Lessons learnt from the Bay City Rollers: can you train people to be commercial?

Commercially naive?

I remember going to a school disco way back in the mid 1970’s looking pretty cool for a 13 year old in my Oxford bags, open neck shirt and loud, checky sports jacket.  At the disco, tartan was everywhere.  It was sewn onto the bottom of girl’s trouser legs, in scarfs and on t-shirts.  (I wonder whether Nicola Sturgeon was present at a similar event and it shaped her political views.)

The cause of the tartanisation of large swathes of the UK was of course, the Bay City Rollers.   When one of their songs was played it was bedlam and I remember being quite taken aback by the hysterical response.

Fast forward a few decades and I was very saddened to learn that, although the band had generated record sales of 300 million with revenue reportedly of £5 billion, the band members saw little of that money.  Somehow they had failed to realise their value and exploit it commercially.

Were they naive and in need of support or is commercial nous something which is innate and can’t be learned?

The same challenge faces most procurement departments today.  Whether negotiating contracts, or trying to develop supplier relationships to embed savings, are procurement managers sufficiently commercial to be able to achieve the best possible deal?

Commercial training

Our commercial training (others are available) covers areas such as:

  • Understanding supplier margins
  • Understanding particular suppliers’ commercial drivers
  • The commercial effect of risk transfer on different contract arrangements
  • The relative commercial strengths of the parties
  • When to negotiate when not
  • The importance of timing in commercial negotiations
  • How to get past negotiating positions to understand the true underlying position of suppliers
  • The impact of incentivisation measures and how they work in practice to drive behaviours

In our experience, based on working with procurement departments and carrying out training, commercial nous is innate.  It isn’t something you can train into someone who doesn’t have the right mind-set.  Where someone does have the right mentality, however, that innate nous can be trained and honed.

In the meantime the Bay City Rollers are back on the road selling to the nostalgia market.  As long as my wife (she was part of the tartan army) doesn’t try and force me to go and see them, I wish them well.