Chief Executive's Blog: Thanks, Patrick!

Hopefully you notice that the blogs I write here, and other ACS statements and our own social media outputs tend to focus on what’s happening outside of ACS. This is very deliberate: the process of how we make decisions and operate isn’t usually that interesting and members pay us to interact with politics and the market, not to focus on ourselves. In fact when I took over as chief executive, it was an explicit target I set myself to spend far more of our resources and profile looking externally.

There are times, however, when it’s worth stopping and reflecting a little bit, because it helps remind us that any organisation is only as strong as the people who invest their time and talents in it. For an association like ACS, this is particularly true of the people who come to our events, take part in our expert groups, committees and boards, and ultimately the handful of people who make a commitment to helping the industry through leading us as our chair and vice chair. This week we’ve announced new people in these roles: Debbie Robinson and Paul Stone. Debbie and Paul will be brilliant in these roles as hugely respected leaders in our industry, both great at talking about issues and the future of our sector, but more importantly with track records of delivering fantastic convenience stores.

But my main purpose in this blog is to thank and pay tribute to our outgoing chair, Patrick Sewell. I really want to make sure that people know just how much Patrick has contributed over the past three years and well before that as a member of the board and of ACS more widely. Many of you will know Patrick’s retail business, Sewell On The Go, and if you haven’t been to see his stores I would strongly recommend making the trip to Hull (and for the benefit of my fellow southerners, Hull is a) not that far, just over two hours from London on the train, and b) a very nice place, especially by the minster and at the quayside) to see them. The stores reflect Patrick’s approach to business.  As you walk around them, he’ll talk about an idea picked up at a NACS Show in the US, or on one of our study tours to a European city, or just from talking to a supplier or a retailer.  Patrick knows that retail never stands still and that you have to keep changing, keep taking inspiration and keep listening to your customers.

There’s a wider perspective on Patrick’s business too, because the Sewell Group is a large construction, facilities management and infrastructure business that’s huge in Humberside and a significant regional player across the north of England. Across the business, very much including the Sewell On The Go sites, there’s a powerful focus on people. Most senior management have grown up through the business, everyone is supported with plans for their development and skills, and empowered to make decisions and achieve the businesses’ objectives. This isn’t just my biased view (and yes, Patrick is still my boss to the end of October) it’s shared by a range of local and national experts, notably The Sunday Times which has consistently rated the Sewell Group as one of the UK’s best 100 companies to work for. What’s more, they’re fantastic investors in the local area – they were a main sponsor of Hull City of Culture, and support lots of great local initiatives not just with money but with their time and expertise, for example Hull boxer Tommy Coyle’s helps young people through training at his gym which is sited at Sewell’s head office and promoted heavily by the business.

Then of course there’s the work Patrick has done with ACS. It’s not easy dealing with nineteen experienced, passionate people – all heavyweight members of our industry - on a board, and always reaching conclusions, almost always by consensus, and every single time giving me and my team the clarity to get on and deliver what the members need. It’s probably not the easiest thing, either, working with a chief executive who’s been in post for over a decade and who probably thinks he knows all the answers. Patrick’s listening, advice and thoughtful challenge has helped me and the team grow too. And all of this on top of running a successful, standard-bearing retail business, and for the good of the industry and his peers certainly not for credit or adulation - Patrick will be embarrassed by this blog and the plaudits he’ll rightly get as he leaves his role as chair.

I’m sad to see Patrick go, delighted he remains a part of our board, and excited about working with Debbie and Paul – let’s see where we can take this next …

This entry was posted by Chloe on Thu, 03/10/2019 - 11:00