If you ask what I do, I class myself as a leather consultant. But that is not really a proper description. Increasingly now I help businesses of all kinds with top level marketing strategy. This involves helping fit them into their macro and micro environment and linking skills and competences with the market place. Some companies, the best, do this as a routine while others do it if they are looking to expand, change direction, or are in difficulty.
Allied to this I like to work where innovation is involved. In the leather and leather using industires my close knowledgte of the finished markets and of the technologies - I trained as a leather chemist at Leeds University - means that new opportunities fascinate me. And I fit into the group that believes that the best innovations come when marketing really understands the consumers and can get deep down inside the manufacturing, and sometimes beyond, to see what is involved. Everyone involved in marketing has to have a curious side and stay in touch.
It is this that makes me enjoy the small amount of teaching and journalism I do, and the travel which this helps pay for to trade shows, factories, retail outlets and other "cool hunting" areas. To understand merino better Sue and I stayed a few days on the Rowley Hill Station high in the mountains in South Island New Zealand in March 2008. It is different from the normal visit to a tannery or a shoe factory but just as important if you are to understand the technology and the supply chain. Rowleys are one of the main suppliers for that fantastic sports wear brand Icebreaker. And they are a wonderful family maintaining a really important tradition. We wish them well while in the face of all the changes taking place in land use and access in New Zealand.
As well as working with individual businesses I do also work for organisations on big picture issues. So I was working in 2008 on potential strategies for the Pakistan leather and leather using industries. This work was lead by the US company JE Austin and I was one of a small team of local and overseas experts involved. Parts of the Pakistan industry are world leaders and yet parts are massively underdeveloped. A tough business in the current world economic and geopolitical climate: made worse by the huge floods of the summer 2010. For me one major starting point for Pakistan is to get its business people to pay tax. Only 10% of GDP is taxation and getting this just to the Indian level of 15% would be a greater increase in income than all the aid they receive. One sad outcome of this has been the kidnapping of Warren Weistein who led the project. He was kidnapped from his house/office in Lahore in the summer of 2011 and has only been seen on a couple of distressing videos since then. Warren is an inspirational person who works tirelessly forgood. I learned a huge amount from him and appreciated all his help and guidance as he led the project.. I wish him a safe and speedy return to his family.
2009 was interrrupted by a car crash which took me out of action for the second and third quarters of the year. My talk to the Indian Tanners in Chennai at the start of February remains relevant and is on the front page of this web site. I was very much delighted to be given the lifetime prize for Innovation at the University of Northampton Centenary of Education event in July, and even more to become a Freeman of the City of London and then a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Glovers as we entered the last quarter of 2009. Also in 2009 I became a Teaching Fellow at the University of Bath School of Management, teaching marketing. So while 2009 was a difficult year it ended on a high note.
In 2010 our report on Future Trends in the Leather Industry was presented to the 17th UNIDO World Panel in Addis and I spoke about it again at the UITIC/Calzatecnia Congress in October 2010. This latter talk is in the Resources: Materials section of this website to listen to.
2011 and 2012 have been busy with LeatherNaturally! - and of course we have just had the 18th UNIDO leather panel in Shanghai. Sadly I think everyone will agree that it was not as good in terms of open discussion as in Addis. By comparison the The 9th Asian International Conference of Leather Science and Technology (AICLST) organized by TILA in Taiwan on 12-14th November 2012 was a resounding success and I very much enjoyed giving a paper on carbon footrpinting and corporate social responsibility in the leather industry.
If you want help on marketing, on the leather business, on strategy, do call. I only take on jobs where I feel I can be of some help; so you will get an honest answer.