Total Solutions Plus (TSP) is an industry-wide educational and networking event targeted towards distributors, contractors and manufacturers that has been held for the last seven years. Each year, the event continues to grow, which proves its importance to professionals within the industry. The 2016 conference was held at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, CA, from October 22 to 25, where it attracted more than 650 attendees.

“For those of you that missed it, this was by far the best conference I’ve been to,” said one attendee. “For those of you that couldn’t attend, please, for your sake, make the time and investment to get to one. You’ll keep coming back.”

The annual conference is organized collaboratively by the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA). Every year, the conference kicks off with a golf tournament, along with some fun-filled activities pertaining to the area which it’s being held in. To pay homage to the West Coast’s unmatched landscape, attendees had the chance to explore national parks, hike ancient canyons, visit art museums and even take a tasting tour of some of El Paso’s finest eateries.

The opening reception, sponsored by Coverings, was hosted outside at the main pool, where the majority of attendees gathered to mingle and enjoy some drinks. The next morning, business consultant and author, Joe Calloway, began TSP with his opening keynote, “Minds Wide Open,” which was also sponsored by Coverings. “One of the best things about a function like this is the networking,” he explained at the beginning of his presentation. “You’ve got to be willing to talk to each other and to talk to me.”

The globally recognized branding and performance expert engaged the audience with his uplifting and entertaining speech, where he provided expertise from his 33 years in the industry. “We’ve become way too programmed,” he explained. “Part of my goal is to bust up that programming and make you step out of your comfort zone. All things aren’t easy to do, but they are easy to identify.”

Although Calloway explained how he’s “never seen a secret to success,” his presentation discussed some of the world’ most successful companies, how they maintain their success and how you can follow some of their business models to do the same. “When you look at successful companies, they all have a few things in common and you can do all of those things, too,” he said.

Keeping the industry up-to-date

After the opening keynote, the educational sessions began. During one of the day’s first sessions, “Understanding ANSI A137.1 and How to Apply This to Your Installation Projects,” more than 100 attendees packed the room to hear about the updates to the manufacturing standard for tile. Presented by Noah Chitty, director of technical services for Crossville, Inc., and Mark Heinlein, trainer and presenter for the NTCA, the session explained the A137.1 standard and how to use it in sales and installation; detailed lippage information regarding the standard was also discussed. “In order to fully manage a project or to professionally handle a jobsite complaint, it is important to understand A137.1 standards before you address the actual installation,” said Chitty.

Later on that day, a more interactive presentation lent strategies to business owners and professionals alike on how to hire and retain employees as well as attract younger workers. Kathy Peterson, founder of PeopleWorks, engaged the audience with “Hiring and Retaining Employees and Strategies for Bringing a Younger Generation into the Tile Industry,” where she explained how “potential employees are everywhere.” “Everyone you come into contact with is a potential employee,” she said. “Never settle; keep looking.”

Prior to founding PeopleWorks in 1998, Peterson worked as a management development specialist in the global human resources department at a Fortune 500 technology company, where she designed, developed and facilitated a variety of management and leadership training programs for more than 3,000 leaders worldwide. Peterson began PeopleWorks because she saw the need to bring this type of management and leadership training to more organizations. “Some things you can train for, other things you have to hire for,” she said.

On the final day of TSP, the Ceramics of Italy sponsored a keynote by Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America. In “Construction Outlook: Breaking the Ceiling or Falling through the Floor?” Simonson offered forecasts of the construction industry, including nonresidential building to housing and remodeling. Despite the “mixed messages for 2017” he briefly mentioned, Simonson, who has been the leading national construction trade association’s chief economist for the last 15 years, sees a 2 to 7% increase in total spending for 2017.

The closing keynote, also sponsored by Ceramics of Italy, was more relaxed and informal. David Okerlund, an award-winning speaker, presented “Obtaining Altitude through Attitude.” Okerlund incorporates years of experience as a hospital administrator, national sales manager, newspaper columnist and communications coach into his messages. “It’s not what you’re doing in life that brings you dignity, it’s the attitude you have,” he said, when explaining how to obtain a positive attitude in a time of great change and chaos.

Aside from the keynote speeches, the last day of the conference had a lot of informative and educational sessions to offer which covered everything from design trends to what small business leaders should know. Director of design and marketing for Lunada Bay Tile, Feras Irikat, provided an inspiring presentation on design trends, “2017 and Beyond,” where he discussed why trends are born and how to subsequently spot them. “A trend is something that has a long-term effect on us,” he explained. “It’s going to evolve. It’s not like a fad, which is temporary.”

In just one hour, Irikat managed to show participants how to capture, analyze and process socio-cultural research to forecast design and market trends, define new business opportunities, identify the new consumer and identify fresh ways to reach new audiences. He also outlined the latest macro and micro trends in design, which included social media, social conscience and democratic selling.

To end the day, close to 100 companies set up displays for the table top exhibits, giving attendees more one-on-one time to network with one another.

Looking forward

To cater to the ever-growing demand for social media, a TSP app was created this year, known as Whova, which featured all information pertaining to the four-day event. The app will remain active for professionals to continue to network and possibly conduct business.

The next edition of TSP will be held from November 4 to 7, 2017, at the Marriott Washington Wardman Park in Washington, DC.