The Big Interview: Gary SuttonEditor - 24th April 2017
How do you plan on taking the business forward initially and do you have a short term/long time vision for Mac Group?
We do, it’s a great foundation that Nigel has built the business on and I hope to continue that basic philosophy of offering great product at very competitive pricing. We want to be seen as a fair and reasonable company and I want to continue that going forward.
How does this develop on Nigel’s vision since starting Mac Group?
It’s really just an expansion of that. We’ve got a good core base of customers now, baring in mind that we look after direct sales from the UK, France, Germany and Ireland, so we’ve got big expansion plans for all of those four territories. We won’t be opening offices in these countries but what we will be doing is continuing the way we are but employing more people so we can reach more customers and raise the profile of our brands in these countries.
What roles did you undertake previously in the photographic industry and how will your experience help in this new role as Managing Director?
I started in 1986 with Polaroid, when Polaroid was Polaroid, which was a great introduction to the photographic industry, and then in 1988 to 2001 I was with Minolta, so I went from 35mm through the APS age and through to the digital age, so that was a great founding into the photographic industry as well. My basic philosophy in selling is that it’s still people to people. People buy from people still. I know we’ve got various social media ways now and the actual way consumers buy products has changed over those years – people don’t go into a store as often as they used to, they research online and buy online – but basically people still buy from people and for me, that philosophy hasn’t changed. It’s something that I instill with my team as well. Treat people as you would like to be treated and spoken to – it’s quite simple and very old fashioned, but I think it works.
So in 1989 you actually witnessed the birth of Pixel magazine?
Yes, absolutely. I think I actually appeared in one of the early Pixel’s as the new boy – I’ve got it still!
How will you ensure the high quality service Mac Group has been providing to current clients is maintained whilst growing your client brand base?
That is very important and something that we’ll be recognised for as a distribution company. The after-sale service is just as important as the initial sale and how we look after our customers is very important to us, whether that’s the end user or the customer from a retail store/online store. We have people that are well trained in delivering whatever it is the customer needs. We’re very fortunate that the brands we have are very reliable and truthfully we don’t get very many returns with our products for tripods or for lighting etc.
What do you believe is key in a good relationship between distributor and manufacturer and how does this translate into the trade as a whole?
That’s a little bit different for us because our business is based into Benro brands, and the Benro brands are Tenber, Enduro, MePhoto and Benro, and then we have third party, which is Phottix. We have a different relationship with them, so we have the one factory in China producing the Benro/Tenber range, and then we have a different relationship with Phottix. We are responsible for the direct sales in the UK, France, Germany and Ireland for all of those products. We wouldn’t take on another brand just for the UK or just for France or just for Germany – we have to build on those direct sales.
Nigel has moved onto the role of Operations Director, how did that change come about and what does this entail?
Apprently – I didn’t know at the time – but Nigel’s intention was to build the business and get it to a position where he felt comfortable enough to hand it over to somebody else. I’m very fortunate and thrilled that I’m that person he has handed the baton over to so Nigel can develop another role. He’s working still in the office, and he’s very much integral to the running of the business and he still looks after the logistics side of the business.
Finally, what other changes within the team have occurred at Mac Group?
We have expanded our team in the UK. Over the last two or three months we’ve added a Marketing Manager – a guy called Scott Baggaley – who has now introduced a new programme of initiatives – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – to bring the brands to people’s wider attention. We’ve also appointed Tom Clunn, who is the Brand Manager for Phottix. He’s got a history of being a photographer, but is also a lighting expert, and as of today he is officially the Tenber Brand Manager as well.
Who has taken over your role?
Nobody – I’m still doing it. I’ve still got accounts responsibility as well, so I still look after a few accounts as well as managing the Marketing team and the Finance team.