Everything’s Bigger in Texas – Recapping a Few Days with the Tile Industry at Total Solutions Plus in Dallas

This past week, the StoneTrash team had the distinct pleasure of joining the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, the Tile Council of North America, the Tile Contractors’ Association of America, and the National Tile Contractors Association for Total Solutions Plus 2018 at the Gaylord Texan Convention Center in Grapevine, TX. Our week featured some thoughtful insights (and one twenty-five yard pass) from keynote speakers Roger Staubach and JP Pawliw-Fry, great food (be it from the catered lunches and Awards Dinner, or from In-n-Out just down the road), and plenty of great connections that should make StoneTrash even stronger in the coming weeks. We’re excited to share our experience with you, and hope you glean some value from what we learned down in Texas!

Day 1: A Little Slice of Home

Having arrived Sunday morning, the team had a bit of time on our hands before the show. We dropped off our bags at our AirBNB rental and headed to the Addison Ice House, where we met up with Gang Green DFW to watch the Jets game. Caesar and his “gang” made the experience feel like we were watching from back home in New York, and we truly appreciate their hospitality. We retired to our quarters after the game to rest up in preparation for the first day of the conference.

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Day 2: Table Tops and TD Tosses

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, but there aren’t many people in the Dallas area bigger than two-time Super Bowl champion QB Roger Staubach of the Dallas Cowboys. Roger kicked off day one of the conference with an exciting talk about the importance of hard work, his career in commercial real estate, and of course his tenure at the helm of the Cowboys. At the end of this talk, he shook off the rust and hurled a perfect spiral 25 yards across the ballroom to energize the room before sending us off to the day’s sessions; check it out below!

After that spectacular display, we headed downstairs to learn about how to win in today’s disruptive sales reality with Jim Pancero. Jim’s deep-dive into the sales process, management, and making your pitch more about the customer and less about you resonated greatly with us; this experience is something we plan to leverage going forward as we craft new marketing material and content.

Our next stop was Sandy Smith’s session on recruiting and retaining top performers in today’s economy, a tough subject to tackle with unemployment near all-time lows. Sandy masterfully used examples like Southwest Airlines and Starbucks to highlight a few great ideas, and reviewed some particular concepts to avoid as well. One key takeaway was that the balance of power in today’s economy has shifted from employer to employee, and companies must create positive workplace experiences if they hope to succeed. A quick lunch separated this session from starting to set up our display for the Table Tops exhibition later that afternoon.

Our booth was less elaborate than it has been for other trade shows (due to the confined space) so setting up wasn’t as much of a chore as usual. We were able to get the booth (pictured below) configured within a short amount of time, and as a result were able to also attend the Distributors’ Forum back downstairs. Discussing “the future of the independent tile distributor” with members of the CTDA was a powerful experience that rewarded us with plentiful direction on where we as an organization should head next.

The booth and event was a great hit; hors d’oeuvres were passed, cocktails were flowing, and many a connection was made. Feeling the excitement about StoneTrash from everyone we met was a great experience, and we’re excited to build on the momentum that we established here to take our platform to the next level. A long day of learning, networking and promoting (plus being one time zone behind) had the team feeling drained by the end, so we headed home early to rest up for the final day of Total Solutions Plus goodness.

Day 3: That’s a Wrap!

We were invited to the LATICRETE breakfast on Tuesday morning, so we got up extra early to attend; who could miss celebrating the 15th anniversary of Permacolor grout? After enjoying (a lot of) bacon, eggs and a few product demos, it was time to head upstairs for the closing keynote, delivered by JP Pawliw-Fry of the Institute for Health and Human Potential.

JP delivered a rousing talk about what makes a leader effective or ineffective, and engaged the audience with a number of paired discussion prompts. He focused on the neurology of rational decision making and encouraged anyone in an emotionally-charged state (“affected by the amygdala”) to wait eighteen minutes for the cortisol to clear before attempting to engage in “logical” thinking. His content and delivery were both spectacular, and I’m excited to implement what we learned back in the office.

We transitioned back into the digital world after JP’s keynote, to learn about the power of (and best practices for) social media marketing with Irene Williams. Her tips were robust, and she highlighted a few features of Pinterest that we think will be of great usefulness in the coming weeks. The timing could not have been more perfect as we roll out our social media campaign (shameless plug: check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!) to develop brand awareness.

Our last session was with Jack Shaw of the American Blockchain Council, who touched briefly on a few current technological revolutions that are ongoing in the tile industry before taking a deep-dive into the potential impact that blockchain tech will have. As a company that is considered modern by most industry standards (a good deal of distributors we met don’t even sell online), it was interesting to hear about what’s coming next. Providing blockchain-based solutions is certainly something that is on our radar, but we’ve got plenty more new features like these to add before we cross that bridge.

Time to Head Home

We enjoyed a bit of R&R that afternoon, and the Industry Awards Dinner that night, but all good things must come to an end. All in all, Total Solutions Plus was a productive and worthwhile experience; we would recommend that any industry members looking to take their business to the next level attend at least one. We’re excited to put all of our new knowledge to work making StoneTrash better for all of our partners, and can’t wait for next year’s conference in Nashville, TN – see you there!

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