increasing profit, and positioning themselves as an integral sellers.
In addition to the educational sessions, attendees also had the opportunity to network with industry leaders in distribution, contracting and manufacturing. They also participated in a full schedule of educational breakout sessions and networking during the tabletop exhibits, which featured a total of 69 manufacturers, distributors and industry allies.
The conference began with a presentation by Connie Podesta, an expert in the psychology of human behavior and leadership development, who discussed “Standout Leadership: How to Achieve Success by Influencing Others to be Successful.”
“I love the fact that not only the board members of CTDA, NTCA, and TCNA are all together at one venue, but also many executives from leading companies and organizations on their way up are here too,” said TCNA executive director Eric Astrachan.
“People raved about the presentation by Connie Podesta,” noted Astrachan, who himself presented the most current information from TCNA. This included new tile standards and industry growth, along with the U.S. tile industry’s status measured in square feet and in dollars, changes to the TCNA Handbook and ANSI Standards, the latest on thin tiles, and sustainability.
Astrachan also gave an overview on the state of the industry, which was encouraging. He predicted consumption of 2.2 billion square feet, up 5.8% from 2.08 billion square feet in 2011.
The event was more than just business. “The all-industry golf outing sponsored by Dal-Tile—which had over 100 participants—was a welcome break and a great way for people to get together outdoors,” he said. “The table top event was well-attended and especially convivial. But for me, perhaps the greatest feature was the unique opportunity to develop consensus on industry issues with representatives from labor, manufacturing and distribution all conveniently together. That cuts into some of the fun, but it sure helps with our work at TCNA.
Astrachan discussed the abundance of conversation about each of the conference issues, especially thin tile. “I believe people came away optimistic about the opportunities with thin tile but are still concerned that there are issues to resolve. Leaders at NTCA, CTDA, and TCNA are certainly working on those problems.”
According to NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga, TSP seems to improve every year. “Though approximately the same number of people registered this year, as in 2011, the sessions seemed fuller, with more people engaged in more events. I heard many positive comments about the pacing and scheduling of the show, which kept people involved. The opening presentation was entertaining and interactive, giving everyone an immediate conversation starter, and it was referred to throughout the show.”
“The educational sessions were excellent,” Bettiga noted. “I attended the glass pool tile seminar and thin-tile session. Both were very informative. The thin-tile presentation, which included Noah Chitty of StonePeak, Tim Bolby of Crossville and Neil MacMurdie of Mapei, was standing-room only. I also attended the grout residues session and learned a tremendous amount about the prevention and removal of grout haze. This is a common problem and was well addressed by Noah and Tim, as well as Rod Sigmon of Aqua Mix, Jim Neal of Dal- Tile and outgoing NTCA president Nyle Wadford. Eric’s keynote on the changes in the handbook and new ANSI standards was excellent, as well.”
Many exhibitors reported they were very happy with the turnout and quality of the attendees regarding the table-top portion of the show. “People also liked the format of the show—having the meetings over the weekend and then having an afternoon to regroup with the golf tournament and other activities and start fresh for the conference on Monday,” Bettiga said.
Both Bettiga and Astrachan noted thin tile “was big at the show, with ample talk about the advantages offered by certified and qualified tile setters. Also, the mood of attendees in general seemed happier than past years. Overall, people are starting to see movement in their markets.”
CTDA executive director Rick Church said while the show’s main topic was the economy, there was also a “lot of discussion about new thin-tile products and the benefits and challenges that go along with t hem. Attendees had an excellent time learning from the sessions and from each other during networking opportunities. Overall, the show was great, and received the highest ratings ever from attendees.”
Robert DeAngelis of Louisville Tile said the two main reasons to attend the show are the trade show and the available networking opportunities. The tabletop trade show allows attendees to visit more than 60 booths in a few hours. As a result, many contacts can be made in a short timeframe. DeAngelis stated it is a tile industry version of speed dating. “TSP is a small event, with about 500 attendees, but the venue and programs allow for multiple interactions with industry leaders. As a result, some meaningful relationships can begin to form. There was a real sense of togetherness and optimism for the tile industry.
“Our industry is going into better times, the result of a desire for high quality flooring and finishes, technological advancements, and an overall improvement in the economy,” he noted. “TSP is the best tile event for our company leaders. TSP programs, trade shows and networking opportunities facilitate learning and conversations across industry specialties. I look at this as my favorite tile industry event of the year.”
Tom Kotel, president of Mid-America Tile, believes the convention “was the best ever. It was a great venue and featured very good educational sessions, especially the workshop on thin porcelain. The manufacturer tabletop event and attendee networking are two things you can only experience at this event. The mood of guests at this show was very good. Having CTDA, NTCA and TCA all together makes a great venue and enhances networking. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
As Astrachan concluded, “I’m still basking in the glow of the camaraderie from TSP and the overall upbeat attitude of the people who attended. I don’t believe the economy can account for it—it just all came together to the credit of CTDA’s management, the sponsors, the facility, the program and the weather in Palm Springs. Because of the board meetings at TSP, it is really the only event where everyone gets to meet each other, regardless of years in the business, stature or position. As such, it’s a great opportunity for anyone interested in developing business and relationships for the future.”