Contractor Spotlight: Zak Pyle, THP, LLC
For this edition, we sat down with Zak Pyle, who owns THP LLC in Plymouth, MI
How did you first get involved in the tile industry? Please explain a little bit more about yourself.
Pyle: My father owned a commercial flooring company so my earliest memories involve begging him to let me come along on the weekends and of running a wet saw when I was five. At the time, I think I was motivated by the opportunity to spend time with my dad. During my teenage years, the opportunity to work on the crews with my father’s employees offered the benefit of being part of a team that collectively worked to accomplish a goal. This later became a significant tenant in our overall philosophy. I was able to start college courses when I was 15. When I was 21, I was able to leave my father’s business and start my own.
What were some reasons for starting your own business?
Pyle: My motivation was to take the business model my father had and expand its reach. Things grew quickly and after a few years, we had more than 40 employees. During the mid-2000s, business became more challenging and I decided to determine what I wanted to spend my time doing and who I wanted to do it with. Ultimately, my brother Travis and I partnered and collectively delivered our best to our customers. When my father passed away, the only thing the countless people said to me that made me feel better was from one customer my father had for years. He told me, “Your father was a true craftsman.” Travis is a true craftsman and provides an element in the field that is unparalleled. Sometimes in business, things are driven by money, but true satisfaction comes from creating things from the heart. My father’s impact on how we do business was incredible. Our approach is to be fair and equitable with our pricing, partner with our customers honestly and approach each project with the desire to deliver what the customer needs.
Has the tile industry changed much since you first started? If so, in what ways?
Pyle: When I was young, I saw that customers would recognize that they didn’t know the nuances and details involved in commercial flooring so they would trust my father to deliver. They were relationship-based return customers because they recognized the value in issue-free subcontractors. While this dynamic is not completely lost, unfortunately it does not happen enough on the commercial end of the industry. We are blessed to exclusively work for customers that we have longstanding relationships with. There is nothing wrong with a hard bid/low bid approach to work that lacks complexity. But the new materials that continue to come out and the creative architects/designers that enjoy implementing them often call for more experienced installers or what used to be called craftsmen.
Is there a particular job you’ve completed that stands out? Why?
Pyle: We recently did 7,000 square feet of 60- x 120-inch 6-mm-thick porcelain throughout a 14-story building lobby that stayed occupied with three restaurants. Another recent one that comes to mind is an exterior test track remove and replacement that was 36 x 300 feet in the elements of a freeze/thaw region. Our niche is quickly accomplishing challenging projects without creating any issues.
What are some common issues you have to deal with on the jobsite? How do you overcome them?
Pyle: The issues that we come in contact with daily are typically schedule-related. General contractors and construction managers have lofty goals, as it relates to schedule on the onset of projects, and rarely desire to move their “dead end date” regardless of what transpired throughout the construction process. The ability to visit sites ahead of time and know when projects will actually be ready and simultaneously juggle other work is often where resources have to be spent. When the actual work starts, being able to work through the lack of details architects and designers on occasion overlook is often where time can be lost or saved. This is where forethought and experience really play a role in what kind of advantage you can have.
What are some steps you take to educate your customers about their tile installation before you begin?
Pyle: Our approach with the customer is one of transparency and honesty. If we have a lobby with tremendous natural light and a 12- x 24-inch tile that is as flat as a banana, we communicate that to the customer and provide options and ideas that we feel might provide the best end result. This attitude is taken across the board and our experience is that the customer quickly garners trust and confidence. That creates a positive atmosphere, which is worth every penny on a large, long-term project. If somebody was starting out today without any connections, but had skill or the ability to have skilled employees, I would suggest a few things.
If you could lend any advice to professionals just beginning their careers, what would it be?
Pyle: Be honest. Don’t ever say you will be somewhere and not show up. Don’t ever say you can do something and not deliver. Don’t ever show up and not do anything that’s not your very best. One of the best lessons I ever learned was when I was 16. My father had guys in multiple houses where a new sub was going in. I was on one of those crews and on a Friday around 5 p.m., I was finishing an upstairs bathroom floor. Spec 4 1/4-inch straight lay hall bath. I was putting the threshold in and my father came up the stairs and saw that 6 or 7 feet back, I had a slight hook through the middle. I had plans that night that didn’t involve removing and replacing a bathroom floor, but that’s what I did. I didn't want to at the time, but I’m glad I did because it taught me that the customer deserves the best. We are there to provide it.
If you or anyone you know is interested in being featured in a future edition of the “Contractor Spotlight,” please email Heather Fiore at email@example.com.