As the leader of the Strategic Marketing Department at MAPEI Americas, Real Bourdage brings highly-qualified senior management experience and product knowledge to product management, and he focuses on driving the company’s business growth and profitability with new product launches. He is involved in many diverse product lines for MAPEI, including its tile and stone division, floor covering installation systems, concrete restoration and the MAPEI tools line. Real also oversees the retail channel sales for the company and works closely with his team to grow that component of business for MAPEI.
Real has a long and storied career in the tile and stone industry and was recently honored by the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) with its Joe A. Tarver service to the industry award. The award was presented to a large audience at Coverings on April 20th in Orlando, Fla. Our interview took place shortly before he was to receive this recognition in person.
What does it mean to you to be named the 2023 Joe A. Tarver award recipient from NTCA?
I am humbled and honored — and it was completely unexpected. I never worked with the purpose of receiving any kind of award or recognition. I am surprised and appreciative that the NTCA Board of Directors recognized my career in this way. It is a tremendous honor, and my family was very excited to hear about it as well.
Tell us about your career and how you came to head the strategic marketing division at MAPEI Americas.
I am French Canadian from Montreal, and I was with HB Fuller there. In 1988, I moved to Chicago to join the TEC Division of that company. I was the CFO, and eventually I got into management and operations. In 1992, I was named President of HB Fuller Canada. I moved back to the U.S. in 1996 at HB Fuller Headquarters in Minneapolis and got back with TEC in 1998. I have been in the industry since then. In 2000, I joined Aqua Mix on the west coast. I worked with them until they were acquired by Custom Building Products in 2006, and worked as VP of International business with Custom until 2010. Due to the economic conditions of the times, my position was eliminated. Dr. Squinzi, Nick Di Tempora and Luigi Di Geso of MAPEI reached out to me, and I was honored to join MAPEI in 2010. It has been a wonderful experience for me.
What is it about your experience with MAPEI that you have found most rewarding?
I was fortunate to have experience working for a large publicly-traded company (HB Fuller) and even a small family-owned business (Aqua Mix). MAPEI delivered to me the best of both worlds. They are a multi-national business working in many countries, but they are still family owned. It’s been an honor being a part of their team.
What career accomplishments are you the proudest of?
I hope that people would feel that I’ve always treated everybody equally and gave them a chance to be their best. I always liked to mentor people in the company. I guess I like to think that I can be both a serious business leader but also be a lot of fun to be around as well. But I think I take the most pride in the role I have played in helping to develop the next generation of leaders in the company.
As a mentor, give us an example of advice you give to young leaders looking to grow their careers on a similar path as yours.
To be an effective business leader and manager, understanding the basic elements of finance is critical. I also urge people to embrace change and take on challenges. I was quiet and shy when I was younger, and my confidence in management grew as I accepted more challenges along the way. I think the most important aspect of management is to embrace being part of a team and to surround yourself with others that feel the same way. I also encourage all leaders to have a thorough understanding of every aspect of the business they are managing.
How do you feel industry organizations such as the NTCA have helped to grow the tile industry?
I have watched all the associations develop over the length of my career. I served two terms on the NTCA Board of Directors, and I was really impressed by the dedication and involvement I witnessed from volunteer leaders. It is an easy decision to sponsor and support organizations that have a clear mission and back it up with enthusiastic support from its membership.
I feel that the impact of these groups like the NTCA, CTDA, TCNA and CTEF is getting better and is more important than ever before. Our industry is changing so much and the development of products and technology is evolving, and the importance of training and education is critical to the growth of our industry. It has been an honor for me to be a part of that process as well.
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In the One-to-One story, NTCA Executive Director/TileLetter Publisher Bart Bettiga interviews industry leaders about pertinent topics.
Watch Bettiga’s interview with Real Bourdage below.