Lessons I have learnt: Eric Benton

Chartered Engineer and Director, Johns Slater and Haward
I am a Chartered Engineer and Director of long-established (1947) Ipswich building services consultants, Johns Slater and Haward (JSH), who specialise in energy use/utilisation and the design of mechanical and electrical installations in buildings.

Published in Suffolk Director Magazine Summer | Autumn 2023

We asked Eric, to look back and reflect on his younger self.


How would you describe yourself at 18?

A confident, slightly nocturnal, long-haired (think Rick Wakeman), rugby playing, sports mad, music loving students who smoked too much and drank too much beer. A product of the Seventies, but hardly director material!

If you could go back knowing what you know now, what three things would you tell yourself to do before becoming a director?

  1. Work harder at school and university
  2. Undertake some management training
  3. Undertake financial training associated with running a business

If you could relive one day, what would it be and why?

A  difficult question as I have had many great days, both personally and professionally. However, among those that stand out are key milestones: first day at Loughborough University; graduation; getting a proper job with my industrial placement firm; first day back with them; moving to Suffolk and joining JSH. And then getting my CEng; becoming an associate; becoming a partner, becoming a sole trader in 1994; incorporating and becoming the director with two good colleagues in 2004; not forgetting, my wedding day and the birth of both my children and then their graduation days.

What are the biggest lessons you have learnt about being a director?

Always try and treat people with respect, which is particularly relevant working in the construction industry in East Anglia, as it’s a small world. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and be flexible, particularly with respect to clients and work areas. Treat everyone, particularly your staff, as you would like to be treated. Always have a plan, but be prepared to adapt and change it. Take risks but only after you have done the proper Risk Assessment.

How did you deal with a big mistake, and what did you learn from the experience?

Fortunately, I don’t believe I or we’ve ever made a big mistake, but have made plenty of smaller ones, although I’m a firm believer that in life and business, you generally learn more from the things that go wrong than those that go right! Making mistakes is not necessarily a problem and should be seen as ‘Learning Opportunities’  – the important thing is how you deal with them.

What does the future have in store for your company?

I believe the business is in excellent shape and in a very good position going forward. As consultants, we sell advice, which basically relies on the quality of our people and our processes. Currently, we have some fantastic people and a great team across the board, together with tried and tested processes and also a sound financial base.

What does the future have in store for you personally?

Hopefully, to slow down a bit and hand the business over to the next generation so that I can spend more time in my garden and enjoying life.


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