Martin Beaumont: If I had to start again..

I've often wondered what it would be like to be a farmer. I have various cousins who have done it, including one who has just retired from managing the John Lewis Partnership farm, and my plan was always to go in that direction too. I studied economics and land economy at Cambridge, but realised there that I wasn't going to inherit any nice estate or have the wealth to own a substantial farm, so I thought it best to get an accountancy background. Things have actually gone full circle. As chief executive of the Co-operative Group, I've ended up heading one of the world's biggest farmers.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Away from work, I see myself as very much a country man, but I suppose today I'm much more of a businessman than a farmer. I was at KPMG for 17 years, and had three years working for a publisher, and I've been very well rewarded for what I've done.

When an opening arose to join the Co-operative Group, I leapt at the opportunity to have an impact and make a change for the better. I love being involved in commercially successful businesses and creating greater value for the owners. But it is particularly attractive working in one that has a real agenda too.

I have had five good years as chief executive here. Now I'll be taking on a more plural existence, with a few non-executive roles. It's a big move, really. It's hard to wrench yourself away from seeing how the foundations you've put down are going to evolve, and you get used to having that support around you to buy your rail tickets and things.

Getting by in the real world will initially be a bit of a struggle. But my job has been all-consuming, and I want to get some time back into my own life to see my family and pursue my own non-business interests.

I keep my own sheep as a hobby on a 16-acre smallholding. It's still good to put the wellies on and get out there.

Martin Beaumont steps down in October as the CEO of the Co-operative Group.

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