Shop Talk is a feature in AQUA in which we ask a question to a few pros from all corners of the industry. Have a question you’d like to see your industry colleagues address? Pitch us at

Today's question: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

John Antilla

Vice President/General Manager
Aqua Quip , Seattle, Wash

I've been in a fortunate situation to manage a lot of very good people, and I think the best advice I've received is how to treat people that you're responsible for. To care about them. What pays more dividends than anything else is truly caring about the people that work with you and for you. It sounds cliché but it's so true.

The other thing that really helped our company is going "open book," which means everyone is involved in the financials. It's been a fantastic tool that has made a difference. I guess that relates back to how you treat your people — if you're willing to show them the financials and have everyone work toward the same target. I think it's really powerful.

Kris Schmitt

Design/Build Department Supervisor
Neave Pools, Wappingers Falls, N.Y.

One of my bosses at a different company said the best thing to do any time you have a problem on the job that's going to affect the client — cost them more money or cause a delay — is to deal with it immediately. Go right to the client and explain the situation. Most of the time it's not in anyone's control, and even if it is — if you just made a mistake — just own up right then. Go address it with them immediately and move on.

If you try to hide it or you wait, it just makes it worse. Don't procrastinate, especially with the negative stuff. The clients will be happier.

It's never fun to go to a client with an issue but I find if you do it right away they're much more understanding. They appreciate it, because they know no one wants to come to someone else with a problem. It just helps the whole process go smoother.

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Feras Irikat

Creative Director
Lunada Bay Tile, Harbor City, Calif.

I'm not kidding you. The best piece of advice I ever received was from my first design instructor. I was 17 years old. He told me whenever you're designing anything, whether you're designing a business card or you're designing a piece of tile or a room, always consider not just the aesthetic side — how pretty it looks — but what emotions you want people to draw from that design. That advice really helps me on a daily basis. Whenever I'm designing, I'm considering the emotional response as much as the visual response. The emotional response is the heart. We all know what happens when the heart connects. That was the best advice, and, believe it or not, I use it on a daily basis to this day.

Kathryn Howard is Assistant Editor of AQUA Magazine.