Fabricator friendly porcelain

Gavin Shaw

Gavin Shaw, managing director of Laminam UK and Ireland

Gavin Shaw, the new managing director of Laminam UK and Ireland talks about life both on and off the job

What made working for Laminam so appealing?

When I got the call from Laminam to tell me about the project that they had planned for the UK, I knew straight away it was something I had to be involved with. I could see the trend in stone surfaces shifting towards large format sustainable porcelain, a trend poised to gain even more momentum in the coming years. The prospect of leading one of the UK's most prominent brands in large format porcelain was just so exciting. Although other porcelain brands had already established themselves in the UK, I was confident that, with planned investments and dedicated effort, we could quickly catch up. Our goal is to elevate Laminam to the same esteemed status it holds worldwide.

The primary appeal of working for Laminam, in my opinion, stemmed from my initial meeting with our CEO and owner, Mr Alberto Selmi. During our first conversation, he explained that I would have full authority over Laminam UK, essentially running it as my own business. This refreshing approach emphasised the importance of maintaining a customer-centric focus and avoiding corporate bureaucracy, which often detracts from the customer experience. Our commitment to providing customers with a seamless journey and enjoyable experiences at all touchpoints is paramount and being empowered to make swift decisions to ensure this is crucial.

For someone considering working with Laminam for the first time, what advice would you offer?

For worktop fabricators, fortunately, Laminam stands out as a ‘fabricator-friendly’ porcelain brand, making it less demanding compared to other competitors. We can visit their workshops and offer guidance to ensure that fabricating Laminam is as straightforward as possible. This includes assessing factors like the levelness of their bridge saw bed, water quality and quantity, diamond blade types, and cutting speeds and feeds. Within just 30 minutes, they can be up and running, cutting Laminam. Fabricators accustomed to working with our competitors' products will find that cutting Laminam is both quicker and easier.

As for kitchen studios, the key is to familiarise themselves with the range of offerings that Laminam provides. We offer various thickness options, including the popular 12mm and 20mm varieties, along with six different finishes, including soft touch and caressed, which impart a softer and warmer feel to porcelain. We have recently launched the new Diamond Series of colours featuring a starlit background.  This range has been such a success it has been nominated for multiple design awards this year and is proving popular for kitchen studios to put on display because of its unique appearance.  Additionally, our sales managers are offering ‘lunch and learn’ training sessions, where they can visit showrooms and educate design teams about the distinctive features that set Laminam apart.

Terra di Saturnia and Terra de Matera from Laminam's In-Side Series

Terra di Saturnia and Terra de Matera from Laminam's In-Side Series

What would your dream project entail?

For me, the ideal project would revolve around sustainability, where only products with genuine sustainability credentials are utilised. I envision Laminam being incorporated into projects where sustainability takes centre stage.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Over the next 12 months, our primary objective is to raise awareness of the Laminam brand within the industry. While Laminam is already a leader in large format porcelain globally, we have only just begun to introduce ourselves to the UK market. To achieve this, we are focusing on assembling a top-tier sales team. Since joining Laminam, I have been dedicated to recruiting the very best talent in the industry, individuals with exceptional experience and stellar reputations. We are committed to upholding high standards and would rather wait for the right people than compromise.

Once we have established awareness of Laminam, our next crucial step is to ensure an adequate stock presence in the UK. Currently, we operate from a warehouse in Birmingham, but we aim to expand our distribution network by adding warehouses and showrooms in both the South and North of England. We are actively working behind the scenes to make this expansion a reality within the next 12 months.

Laminam's new Calacatta Black from its Diamond Series

Laminam's new Calacatta Black from its Diamond Series

How significant is sustainability to you?

It’s hugely important and knowing that I work for a brand that considers sustainability at the heart of everything it does, aligns deeply with my values. Sustainability is ingrained into Laminam’s DNA and its way of doing business.  It is committed to constant research and innovation, which guides it towards choices marked by economic, social, and environmental responsibility. By using innovative technologies and natural raw materials, Laminam imagines spaces for the present and the future, where beauty is the expression of sustainability.  Sustainable design means first and foremost, building a balance that is respectful of all factors: starting with the product, through to the manufacturing processes, the people, the supply chain, relations with institutions and impact on the community.

What are the primary challenges currently facing the industry?

I believe the main two challenges facing worktop fabricators in the industry are silicosis from the manufacturing of quartz surfaces and the environmental policy of disposing of quartz offcuts to landfill.

The issues surrounding silicosis from manufacturing quartz surfaces in Australia have been well documented and more recently in North America, too. It is imperative that worktop fabricators in the UK realise the risks involved in manufacturing quartz products with such high silica contents and put measures in place to manage and minimise those risks for the safety of their workers.

The other main problem around quartz is the unprocessed plastic content holding it all together. Huge volumes of quartz offcuts containing unprocessed plastic are going to landfill each year which simply isn’t sustainable.

Cristallo Gold from Laminam's Diamond Series

Cristallo Gold from Laminam's Diamond Series

What do you do when you're not working?

My family takes centre stage in my life. My weekends are filled with sporting activities for my children, which often cast me in the roles of chauffeur and spectator at football matches, cricket games, kickboxing sessions, and swimming events, among others. Despite the occasional complaints about shuttling them around, I cherish these moments. I frequently tell my wife that my favourite times of the week are spent on the side-lines, wholeheartedly cheering them on, no matter the sport. During that hour or so, I focus solely on supporting them, and it's truly wonderful. While I may occasionally grumble about all the driving, I know I'll miss it when it comes to an end, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Occasionally, between my children's activities, I manage to find time for cycling, weather permitting. Over the past few years, I've developed a passion for cycling. This involves either donning Lycra attire and embarking on long-distance road bike rides or tackling steep terrain on a mountain bike. Regardless of the type of ride, one thing remains constant: no bike ride is complete without a stop for cake!

What do you value above all else?

In my view, trust is paramount. It's one of the reasons why many of my customers continue to do business with me today, as they did 17 years ago. They know they can rely on me. When I make a commitment, they trust that it will be fulfilled competently and on time. In an industry where promises are often broken, trust is the most important thing for me and this works both ways.  Where we can have an honest and open working relationship with our customers built on trust, we can achieve great things together.  

When it comes to your staff, how do you cultivate a positive working environment?

We all spend a lot of time at work, so it's crucial to ensure that it's not only productive but also enjoyable. Launching a brand from scratch involves a substantial amount of hard work, but we believe in infusing a sense of fun throughout the journey. I genuinely look forward to Monday mornings and the opportunities the week ahead holds. I believe that, as a leader, if you approach your work with a smile on your face and a deep passion for what you do, some of that enthusiasm naturally rubs off on your team.

In my view, the most crucial element in creating a conducive working environment is establishing trust and honesty. I strive to foster an atmosphere where my team feels comfortable sharing personal concerns, such as a child's illness or the need for a hospital appointment, without fear. The primary way to nurture this environment of trust and honesty is to lead by example. For instance, recently, I was planning a customer visit and an overnight trip with one of my sales managers when I realised it clashed with my son's football match. Consequently, we rescheduled the trip for a few days later, and I was transparent about my reason for doing so—I didn't want to miss my son's match.  As it turned out, my son was named team captain for that football match, and his team won 4-0 with him earning the title of Man of the Match. If I had missed that game, I would have been devastated, so I am pleased that I made the right decision. My aim is to create an environment where my team feels empowered to be equally honest and make choices aligned with their personal commitments and priorities.

Find out more about Laminam at laminam.com