Richard Masser, CIPS President – Entrepreneur, Chief Executive and Lifetime Procurement Professional

Richard Masser has already been CIPS President for almost three months now, so it is high time we featured him here. We met in early January in London, with the intention to talk about his background and his aims for the Presidential year - as you will see, we kept off some of the potentially more controversial topics!

We started with his early career. He joined Wolseley plc - the distributor of heating and plumbing products - as a management trainee, straight from school. "I wanted to do something practical, so I attended Leeds Met University in the evenings and studied for my degree whilst I was working". He is clearly someone who sees the benefit of hands-on experience, and enjoyed his early days at the sharp end, "surrounded by assets", as he puts it.

That started him thinking about procurement and the "importance of buying stuff", as he puts it. Roles at Ladbrokes (on the DIY retail side) and Autogem, a supplier to the automotive industry followed. "I heard that automotive was a best in class sector from a procurement and supply chain perspective and wanted to learn".

His big break came with a move to Eurospace Furniture PLC, a manufacturing business, where he was a Board director at the age of 30, buying raw materials, but more importantly getting involved with wider supply chain and customer facing issues. That got him to a deputy MD level, but at the age of 33, he took the bold step of setting up his own business, Quantum, promising his wife that although it was a risk, he wouldn’t lose the house!

The firm was involved in designing and marketing "range concepts" in the furniture industry, working with retailers such as B&Q to come up with new concepts and source the right materials and products to deliver those ideas. "That product might be an innovative plasma screen surround, for instance". Within 5 years, turnover was up to £25 million and the business was sold to Crestwood, in 2009.

That business now has six divisions, sourcing and manufacturing directly or under contract for retailers, manufactures and developers. That has moved beyond furniture and fittings into areas such as mobility products. I asked whether the procurement task was therefore closer to a retail environment - "there are elements of that, but the greater part is what you would see as manufacturing procurement" he explains.

We got into a discussion about the difference between retail and "corporate" procurement at this point - we are on the same wavelength in agreeing that they are very different but, Masser says, "retail could do with more CIPS focus, investment and support. It is often too adversarial and price focused". It's hard to disagree, and CIPS might also bring some interesting thinking on ethics to the retail table too!

In terms of CIPS, Masser studied in the early nineties to get his MCIPS (yes, he did the exams, not the direct entry route some folk took ...) and was awarded his Fellowship in 2009. Shirley Cooper bears much of the "blame" for his CIPS involvement, he says, as she persuaded him to stand for Council in 2009. He was then appointed to the Board (Trustees) in 2011, and after two years as Chair of the Trustees, was given the Presidential role for 2015/16.

Masser has built a reputation during his time involved with CIPS as a thoughtful and very hard-working person. What makes him interesting as President though might get overlooked. He is unassuming by nature compared to some recent job-holders, so it is easy to forget that he is probably unique, in being our first President who literally started at the lowest rungs of procurement, did the CIPS exams, and then rose to a general management role. But not only that, he is also a genuine entrepreneur, having built a successful business. That is a profile that is pretty unusual, and may well be unique amongst CIPS leaders.

We'd suggest that makes him both an aspirational and yet realistic role model for young professionals, and we hope he stresses those three elements (deep professional experience, the move into general management, and entrepreneurship) during his year in office. Tune in for more from our conversation in part 2.

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