Q&A FROM DAVE SAUNDERS Hon.Fellow, PRESIDENT

SO WHO IS DAVE SAUNDERS?

I am a retired Merchant, who ran a successful multi-branch Timber and Joinery business for 25 years through to the sale in 2007. I served on this Board for almost 25 years including National President 1993/4 and Institute Director 2004/08… initially joining as a Student in 1977 and finally presented an Honorary Membership in 2014, retiring from the Board that year.

SO WHY DID YOU JOIN THE INSTITUTE OF BUILDERS MERCHANTS

Like many people, I entered this industry by accident. But once I decided on my chosen career I soon realised the responsibility rested mainly with myself for gaining knowledge and experience.

My Director, who sat on the NFBPM Council, encouraged me to take the then, NFBPM Postal Courses. And after completing all six Light & Heavy courses, I was hungry to get into management which lead me to look for an industry acknowledged business qualifications and experience.

I joined the Institute as a Student while taking these commodity courses and progressed to the Institute’s Business Studies Course which I passed in 1979/80… a two year course to further my own training and demonstrate my ability. I worked my way through Licentiate, Associate then full Member finally accepting Fellow when I joined the Board in 1989, a proud moment in my merchant career.

Membership was infectious, I attended Branch events and took office….I had a natural home to attend when I moved around the country or changed employers. I could not believe that this Londoner who left school with nothing but an “O” Level Art could have a professional qualification and designatory initials after his name, proving his ability within an industry.

On my journey, Branch meetings allowed me to meet with like-minded employees in the industry, from Trade Counter staff where I started my career through to Managers and Directors all who held one common goal…professionalism.

Throughout my years in merchanting, membership has improved my knowledge through Branch training events and AGM Seminar Weekends on a wide range of subjects from product information, finance presentations, innovated launches and quality speakers. I have always endeavoured to uphold our Institute motto, Knowledge, Integrity, Efficiency!

ARE YOU NOW RETIRED?

No, I have just completed two elected terms on an International Board totalling 8 years which finished last year and in May 2015 I was elected onto Mansfield District Council as Ward Councillor. I am currently on the Mayor’s Cabinet heading up our Regeneration & Growth Portfolio including our own Building Company developments and Business advice.

WHY HAVE YOU TAKEN ON PRESIDENT AT THIS TIME?

I was just one of a group of Members who were disappointed in what was being proposed by our Elected Board Members, I was not looking to become President again… far from it. However, I just consider myself part of a team of interested Members who want the Institute to succeed in some form and who are prepared to invest time in seeking a way forward.

WHY COULDN’T YOU SUPPORT THE MERGER RESOLUTION OFFERED?

First and foremost, what was offered was nothing but a thought. I tried to engage with the Institute Board and the BMF around a detailed plan, how it would be governed, how it would be able to acknowledge training with Members and non-Members of the Federation but nothing was forth coming… many were surprised the Resolution was even put forward at our AGM in this form last June without prior consultation with Members and a detailed plan.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER A FUTURE MERGER?

I believe it is important for any professional body to remain independent, especially if it is to acknowledge Training Programmes from within an industry… however, if a merger offered this independence then we must consider all paths. There are many Institutes which are finding it hard to succeed; some may offer us ideas, advice and a future

HOW WOULD YOU HAVE DONE THINGS DIFFERENTLY?

We are a membership organisation and instead of wasting funds on legal expenses, I would have written to Members first stating our concerns, outlining the possible merger and then inviting them to a workshop to discuss our future with the BMF and hopefully formulate a plan together. I am a great believer in consultation, it works every time… Members need to be part of any change process!

Instead, the Board gave the Members their ultimatum, vote for our Resolution or we all resign – which, with one exception, they did after their Resolution failed.

IS THE INSTITUTE STILL OPERATING FROM THE BMF ADDRESS

No, we were prepared for the inevitable and notice was served on the Institute immediately following our AGM on 7th November to vacate the premises. As from 1st December our postal address is:
209 Watling Street. Dartford, Kent, DA2 6EG. Tel: 07968 294249.

YOU MENTIONED FINANCES, ARE YOU STARTING ON A FIRM FINANCIAL FOOTING?

Sadly not, Institute funds are depleted, considerable expenses have been incurred on legal costs mainly around the proposed Resolution and merger before this was even accepted by Members.

This Board can do nothing about past decisions but now need to concentrate on the future funding of this Institute and how to make it a success, this is our primary focus!

The past Board will have to live with their decisions, they were the Officers responsible for spending money they did not have and leaving the Institute in debt.

However, we do have our Institute of Builders Merchants Charity Trust Fund, a Fund set up in 1978, with proceeds from Members donations to Harlow Training Centre. The Fund is administered by our Trustees solely for the purpose of the Institute, our Members and Branches and we shall be seeking their support.

SO, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

We have a team of committed Members who are prepared to explore ways for this professional body to succeed in some form, we have given ourselves 12 months to meet up, investigate and formulate plans.

The new Board are realists: we know membership organisations are finding it difficult to engage with Members of all ages, we must look towards every modern medium available to make future contact. However I cannot help thinking, if we could have succeeded as part of the BMF, there was no reason why we could not succeed with their full support and still remain independent.

One thing for sure: we shall be seeking membership involvement in whatever path we recommend with plenty of time for consultation and collaboration.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE MERCHANT INDUSTRY?

The Institute exists solely to recognise and celebrate the skills, experience, knowledge and professionalism for all those employed within the Builders Merchant industry.

To me, our Institute has always given me a sense of pride not only for my membership but in what I can do for this industry.
I hope some of you may relate to my story, what the Institute of Builders Merchants stands for and why you should become a Member.

Dave Saunders Hon.Fellow
National President

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