News & Press: President's Letter

February 2019 President's Letter

Monday, September 16, 2019  
Posted by: Trish Moss
Share |

It's lonely on the soap box
You may have heard the expression, “standing on your soap box.” The phrase goes way back to when every street corner in a city had someone barking out their opinion/product/position standing on a sturdy box, like a soap box.

When your customer says, “My other tile guys never talk to me about this,” we usually want to wear this comment as a badge of honor. It’s often an opportunity to showcase a level of expertise we bring to the project. It can also be the moment you develop a lifelong customer, or identify a client not interested in anything but price. You want to stand up on your soap box and tell them everything about why your installation is the best, and what you bring to the project. You get the idea. We usually see this as an opportunity to establish our value and willingness to always try to do the job “better.”

Your commitment speaks about you both personally and professionally. You feel if you can translate your passion and commitment in a dialogue that engages your customer, that will be enough. It will sell the project and convince the client you are the right person for the job. But sometimes, you run into the, “It’s just tile. OK is good enough” attitude. This can be very disconcerting when you are passionate about what you’re doing.


Recently I had the opportunity to make a presentation to an owner, general contractor, and architect/design firm. I was thrilled to talk about our commitment to their project, and about correctly performing an installation that would survive a nuclear blast. This included our willingness to provide extended warranties, and our use of premium installation products – and why that mattered. I asked the investor how that translated to him and if it established us a company committed to a high-quality result. He replied, “Well, it’s great that your company stands behind their work. It’s good to hear your level of excitement and commitment. But I’m going to sell this building inside of three years. To me, it’s really just about the price.”

I was stunned. I was so disappointed. For a second, I was speechless (not a condition I am used to). How could the owner not feel as much passion for their project as we did? How could this be more important to us than is was to them? At that moment, I knew we would not be doing the project --a $2 million-plus project gone. A year of pre-construction budgets and work. Probably a solid month of estimating, pricing exercises and scope of work clarifications.

In those moments you have to remember that there will always be someone willing to do a job for less than you will. Remember last month’s message was, “You should get paid for that!” Our chairman says, “There is always someone willing to accept a standard less than what you are willing to accept.”

This does not that mean you need to lower your standard. It may require you to continually monitor and re-evaluate your business and identify new ways to show your value. It may require you to target certain clients, projects or installations that showcase your expertise or commitment. Don’t give up. Keep doing the work that meets your standard of excellence. Sometimes your standard will exceed what the client thinks they need. That’s ok, you are the expert. Don’t be afraid to lose a job that will ultimately cost you because you competed only by a price established by someone willing to do less, for less. You bet it makes it harder. But keeping to your level of commitment will always eventually bring you the type of projects you are looking for. You may just need to keep standing on your soap box!

Chris Walker
NTCA President

Vice President, David Allen Company
Chairman - ANSI A-108
ChairmanUS TAG ISO T-189
Board of Directors ABC-VA
Voting Member TCNA Handbook
Voting Member NTCA Reference Manual