In conversation with…

Paul Starkey on how he's helped ensure that this year’s Recommended Adhesives Guide (RAG) features more floorcoverings and adhesive recommendations than ever before.

In this issue of F-Talk, we speak to Paul Starkey, F. Ball’s Liaison Manager, about how his role as the link between floorcovering manufacturers and the F. Ball technical service department has helped make the 2019 edition of the Recommended Adhesives Guide (RAG) the most comprehensive guide to floorcovering-adhesive compatibility yet.

Every year, F. Ball produces an annual update of its Recommended Adhesives Guide (RAG), detailing the compatibility of the company’s range of adhesives with floorcoverings produced by scores of manufacturers.

We’ve previously spoken to Stephen Boulton, technical service manager, about the testing undertaken by F. Ball’s technical service department that goes into producing the RAG so that contractors can have complete confidence that the recommendations will ensure a quality installation throughout the lifetime of a floorcovering. But with over 6,000 adhesive recommendations for floorcoverings made by over 200 manufacturers included in the RAG, you may be wondering how they get their hands on all the floorcoverings they need to test, especially when new floorcoverings come out all the time. How do they ensure the guide includes an exhaustive selection of floorcoverings?

This is the task of F. Ball’s dedicated Liaison Manager Paul Starkey, and it’s a full time job.

“I’m the link between floorcovering manufacturers’ technical departments and the F. Ball technical department,” says Paul. “I have a contact at every manufacturer who provides me with samples of all of the floorcovering types they produce so that I can pass them on to our technical service team for them to test compatibility with our range of adhesives.”

Ongoing process

That’s OK for producing the printed version of the RAG once a year, but the online version, which can be viewed here, and the mobile app are constantly being updated as new floorcovering-adhesive combinations are tested – when a manufacturer releases a new product, for instance. We asked Paul how he keeps on top of these developments?

“My contacts will let me know if they are about to bring a new floorcovering to market, and we’ll arrange for samples to be delivered to the technical service department so that they can test compatibility with F. Ball’s range of adhesives. This allows us to update the RAG so contractors can get the information they need,” says Paul.

What about when F. Ball releases a new product, or improves the formulation of an existing product, as it’s recently done with Styccobond F41 and Stycco Flex?

“In this case we test, or retest, the compatibility of the new or improved adhesive with the floorcoverings featured in the guide. There’s no guesswork involved. To do this, I request more samples from all of the manufacturers’ representatives.”

International standards

You can start to see how Paul is kept busy all year round, especially when you consider that the  floorcovering manufacturers he corresponds with come from all over the world.

“Most floorcoverings featured in the RAG come from Europe, but many are produced around the world, and F. Ball products are used worldwide, so we test to a number of countries’ standards in addition to British Standards. This means I have many international contacts.”

“Consequently, a lot of my time is spent meeting people. These relationships are important because every single recommendation listed in the RAG is endorsed by the floorcovering manufacturer, which requires them to have complete confidence in our testing procedures.”

We asked Paul whether, as a result of these relationships, innovations in adhesives technology are influencing developments in floorcoverings or vice versa?

“It’s a bit of both,” says Paul. “We share information about advancements in adhesives technology with the manufacturers. This informs the development of new floorcovering types. Manufacturers share information with us about new floorcoverings, which influences our research and development. We work in partnership with each other.”

Other tasks

Paul lists travelling amongst his interests. This is fortunate because, as well as travelling to meet manufacturers across the UK and abroad, Paul’s role takes him to flooring exhibitions around the globe. Most recently he attended the world’s largest floorcoverings exhibition, Domotex, in Germany. He’ll soon be jetting off to Shanghai when the show travels there.

“The aim is to develop relationships with even more manufacturers, so that we can continue to increase the number of floorcoverings and recommendations featured in the RAG,” he says.

“It also provides an opportunity to encourage representatives to attend F. Ball’s free training courses hosted at the company’s dedicated facility at its Staffordshire headquarters. These cover topics ranging from subfloor preparation to adhesive selection and are also provided for contractors. The aim is to give them the confidence to recommend F. Ball’s adhesives for installing their products, as well as promoting standards of professionalism in the flooring industry.

Two decades’ service

Paul is approaching his 20 year milestone at F. Ball, and his career in the flooring industry goes back further than that.

“Before F. Ball, I worked for a company that installed raised access flooring. This led to dealings with floorcovering manufacturers, and it was then that I started building up my network of contacts that would be useful as Liaison Manager.”

Paul lives with his wife and two daughters at their home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. When we interview him, he is on his way to meet one of his contacts at a floorcovering manufacturer. There’s just time to ask him how he likes to relax outside of work.

“I enjoy spending time with my family, visiting new places, skiing and mountain biking when I can. I also enjoy a pint. There’s not much time left to do anything else after that.”