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Simon Mason joins the family firm

Oct 09, 2012
After three years gathering experience in the USA, Simon Mason has now John Mason International, one of the UK’s largest moving and storage companies and trade groupage operators. Steve Jordan caught up with him to find out what he’d learned on his travels and how he planned to apply it within the family firm.

Simon Mason now, with his sister Caroline, the 5th generation of Masons to form part of the management team for the family firm, has joined the company full-time after three years gaining experience working in the USA.  Simon has returned to the company as its group sales manager with a brief that has an emphasis on corporate sales development.

After completing a degree in international management Simon, on advice from his father Paul who died suddenly in 2009 at the age of just 58, decided to spend some time working in the moving and relocation industry overseas to gain experience of how companies in other cultures operate.  “I didn’t want to fully commit until I’d finished university and had some experience,” said Simon.  I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed as someone who was automatically going to work for the family company.  It can breed complacency. I wanted to finish university and then choose my career on the basis of hard work not because I was entitled to anything.”

Simon had worked with the company during the school holidays from the age of 14.  He started in the warehouse then, at 16, progressed to working with the packing crews.  In his 17th summer he worked on the European trucks to expand his horizons further.  But the opportunity to work overseas was one that Simon thought was very important. “John mason has been in business since 1884 and has been very successful,” he explained.  “But I didn’t want to fall into the trap of just knowing the John Mason way and potentially struggling to add value to the organisation.”

In 2009 Simon went off to work with Crown Worldwide Moving and Storage in San Francisco.  There he was engaged in an intensive 18-month internship looking at all aspects of the industry and reporting directly to Bob Bowen the CEO. “It was very valuable to me as I was fortunate in being able to work my way around the company gaining front-line experience while simultaneously getting a senior management perspective from Bob.”

From there, Simon moved on to Graebel in Chicago as a manager within the International Sales Department.  There he learned much about the latest sales techniques and gained experience in employee relocation services.  “This is an area that particularly interests me,” said Simon.  “I was also fortunate to be included in the Graebel management training programme.  It was a great opportunity to gather management experience to build on the theory I had learned during my university course.”

Simon’s globe trotting finished in June 2012 and he took up his new role at John Mason International on 2 July.  He paid tribute to the staff and management at the company who stayed behind.  “I am very lucky that John Mason International has really great people here so, while I was in the US I was able to focus totally on what I was doing rather than worrying about what was going on at home.  My colleagues have done a remarkable job of guiding the company through the recent economic climate.”

He also explained that it was important to reflect upon what he has learned before trying to apply it in a different culture.  “Before diving in, I’m going through an intensive on-boarding process spending time with every department in the company before easing into that role 100% of the time,” he explained.  “John Mason has been very successful over the last 128 years and I wanted to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I don’t want change for change’s sake.  I see it as a gradual process.  I need to understand what, of what I have learned while overseas, is applicable to our business.  I need to get a deeper understanding of our culture and why everyone wants to get up every day to come to work here before I start considering making any changes.  In the US they do things differently but I don’t want to dilute our family business ideals. It would be foolish to assume that what works well there would automatically work well here too.” 

Although Simon is primarily focussing on corporate sales, he is keen to explain that this does not represent a change in direction for the company. “We have always been involved in the corporate business but we have gone about it quietly.  Now that I will be involved in developing corporate work full-time we will become more proactive in seeking opportunities. But we are still a specialist international removal and shipping company.”  Simon explained that groupage, the trade that the company is best known for in the UK, is still as important as ever.  “Just because I will be focussing on corporate does not mean that we will be stepping back from our other business lines.  Just because we want to grow in one area doesn’t mean that we have to sacrifice another.  I would like to see simultaneous growth between all of our departments and, as group sales manager, it’s my responsibility to see that that happens.” 

As part of John Mason’s support of its groupage service it has recently launched a new online portal allowing its UK customers to check rates online instantly and book shipments directly 24/7.  The online system also allows users to get immediate quotations online 24-hours a day for groupage shipments to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, USA, Cyprus, and South Africa.  The system also provides an opportunity for users to request rates for FCL, air and LCL quotations and to receive a speedy reply.

For more information go to: www.jmitrade.com

There has been another change in Simon’s life in the last couple of years.  While he was in California he met and married his wife, Sayde.  On 27 August, Sayde delivered a bouncing baby boy, Montgomery Paul Mason, 8lbs 11oz:  the sixth generation of Masons. 

Top photo; Simon Mason and Caroline Mason, below; Sayde, Simon and Montgomery Paul Mason.  A mover in the making?

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