Earlier this year MacroArt appointed a non-executive chairman to help it realign and grow its business. The Covid pandemic having caused so many PSPs to reassess their operations, I talked with MD Michael Green about the value of bringing in non-executive directors.
Michael, I suppose the first question has got to be why did you feel you needed a non-executive chairperson?
As a company partly owned by a private equity interest, the inclusion of a non-executive chairman as part of the MacroArt board is, whilst not mandatory, preferred, for two reasons. Firstly, an appointment of someone who can bring additional expert input from fields outside of our traditional industry sectors adds a further depth of experience and fresh eyes in respect of previously unconsidered opportunities. Secondly, a highly focused non-executive chairman is able to ensure that shareholders’ interests are both well represented and reflected in corporate planning and strategy.
So when did you start to looking for someone to fill this role - and where did you start looking?
The advantages of - and need for - additional board level expertise had been under consideration by the team at MacroArt for some time, and well before the impact of the Covid pandemic. Its arrival in early 2020 understandably accelerated this decision-making process.
With MacroArt’s traditional business sectors shut down, literally overnight, with the cancellation of exhibitions, shows and events, it became clear that we needed to explore and target as many previously untapped markets as possible to fill the void. The search began to identify sectors where our transferrable skills and experience would quickly make us effective, appealing and competitive, and clearly, the addition to the board of an experienced professional strategist with contacts and backgrounds in disparate business areas, would inform and speed our search.
The appointment to such a key and influential role for a company of our size is not one to be taken lightly, and requires significant research and in-depth analysis of candidates’ suitability. As such, we realised at an early stage that conventional general advertising of the post would be time consuming and labour intensive. A decision was taken to employ the services of a highly skilled and industry focused professional headhunter, and we were delighted with the contribution and advice that Angus Hartley from Augment Equity was able to provide in the identification and selection of an exceptionally high standard short-list of candidates, the very best of whom was Dominic Riley. We were thrilled when our discussions with him resulted in his acceptance of the role.
What specific qualities were you looking for?
As I mentioned, our primary focus before the pandemic - and increasingly so during it - was to reduce our reliance on work from a quite limited business sector, thus broadening our scope and futureproofing the business. Dominic Riley’s extensive experience in organisations as varied as FTSE100-listed RELX, the BBC, and the Morgan Motor Company, provides a wealth of key corporate skills in areas such as innovation, market exploitation and sustainable growth, and his plans to take advantage of MacroArt’s high profile within the large-format sector in opening new sectors and developing fresh markets was perfectly in tune with those of the board.
What impact has your new non-exec chairman Dominic Riley had so far - and what are his/your longer-term goals?
As Riley has said, “MacroArt is a business with enormous untapped potential and a huge commitment to excellence. I am excited by the growth opportunities. The factory is well invested, the team is on board, and I feel sure that we can deliver results, in terms of new sector development, market share and profitability. I see significant possibilities for further development at this strongly established firm.”
Dominic’s impressive experience in successfully driving businesses forward - in both the exploration of new markets and services, and in terms of profitability - has been perfectly in tune with the ambitions of our firm from his first day in post.
In his forward looking, dynamic approach to innovative strategies, Riley had provided the whole team with the opportunity to take a fresh look at the ‘nuts and bolts’ of both our structure and our outward facing offering. This has led to significant progress in the development of a strategy to position MacroArt as a premium provider of effective brand solutions, rather than simply a printer of graphics and signage.
Our ability to support clients in the delivery of powerful, on-brand results as part of the creative process, also opens up a wealth of new markets, including retail, heritage and sporting events, to complement the business from the returning exhibition sector.
What happens when you disagree?
I’m pleased to say that, thus far, this has yet to happen, which is perhaps an indication that our aims and aspirations are very much aligned! However, disagreement is not disapproval, nor is it necessarily a roadblock to effective compromise or collaboration. In fact, healthy discourse over two very different points of view often delivers an elegant solution that is better than either individual standpoint, and we very much welcome ideas that challenge the status quo.
The key to all discussions on the board is the growth, development, and profitability of MacroArt, and when it comes to realising these benefits, all opinions are valid.
What would be your message to other PSPs regarding bringing in a non-executive director?
As with almost any established group, the injection of new thinking, and new approaches can be transformational. The best laid plans can be blunted and dulled by the unintentional determination to adopt the same approach that has always been taken. “We’ve always had good results doing it this way” is a phrase often heard and all too seldom challenged. The introduction of a new observer, who has none of the pre-conceptions of the best way of doing things in a given industry, can often reveal extraordinary new avenues of opportunity, that have simply laid unexplored. And this is particularly true in respect of the introduction of the right non-executive director to a board. This fresh thinking, beneficial in itself, is further enhanced when its source can also bring experience and high-level contacts from areas of business that are completely outside the existing arena.
“We have found the experience of being able to tap into a host of innovative, pro-active and inspirational opportunities to be as rewarding personally as it has been professionally. The injection of a greater level of commercial experience, rigour and strategic thinking, drawn from new areas of industry, can transform and refresh a business. This has certainly been the case at MacroArt.”