For our latest Head2Head, James Dobbin spoke with Christophe Marr, Founder and Managing Director of Marr Procurement, which was voted Best Small Business in 2021 by Lloyds Bank as a result of them donating their 2020 PPE profits to charity and diversifying into industrial, public and finance sectors during the crisis.
Why did you get into procurement?
I’ve been in procurement for nearly 28 years, seven years at Marks & Spencer after studying business studies and supply chain management at university.
I was a Buyer at M&S, so it was direct procurement.
I then spent seven years at IBM, firstly as a Procurement Consultant then Head of Procurement for IBM Europe, before moving on to Care UK.
While I was there, we did a number of acquisitions and whenever we did an acquisition part of my role was to take that acquired supply base and merge it with our existing one.
In order to do that we needed some help, and I struggled to find a really good procurement organisation that shared our values, that I completely trusted, that had the same integrity but also could really come in and hit the ground running.
That’s why I created Marr Procurement in 2015.
We offer now what we offered then, which is really good procurement support that is very honest and transparent. We have a culture that says it like it is.
We also set the business up as a values-led business, this is important because the ideal candidate for the role we are going to talk about has got to be someone who shares those values.
By values-led, for example, we have done work for Prostate Cancer UK, Mencap, The Salvation Army and St Hellener Hospice.
Last year the board decided that we would donate 100% of our profits on PPE to charities, we didn’t wait to see that we would have money from this, we decided that every single penny would help. That is just one example of how we give back.
We also set up a pro bono procurement team during the pandemic, we could have easily put some guys on furlough, but we decided to set up a free procurement service to six charities. It is a big part of who we are, whoever we recruit has got to be comfortable with those values, it is also about brand reputation and it is important that whoever we bring in shares that sense of responsibility, takes it really seriously and respects the trust that our clients put in us.
You can listen to Christoph’s conversation and learn more about the role in our latest podcast.
Can you tell us a bit about the structure of the organisation and some of the big projects you have worked on?
We have a very lean structure, I don’t like a big hierarchy and given my experience in the corporate world where there was a lot of hierarchy, I found it quite often slowed down decision making.
Therefore, we have a very narrow senior management team. We have direct reports across a team of buyers and a team of analysts.
The board meets once a month, on the board we have members of our senior leadership team and also Sir William Wells, our chairman, and Paul Humphries who is our Exec Director. That gives us proper governance through the organisation.
How would you describe the culture at Marr Procurement?
Friendly, really hard-working, open and completely transparent.
We don’t tolerate politics and games, what we want is a group of people who share two things. One is the values intended and people who really want to get on and have fun. Secondly, these are people who have the technical skillset, if you look at each member of our team, the depth of experience is extraordinary.
The culture in our business is you come in because you know what you are doing, but you should come in and have some fun as well, you spend a lot of time at work, you should enjoy it.
What other skillsets and personality traits are you looking for?
Attention to detail is vital.
A passion for getting under the skin of the detail and following the process and not taking shortcuts.
Someone who will operate professionally and create a relationship with the client.
What will the person be procuring for this role and what else will they be doing for the client?
It is a mix, we started off maritime procurement in the public sector but it has now expanded into supplies, energy, insurance and temporary labour.
We need somebody who is interested in getting involved in a variety of categories in a public sector environment.
What is your office policy?
You have to be flexible, things are changing all the time and therefore I think what I say today might not be the same in six months time.
But today I would say I need someone who is flexible, someone who is as happy to work at home as they are to work with the client.
This client does not demand someone in the office five days a week and nor do we.
We want someone who is excited to jump in the car and head to a client meeting or a supplier meeting. That is really important we are an outward client-facing organisation.
Where would they need to travel to?
It could be all of the UK, it will not be international as all of our business is in the UK.
Why would someone want to work at Marr Procurement?
It is the combination of impeccable values with working with an extraordinary team with amazing clients.
It is quite unusual to have a procurement function that manages to combine that.
There is total transparency commercially.
We have never and would never be incentivised by a supplier, it is a big part of our code of conduct.
The kind of people that you will be working with are brilliant.
I have pulled together a team that is at the top end of the capability and also fun to work with.