What do you get if you travel 10,000 miles round trip to a conference in 72 hours – jet lag? Absolutely, in bucket fulls. But what else? SENSTEC-USA MD Mark Conacher explains.
I've made this journey several times now, and with every single trip, I've walked away a richer man than when I first arrived. I've always been a great believer in the idea that 'you are who you hang around with'. Surrounding yourself with people you admire and businesses that are innovative and successful – that kind of stuff can't help but rub off. If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room. That's worth remembering.
The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) annual conference is a special one on the calendar for me. Having been on the tools as an installer for 20 years, including running my own installation company, plus a further 14 years solely on the business and marketing side of installation, and now my path with SENSTEC is giving me yet another angle where it's vitally important that our product and installation advice is the best it can be for installers, this conference is a must to keep me informed with the goings on, in a macro sense in installation. It's essential to take time to stand back. This conference gives me the opportunity for perspective.
With the core pillars of Education, Compliance, Standards and Sustainability, BiKBBI CEO Damian Walters set out the state of the industry, looking over the past, the present and the future, with the need for greater collaboration as a critical metric to success. Hannah Prevett, deputy editor of the Times Enterprise Network, was again a fantastic choice of host and guided the delegates effortlessly through the day and the various topics of discussion.
Apprenticeships will always be a key topic, and the day's highlight for me came from the youngest members in attendance. Elliott Perry, from Ace Electrical & Plumbing, told us about his apprenticeship experiences during the Power of Apprenticeship panel discussion and the delightful Sophie Maguire, owner of Pink Plumbing Services, shared her story of being a young female entering a male-dominated industry through the breakout session, Attracting Diverse Talent to our Industry, led by BiKBBI diversity ambassador, Rt Hon Stuart Lawrence.
Inspiring? Absolutely. Once you add in the opportunities to network and put faces to names through the well-timed micro-breaks, a hearty lunch, the talks around the various surveys carried out recently by the BMA and BiKBBI, which, with no bias intended, threw up just how vital the installer is, on all sorts of levels, to every area of the industry. Amazing. As a past fitter, I hear the words 'I could have told you that' from every installer in the UK.
A hugely motivational talk from Calvin Bailey MBE, the Commanding Officer of 70 Squadron Royal Air Force, led us on a journey – his journey, and his experience of how working together during challenging times is the way to get results.
From 9am until 4pm, the day flies by, and I leave filled with ideas and renewed enthusiasm for the part I can play in this industry. And just when you think it's all over, it's back to the hotel and a quick change into the old tuxedo and you're set for a glittering evening of celebration of installers, apprentices, businesses, retailers and brands at the prestigious BiKBBI Awards. People who have worked tirelessly to advance their skills and make both themselves and the KBB industry a bigger, better and more attractive career choice. Having been both a winner and a runner-up in these types of awards, I could feel for every finalist in that room. And the winner is.... That pause feels endless!
So, 10,000 miles later, I'm back home in Vancouver, Canada, reflecting on another successful trip to Westminster, London. The overall feeling I'm left with, and a sentiment I agree with, is that the industry is in good hands when we collaborate, but we need everyone to take part; we need more businesses, more installers, more retailers, and more designers at the table. The conversations get really interesting when participation at scale happens.
If installation touches every part of the KBB industry, you really need to be part of the BiKBBI to be at the heart of the conversation. If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation, add to the conversation. But you need to be there.