Advice to my younger self: Roger Grosvenor, joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op

Roger Grosvenor, East of England Co-op. Photo: Gregg Brown

Roger Grosvenor, East of England Co-op. Photo: Gregg Brown - Credit: Gregg Brown

Roger Grosvenor is joint chief executive at the East of England Co-op, which this year is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its Sourced Locally initiative, which brings local produce direct to customers. Here he offers some thoughts based on his 45 years in the Co-operative movement.

How would you describe yourself at 18?

Eager beyond belief to learn and get on in my role as a trainee manager. I didn’t mind getting all the jobs no one wanted - every time an opportunity arose I grabbed it with both hands.

I wanted to get ahead as quickly as possible for two reasons: firstly, because I wanted to take the next step and become a manager and secondly, so I could earn £18 a week to pay off my motor bike. The hard work paid off as I was appointed assistant manager at 19.

What three tips would you give to your younger self?

1. Slow down you have more time than you think. You can conquer the world but not all in one day. Patience is a hard skill to learn, but it comes with experience (or should that be with age?).

2. Remember that not everyone has the same drive and desire to grow. I found it difficult to understand this when I was younger and couldn’t see why everyone wasn’t wanting to give 100%.

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3. Make time for interests outside of work. I loved watching live music, but my real passion was sport – especially football.

Is there anything you would do differently?

There are many things I would have done differently but that is one of the benefits of age and experience. I would definitely have made more time to play football – one of my big passions.

Are there any projects you are particularly proud of?

I’m fortunate to have been involved in lots of projects at the East of England Co-op that I’m proud of but there are two in particular that stand out.

The first is Reducing the Strength. In 2012 we were asked by Suffolk Police, local councils and the NHS to help reduce the sale of cheap, high strength alcohol – the kind preferred by street drinkers. We took the decision to remove these products from all our stores, which led to a dramatic reduction of anti-social behaviour and street drinking. I was honoured to receive a Police Command Community Award from Suffolk Police in recognition of the action we took.

The second project is Sourced Locally – our award winning initiative to sell locally produced food and drink in our food stores. One of the inspirations for this project was a trip past fields of locally grown asparagus. I noticed that despite it being grown nearby, our stores were actually selling asparagus from Peru.

We now work with 100 local suppliers and stock thousands of products, and over the past ten years have generated £57m for the local economy by doing business with local producers.

Why is Suffolk a good place to do business?

Suffolk is a great place to bring ideas to life. People have the bravery to take entrepreneurial risks and have a real can do attitude and willingness to work co-operatively for mutual benefit. Our work with local food and drink suppliers is a great example of this; it is their time and money they’re putting on the line. It’s refreshing to work with resilient people who are persistent and are not put off if the first thing they try doesn’t work.

If you could relive one day, what would it be?

Both my wife, Jennifer, and I are massive dog lovers. I think if we could relive one day it’d be the day we collected our rescue dog Toby. He brought us great joy and lots of fun. Sadly, he left us recently as he’d reached the venerable old age of seventeen. He was a Yorkshire Terrier crossed with miniature Dachshund: a walking draft excluder who I shared all my moans with on our long walks together.

If you were to choose one motto what would it be?

‘Enjoy your journey as we all have the same destination’.