Tile installer is setting a piece of tile in a small bathroom.

Hey, Tile Installer. What's Your Scorecard?

Trust me. You don't want to do this.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I asked a friend who was (and is) a very skilled tile installer to teach me his craft. His response?

“No. I won’t. Trust me, you don’t want to do this.”

I suppose that he thought he was doing me a favor, saving me from years of back-breaking work and limited income potential as a tradesperson. As it turns out, there are plenty of opportunities for growth, advancement, and increased income potential in the tile and stone industry.

In a world without the widespread use of the internet and online communities, the information and resources that could have made a dramatic difference in my friend’s experience as a tile installer were harder to come by.

Today, as a writer in the tile and stone industry, I’m glad things turned out the way they did. I love what I do. But it’s not enough. Let me explain.

Back in the Olden Days

When I was thirteen, my school was getting ready for Career Day. The guidance counselor gave students a list of career options and instructed us to choose a career path and then find an adult in our field of interest to job shadow for a day. I read through the list, and none of the choices appealed to me. 

Around that same time, my school had a poetry contest. I wrote a poem about how hard it was to make a choice for Career Day. It got first place. 

A few teachers reached out to help me wrestle through naming a career choice. I explained that although I liked the idea of writing fiction, I really wanted to travel and meet people and take pictures. I did not want to write about oil spills, crime and serial killers, tensions between countries, entertainment, healthcare, or economics. 

With the limitations of my life experience and vocabulary at the time, it was difficult to convey what was in my mind. 

I knew it would involve using various mediums such as writing and photography, or maybe even filmmaking. I would observe and connect with ordinary people and portray any relatable stories or meaningful moments that might resonate with others.

Eventually, they came up with a two-part title “Writer/Photojournalist.”

Mostly satisfied, I set out to find someone in the Yellow Pages who did that. This turned out to be more challenging than I expected.

As the deadline approached, I called a music producer, mainly so I could get out of class. His name was Otto. I marveled at how he used a razor blade and adhesive tape to rearrange or remove sections of the reel-to-reel tape and then used the mixing console to manipulate and enhance the sound of the audio. After spending the day with him, it quickly became apparent to me that I would need technical skills to be a Writer/Photojournalist. 

Two decades passed before I started exploring how to combine words and sounds and imagery to tell stories properly.

I found Otto on Facebook today and sent him this message:

You taught me editing concepts when I was 13. I cold called you out of the blue, giving you only one day’s advanced notice. You volunteered to let me spend Career Day shadowing you. I just thought I should say thanks, as the experience has influenced me in various ways throughout my life.

What's Your Scorecard?

Success comes in a lot of forms. It isn’t always measured in terms of dollars or accolades. It’s hard to quantify success when it comes in the form of a thousand small yet significant decisions that slowly make a positive difference in the world over the course of time, sort of like the decision Otto made to allow his workday to be hijacked by some random kid.

People will use your scorecard to compare their own accomplishments and progress against yours. This could be a good thing. This could be a bad thing.

Every experience in your life, every person you’ve met, and every decision you’ve made have come together to create a foundation for who you are now and who you will become. Who you are and who you become will influence others. We’re all connected as humans. And we’re all connected in this little subset of humanity called the tile and stone industry. What you bring to the table eventually ends up on everyone else’s plate in some shape or form.

That interconnection is apparent in social media, online communities, mastermind groups, and the like. Unfortunately, our fast-paced, transactional conversations can sometimes leave the real people on the other end of the screen feeling detached. One way to combat this is to spend time face to face at trade shows, training workshops, and other industry events and to make it a point to build relationships locally with others in the industry. Another way is to be intentional about communication.

Your Stories Matter

Humans use stories to communicate all the time. Pay attention, and you’ll realize how often people in the tile and stone industry tell stories.

“Back when I used to work for so-and-so…”

“You’ll never believe what I saw on the way to work…”

“That reminds me of the time I went…”

“Last time such-and-such happened…”

Your story is unique and rich with details that go far beyond a project site. Your career in the tile trade isn’t just about the title you have, it’s about being you, who happens to install tile, or own a tile installation company, or supply materials and tools, etc. Your identity as a sibling or foodie or musician or parent can influence the way you approach teamwork, problem-solving, creativity, and more. Others can be inspired by your story, and not just because you’re a rockstar whose installations are perfect (if there is such a thing as a perfect installation).

Confession Time

I’m still sorting through all the notes and files from my 3-month tile trek. I honestly don’t even know where to begin. This is the most wonderful problem! 

When I set out, my hope was to explore different perspectives, ask thought-provoking questions, and dig deeper into the emotions and motivations behind what people in the tile trade do. Some people chose to dive deep, exposing their authentic, imperfect selves. Others preferred to just stick a toe in the water, carefully adjusting the level of transparency they were willing to afford so that the focus would remain on certain aspects their craft or business. Regardless, I will treat each story with great care and equity.

My tentative plan is to write a brief summary of where I went and who I met. This will give anyone who hasn’t been following my business page a better idea of what to expect going forward. I will turn that blog post into a cool little feel-good promo video to showcase the tile and stone industry. If I have enough footage, I’ll create a video version of each blog post. I will not always stick to a linear presentation. For example, I’ll write about Pasha Starykov’s Dekton and GPT Panel training soon, even though it was my last stop before going home. The rest of the stories will either be standalone or arranged to follow social connections that might end up looking like the six degrees of Dirk Sullivan.

By Alice Dean, Writer, Video Editor, and Content Manager

I help tile installers and other trades contractors to be seen, heard, and understood by creating marketing content that attracts and educates your target audience and sells your services.