We sat down for a chat with Shaun Howarth, our new National Technical Specification Manager, to find out about his background in flooring, what he’s looking forward to most about working at Bostik, and what he believes the future holds for the industry.
What was your first job?
Other than the usual paper rounds, I had part time summer jobs in café’s working in kitchens; I wanted to be a chef when I was a lot younger. My first full-time job was an apprentice flooring contractor and I have been in the industry all of my working life, which is over 35 years now.
How did you get into the adhesives industry?
My experience within the adhesive industry comes from my employment at a flooring manufacturer (Freudenberg which became Nora Rubber Flooring) as the Technical Manager for 10 years. I worked closely with adhesive manufacturers during this role. I was also then a project manager at ARDEX, where I was responsible for launching a brand new range of flooring adhesives to the market.
How would you describe your role?
My current role is an exciting opportunity to build a new business pillar for Bostik – that’s to say a specification and business development team. The vision is to build a team of technically proficient specification managers who can promote all of our brands and products in the demanding specification world. The role also involves identifying high performance products from the other Bostik businesses in Europe and promoting them in to the UK market.
“My current role is an exciting opportunity to build a new business pillar for Bostik.”
What aspect are you most looking forward to about the new Bostik Academy facility?
Bringing our customers, end users and complimentary manufacturing partners to a state of the art facility for industry-leading technical and product training courses to help grow the UK business. It will also be great to start networking in person on a more frequent basis. All businesses have had a very difficult time over the last 18 months for obvious reasons. I enjoy performing training seminars and improving people’s knowledge.
What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of the industry?
The positives in our industry are the people. There are many who have been in this industry a very long time and have excellent knowledge, which I would hope they are passing down to the next generation as they come through; people are everything in business. As for the negative, I loathe value engineering. Whilst I appreciate that people have a job to do and budgets do get stretched sometimes, it invariably results in a race to the bottom that then results in installations not passing the test of time, which is not only a waste of revenue, it is damaging to the environment as precious raw materials are needlessly wasted.
What has been your proudest moment?
Other than the cliché of watching the birth of your children, which is an amazing feeling, I would have to say re-inventing myself when I recognised that I could no longer be a professional flooring contractor due to the physical damage it places on your body. I had to start my career again from scratch with a new career path in my 30s, moving in to retail flooring sales, taking a massive pay cut, and dealing with that pressure – and I have never looked back since.
“I had to start my career again from scratch … in my 30s, moving in to retail flooring sales [and] taking a massive pay cut.”
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your career?
There are so many lessons that we all learn through our careers that shape us, but for me, this question is easy to answer, and that would be: never answer a question from a customer unless you are absolutely certain that you have the full answer. It is far more professional to own up if you do not know the answer, but explain that you do know somebody (usually a colleague) who does, or you know where to find the information required and you will get back to them with the correct answer. There is no shame in that, and not enough people do it. They would rather give a wrong answer and try to look good rather than admit they don’t know. It is then of course imperative that you follow up with the correct answer and I have never met anyone who has had an issue with that.
What do most of your colleagues not know about you?
Probably lots, having only been at Bostik for a relatively short time, but if I had to choose one thing that may surprise them, it would be – I am a fully qualified (non-practicing) Shiatsu Masseur. And for those raising an eyebrow, it is manipulation of key pressure points on the body – through the clothing I may add!
What do you think the future holds for the industry?
I think that adaptability, sustainability and environmental responsibility from all of the key stakeholders will be the key to this industry thriving and adapting to the changing world we live in. All buildings will require flooring, now and in the future – to that end the industry is safe, but we need to make sure that we can engage with the customer of the future.
Finally, if you could be any character from film or TV, who would you be and why?
Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, which is my favourite film. Obviously not the incarceration part, nor his escape route! But the plan he put in place to right the miscarriage of justice and ultimately get revenge on a corrupt institution was amazing. Even though he is a fictional character, the lesson here for anyone would be never give up: have a plan or strategy, don’t deviate from it, and execute it, no matter how long it takes.