Contract Flooring Journal (CFJ) the latest news for flooring contractors

HomeContractor ProfileGlen Cartwright - going strong since 1981

Glen Cartwright – going strong since 1981

PART two Glen Cartwright has, over 43 years, managed to create a business with a stellar reputation.

In this, the second of three parts, we ask him how he did it. By ADAM BERNSTEIN

GLEN Cartwright has been in flooring for 43 years and he’s seen and learnt much. He’s been employed and self-employed. He’s also, because of the pressure of work, taken on apprentices. As he tells, he’d train them but in time they’d leave. He reckons that he went through eight or so over time this way.

But for Glen, success with apprentices meant finding the right person. ‘I found a couple of guys, treated them really well – bought them dinner every day and their wages were there every week. At one stage I had five working for me. But the problem is, they all took liberties and turned up late.’

At a time when Glen was trying to take a back seat, he ended up working harder to compensate for the jobs not done or done poorly. ‘I was getting calls, so to keep my customers happy I had to go out to put the job right.’

Gradually his apprentices went off chasing more money. And that’s despite, as Glen says, them being ‘on a good package’. Clearly, being trained by Glen made them ripe for poaching by others who would pay more. But sometimes the poaching backfired with the apprentices seeking to come back. However, Glen had already taken another on.

But not all apprentices were the same. One, a friend’s son – Ashley – ended up becoming Glen’s business partner. As he tells, ‘it was 15 years ago and I’d had enough. I was thinking about giving up floorlaying and training apprentices to work on my own and on my own terms’.

Glen’s clear in that training Ashley was like other apprentices before him – hard work, but ‘he started getting it’. He adds: ‘Ashley is one of those people that gives you loyalty’.

At this point, Glen comments how he operated as a sole trader until 2018 when he formed a limited company, Next Level Flooring, and made Ashley his business partner. The appointment of Ashley was partly because he’d been loyal – ‘he’s worked weekends and late at night’.

But it was also because, as Glen says, ‘I knew a few people were trying to steal him off me, which I’d had before, so I made a commitment to him.’ He thinks and hopes that one day the company will belong to Ashley.

But back to his relationship and business with Ashley. Glen says that they jointly put quotations together and handle the VAT and accounts: ‘We do it all together so that we both know what’s going on.’

Glen shares everything with Ashley – what’s in the bank account, when the company gets paid and what the company owns. Nothing is kept hidden. That said, occasionally Glen takes a little bit more out of the business when he’s put extra hours in: ‘Sometimes I work with other companies because they call me in. Ashley doesn’t want to work weekends as he’s busy with his house.’

Glen and Ashley mainly work in tandem but bring in subcontractors when needed. And this is because, as he says, ‘we know what we do and think alike. I sometimes think we work quicker, two of us, than we would do with three’. He adds that in the past he’s brought people in who didn’t know what they we’re doing – hence the training of apprentices.

But on the subject of apprentices Glen notes that one problem is how to get the right apprentices on board. He’s been disappointed and let down in the past by people not showing up for work.

Glen leads by example and previously taught Ashley a valuable lesson. He explains that in their early days together they were working on filmsets. ‘I broke my left leg but was in the next day, with a boot on, working. And he said, as soon as he saw that, he knew that he just couldn’t ring up and say, ‘I’ve got a headache, I’ve got a cold’.’

Despite Ashley now being a director of the company it should be said that Glen owns a majority of the business. Even so, Ashley, says Glen, is paid on a 50:50 basis as ‘he is the future of the business’. Glen adds that he’s taken him on courses and has taken him on Bona certified contractor events.

Glen uses this moment to deviate to mention Bona a little more. He says that Bona are a brilliant company to work alongside, over the years we have developed a great relationship as well as pushing the boundaries for their products.

Glen and Ashley specialise in sanding, working with Bona products and using the knowledge gained from courses they’re able to achieve any colour or finish.

He’s taken on business from floors to worktops. He’s worked on a coffee bar at British Airways that’s shaped like an aircraft wing. He details that ‘it was too light – it’s maple, a very light wood, they wanted it darker, so we sanded it down. We stained it with Bona’s stains and oils and darkened it to make it look like walnut. And then we put their lacquer over the top, the same lacquer we put on the floor – five or six coats on as many as we could’.

The results were pleasing – especially as Glen tried the process on his wooden worktops at home previously. He initially oiled the worktop but that failed. It was then sanded back, had Bona’s lacquer applied on top and has been fine for nearly nine years without problem precisely because the lacquer was designed for floors. Now that Glen’s proven the product Bona are now advertising worktops as suitable for their products.

In other areas, Glen works also on resin floors: ‘With the Bona machines we have and their various attachments that allow us to grind concrete floors, we’ve been able to open up other avenues. Some warehouses we’ve worked on have been 600-700m2.’

He says that with the right equipment, experience, and mindset of how to do a job, it’s perfectly possible to give a better finish than those ‘that buy product, put it down without a care only to see it flake off soon after. For us it’s all about the prep work. We stand by what we do, and if there is an issue, even though generally it’s nothing to do with us, we’ll go back and sort it all out’.

He adds that ‘we got into carpet cleaning because we kept getting so many enquiries. So, I bought a carpet cleaning machine, went on a course and learned’. With some of his contracts he would, as he says, either clean the carpet and if he couldn’t clean it, ‘would already have a foot in the door to replace it’.

A memorable job
One job stands out to Glen – The Home Office which involved a floor of 600sq m.
We only had one week to repair and renovate the wood floor, all work was to be done out of hours.

As Glen tells, it was undertaken summertime when he’d enter by day, pass security, and then head down to the basement cafe area. Then we’d work from 6pm to 6am in the morning and everything had to be back in place, with no dust, ready for it to be used the next day.’
He says it was probably the hardest job he’s ever completed. On one of the days his sander blew up and he had to hire a replacement – but it wasn’t as good as his machine. We had a schedule to work to, requiring us to sand, prime and coat 100m2 every night. After this the furniture would then need to be wiped down and placed back.

Although the job was potentially memorable for the wrong reasons, it’s still very satisfying to get the opportunity to work in these sorts of places. You never know where you’ll end up next.

Next month: Sustainability, the young, and retirement

Please click to view more articles about

Stay Connected




Popular articles