Behind the Scenes with CEO, Tony Attard
On SBID’s journey to discover more about the personal experiences and careers of interior and design professionals throughout the industry, we interviewed the CEO at Panaz Holdings, Tony Attard. Tony shares his approach to that all-important work-life integration, the latest on his design agenda, as well as his thoughts on the predominant issues faced by the industry as a whole.
Can you describe your current job?
I am CEO of Panaz Holdings, Chairman of Alusid, Chairman of Marketing Lancashire, Director of BCFA and currently High Sheriff of Lancashire. My jobs are primarily strategic although I get involved with many of my company initiatives to ensure they are delivered OTIF (On Time In Full).
What is your background and how did you get into interior design?
I was always interested in the integration of Art, Design, Marketing and Business. I therefore applied to study Fashion Design at St Martins, and Design Management at the University of Manchester (formally UMIST). I eventually opted for Manchester as it was a little more technical (BSc) and I was offered a University scholarship by Courtaulds which ensured a fast track career in Industry. Design is to me about the delivery of a brief, and should be manged like any other management decision. Of course there is inspiration, but that should not be at the expense of delivering on time. The more stress, the more creative the solution!
Describe an average day in your job role..
My life is not about balance, it’s about life work integration. I wake at 6.30 am and either go straight to my computer to check emails and prepare for the day, or go to the gym. Either way I then shower and have a cup of tea. I have given up on Breakfast as the healthier option and do not eat until lunch time. I get to my first meeting either at 8.30 or 9.00 am, dependent upon who else needs to get there. As I have no children at home any more, child care is not an issue for me as it may be is for others. I am usually in meetings most of the day, however as I am now High Sheriff, I could have a number of other priorities. I represent the Queen for the Judiciary, therefore I could accompany a High Court judge on the bench for a trial, I could also be out with the police force or fire brigade, or even an ambulance. Meeting people in the voluntary sector has a been a great part of being High Sheriff; the work that they do in the community is invaluable to so many vulnerable people and must be encouraged and rewarded. If I am in London I usually eat out with friends or customers and then get to bed about 12ish. If I am at home in Lancashire, I have dinner with my wife Patricia, usually on our laps and watching an episode of a program we are following (Killing Eve is our latest one!). Then, I retire to my study to write an article (like this one) or catch up on the news, prepare a report or read a board meeting agenda. I usually go to bed at 11.30 pm and read for a bit before turning off the light as my eyes start to drop.. Kindles are great because I do not need the big light on!
Which elements of your profession do you enjoy the most and/or find the most rewarding?
The most rewarding aspect for any creative is to see one’s work in the marketplace. I love creating collections with my Head of Design, Sarah Lloyd and her team, but unless anyone buys it, we have not been successful in interpreting what our customers require. It’s always very gratifying to see our fabrics in an interior either great or small, and to see that our vision can become reality.
Is there anything new you are working on?
There are so many different things. We are constantly working on new collections at Panaz, releasing 10 – 12 per year. But the new Alusid Silicastone brief is particularly interesting. Alusid is a very new company that is making a new material called Silicastone that was developed for solid surface and tiles out of a sustainability project at the University of central Lancashire. It uses two waste streams from broken pre-consumer ceramics (baths, toilets, shower trays, tiles) and post-consumer glass that would usually go into landfill. We crush it and then make great solid surfaces for table tops, work surfaces, and wall tiles. The effects we can achieve have been quite amazing. There are a number of furniture companies now using the product as a standard working surface for tables and we have installed it in a number of Architectural projects. The tiles can be used inside or outside – are frost resistant and have high colour fastness to light. We have just been granted a Design Guild mark for it!
What do you find the most challenging aspects of your job?
Keeping creatives working on time!! No seriously, I juggle a lot of balls and try not to drop them. It makes for an interesting life!
What do you wish you knew before working in the field?
I got great technical training from the University so I was able to contribute quickly to Industry. I would have liked to have known more about how to start a business, however maybe naivety in that area helps you become fearless. You cannot be frightened about what you don’t know!!
What would you tell your younger self if you had the chance?
Don’t say no to an opportunity because it may never come around again.
What has been your favourite project to work on?
I am very fortunate to have had a great creative life, I have great customers who work on some amazing projects with us, including palaces, cruise ships,restaurants, night clubs, hotels, healthcare facilities, hospitals and work spaces. Each project is different with many interesting solutions so to pick one out is very difficult.
What do you think is the biggest problem the interior design industry faces?
I think that Interior design is very undervalued. There is the MD’s wife syndrome where somebody that does up a home thinks that they can create a commercial interior. Dreadful mistakes can occur when this happens. The Industry must ensure that professional integrity is maintained and standards upheld. I also think that people should value intellectual copyright.
Which people do you admire the most in the industry and why?
Anybody that works that extra hour or goes that extra mile to ensure a customer is happy and satisfied.
If you were inspired by Tony’s story and want to learn more about interior design, click here.