Boss Federation chief executive Michael Gardner will retire in July after nearly nine years at the helm of the trade association and a quarter century in the industry.
Gardner, who will turn 65 this year, said he wanted to spend more time with his family after nearly nine years at the head of Boss, which involved a lot of travelling and staying away from home.
Boss chairman Sean Starkey of Durable will also step down at this summer’s AGM and will be replaced by vice-chairman Geoff Betts of Stewart Superior.
Gardner, a chartered accountant, said it was time to bow out but he would miss the people at Boss and the BPIF, who he said were intelligent professionals with the best interests of the industry at heart.
He joined in 2007 just a few months after becoming financial director at the BPIF – a role he held for six years - when the two federations signed an association management contract to merge back office operations and address the Boss Federation’s financial difficulties. Gardner oversaw a restructuring and reversal of Boss Federation’s fortunes.
“When I took over the Boss Federation, membership was falling. A lot of members hadn't seen the benefits of membership and the biggest thing we did was the Boss Awards,” he said.
“Some members just want to be part of the industry and networking and some just want to attend events. People have now learned to accept that we can do a whole lot more. We can help them become more profitable. We’ve got to be all things to all people.”
The 2007 deal opened the door for Boss members to access HR, legal, health and safety and advice services on issues such as the environment.
Under Gardner’s leadership the Boss Federation then established now-popular CEO conferences on the same day as the summer AGM.
“We used to just have AGMs. Now we have 100 CEOs enjoying networking, that's the sort of thing that we've pioneered. Where there was one event there are now four in one day: a morning conference, a lunch, an AGM and a networking evening event.”
Gardner said these events and others are key to Boss Federation’s power to help businesses flourish and grow.
He also opened up the focus of the federation from the £5bn-turnover stationery supplies sector to include connected services, such as facilities management, technology supplies and managed services, worth an additional £10bn a year.
“The industry is consolidating and there’s a reduction in the number of dealers but there’s a lot of opportunity as well. As one door closes, lots of other doors open up. We run training courses, we introduce people to each other. The industry is far wider than just a stationery operation.”
Innovation has been a feature of Gardner’s career. Before joining the BPIF he was commercial director of Williams Lea, before becoming managing director of new venture Williams Lea FM, where he pioneered a new direction for print in the mid-1980s.
“We started the concept of outsourcing print and print management. It wasn’t my idea, we took it from America, but we were the first to introduce it into the UK,” he said.
He started his career at Cartwright-Brice, which became part of WH Smith Business Supplies, then French stationery supplier Guilbert, which is now part of US company Office Depot.
Robert Baldrey of EVO Group, Jeff Whiteway from Spicers-Office Team, Elliot Jacobs of UOE and Simon Drakeford from Euroffice have also joined the Boss Federation board in recent months.