As 2019 is just around the corner, it is worth taking a look at 2018 and what has happened at bridge][ability. Here are some of the highlights:
As 2019 is just around the corner, it is worth taking a look at 2018 and what has happened at bridge][ability. Here are some of the highlights:
Samworth Brothers is a Leicestershire based food manufacturer, the owner of Cornish Pasty maker Ginsters, and the largest maker of certified Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. It is currently listed at number four in The Times Top Track 250.
As one of the largest food manufacturers in the UK, Samworth Brothers provides for a very interesting case study. As with so many of our clients, their challenges stemmed from changes in the retail environment and pressures within their supply chain. Samworth Brothers sought our support in order that they could generate greater revenue from their commercial interactions and maximise the outcomes of their strategic relationships.
After detailed research, the solution we proposed and subsequently executed, involved a very broad cross section of the business. Thus far we have had the pleasure of working with Samworth Brothers staff who are involved in sales, procurement and the financial side of the business. We have also dealt with a wide range of seniority.
We have delivered a number of 1 and 2.5 day programs to the Samworth Brothers team. The programs have been a mix of in-house and ‘open’ sessions as the business has realised the benefits of both. We are able to deliver a sector specific offering when working in-house, whereas our open programs are available to anyone who wishes to join us; as Samworth Brothers has realised the great benefit of the latter is the chance to experience other delegate’s (and therefore other sector’s) commercial challenges and solutions.
Promar is the UK’s largest agricultural and agri-food consultancy, a division of Genus PLC. Promar works with more than 2000 farmers in the UK and overseas, providing advice to maximise profit and fulfil the strategic objectives of the business. Promar also works with commercial and trade organisations and governments globally to manage projects and provide advice to develop ambitious businesses.
Genus and Promar work very closely with Tesco. They manage Tesco’s Future Farmers Foundation (TFFF). This scheme is designed to take farmers who work within Tesco’s supply chain and give them the required skills to deliver more successful businesses whilst serving Tesco’s needs. Part of this year long development program includes leadership and commercial negotiation.
From a start point of business planning and decision making, bridge][ability’s involvement with the TFFF has grown to include commercial negotiation development. This has presented some almost unique challenges for us. First, the agricultural sector was unfamiliar to us and whilst we know that our expertise is applicable across all industries, we did need to develop an understanding of the challenges presented in modern farming. Second, due to the time pressures in place on the TFFF, bridge][ability has been required to deliver impactful and useful material in an unusually short period of time. Our involvement with the TFFF has required us to be highly disciplined in our delivery and has shown us what can be packed into a few short hours.
Although brief, our interactions with the TFFF delegates have led to many of them taking places on our longer programs. As the pressures grow on the UK farming industry, the ability to negotiate a good deal continues to be extremely important.
bridge][ability is closely involved with Manchester Business School in a number of areas. Over the past 3 years our focus has been delivery of negotiation development training on their Advanced Management Achievement Course (AMAC).
The Advanced Management Achievement Course is a 3-week highly specialised programme designed for military officers moving into management and executive careers. Through a mix of taught sessions, in-company visits and guest speakers, attendees develop the confidence and management tools to take the next step into a new and unpredictable commercial environment.
Attendance on the programme also includes the award of the Chartered Management Institute Level 8 in strategy and leadership.
Although the AMAC has been running for several years, it has never addressed directly the subject of commercial negotiation. Further, the attendees on the AMAC, whilst senior in their military roles, have not been exposed to the challenges of negotiation in the commercial world. Our remit was to deliver a short and focussed programme within the AMAC, that would equip the attendee with the knowledge to enter a new career and be commercially effective immediately.
The AMAC provided an almost unique challenge. In the vast majority of situations where bridge][ability is presented with ‘new-comers’ to negotiation, they tend to be junior, either in age or time served within their parent organisations; the AMAC delegates are neither of these things. Their lack of knowledge and experience is a product of the environment in which they have worked.
Our knowledge allowed us to craft an impactful day that would give the attendees the ability to influence their negotiations through a thorough understanding of the nature of any negotiation (and environment), the ability to plan any negotiation and an understanding of the impact of their actions on others. Through the use of video feedback we were able to demonstrate to the attendees how they influence, and are influenced by others, in a negotiation situation. Whilst brief, the sessions we deliver on the AMAC expose attendees to transactional and collaborative negotiations – in short, we give them the all the skills they need to by effective in their new roles.
Our relationship with Manchester Business School continues to thrive.
You may not have heard of Ozzie and Daniel Silna, brothers who made their fortune in the textile industry in New York in the 1960s and 70s, but this story of negotiation is a great one, and there are plenty of lessons to take from it.
By 2014 the Silna brothers had earned over $300,000,000 from the NBA despite never having played a game or indeed never having owned an NBA franchise. How they did it is a tale of planning, foresight and resilience to rival the very best commercial negotiations ever.
As we move into the last months of the Brexit negotiations, something funny is going to happen to those involved. It is called pressure and it makes people do things they don’t want to.
Founded in the 1980s, Ledger Bennett is a UK based marketing business. Amongst its clients, Ledger Bennett lists Microsoft, LinkedIn, Vodafone and British Gas. We were introduced to Ledger Bennett in August 2017. Initially they wanted to make use of our leadership expertise.
Ledger Bennett had experienced steady growth until 18 months ago when the business won some very large accounts and needed to take on more staff. The increase in work load, turnover and recruiting continued throughout 2016 and into 2017. During the summer of 2017, the board recognised that the business was outgrowing itself – a number of large mistakes had been made that would not have happened had the business not grown so rapidly. In short, it was still behaving like a small family concern when it should have been acting more maturely. We were asked to examine the business’s culture and values, with a view to recommending what they should be and how they should be carried forward.
Having been involved with similar projects before, we were well aware that telling people what their culture and values are, or should be, is normally counter productive. Values and culture that are identified at the grass roots and nurtured within the organisation are more likely to gain traction. With this in mind we set about getting the Ledger Bennett staff to tell us what they thought. Over a number of workshop sessions and one on one interviews, we generated a detailed insight into the business’s values and culture. This work culminated with a detailed report recommending what Ledger Bennett could adapt as its values and culture.
When our input was complete we recommended that their value was integrity and their cultural anchors were proactivity, collaboration and pride.
Ledger Bennett have adopted our recommendations in full. The organisation is now more cohesive and able to deal with the rigours placed upon it by operating globally and servicing some of the largest businesses in the world. At the core of their successful development is a belief that the senior leadership team will listen to everyone in the business and take their views into consideration when planning their next move. The senior leadership team decided that the value and cultural anchors should not be something that was printed and stuck to the wall, more they should be facets of everyday life within the business and form part of ‘the Ledger Bennett way’.
The Follow Up
The business was not finished there. Seeing the value derived from listening to their staff, the board decided to invite bridge][ability to produce a staff development program for implementation throughout 2018. This program will accommodate everyone within the business, on both sides of the Atlantic and will cover leadership, commercial negotiation, team building and line management.
At the heart of this development program is a deep seated desire to get the best from their people by investing in them and drawing upon their expertise.
Simple? Yes, but many organisations would run away from what Ledger Bennett is embracing.
Our experience in the retail world has been extremely varied over the last few years. Until the autumn of 2014 it had been confined to a number of high street retailers and FMCG businesses who happened to have an online offering. Their web presence was important, but it was not the thing upon which their success depended. Our experience developed significantly when we were approached by exclusively online retailer YNAP at the back end of 2014. This was an interesting prospect for us. On the surface of things it appeared to be uncharted water for bridge][ability. The conversation in our office revolved around the question “what, they have no shops; how does that work?”. However, after a short period of analysis of their requirement, it became reassuringly clear that what we do and what we pass on to our clients will work in any situation. Indeed our philosophy and what we impart, works in any negotiation…even on the telephone and via email!!
The rag trade is a cyclical world. Yes, fashions come and go with increasing frequency, but the nature and rhythm of the fashion world is relatively fixed. YNAP wanted us to work with their buyers to address 2 issues. First, their bi-annual buying excursion to the far east. In spring and late autumn each year, teams of buyers travel through China, India and Bangladesh sourcing for the following season/year. Secondly, their buyers would also need developing to better deal with some of the largest names in the fashion world. Names such as Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Burberry all sell through YNAP. Consequently their buyers need the best price in order to maximise margin. Nothing unusual in that. Within the business it was commonly held wisdom that their buyers were not performing as well as they might due to lack of time in the far east and a belief that they were powerless when dealing with the likes of Jimmy Choo etc. The task for us was straight forward: they wanted to get more from their buyers in order that they could improve their margins. In short more for less. Fortunately that is the type if uncomplicated clear requirement that we thrive on.
We recommended a twin track approach that would develop their senior leaders and their buyers. Both groups had involvement at the coal-face, but on a day to day basis the junior buyers do most of the direct work with the supplier base. Due to the requirement we advocated that the senior team members attended our 2.5 day program; we devised a bespoke in-house program for the buyers.
YNAP’s senior team members attended our 2.5 day Advanced Behavioural program. This allowed them to experience an immersive environment away from the distractions of the office and alongside delegates from other businesses and different sectors. It also gave a detailed view into what their buyers would be learning and applying.
With very little time and huge numbers we were keen to put in place measures that would be assimilated quickly and deliver instant results. We achieved this through a combination of experiential training involving all the elements of the bridge][ability thermometer. This allowed them to asses the nature of their negotiations, regardless of where in the world they were taking place, prior to embarking on them. It was this knowledge that allowed them to better understand their world and take a view on all of the factors that were influencing success. Key among these factors and something that YNAP wanted us to address directly, was their staff’s assessment of relative power. Specifically, they wanted us to address the perception of a lack of power on their part. Power and the perception of it are 2 things that we at bridge][ability deal with on a daily basis. What we wanted the YNAP buyers to understand was that power is about perception, it is relative and it can be influenced by adjusting one’s behaviours during negotiation. Our methods are simple: we get people negotiating in the ‘safety’ of their chosen environment and give feedback via video recordings. In our experience a picture paints more than 1000 words. This type of feedback really impacts what people do in their negotiations. Most importantly when seeing yourself during a one to one negotiation you get a ‘warts and all’ view that all the verbal feedback in the world cannot convey. This impact is what gets people to adjust their behaviours, influence the other party and maximise potential success.
We realised that power was not going to be the only issue for YNAP. They also felt that their buyers were struggling to identify where they should have been taking a collaborative approach rather than a transactional approach and vice versa. This is where we returned to the benefits of the bridge][ability thermometer. This simple tool allows anyone to assess the nature of the negotiation they are involved with. By using it, YNAP staff could decide how they would approach any given situation and behave appropriately. We exposed them to a series of scenarios which allowed them to make the judgement call on the nature of the situation and take the opportunity to wok collaboratively (or not) with the other party. They made the decisions, we merely provided the questions for them to answer. After all we are not usually present when they are conducting their negotiations.
Well what started almost 4 years ago has continued ever since. We have worked across YNAP’s buying staff and continue to do so. From our detailed knowledge of the business it has been clear to us that their profits and the net value of the business have both exceeded expectation. Long may their success and our involvement in it continue.
Dan was invited to appear on the BBC to discuss the current state of Brexit negotiations:
We were introduced to Tesco by the Category Director of Bakery in the summer of 2013. At that point they were using another provider for negotiation skills development – a company which provided other disciplines as well as negotiation. However, within Bakery they had a particular commercial challenge which they felt required a specialist in commercial negotiation, and invited bridge][ability to advise as to how we could help. At half year, they were significantly behind budget, and our brief was to develop the negotiation skills of the buying team in so that they could negotiate with the supply base in order to improve terms in order to claw back the deficit by year end.
We ran an Advanced Behavioural (2.5 day) program which was designed to address their current problem. This was followed by 2 Coaching Days and an Implementation Day in the following weeks. The coaching Days comprised 1-2-1 coaching with the buyers to ensure that the learnings from the program were being applied to their individual situations. We were also able to conduct some short planning sessions for their upcoming more challenging supplier meetings and negotiations. The Implementation Day was designed for them to share with each other what they had achieved to date since the program, what was working, followed by a recap of some of the key learnings and some new learnings.
The Bakery Category were able to get back over budget by year end and they gage a lot of credit to this to the bridge][ability program. It was a significant turn-around, and one of the Senior Buyers mailed us at the year end to say ‘I thought you might like to know that we will deliver our balance sheet target for bakery and I think the training we had has had a big impact on this.’ She quantified the impact in millions.
The Follow Up
As a result of the success of the Bakery program, Tesco Group decided to tender their negotiation skills training provision and invited bridge][ability to respond and we were successful in winning the three year contract which started in early 2014.
We started by running short awareness sessions at Tesco head office in order to tee up the whole project. We then rolled out the 2.5 day Advanced Behavioural Program to all UK buyers to ensure a consistency of approach across the whole team and to put them through rigorous, thorough and engaging training. Following tremendous feedback and results from this programs during one of the most difficult and challenging periods in Tesco’s history, we were asked to deliver programs to the International Technical teams and to the International Sourcing teams in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and China. We also delivered bespoke programs to the commercial teams in Eastern Europe, and to the buying teams in Ireland. We also delivered programs to the Indirect Procurement teams based in the UK, totalling nearly 100 attendees.
The work we did with Tesco delivered a behavioural change which allowed them to achieve dramatic results in an increasingly competitive market where suppliers were seeking regular price increases.
We trained over 1000 Tesco employees and the feedback was exclusively outstanding and we have been invited to deliver many other projects as a result. This feedback was better than any that Tesco had received before and never dipped below 90% in terms of feedback gathered at the end of each program.