Warren Ginsberg, the HiB chairman reflects on the changing culture of the bathroom industry over the past 50 years and why, despite recent challenges, there are exciting times ahead.
Looking back across the 50 years I’ve spent working in the bathroom industry, I have seen many changes, but despite everything, it still retains many of its traditional values of good old fashioned customer service, friendly nature and a shared culture that has enabled it to thrive.
When I first joined the sector, working with Garfield Glass (MirrorWall), bathrooms were very different, they were seen purely as a practical area that needed to be functional and withstand everyday use. When having a bathroom installed you needed to get advice from professionals, so the relationship between a customer and a retailer was always essential, but what was also important was the rapport between a retailer and a supplier.
When I think about what makes a company and indeed an industry successful, culture is one of the most important areas that can have a huge impact. Like a community, a thriving business or industry is built on a foundation of strong relationships where everyone communicates and works towards a common goal. But how do you create a positive culture?
In my experience, it takes time. A business cannot snap its fingers and expect its people to embrace a company ethos that isn’t demonstrated and lived by its leaders. You can’t also expect to have a strong rapport with retailers the moment you begin trading. Trust and mutual respect are things that take time, they are led by example and when you have the right people driving the values and ideals forward, a culture can gain momentum.
I didn’t set out with a particular agenda for my company’s culture. I just knew that it was right, as we all do, to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves and to lead by example.
At HiB, which I founded 30 years ago and where now I am chairman, our company is defined by our vision – ‘To be the leading supplier of creative, innovative solutions that make bathrooms beautiful, while also making a substantial difference to the lives of our people, partners and the wider community.’
Our community extends far beyond HiB’s sites, in London and Tamworth. It reaches out to our international suppliers, retailers and customers across the UK and further afield, but also into our local areas, charitable organisations and projects. This is where we have invested our efforts, building relationships with our extensive community across the bathroom industry, over many decades.
Over the years, I have maintained long-standing working relationships with people from across the industry and many are now friends. As a business leader, I have tried to live the ethics and traits which I think are essential for good business and a good working environment, of enthusiasm and determination, in the hope that these characteristics are fed through the workforce.
When we were a small company, it was a great deal easier to maintain a positive company culture, where everyone is invested not only in the growth of the business but the wellbeing of each other. As we have grown, maintaining the community-feel internally has become a bigger task, but so has maintaining regular contact with our large network of retailers and partners.
Strengthening relationships remains incredibly important to us and is something we have worked hard to preserve. Fortune has always favoured individuals and businesses that have taken the time to build connections with their stakeholders and there is no doubt that by building connections with people across the sector, you can ensure stronger foundations for future trading, support and flexibility.
Over the past 12 months the industry has had to rely on those relationships like never before and the positive outlook and network that we work so hard to maintain has had to adapt to help in unusual and sometimes uncertain circumstances. I have great admiration for everyone that’s pulled together to get the job done.
It is important that as an industry we continue to cherish the community feel and positive culture that I have been lucky enough to experience over all these years. There is a comradery within the bathroom sector which still stands to this day. One of my favourite sayings is that ‘business is a race with no winning post’ and that is certainly true for any company.
Together, we have come a long way in the past 50 years and I have no doubt that for all of us in the bathroom industry there is a very exciting future ahead.