Head of Procurement at Central Co-op
Throughout his 23 years in procurement, Paul Lockwood has worked across countless industries including utilities, forensic science and finance.
The Head of Procurement at Central Co-op admits a move into the world of funeral services in 2019 was not something he had foreseen but, four years later, he hasn’t looked back.
“If you’d said to me a few years ago ‘you’re going to work in this sector’, I’d have responded ‘not a chance’,” says Lockwood. “But I went for the interview and I was just amazed at the people that I met. It’s probably fair to say there was a world of opportunity for procurement to make a difference, but it’s the people that actually make the difference.”
Falling into procurement
Having graduated with a degree in environment and business from Keele University, Lockwood began his working career in an environmental role at a company which later became Veolia.
However, after five years he decided to seek pastures new, recognising that the desire to go green simply did not exist – a far cry from today’s world.
“I fell out of love with the job because businesses back in the 90s weren’t really interested in the environment,” Lockwood explains. “It’s only been over the past 10-15 years, due to better insights, legislation and governance, that organisations have started paying attention to it.”
Lockwood joined the energy giant Npower, signalling the start of his journey in indirect procurement: “Quite often the subject matter is the same and you just have to get to know the nuances of each business.
“I'm passionate about what I do and really enjoy it. And I’m also passionate about trying to get other people into procurement as well because I think, as a career, it’s amazing.”
Complexity ‘the enemy’ of successful solutions
Lockwood believes overcomplicating things is often the biggest downfall of colleagues and stakeholders working in procurement. Instead, he takes a different approach, looking at tasks “through a lens of simplicity and pragmatism”.
He continues: “Complexity is the enemy of all successful solutions. That simplicity and pragmatism allows you to deliver at pace, and with agility, the solutions businesses really need. That was the advice I was given 23 years ago when I started my career and it has served me really well.”
Simplifying procurement processes may not always be feasible at Central Co-op, but Lockwood insists it is the ideal starting point: “If you start from that perspective and boil things down to what you’re trying to achieve, it helps you to align with your stakeholders.”
Lockwood has utmost respect for colleagues
Part of what makes Central Co-op unique is its composition, with the funeral business on one side and retail business comprising convenience stores on the other.
But for Lockwood, whose role stretches across both functions, this is one of the most fascinating parts of the job.
“It’s often a case of flipping between subjects,” he continues. “But those challenges are also the reason my role is so interesting. It’s a business that moves very quickly and things are forever changing.”
Lockwood’s favourite thing about working for Central Co-op is, however, quite simply, the people.
He concludes: “On the funeral side of the business, you come to appreciate what these people do for those in times of crisis after a loved one passes away – how they help them on their journey, which is emotionally very hard.
“I have nothing but respect for the people who choose a career in this industry. They never seek plaudits and, to be honest, it’s the same story on the retail side of the business.”
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