Marnie Jane Millard

Ex Group Chief Executive, Nichols PLC and NED, various

Until December 2020 Marnie was Group Chief Executive for Nichols PLC, the home of Vimto.

Marnie now has an NED portfolio career. She Chairs the Boards at UA92, Pura and Marks Electrical PLC and is a non-executive Director for Belvoir Fruit Farms. Previously she was Chair of the Board at Kidly Ltd and a non-executive Director for Finsbury Food Group PLC.

She is a Fellow of the Society of Leadership Fellow at St Georges House and a Board Mentor at the Critical Eye organisation.

Marnie held the Chair for the CBI in the Northwest for 3 years as well as being an Advisor to the Board of International Trade.

Marnie was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2018 in recognition of her contributions to International Trade business in the Northwest.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

The importance of being honest, being true to yourself even if that means making a difficult decision that is hard to take.  Always being prepared to walk the talk and roll your sleeves up as part of the team.  Being approachable, having the ability to listen carefully and supporting and celebrating individual and team success.

When necessary take responsibility and accountability for the direction of travel for an organisation but having taken into account views and opinions and then explaining the course of action

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I had a Sales and Marketing Director whom I worked for in the early 1990’s.  He operated at a very senior level but always showed kindness and demonstrated you did not have to walk over people to get to the top.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

Keep learning, even now in my NED career I have a portfolio of businesses which are all different, from privately owned, to private equity to public limited companies.  They are all in different sectors and have different governance.

I have floated a business on the stock exchange, taken a business public to private, sought investment through private equity and managed many different stakeholders.  Every day is a learning day.

Invest in networking and your network – out of all of my NED roles only one came from a recruiter all the rest came via my network.

4. What would you tell your younger self?

You can do it.  Seize the opportunity and say yes more than you say no!

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

Running a soft drinks factory in the North East.

I was recruited as Commercial Managing Director, but I quickly realized there were fundamental issues that needed addressing: the plant had loads of unused capacity, but productivity was low and waste management was poor, amongst many other things.

So, I stepped out of my comfort zone and into the role of Operations Director.

I became an operations expert, learning lean manufacturing and remodeling the factory to increase productivity and quality.

However, there were only so many changes I could make to the practical, operational elements of the business without the support of its most important asset: its staff.

There was a fearsome union and a somewhat aggressive and workforce.

Those years before came in to play. I had to empathize, communicate and live in their world.

I discovered why they were so disengaged. They’d had no pay rise for five years. No one previously had cared about their training, their facilities and whether they could shower after a shift.

That needed to change if their attitude was, too.

I remember I was asking staff to work overtime on a Saturday to help us get large orders out the door. I couldn’t work out why I was getting no interest in extra shifts.  That’s when I realized it was because the local team was playing. When I asked staff to work on Sundays instead interest in overtime boomed and so did our output. 

I worked 24/7 for five years to overhaul that factory and I’m proud to have left it in good shape, but I woke up one day and told my husband “I’ve shown I can do it. But it’s nearly killed me, and I want to do something I enjoy again.”

Although it was tough, I challenged myself and committed to that challenge. The only thing that got me through was sheer resilience and dogged determination.

Those people skills proved better than I’d thought. Years later, when I received my MBE, I got a letter from one of the more difficult union bosses who congratulated me and thanked me for everything I’d done at the plant.