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Still going strong

PART three Glen Cartwright (Next Level Flooring and Bona certified contractor) has, over 43 years,
managed to create a business with a stellar reputation. In this, the final of three parts, he talks about sustainability. By ADAM BERNSTEIN

No matter how much flooring veteran Glen Cartwright wants to see sustainability drive flooring sales, the reality, he says, is that price trumps all. He’s very much onside with the environment, but says that ‘while I love nature, at the end of the day, when you’re pricing work, it’s the price that wins.’

“We have tried to focus more on renovation of wood floors and vinyl floors with the use of Bona products, usually these options are quicker, have less impact on the environment and are more cost effective.” Bona’s revolutionary resilient flooring range is designed to overcoat vinyl flooring, the main benefit to the product is not requiring existing floors to be taken up and going to landfill. Another is the overcoating with Bona resilient eliminates problems with Vinyl welding joints.

Glen says he purchases his wood products from Flooring Sales Ltd in Epsom. “They’re a great company and we’ve built up a great working relationship over the years. Knowing that the products are crafted from sustainable European forests is also a great selling point”.

But problems do arise, and Glen generally finds the blame lies elsewhere. ‘The first thing people do is comment that ‘there is something up with your floor’. But on inspection it appears to be rising damp.’ He says he always checks for damp. However, underfloor heating tends to be the culprit because ‘if the subfloors aren’t correct and users put underfloor heating on to 27deg C or more it suffers a capillary effect. It draws the moisture from brickwork from underneath. And unless you’ve got that under control you’ll have a major problem. Wood only expands with moisture. It doesn’t expand with anything else.’

Naturally users don’t want to admit to what they’ve done so Glen is left calling in manufacturers to decipher what has happened.

Getting the young into the sector
Getting the young in flooring isn’t easy. Glen knows from experience that the job involves hard work. ‘You’re on your knees and using your back. I’m 60 next year and I’ve been at it 43 years. When they first start their knees are aching and their backs are aching too.’

The young, he says, aren’t used to it.

Of course, it helps to enjoy the job. And that’s why he and Ashley seek to undertake different jobs – especially sanding when they can be standing and not on their knees. Beyond that he reckons the young need to be paid more – ‘why else would they get up early in the morning, graft, get back and knee aches, when they can sit at a desk on a computer?’

Glen grumbles a bit more: ‘A lot of them have an easy time of it. They don’t want to work and don’t want the long hours, weekends or late days. Unfortunately, our job is not nine-to-five or five days a week.’ He talks again of British Airways which involved night work but notes ‘we get paid to do that, double time.’

But that said, Glen reckons that there are some out there who are willing to put themselves out. He’s in the process of bringing in an apprentice now that Covid-19 is behind him – the pandemic put the business back somewhat. He explains that ‘we were busy through Covid-19, but we certainly weren’t earning the money that we needed to be earning’.

Other areas
As to how far the business travels, Glen has worked in France and in 2022 served a customer who’d moved to Shropshire. That job necessitated staying over but Covid-19 came along halfway through which made the job harder. ‘It was probably two weeks work over almost two years because of Covid-19.’

In essence, Glen will go anywhere in the UK where the work is, or overseas if necessary – but he emphasises, he’ll only do it if it’s worth his while; he’s got to the stage in his life where work must be worthwhile, financially and interesting.

He notes at this point that business relationships often change when somebody new takes over at client firms as ‘they’ve their own people and want to bring them in’. However, Glen tends to find that he is generally called in later on ‘because their people didn’t do a very good job’.

Turning to learning and developing business, Glen reckons that few seem to want to grow. ‘Within floorlaying, some like to stay with what they know. I know some who only do carpet and vinyl and that’s because that’s what they were taught; they didn’t go into tiling.’

This is why he’s taught many how to lay wood before they move on to do it for themselves.
Nowadays he doesn’t lay much wood because builders use their own people who work differently to him – ‘the gaps are different, and they don’t stick everything. At the end of the job, they look at it and go, ‘Oh yeah, lovely, it’s a wood floor’. But you know, six months down the road, a year down the road, they’ll be having issues.’

And he turns again to the example of the floor he replaced for British Airways. ‘They’d been having issues with it since 1997. We took the old floor up, nothing was fixed. It was a floating floor sitting on floating battens. And they’ve got a three and a half tonne aircraft wheel on the floor. It didn’t take much to work out why it was not suitable.’

So, in coming to the end of this story, it’s fair to ask how Glen is after a lifetime in flooring.
In response, he describes himself as ‘quite a big lad’ so it’s not unsurprising that he aches at the end of the day. That said, he says that he knows of some who’ve had hip replacements and knee replacements because they sit at a desk, unlike myself, because I’m up and down – mobile’.

This explains why, when he goes on holiday he stiffens up. To combat this Glen uses a physio, a chiropractor and an osteopath. ‘They all say the same thing,’ says Glen, ‘it’s because your body’s used to getting up and doing things every day. And when you don’t, your body starts stiffening up’.
He continues: ‘So if I go on holiday, I’m generally on a beach somewhere and I make sure that I swim every day just to get movement, keep it going, doing something with my body – and it makes me feel better.’

As for Glen’s endgame, he says in the next few years he’ll start taking more of a step back and aim to get another apprentice on board, with Ashley hopefully taking over the business.

On retirement Glen plans more golfing, fishing and holidays. He also rides motorbikes and plans to continue if his body, after a lifetime on his knees, lets him.

But will Glen have time to watch all the episodes of Only Fools and Horses? If he does it’ll be lovely jubbly.

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