My Life’s Work | Mark Cropper, Chairman, James Cropper PLC

In this weekly series, we meet a senior Walpole member to discover what makes them tick, how they define success, and what keeps them awake at night. This week, Mark Cropper, Chairman of speciality paper makers James Cropper.

Mark Cropper joined the Board at James Cropper in 2006, became Deputy Chairman in 2008 and then Chairman in July 2010. He is the sixth generation of the Cropper family to be involved in the business. He wrote the company’s history, The Leaves We Write On, which was published in 2004.

What does British luxury mean to you?
Tradition and craftsmanship with a rebellious twist – pomp and punk.

What’s your vision for the company?
To take a lead in inventing paper and packaging products that are better for the world.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Having an uncompromising vision to do better and beginning to see it bear fruit. My real success, however, has been persuading a new generation of talent to join the company.

How do you define success?
Realising your dreams.

What’s your greatest extravagance?
Making time for things I enjoy – taking photographs, fell-running and seeking out beautiful things and places. Best of all, all three at once – which is possible at home in the Lake District!

What do you like most about your job?
Working with people with shared values and ambitions.

That the work never ends!

What has been your greatest regret?
I don’t have time for regret.

What inspires you?
Travelling to distant lands like Iran, and when at home continuing the journey via Instagram and other media. I read a lot and take cuttings of anything of interest. These are filed by subject for future inspiration – sometimes years later!

What was your big break?
Falling by accident into corporate finance, which gave me a business education that has helped me ever since.

What is your guiding principle?
My family were originally Quakers and I still hold dear to their central tenets – truth in all matters and respecting everyone. As an equal. The latter also demands a healthy disrespect for the status quo!

Which living person do you most admire?
The Prince of Wales – for his commitment to causes like the environment, giving young people skills and building community, often long before they were in fashion.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
‘World class’ and ‘sustainable’ – they cover a lot of things I hope to achieve in the company and beyond, but are hopelessly unoriginal.

What keeps you awake at night?
Coffee after 3pm.

What do you most value in your friends?
Having a good time.

In a parallel life, what would you be doing?
I feel lucky that to a degree I do lead parallel lives. First choice would be architect, but I am latterly satisfying this interest through a major plan to rebuild our village. Another great interest is photography, readily indulged via Instagram (see @paper.maker).

What piece of advice would you give someone entering the luxury industry now?
Start with craftsmanship and don’t rush – quality will win over. It isn’t about the money.

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