Face to Face: talking innovation in showers with Aqualisa’s David Hollander

Face to Face: talking innovation in showers with Aqualisa’s David Hollander

Established nearly 40 years ago, Aqualisa is renowned for its pioneering showering technologies, with the company’s revolutionary bi-metallic shower valve putting it on the map in 1978. Since then, it has continued to innovate — most recently with its award-winning, installer-friendly digital products and also with a new generation of electric showers.

Based in Westerham, Kent and employing over 150 people, the company distributes its showers via major merchants and also through a strong network of independent and regional merchants and showrooms.

PBM speaks to David Hollander, Chief Executive of Aqualisa.

Q How did you get into the industry and to your current position?

A Prior to joining Aqualisa, I was the Managing Director of Dyson UK and Ireland. Before Dyson, I worked my way through senior management roles with organisations such as Total Home Entertainment and Disney.

So, although my résumé can’t lay claim to me having started out in overalls or on the shop floor, I have clocked up quite a bit of experience whilst at the helm of some well-known, consumer-facing companies. My tenure at Dyson has also made me very attuned to the importance of great, original product design and British manufacturing.

Today, companies need to excel in both their product or service and their customer relationships. We do business in an increasingly transparent environment and quite simply, there isn’t much tolerance for mediocrity.

I believe in being the best you can be and, whilst my wife wouldn’t rely on me in a plumbing emergency, I have immersed myself in everything Aqualisa. Do I know an olive from an ‘O’ ring yet? I’m working on it. However, I can assure you I’m delighted to be here and it’s a great industry to work in.

Q What is your early perspective on the industry?

A I can say that this industry is the most competitive that I have encountered. There are more competitors and more customers at every turn — but that’s no bad thing. In fact, it can only be positive and it certainly forces a company to focus on the ‘vitals’, such as its product offering and how customers are supported both before and after sales.

Q What are the current challenges facing your company?

A One of our biggest challenges is to recapture Aqualisa’s market share. We have endured a period of decline, but that has made me even more determined to reignite the company and to ensure that Aqualisa is once again heralded for its innovation and quality manufacturing.

Q Which individual has influenced you most in your career?

A I lost my father nearly 20 years ago, but he continues to inspire me and his memory gives me the drive to achieve as much as I can. In addition, I am motivated by my own children. They never knew their grandfather, but they also inspire and encourage me to do my best, as I hope I do for them. 

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

A In the summer, one of Aqualisa’s suppliers went into administration. It really disrupted our operations and caused our customers considerable problems. We are through the worst of it now, but it was a challenge for the whole team. On the up side, pulling through such a problematic period proved to be unitive for everyone.

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

A Joining Aqualisa, certainly. It’s fantastic to come into a different industry; it’s so refreshing and motivational to work slightly outside of your comfort zone. I’m constantly inspired by both Aqualisa’s heritage and its future, which is a nice feeling to have.

If I had to exclude becoming Aqualisa’s Chief Executive, then I’d have to hold my hand up and admit that career highlights don’t get any better than being a Disney Character at Disneyland in California. At that time, every new cast member (what all staff are called) was required to dress up and experience being a character on a park.

I experienced this during my time as the MD of Disney Home Entertainment [UK and Ireland] and the opportunity to dress as a Brer Bear from Disney’s Song of the South was a priceless highlight in my career!

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