We have exciting news to share with you: there's a new member of the CTEF team! Her name is Heidi Cronin and she's been hired as CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director.
This is a newly created role to support the next stage of evolution for CTEF. As Bart Bettiga Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and member of the CTEF Board of Directors says,
"We are pleased to welcome Heidi to CTEF in this newly created position. Given her professional experience and passion for Qualified Labor, we are confident that she will be instrumental in supporting the growth of the Certified Tile Installer (CTI) program alongside Scott Carothers, Director of Certification and Training for CTEF, and shaping the tile and stone industry in the United States."
We caught up with Heidi to ask her a few questions.
Meet CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director, Heidi Cronin
CTEF: Heidi, tell us about yourself and your background.
HC: I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the floor covering distributor industry.
I got my Bachelor of Science degree in Criminology from Southern Oregon State College, and then got married in 1993. I have two beautiful daughters Emily (22) and Lily (18).
I worked summers in high school and college for my dad at The Cronin Company in accounting, samples and the will-call counter.
After having trouble securing a job in probation and parole, I was given the opportunity to start up a branch of the company in Medford, Oregon. I was required to make a 5-year commitment. After 5 years my husband got a job opportunity in Portland and we moved. The only opening in the company was purchasing, so I took it.
After 5 years, I was promoted to Vice President of Operations and, 10 years after that, to President.
Regardless of title in the company, I would do whatever was asked to get the job done. For example, I got a Class B CDL and drove our trucks, worked the warehouse, as well as accounting, purchasing, customer service, operations and sales. I developed a great work ethic, thanks to my Dad.
CTEF: How did you get involved in tile?
HC: I joke that my career started at 15, when I damaged my dad's suburban on a country road. My punishment was to build ceramic tile sample boards to pay off the debt.
That said, I really didn't get into the ceramic tile side of business until about 2008 or 2009 when I really started traveling to trade shows and started to pay attention to what product managers were doing. I realized our ceramic product manager was the only one in the company who had relationships with our tile vendors and agents.
I started going to Coverings and Cersaie and learning what he did and meeting the vendors and agents. I also met some of our customers; the one who got me involved in ceramic tile, the NTCA and CTEF is Dirk Sullivan of Hawthorne Tile. I met him at an Ardex reception at Surfaces. He started pointing out a few things that could improve our service and told me what our company did wrong. I listened.
My relationship with my ceramic sundry suppliers also inspired me to get involved. Ardex and Wedi were the biggest. I enjoyed their constant education and push to get informed on their products. This gave me appreciation for installers and the amount of knowledge they have to have, and how technology is changing everything.
CTEF: What do you love most about the tile industry?
HC: The people in the industry by far is what I love most. Getting to know and meet people in all aspects, from manufacturing, selling, distributing, installers and customers. Ceramic tile is timeless. It lasts for years.
The technology today is amazing. The artistry of those bringing the tile to life is phenomenal. I see installation as art, and not as a low-end blue-collar job. I have so much respect for those who have the passion for creating beautiful bathroom, kitchen and commercial installations.
CTEF: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry?
HC: The biggest challenge is qualified labor.
It isn't in just the tile industry, it's in the building industry. All trades are affected - HVAC, plumbing, tile, etc. The artisans are aging out. There are few high school graduates taking on the trades. Society today promotes everyone going to college and getting a fancy degree. In my instance, it's a piece of paper.
The other challenge is those who don't embrace change.
The world is moving fast, you better take some risks to keep up. Better to fail and learn than remain stagnant.
CTEF: How has your criminology degree helped your career?
HC: Criminology did help me with the ability to shake off things that make you uncomfortable and face your fears. It made me a risk taker. It helped me stay grounded and true to myself. Criminology interested me in figuring out what makes people do what they do. I guess it helped me in understanding human nature and what motivates them. I enjoyed my classes and rarely missed them. In a way it developed my passion.
I never took a business class in college and learned the business from trial and error.
CTEF: How did your Dad encourage your involvement in the industry?
HC: My Dad took me to a conference when I graduated college. I remember listening to the economist and my dad leaning over and stating, just wait, these changes will be happening in the next few years. Which was true.
I saw the value, although I was young and naive.
CTEF: When did you first become aware of CTEF and the CTI program?
HC: In 2017, when we were approached to host a CTI hands-on test. We joined the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) then.
I was heavily involved in other flooring associations.
CTEF: What were those other professional flooring organizations?
HC: When I was promoted to president of the company, I, honestly, googled what a president did. On the list was involvement in associations both locally and nationally.
The North American Floor Covering Distributor Association (NAFCD)
The North American Floor Covering Distributor Association (NAFCD) was one of the first I got involved in. I nominated myself for the board of NAFCD in 2013, once I became president.
My NAFCD term expired in December 2018. Director terms are 3 years. At end of my first year I was asked to be on the Executive Committee. This increased my involvement to 5 years. I was President of NAFCD in 2017.
I will always support and encourage distributors to join NAFCD. I learned so much from the incredible people I got to work with.
The Flooring Association Northwest (F.A.N.)
Before I found out about NAFCD, a vendor rep of ours called me up and asked if I would be interested in joining the Board of Directors of The Flooring Association Northwest (F.A.N.) a WFCA affiliate at the time. This was a local association and more centered around our retail customers.
I agreed to join F. A N. I then got the call from NAFCD saying I was on the board.
I was President of FAN in 2015 and 2016.
Floor Covering Distributor Alliance (FCDA)
Our company was also a member of the Floor Covering Distributor Alliance (FCDA) which is a group of distributors with the Powerhold line of installation products.
The sundries side of the business was fascinating to me. In the numerous years we were a member, I had never seen anyone leave the board, so I stated to a director that if a position ever opened, I would be interested. This opportunity came sooner than later. Within a month I was called and told I was on the board due to an acquisition of one of the distributors. In 6 months, I was on 3 boards. I didn't dip my toes, I dove head-first.
Powerhold and F.A.N. are also in my blood. I am an advocate for any part of the industry I have known for the past 26 years. Again, friends, peers and experience is where my education has come from.
I am no longer involved in the associations I loved due to the Cronin Company closing.
CTEF: Which social networks are you involved in?
HC: I am involved on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and active in many tile Facebook groups such as,
- Global Tile Posse (GTP)
- Tile Geeks
- Tile Love 2.0
- NTCA Members Only
- The World of GTPS - to name a few.
I am active in these and brought a distributor perspective to these groups.
Social media is powerful. I took a boot camp on using it to its full potential. I have found over the years that if you humanize yourself to a large group, you become approachable. I don't have the installation knowledge but respect the passion and love for the industry of all the people involved in the groups.
CTEF: Heidi, what's an example of a social experiment you ran?
HC: In GTP, ARDEX and I decided to do a promo for their Liquid Backer Board. It was a blast to do and different from what anything anyone has done before.
I enjoy bringing my humor to light and having partners in crime.
Note: See the image above.
CTEF: What has been the biggest benefit of your social involvement?
HC: Watching others helping each other through issues.
Learning what issues plague the industry.
Seeing people get recognition they deserve.
There is so much talent out there.
CTEF: What is your new role at CTEF about?
HC: I am the Industry Liaison and Promotions Director of the CTEF and am very excited to get started.
I will be working closely with Jim Olson, Mark Heinlein and Scott Carothers to promote and increase the number of Certified Tile Installers, expand certification opportunities across the US, and fundraise for more CTEF programs.
CTEF: Heidi, what attracted you to it?
HC: I was at a crossroad as to what I wanted to do. I am an advocate for educating and promoting the trades. That is why I got so involved in NAFCD, FAN, and Powerhold. I got sick of people complaining about issues and not doing anything and wanted to make a difference. So, I followed my passion.
Luckily, a conversation with Shannon Huffstickler made me aware of this position.
I don't want to work for a paycheck. I want to enjoy and love what I do. I knew this job would fill my bucket.
CTEF: What are your priorities for the role?
HC: There are so many!
The ultimate goal is to get all installers to be certified and increase ACT certifications. With this, we can work with manufacturers, architects and designers to specify certified installers into their projects.
We will need to develop programs, scholarships and awareness to all of the value it can bring. We will start with baby steps, certifications and fundraising. Once we get there, the sky is the limit of what we can do.
CTEF: How has your experience with Cronin prepared you for working with CTEF?
HC: I have 6 years of executive-level involvement with associations. This will be very helpful when working closely with the NTCA and TCNA.
I have administrative, sales and operational experience from numerous positions within Cronin.
My network is vast in all aspects. I have worked with retailers, installers, manufacturers, other distributors, contractors, architects and designers.
I am looking forward to the challenge and trying something new.
CTEF: What do you do outside of tile and will you be based in Portland?
HC: Outside of tile, I like to golf, ski, travel and try new things.
I will be based out of the Portland/Vancouver area, traveling all over the US to promote CTEF, NTCA and TCNA.
I am very excited to meet and work with all in the tile industry.
CTEF: Thank you, Heidi, and congratulations!
Welcome Heidi Cronin, CTEF Industry Liaison and Promotions Director
We hope you'll join us in welcoming Heidi.
Thanks for reading.