For this edition, we sat down with Michael Denis, owner of Denis Tiling Co. in Warwick, RI. Denis Tiling Co., which was established in 2014, specializes in custom showers, bathrooms, backsplashes and kitchen floors.

How did you first get involved in the tile industry?

Denis: Prior to working in the trades, I was a salesman for multiple gyms in my area. I got pretty tired of the sales hustle, and through a family member, found my way into the trades. I started as a carpenter for a few years, where I did framing to finish work. About two years into that, I had the chance to install some tile on one job. I watched YouTube videos for about four hours the night before the install to try and give myself a crash course. I remember taking my time and wanting to be sure everything was perfect. In a weird way, tile stole my heart that day. A few months later, I had another opportunity through the same family member to do an apprenticeship with a tile setter. The rest is history.

What were some of the reasons for starting your own business?

Denis: Being extremely OCD, I’ve always found it challenging to work for another person. I like having my own ways of doing things, but at the same time, can drive my peers nuts when I get going. I tend to go all in when I enjoy something. Sometimes, way over the top. My work is no exception. I took the time to read, research and observe from the best, and also had the opportunity to work with a high-end installer. Once I felt like I had the necessary skillset and knowledge, I made the “leap of faith” to go on my own. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Is there a particular job you’ve completed that stands out? Why? 

Denis: One job came to mind right away. A marble, 3- x 12-inch herringbone backsplash with a 1/16-inch joint space. It was a job I did during my apprenticeship. This was my first herringbone pattern, and it was by no means, a bike with training wheels. Luckily, my boss was patient with me and held my hand the whole week while I cursed my way to learning the ins and outs of the pattern. The end result was so satisfying. That sense of accomplishment may be the biggest reason I tile in the first place.

What are some common issues you have to deal with on the jobsite? How do you overcome them?

Denis: Power and water would be the most prominent issues. I do a lot of new construction, so they are luxuries. Also, working in New England, you have to deal with a drastic change in temperature and humidity year-round. It can make certain applications increasingly more difficult.

What are some steps you take to educate your customers about their tile installation before you begin?  

Denis: I am probably one of the more transparent installers out there. I really enjoy teaching my customers what I am doing and why I am doing it. I think, in order to have a really positive relationship with your customers, you need to do that. Word of mouth is free advertising, after all. 

If you could lend any advice to professionals just beginning their careers, what would it be? 

Denis: Be humble. Always be eager to learn. Take every opportunity given to you. Return favors. Find the balance between work and life outside of work. Surround yourself with likeminded people. Keep your word. Take better care of your customers than you do yourself.