Back in May, Nick Hutchinson was a manager working in our Marple food store in Stockport. Now he’s one of the 40 hosts travelling hundreds of miles a week to lead our Back to Being Co-op sessions, reminding colleagues of the Co-op’s rich history, how we’re different from other businesses, and preparing us for the exciting times ahead. Here he gives us a glimpse into the life of a Back to Being Co-op host.
If you’re one of our 70,000 colleagues and haven’t heard of ‘Back to Being Co-op’, you’ve probably been living off-grid for the last two months.
Two months ago, Nick Hutchinson was that colleague. “I didn’t really know what I was signing up to at first. Then I got to know more and my excitement grew.
“I don’t know why they chose me. It’s an honour and a privilege to be at the forefront of delivering all these changes, telling colleagues about our new membership and sharing all these experiences with colleagues across the business.”
Nick’s passion for the Co-op is obvious. Like many colleagues he’s devoted 20 years of his life to serving this unique business. From ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ country in Holmfirth, via Rotherham to Marple, he’s experienced the highs and lows of our ever-changing Co-op. So why did he want to leave the store he loves to travel the length and breadth of the country?
“If I’m honest I thought this would be a nice change from working in store – a little bit of driving doing some events and meeting new people.
“I didn’t realise how tiring it was going to be!” he confesses. “Presenting three or four times a day is tough but this is by far the most rewarding and exciting thing I’ve done in my career.”
The first session
Learning about the Co-op’s history, brushing up on his coaching skills, and being taught how to present certainly prepared Nick for what lay ahead, but he admits his first session (in Stoke) was nerve-wracking.
“I felt really out of my comfort zone, he admits. “Myself, the event manager and the actor were all nervous but we helped each other feel at ease.
“Our Co-op story is such a great story to tell. That session went so well and from then on my confidence just grew.”
A difficult crowd
While the messages about our new member offer are exciting, Nick is not naïve enough to think that all colleagues are on the same page when it comes to working here.
“Colleagues are in different places on this journey. Some are just setting out and others just can’t wait for the new membership to launch to customers in the autumn. It’s important to let people have their say and listen, then try and think about why they feel like that. There are lots of hurdles in stores (and other areas of the business) that will make this difficult but we’ve got to overcome them,” he enthuses.
So has he had any tough crowds to convince?
“Some colleagues work in isolation and aren’t customer-facing. Even though it was difficult for them to understand what we were saying, the messages were really well received.
“Even when you meet a colleague who feels that their workplace isn’t the best it could be, they go away feeling that they’re going to be the one to change things in their store, funeral home or office. That’s a rewarding feeling.”
A massive part of Back to Being Co-op is about our colleagues sharing their stories and experiences. There’s so much emotion tied up with working here and Nick has certainly seen the tears flow and laughter fill many a hall, community centre or hotel conference room.
So out of all the colleagues he’s met, has anyone stood out?
“I’ve heard many stories that have nearly made me cry – our colleagues are incredible. I met a lady from Funeralcare at Castlewood depot who had so much passion and energy for what she did. It changed my perception of what a Funeralcare colleague looks like.
“She was a single mum and remembered struggling to buy a prom dress for her daughter. Now she helps disadvantaged people, does their make-up, and raises money to pay for limousines and prom dresses. That really touched me. I just thought ‘wow’,” he explains.
Nick’s Back to Being Co-op journey is coming to an end in November but his experience has left its mark. “I’ve always been proud of the Co-op but doing this has taken me to the next level. It’s made me a more rounded and better person.”
Nick by numbers
Number of sessions hosted: 80
Colleagues met: 1,000
Strangest venue: “Lamphey in South Wales. I pulled off this road and there was a small narrow lane like a tunnel. I stopped and thought this can’t be right. If I meet another car I’ve had it! It was this beautiful old building that used to be a palace and was a fantastic venue.”
Longest journey: “Lamphey again. I got to Swansea after 3 and half hours and then still had an hour or so to go!”
Miles driven: 2,500
Places visited: Blackpool, Derby, Wakefield, Barnsley, Bryn, Manchester, Macclesfield, Lamphey
You can find all the photos from the sessions on Flickr.