An interview with James Hardie

Lee Bucknall
29 February, 24

What is your full name and job title?

Lee Bucknall, UK Country Manager, James Hardie.

How long have you had your current role?

3 years

Tell us a bit about your company.

James Hardie is the world’s number one producer and marketer of high-performance fibre cement cladding and a market leader in Europe for fibre gypsum building solutions. I head up the UK team, which forms part of the European division of James Hardie.   Our core product portfolio is a range of fibre cement cladding (Hardie® Plank, Hardie® VL Plank, Hardie® Panel and Hardie® Architectural Panel), tile backer board (Hardie® Backer) and fermacell® wall boards.  

Name some key challenges and opportunities your business is facing?

One ongoing challenge is recruiting different people with different experience. We have a broad range of customers including architects, developers and retailers and we like our teams to reflect this. Overall, the available talent pool is small so we often have to think out of the box and we have a very robust training programme. With regard to our products we are constantly innovating as volatile market conditions mean we can’t remain complacent despite our market leading position.

That said these are both opportunities too as we continue to invest in our products,  and are bringing in new people and upskilling the team to fulfil new roles.  We’ve recently achieved a 94% satisfaction rate from our employee survey, but we’re now empowering our team to develop more ideas to improve to continue making James Hardie a great place to work.

Tell us an anecdote that really sums up who you are as a leader.

A colleague once mentioned how it’s common for leaders in this industry to appear at best not personable, and at worst unapproachable. I’ve worked my way up to this role and developed close relationships along the way, so I want to ensure that colleagues now don’t think of me in this way.   I take the time to catch up with the team on a personal basis, attend face to face team meetings and provide as many opportunities for contact as possible. At James Hardie, we don’t have a hierarchical feel to the business and that’s because of how close we are as a team.  

What is your philosophy for life and/or business?

For me our culture is the most important part of the business.   Even though we have market leading products and a clear strategy and vision, if we don’t have the right people on our journey creating the right environment then we won’t achieve our ambitious growth goals.

Who/what has been your greatest influence?

My greatest influence is my dad. When I was growing up he was a Managing Director and he loved his job. He inspired me to be driven and passionate about work and to have the confidence to make difficult decisions.

What do you find hard to do? And why.

We work in a challenging and exciting sector and our business is growing well so sometimes I find it hard to switch off and clear my head as there is always something to be done. I’ve recently taken up CrossFit as I know that physical exercise is vital to my wellbeing and ability to lead. It’s a great fitness community and often after a session I find that I have subconsciously found a way to solve a problem.

Who do you most admire?

There is not just one individual person that I admire, but away from work I really enjoy many different types of sport. So, I really respect sports people that are labelled “World Class” or “Best in the world.”

When you think about it, there are 8 billion people on this planet, so when someone achieves this status, to think they can state they are better than everybody else on this planet, is something I really admire. These people have to be extremely talented, but they also have to be extremely driven to be part of this elite group.

To name drop a few people I have admired over my 40 years would be people like: Floyd Mayweather Junior, Michael Schumacher, Roger Federer, Serena Williams & Tiger Woods. When they were at the top of their game no one else could touch them!

 If you didn’t work in construction – what would you choose to do?

My first role was in IT… I feel like had I not taken a sales role then I would have continued down the technology path.  

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