Five minutes with…Paul Graham, UK Managing Director at Britvic plc

23rd January 2023
Simon Walton
Partner & Head of Practice

In our latest edition of ‘Five minutes with…’, Simon Walton, Partner, and Head of our Consumer Practice, spoke with Paul Graham, UK Managing Director at Britvic plc. Paul talked with Simon about how he got into the FMCG sector, his career to date, and the challenges, and successes of the last 24 months.


Tell me a little bit about your career to date?

My first job was on the graduate programme at ICL, this was in the days before PCs, smartphones, and the internet, so I quickly changed from computers to the more dynamic and fast-moving world of food and drink. I joined Mars Confectionery as a Territory Sales Rep in Glasgow and I’ve worked in impulse food and drink ever since. Initially I was with United Biscuits, and for the last 10 years at Britvic Soft Drinks. My functional background is commercial, and I’ve worked across all channels within the UK market. For the last 9 years I’ve been Managing Director of the UK business.


Is there a role in your career which has been pivotal to your success?

All the roles that I’ve done have built knowledge and experience and so all have played their part.  I think the transition from a big functional role into functional leadership is the point when you move from being a great manager to being a leader. In my experience this requires the development of new, and complimentary skills to be successful. My first role leading a commercial function came  at United Biscuits, and I’m grateful that the business had the trust and confidence to give me that opportunity.


Have you had any mentors, formally or informally during your career?

I have a great relationship with my coach, and this has been built over several years. Intimate knowledge of me, the business, and the context in which I’m operating helps to cut through to key insights and ultimately making better decisions. There are lots of great colleagues at Britvic, but I find it helpful to get input from outside the organisation as it gives a perspective and check that you sometimes miss when you are fully immersed in your own environment.


What is the best piece of advice that you have received? How has it shaped you both as a leader and as a person?

I spent a week on an external leadership course several years ago and at the end of the course my personal takeaway was simply “be fully expressed”. I’m an internal thinker so this is my trigger to remind me what I need to do to be the best leader for Britvic and my team.


What have been the challenges you’ve faced and in-particular the successes that you’ve had in the last 12-24 months?

The challenges have been considerable, and I think that the operational management of the business over the last 24 months post pandemic has been as hard as any time that I can remember over the last 25 years. The simultaneous disruption across both the demand and supply side of business creates a level of volatility and uncertainty that has meant big adjustments have been required. Our success has been driven by working on and dialling up the skills required in this environment. Encouraging a growth mindset, building resilience, and not being over reliant on a fixed plan. The uncertainty is going to continue through 2023 with high-cost inflation feeding through to consumers, and continuance of geo-political disruption. Soft Drinks is a versatile and resilient category so I’m confident that there are still lots of opportunities to grow and despite the challenges, I’m confident for the future.


Simon Walton is Head of the Consumer Practice at Berwick Partners, specialising in recruiting senior management and leadership roles across the sector. 

Categories: Consumer