In this month’s Big Interview, James Dobbin caught up with Senior Procurement professional Clayton Hudson, to hear how the chance to play baseball professionally resulted in him getting onto the Procurement career ladder.
How did your Procurement career begin?
I got into Procurement in quite an unusual way and started as a Chef!
It was during this time that the opportunity arose for me to play baseball professionally, so I leapt at the chance and went for trials.
The coach told me that if I wanted to commit to the sport fully, I’d have to change the day job to something with more sociable hours.
I went to an agency and there was a job available as a Food Buyer, so they sent me for an interview, and I got the job!
I started working Monday to Friday so I could play sport at the same time and my Procurement career developed from that point on.
It was an amazing transition, and I love Procurement.
What is it that you love most about Procurement?
Meeting people like the Procurement Heads team, travelling to meet suppliers, negotiating – I love negotiating!
When you work for a really good brand, suppliers want to be a part of your journey and if you believe in the brand that you work within, it makes it a lot easier to be successful.
What does your typical day at work look like?
There is no typical day at work!
I like to miss the rush hour, so I generally get into the office just after 7:30 and eat my breakfast at my desk while I’m looking through emails.
I like to use that time to get ahead of the day.
I reach out to all the different sites to make sure everything is running smoothly or if anybody needs anything urgently from me.
I then call around to my key suppliers and do the same.
When I’m happy that my immediate network is working fine, I move onto any project I’m currently working on. It could be tender documents, food-based, non-food based, negotiations.
I never wake up and know exactly what my day is going to look like, and there’s the appeal! I don’t like routine – and that’s what is so great about Procurement, the unknown keeps me energised and stimulated.
Are there any aspects of Procurement that you find challenging?
Currently, pricing is very challenging – but if you have a good relationship with your suppliers then you can mitigate price increases.
I like to focus on longevity and the bigger picture with my suppliers.
What are your biggest achievements in your Procurement career to date?
I was with The Jamie Oliver Group for three and a half years and was brought in quite literally to dissect it, strip it back and start again.
Before I took the role, an ex-Chef ran Procurement so there wasn’t the typical structure you’d expect from somebody with a Procurement background, which gave me a fantastic foundation to build upon.
During my time there I made savings of more than £7 million.
It’s all about fully scoping the entire supply chain and cleansing that, analysing all the spend, and then tendering the entire business in every single category.
You set budgets, you confirm suppliers and then you rationalise the whole supply chain.
If you could give any advice to your younger self, what would it be?
You learn this as you spend longer in your Procurement career of course, but I’d tell a younger me: when you’re negotiating with any suppliers; stick to your guns!
You know what pricing structure you have in your mind, just have the confidence to stick with it.
Even if you’re talking with someone who has been in the business a lot longer than you have, you still have very valid experience and knowledge in your field, so just stick to your guns.
What inspires you as a Procurement leader?
I’ve been in the business for a long time, and I like to try and teach what I’ve learnt in my career to as many people as possible.
Procurement is a great industry to be in because you can practice within any sector.
It’s just a commodity at the end of the day, but all the procedures and processes are the same.
If I can teach people, and I can see them progressing through the categories – then that’s fantastic.
What skills do you consider essential to be a Procurement leader?
Communication is one of the best tools you can have.
You can talk to any person, from wherever they are in the world, and you’ve got to be very confident when talking about Procurement.
You’ve got to know exactly what you’re talking about.
You’ve got to come across as if you already know the answer before you’ve asked the question!
It’s as simple as that.
What has been the best lesson you’ve learnt in Procurement?
If you’re ever working in complex spreadsheets on finances or maybe foreign exchange rates, anything with figures really, and you make a mistake – just own up to it straight away.
It’s going to come out anyway, and it’s much better that you just say it straight up.
Honesty is the best policy, and you’re much more respected for that.
Get to know Clayton Hudson
I have a young family, three boys all under the age of 7.
My youngest is one, so my house is crazy!
I use keeping fit to keep me focused on every aspect of my life.
I do a lot of running because it clears my head and energises me – and I often come up with a lot of ideas when I’m out running!
I also play tennis and do a lot of cycling.
I don’t play baseball anymore, unfortunately.
It’s key to have a decent work/social/home life balance.
I enjoy going out to eat. Food is the backbone of my life! It brings people together, whatever the occasion, and I love that!
I love meeting new people, too, and London is perfect for me – I can walk to the theatre, to the cinema, to any restaurant I fancy, and I can meet people along the way!