Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Project Award; Historic St. Patrick's Church (Video)

Deco Tile
One of our customers gave us the contract to tile the rectory shower room at the Historic St. Patrick's church, Toledo, Ohio. The current resident, Rev. Dennis Hartigan, is enthusiastic about the project having selected the classic marble look with a Etruscan Brown tile from American Olean's Catarina line.  The room will feature a 57" wainscot with a deco band, full wall tile in the shower over top of a custom shaped concrete floor with integral rubber waterproofing, and a recessed soap dish; pretty much the Full Monty for tile work in a residential bathroom situation.  The project will provide the crew at Mosaic 10 man days of work. Ready for tile video below.  Happy Tiling!

Etruscan Brown


Monday, January 16, 2012

The Four Factors of Performance; or How You Rate

I'm gonna put this down real simple. If you are doing direct labor in the tile biz, this is how you get rated.

The four factors of performance

1. Productivity - By and large, tile work is bid, secured, and paid by the square foot.  You are rated based on how many square feet of finished goods you turn per man-day.  

Don't be confused by the day where you drop in 300 square feet of tile to thinking you are a 300 square foot a day hand, because you are not that fast.  I have yet to meet that guy.  You still have to go back and put in the 50 final feet the next day and grout it the following and even go back a fourth day (half-day really) to final clean and caulk.  That's a 100SF/MD rating in my book.  What I am looking at is 350 square feet "in and grouted", turn-key work, taking three and one half days. Or, 100 square feet per man-day.  

I figure my jobs with a productivity goal in mind, priced with an underlying value of labor, the productivity goal is based on over 15-years experience, meticulous record keeping on the past performance of 100's of men (a few women too) on 100's of jobs (jobs with a wide range of scope - big vs small, thickset vs thinset, cement grout vs epoxy and so on).  This is a science to me.  You are rated on whether you under or over perform the goal set by so many competent hands who have come before you.  

When you provide a good or service at a cost less than the price paid, you have a business.  You have no business being in the business if you have it the other way around.  That's called charity.  Don't be a charity case. Do shoot to over perform the goal. It's rewarding.

2. Quality - Quality is vitally important for getting paid. So, is it any wonder that quality matters to performance?  

Quality is a little trickier to measure than productivity.  Let's just say, you know it when you see it.  This goes for the expert and the lay person (our customer) as well.  Your work should exhibit PLFS (Plum Level Flat and Square), water should flow to drains (no bird baths), completed tile work should be as clean as when it came out of the box (no grout haze, no glue smears, and no pencil marks - no Sharpies please; I know a good place to stick them).  Grout should be uniform in color and tooling, full joints, and no shrink cracks. 

You are responsible for quality control; I am responsible for quality assurance.  Your guiding principle should be, "Would you accept that in your house?".  If so, proceed.  If I question your work, it is because I am looking at it with an eye to sell your work to our customer.  As stated above, I have a lot of experience trying to sell crap work back when I was young and dumb.  It cost me a lot of money.  I can assure you if I don't think I can sell your work, I don't think I can long pay you to work for me. 

Tidy Work Area
The tilers work area should be kept clean and tidy.  I have heard other trades refer to tilers as pigs.  Look, in case you haven't noticed we take up a big foot print when we are on the job, we tend to linger where there is tile. And, we start messy.  Is it any wonder then that "piggy" sticks?  But this doesn't need to be, for we finish clean and beautiful.  Emphasize clean and beautiful each day and with respect toward the work of others.  Pay particular attention to your slops, the cement slurry in the bottom of your wash and whip buckets.  See that these do not find their way into the heirloom rose bushes or the mop sink trap.  Both are expensive to replace.

Even though rating quality is difficult, I can use rework as a proxy for quality.  Where zero punch list is the goal, rework is the measurable.  On large jobs (team basis), quality is measured in terms of dollars rework over project value, the smaller the better.  On small jobs (individual basis) rework has a direct impact on your productivity.

3. Attendance - This is too simple. How can you perform if you don't show up?  

On an individual basis this makes complete sense; But let's look at it on a group basis.  I build tile teams of three to five guys to tackle big jobs.  You don't think it matters if you, as one of three or one of five, do not show up on any given day?  Do you think it matters to Lebron James if he has to go against the Celtics with four for the day?  Same goes on the tile job, just like basketball tile is a game of bodies on the floor.  Miss one man for a day is bad enough, but could you imagine if each guy on a five-man crew missed one day each (different days) all in the same week?  How can I promise our customer to deliver their floor on time if, provided room for five on the job, I only give them four?  Missing my delivery I would not long have their business, so I cannot long tolerate absenteeism. 

You are measured on days worked over days scheduled for work.  For example, I schedule you for 100 work days in a year and you miss 10, you show up the other 90.  That's a 90/100 (90%), an A in school an F with me.  Here STFU means show up. 

4. Attitude - This factor is by far the most subjective, and is so by design.  On a scale of 1 to 5, one being worst 5 being best, do you bring me problems? Or, do you bring me solutions?  Do you grind me or others on the team down? Or, do you build us up?  

Muzzle it Bitches
Attitude is everything.  I kid you not.  I have bounsed slow guys who; do A-quality work, show up always, are task oriented rarely taking things personally, and once or twice in a period help me solve particularly difficult situations.  I call this rewarding maturity.  I have fired producers who; make excuses for their defects, miss work, are late a lot, and fail to advise me in a timely fashion about inventory on the job until they grab the last tile.  I call this addition by subtraction.

Always bring your best attitude to work. It may just be the factor which keeps you employed.

While not an exhaustive list, in my experience if an individual scores highly on these four with me, then he or she is doing a whole host of little things which lead to on the job success and customer satisfaction.  

What do you think?


Monday, January 9, 2012

CAM Construction Activity Index for SE Michigan

From CAM Online

CAM, the Construction Association of Michigan, reports the results of its October Activity survey, in alignment with the previous Spending Plans survey. Survey is for commercial construction, non-residential building. This is comparing actual to expectations in a sentiment based format. Information is lagging and does not account for current events, such as; October Stock Market rebound, November Elections, improving headline unemployment.

Graph of Actual Data "Activity Index"

Graph of Expectations "Spending Plans Index"
Bottom Line: Respondents are seeing fewer bid opportunities, fewer awards, and an increase in material prices.  

My Analysis

My experience confirms this too.  While I have seen as much bidding as I can handle, I have had to increase my range of interest (drawing a circle around Toledo, the circle just got bigger), yet my awards (bid-to-win ratio) are down on a relative basis.  In the meantime my drywall supplier keeps sending me letters about double digit increases in drywall and metal studs, not that I buy much of these, but they are important proxies. Meanwhile DalTile is currently advising me through their quote notes, that come June all orders will bear a 3% freight surcharge. While not double digit inflation, it is nonetheless upward.  Price increases are notoriously hard to pass on to clients, especially while activity is down. This is extreme margin pressure.

Expect the shake out to continue. Only the leanest most professional organisations will survive;

Some suggestions:

  • Find innovative ways to cut overhead
  • Speed up receipts.
  • Watch those credit lines.
  • Call on your customers, ask for their business.
  • Be very selective about who gets your best number.
  • Stick with the winners.
Happy Tiling


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tec Specialty Rolls Out Power Grout (Video)

Bob Dailey from Tec Specialty joins us to describe the features and benefits of Power Grout. With free sample in hand, we look forward to using it on The HiYaa! project this month.  Thanks Bob.

Happy Tiling!