CEO of the PPMA Group of Associations, Dr Andrew Mint, talks to Stephanie Cornwall about his industry achievements and future goals, including the important role now being played by PPMA BEST (Business Education, Skills and Training).
Tell me a little about yourself – what did you aspire to be when you were at school and did your upbringing have any impact on this?
I had a very interesting childhood. I grew up in a council flat, with a single parent background. It teaches you the values of life and helps you to interact with people at all levels. I grew up in Tamworth and had a regular comprehensive school education. It taught me early on to use my own initiative to achieve more. I was the first one in my family to go on to do A-levels, let alone go to university. I had ambitions then to
become a doctor or a vet!
How did you embark on your career and go about achieving your goals?
I became interested in microbiology because it was all about things you could not see, investigating them and trying to understand what is, in effect, the invisible world. That whole area of science interested me I opted to do a degree in that, which then directed me toward the food industry. I worked in the biotech industry and did a doctorate at St Mary’s in London on research dermatology. I then got head-hunted by Proctor and Gamble and went on to look at how products could improve skin condition. I was there for six years, working on hair and skin research and development, marketing, claims support, and brand manager. I had a change of career around 2000, and went to work in speciality chemicals for ISP, an American business-to-business company. That was really interesting because it looked at the engineering that drives products.
What experiences have helped to shape your career and inspire you?
In the FMCG market, I worked with all the key players. I had a really broad exposure to different types of businesses and it gave me a very particularly good insight into different aspects of FMCG and pharma. I have run companies in many different countries – Europe, Russia, Turkey – as the company I was with made many acquisitions. I ran a small cosmetics company myself for a few years and set up a business operation for SMEs. I understand what it means to be be in a manufacturing environment That is what attracted me to this position. I was not too keen to start with, if I’m honest. However, the attraction came when I thought about properly, because I realised I’d be doing something in a different industry. I was very impressed by what I saw going on here. I think it’s something very special.
What are you main goals currently?
My personal goals are to make PPMA operate more like a business, to put all profit back into our membership and its services, and to grow and modernise the organisation. Since taking up the role as chairman in February 2015, I feel I have been able to make a lot of good changes, which is all down to the team of people I work with.
We have introduced new membership benefits, added to our marketing and communications activity. We are doing more events at no or very little cost to members. We also set up a charity to encourage more people into science and engineering.The charity is trying to capture that “wow” experience that I first had when I came into this industry. Often when people think of engineering, they think of cars and the automobile industry, but there’s so much more to it,
How has your own career outlook changed?
My own change of heart came when I saw the passion of the whole PPMA board in what they were doing, and their collective goal of wanting to improve the industry and do things better. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t do everything on Google, you need to build relationships so you can understand real people, real industry demands, and real machinery. It’s all about people working together to solve problems. I really see this to be something that can help the UK economy. I have spent a lot of my career making rich people richer, whereas this, to me, is about putting something back.
What challenges is the industry facing at the moment?
Brexit is a big challenge and the plastics situation is possibly even more of a challenge for us than for others in the industry because, while we don’t make the plastics themselves, there’s a need to understand the impact it can have on the machinery manufacturers. Events and training are one of the ways we can address this.
Our first conference next year will look at some of the gaps and at better networking. We’ve appointed our first communications manager and we feel we need to develop more of a personality. Skills development is a challenge for every industry.
But I see challenge as being an opportunity to invest long-term, be it in technology, automation, or other development areas.
The apprenticeship levy is not a good thing, which is why we are setting up our own training. We want to lead by example.
I have led a very eclectic and mixed career, but I have never enjoyed anything as much as this, and I feel honoured to hold this position. It is a progressive industry. It is collaborative, productive and I have never seen this be so apparent in any other industries.
What tips do you have for the future generation?
I think you make your own fate. If you are passionate and driven ,you will become successful and drive your career through originality and passion.
I like to always think I am approachable, and that’s another important factor – being open to new ideas as well as learning from the experience of others.
Similarly, you should always challenge people: Ask them what values they are gaining out of something. If you challenge nothing, nothing changes.