BUSINESS MONTHLY: New Master Cutler interview

The new Master Cutler, Craig McKay
The new Master Cutler, Craig McKay

Craig McKay could not have been more surprised than if Alex Ferguson had asked him to play for Manchester United.

But here he was, the 37-year-old boss of steel products firm Evenort, being asked to be Master Cutler, the head of the historic Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.

Naturally he said ‘no’.

The job involves a year leading the 390-year-old organisation, whose members manage the Premier League of manufacturing firms in Sheffield City Region, employing tens of thousands of people and collectively turning over billions.

As ambassador for industry, it includes lobbying government, encouraging youngsters into the sector through an education programme and raising thousands for charity.

It also involves up to 500 appointments, speeches, factory visits, openings, meetings, events and many, many dinners up and down the country.

Which might sound like a perk until you have to do 13 in a row.

And it’s a year out of the day job running your company and it’s self-funded, with the incumbent paying all travel and accommodation expenses and a host of other costs.

So, perfectly understandable he should refuse the honour - initially.

Craig, now 45, said: “I got a call from Gordon Bridge, the senior warden. It was bizarre – I had never heard of him. But he had been taking soundings from the company about new members.

“I could see it was going to take up time. Then I spoke to my dad and he said it was a great opportunity and within a week I had changed my mind.”

Being the Master Cutler is the best possible way to become known in manufacturing circles.

And Craig wasn’t going to be the very next one. The offer was to become one of 16 Freemen who are effectively Master Cutlers-in-waiting.

The clever system means no pressure on the chosen ones, who can stand down at any time. But the Company’s warm embrace slowly worked its magic.

“You get asked annually, ‘what year?’ and for the first three years I said, ‘no thanks’. But as time went on I started looking around the table and thinking, ‘I’m experienced enough to do this now’.

“Then David Grey rang and asked if I’d like to think about going after him and I said, ‘yes’.”

The full version of this interview is in October’s edition of The Business magazine. To subscribe, email david.walsh@thestar.co.uk