In this edition, we sat down with Jonathan Stanton, owner of Jonathan Stanton Tile, Inc. in Louisville, KY.
How did you first get involved in the tile industry? Please explain a little bit more about yourself. Are you a company owner? If so, what were some reasons for starting your own business?
Stanton: I’ve been in the tile industry in Louisville, KY (Kentuckiana) pretty much my whole life. In fact, I’ve never had any other job besides cutting Mrs. Shirley’s lawn as a teenager. As a second-generation tile professional, I’ve been blessed beyond words as to how good this industry has been to me. My dad, Ralph, owned Stanton Tile for nearly four decades and retired in good health just a few years ago. Growing up as a kid, I worked every summer and countless weekends learning the trade from a true master. I graduated from Murray State University with a BS in Business in 2000. As business partners, my dad and I shared different visions and goals, and by 2002, I ventured out on my own and started Jonathan Stanton, Inc. (JSI). Although it was a stressful time for both me and my dad, I was able to stay connected with my dad as a subcontractor for a year or so while we both transitioned ourselves. I look back at that volatile time and now see my decision benefiting my relationship with my dad. Today, we play golf, have dinners and even share some vacations together. In fact, I talk to my dad nearly every single day. We have many hilarious jobsite moments and we love our time together. God’s nudge to start my own company and his direction with paving my path gave me a chance to grow my relationship with my dad. Like I said, I’m blessed beyond words.
Has the tile industry changed much since you first started? If so, in what ways?
Stanton: The only constant about the tile industry over the last few decades is that it’s certain to evolve. I’ve had to learn about foam shower systems, linear drains, heated floors and how to install porcelain panels over 10-feet-long. Change is an understatement. I remember my dad carrying a notebook and pen, using an atlas to find hidden streets and communication was either in person or a call back from a phone booth as he glanced at his pager. Change is good — in fact it’s necessary. Installation methods have evolved along with design, tools and even how we market ourselves with websites and social media. It’s common for me to let go of some clients while also picking up new ones. Staying engaged with the trends and accepting change has been a necessity to staying relevant in this industry.
Is there a particular job you’ve completed that stands out? Why?
Stanton: I’ve had so many great jobs over the years and it’s hard to pick even a few that are favorites. I don’t really have favorite jobs so much as favorite moments -- like the time I let a little girl put her hand print in the loose mortar and set her own tile and the time I got to remodel two bathrooms for a family going through a rough time. I cherish the moments more than the actual jobs.
What are some common issues you have to deal with on the job site? How do you overcome them?
Stanton: There are so many issues and challenges to overcome as a tile professional. Starting out, my difficulties were with tough tile layouts/patterns and even job bidding. Today, I struggle with keeping my crew’s moral high, work/life balance, delegation and communication. I’ve learned to trust my guys in leadership positions, but also be present and active on my jobsites. Good paperwork and keeping my clients informed while also keeping my guys up-to-date with all the job details on a daily basis is a way I keep problems from occurring. Typically when there is an issue somewhere, it’s because there was a breakdown in communication and a detail got left out.
What are some steps you take to educate your customers about their tile installation before you begin?
Stanton: The number one thing to do to ensure a successful outcome on a job is to go over every detail possible with a client beforehand. A client should know exactly what shower system is being used, what the drain looks like, the size and location of the shower niche, grout line spacing, type of thinset and grout being used and so forth. Even where to set up a wet saw, where to clean out buckets and an estimated schedule. I even like to discuss product warranties and show where they can view product specifications online.
If you could lend any advice to professionals just beginning their careers, what would it be?
Stanton: I have some decent advice to the men and women out there that are eager to getting in the tile trade. I would always recommend working for some years with a reputable tile professional. I had my dad and it’s an incredible education being able to lean over the shoulder of one of the best in the industry and ask questions. Another piece of advice is to be ready for long work days/weeks and establish a strong work ethic early on. When I first started, 60-80 hour work weeks were a common thing. It takes a crazy amount of effort to get your company off the ground. Today, I still work 50-60 hours a week, but only because I’m having fun. But of all the things I can advise, be kind, pleasant to deal with, smile and engaging. People want to do business with positive people. And I can assure you, your attitude will follow you home to your family. I wish all of you success and happiness and I hope to get a chance to meet some of you whether on social media platforms or at a Coverings convention.
If you or anyone you know is interested in being featured in a future edition of the “Contractor Spotlight,” please email Heather Fiore at firstname.lastname@example.org.