Interview | Steven Sinclair

In Conversation With...

Issue 58

Tell us about your role at NEPO.

I oversee our core procurement activity, ensuring our solutions (frameworks) are robust, innovative and economically sound. I do this against a growing backdrop of commercial opportunity and at a time where procurement, as a profession, continues to move forward. I enjoy being in a role where I can actively shape how NEPO grows and the service we deliver.

What services does the company provide?

Established in 1976, NEPO works with North East local authorities and other UK public sector organisations to develop procurement solutions in high-spend areas.

Many readers will be aware of the NEPO Portal, our online platform for issuing tender opportunities; NEPO also supports local suppliers, promotes best practice and ensures the North East is represented in national policy decisions.

Our vision is to achieve benefits through collaborative procurement and a key part of this is our approach to embedding social value within our solutions. For example, our electricity contract doesn’t just ensure public sector buildings have a power supply, it also includes a commitment by the supplier to support local unemployed people back to work and dedicate volunteer time to creating green spaces in the region.

What’s your proudest business achievement?

I’ll be bold and give two answers to this. The first is the transformational change NEPO has gone through in recent years. We’ve grown and built upon the best bits of the work we do in our region – ensuring we are a trusted service to our local authorities, and we have paired this with national appetite and good commercial acumen. The outcome of this is the significant growth of our solutions and opportunities for our suppliers to grow their customer base – both of which are a win for our region. This is all achieved on the bedrock of solid, innovative procurement solutions.

The second is NEPRO, our neutral vendor solution that provides a cost-effective and compliant route for the procurement of professional services by the public sector. Now in its third iteration, NEPRO has grown with NEPO and I’m proud of the role I played in this; through the concept and growth phases. This highly innovative offering is also now enjoying a significant national profile. In many ways, it’s a blueprint for what can be achieved with collective will and a desire to do things right, not simply how it’s always been done.

What challenges have you encountered?

Collaboration can feel hard but delivered correctly, the benefits can be felt exponentially and can open possibilities which are ordinarily hidden. Calling this a challenge is perhaps a bit strong, but it’s certainly harder than simply going it alone and keeping the project team together and focused on the prize is a part of the role I enjoy. A broader challenge is the sustainability of the profession. Whilst I know we have a great team at NEPO, attracting new people into the profession is increasingly hard. The people who prosper in procurement generally have strong interpersonal and analytical skills and can communicate their ideas through a wide range of formats to a variety of stakeholders – as a profession we just need to make sure we are presenting this to the applicants of tomorrow.

How has the industry changed since you arrived at the company?

As with our economy generally, we are moving closer towards data and technological enablement. If I reflect on the sector 10 years ago, the changes in these areas have been palpable and we are on the precipice of many new opportunities. NEPO and local authorities will be at the forefront of this revolution and the project ‘Open’ that we are working collaboratively on now is aiming to put our region in the driving seat for the next generation of data, e-enablement and process automation; benefiting our suppliers, our communities and our profession as a whole.

Who are your heroes in and out of business?

My family are my world. Out of business – the one and only Niki Lauda. The driver, the leader, the motivator, the communicator. In business, my personal heroes are those without whom I would not be doing what I am doing now. Alison, Steven, Nicola – thank you.

Is there a mantra you always aspire to do business by?

Trust, honesty and integrity. I expect this of myself and I expect this of those that I work with. Without all three, it’s difficult to really build something together that is the best it can be.

How do you like to unwind?

I love to run. I need to run! It’s just as good for the body as it is the mind. Luckily, I also like to eat extraordinary amounts of ice cream, so I also need to run to try and counter those calories!

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