Focused Improver or Active Influencer?

by Nick Howarth (Howarth Timber) and Steve Boyer (Marsh Industries)
28 January 20220

BMF TrainingThe BMF is on a mission to help its members build excellence within their business. But what does that mean, and what difference can BMF membership really make to merchant and supplier members? We asked the winners of the BMF Training Company of the Year, (Howarth Timber & Building Supplies) and the BMF Supplier of the Year Awards (Marsh Industries).


Howarth Timber & Building Supplies has used BMF training since they became members some 20 years ago and have increased their use over the last 10 years as more management courses were brought on stream.

Said Managing Director, Nick Howarth: “Our biggest training focus is merchant management, with a number of our people working through the BMF Diploma and Foundation Degree. We value both the industry specialisation underpinning the courses and the knowledge and expertise of the trainers. The content of the courses is closely related to all aspects of our industry, which is a great introduction for younger managers.

“As a company, we use a mix of training delivery methods. For new starters we also use BMF Building Blocks and Campus product modules within the Howarth Online Academy, and have used BMF classroom courses for sales executives and to advise on security and combat shrinkage.”

While training is Howarth’s number one BMF benefit, Nick also values the BMF’s State of Trade data, and Howarth are equally keen to get involved and give back. Howarth personnel attend and present at BMF Timber and Finance Forums, and currently Chair BMF’s Yorkshire Region. Howarth has also worked with the BMF’s policy team to promote the industry’s views to MPs and support wider industry aims. 

Said Nick: “We are more than happy to take part and contribute to BMF activities and lobbying.  Ultimately, what’s good for the industry is also good for Howarth.”


As a supplier, Marsh Industries is also more than happy to take part. In fact, their Managing Director, Steve Boyer can’t think of a single BMF platform that his business has not used.

Marsh has showcased and launched products through the BMF One Voice magazine, attends the annual Members’ Conference and biennial All Industry Conference, and takes part in the specialist Civils & Drainage Forum. Steve also regularly attends the Marketing Forum, which he describes as “four hours of information and connecting”, adding “I may have been in the industry since 1980, but I always learn something new at BMF meetings.” 

While Steve credits the BMF with far more than the networking opportunities it provides, he gives an excellent example of the time that can save. “Being able to talk to the lead buyer of one of the country’s major buying groups at BMF Members’ Annual Conference saved me a separate round trip of several hundred miles for a 40-minute meeting.”

As the owner of a family business, Steve has 20:20 vision on the importance of the BMF to his company’s growth and development. When they joined in 2011, his industry was dominated by eight international companies. Today, Marsh is the UK market leader in off-mains drainage systems and one of just two companies in its field with a firm foothold with UK merchants.  Steve is the first to acknowledge that you get out what you put in. “Going to BMF events is about taking action. It’s not a day out, it’s time to be used. My advice is to break the ice and engage. In my experience people are always happy to engage back with you – there’s no better opportunity.”

The BMF is currently surveying each members’ needs to identify what is most useful to them and offer tailored solutions. Through this process they have identified a number of different clusters with similar needs. While Howarth sits within the Active Influencer group and Marsh Industries is a Focused Improver, the BMF’s priority is to engage less active members – the Unignited Advancers and Aspiring Progressors – and help them to get full benefit from their membership.

BMF Membership Services Director, Richard Ellithorne believes that staff development is a good place to start. “BMF’s Training is a definitely one of our key strengths and one of the first places we would encourage members to engage with us,” Richard explained.

Regional meetings are another great starting point, with lots of current information being shared and the opportunity to find out what services others value, and the BMF is making it easier for all members to attend.

Richard said: “In the past it may not have been easy to release staff to attend an event many miles away, but with meetings, forums and training sessions increasingly held at one of 31 Regional Centres of Excellence around the UK and Ireland, we are making it easier to access the essential services that help our members to prosper.”

To find out more about the BMF’s broad range of services, visit www.bmf.org.uk or contact richard.ellithorne@bmf.org.uk or on 02476 854984.


This article first appeared in the December 2019 edition of Builders’ Merchants Journal (BMJ)