Interview with Maureen Ross – Group Head of HR, Scottish Leather Group

Formed in 1965, Scottish Leather Group Ltd. is the largest manufacturer of leather in the United Kingdom. The company’s philosophy is a desire to establish the highest industry standards for quality, innovation, value, service and care for the environment.

Q: Tell me about yourself and your career.

I have a business background. I started my career with a seven year stint as a general manager in a family business. This experience gave me a good breadth of knowledge and experience of supporting managers within a family business environment. When I was finishing my degree, I had a light bulb moment; I wanted to help organisations understand how important people are. I have always been ‘people’ focused and I am an encouraging person. When I see potential in people it excites me so I had to give it a go.
When I graduated in 2000, I had a 10 year plan. I wanted to be an HRM within five years and to be working at director level by the 10th year – which I managed to achieve! This was done exposing myself to different sectors and environments in Fixed Term Contracts. I have just accepted the opportunity to join a business in a Non-Exec role which I am very much looking forward to. I am really proud of what I have achieved.
I have been with Scottish Leather Group for three years. It’s a multi-award winning, independent company and the largest leather manufacturer in the United Kingdom. It is parent company to renowned brands Muirhead and Bridge of Weir, as well as the SLG Technology, NCT and Lang businesses, which provide the Group with support functions, raw materials and a tannery for its unique low carbon leather. It’s a very busy business and we have undergone a business transformation. I have a strong HR team and we have been recognised in a number of awards recently.

Q: How’s business?

Good. Working in commodities is challenging, prices fluctuate and added to that is the constant changing needs of the customer. Our product is a natural one and as a result has its own challenges. We know our customers and business well. We have taken some decisions on investment which make business sense however we have never stopped investing in our people.

Q: If you had a crystal ball, where do you think the economy is going?

Personally, I think that it is on the up. We are hearing that unemployment figures are down and when you talk to recruiters, there appears to be more confidence in the market. My concern is that in Scotland there doesn’t appear to be enough investment in manufacturing – this has to happen to ensure that the Scottish economy continues to grow.

Q: To what do you attribute your success?

I am a very driven individual. In HR you must have resilience and strongly believe that people are the success of the business. When I have that belief, I influence others to share that belief.

Q: If you were giving yourself advice when you were a newly qualified CIPD, what would it be?

Talk less, listen more!

Q: What do you want from someone in an interview?

I want someone to dazzle me, be confident and comfortable in their capability, obviously have done lots of research into the business and honesty when you don’t know the answer to a question.

Q: What is the one question you always ask in an interview?

Who has influenced you and why? I always find it so interesting.

Q: What has been your biggest learning to date?

Not to expect everyone else to be driven and passionate about what I do. I struggled for a number of years to get my head around that. Yoga is my coping mechanism for this. I also strive to ensure that my team and I give our best every day.
Interview by Jaclyn Needham.
T: 01413 317922