A more commercially aware council

Rugby Borough Council recognised that it needed to improve the commercial awareness and acumen of its key staff. The council was already delivering some services commercially but there needed to be a step change in the breadth and depth of our offer. By working with a commercial expert we wanted to help our managers and team leaders to understand how to think more commercially. This case study forms part of our productivity experts programme.

Efficiency and income generation

We wanted to help them spot the opportunities available to them, both within their existing service delivery and for services we may not yet provide, with a view to rolling out specific proposals that they themselves had identified.

The challenge

One of the overarching priorities in Rugby Borough Council’s Corporate Strategy 2017-20 is to become financially self-sufficient by 2020. To help us achieve this it was clear that cost savings alone would not be enough. We needed to be able to generate more of our own income and to do this our teams had to become more commercially aware. We had to get better at identifying and taking advantage of the commercial opportunities available to us. 

The solution

We commissioned a commercial expert to run workshops with all our managers and team leaders to help raise their commercial awareness. Through these workshops we identified a long list of potential services which we could exploit commercially. From this long list we honed in on two key areas for us to develop in greater depth – resident services and trade services. These were the areas that service managers agreed had the greatest potential for early implementation.

Working with our expert we now have an overall commercial strategy for the council, an overall marketing strategy and marketing strategies for resident and trade services.

Both of these effectively build on what we already do. The council runs a successful lifeline service for a number of our elderly and more vulnerable residents. We are now looking to roll this out to a much wider customer base. This will then allow us to upsell a number of other services which many of our customers have expressed an interest in – garden waste collection, gardening, handyman/repairs and maintenance, cleaning services, pest control etc. In its first year as a chargeable service garden waste collection brought in almost £890k and we are hoping to get near to £1m in the second year.

Similarly, we already provide a trade waste service to a number of businesses both inside and outside our borough. We are now looking to increase this customer base and again upsell other services to them, such as repairs/maintenance, sweeping and gritting, commercial pest control and food hygiene audits among others.

The impact

We are only just about to roll out these ideas, so we do not yet have any tangible income generation figures, but our aim is to generate an additional £200,000+ per annum by 2020.     

How is the new approach being sustained?

The Council is now looking to recruit a new post of business development officer. This new post holder will work with our existing teams to identify and develop commercial opportunities for the council. They will use statistical and financial information and customer insight to help identify which areas of the council’s existing business (and potentially services which the council does not currently provide) are ripe for greater commercial development and exploitation.

Lessons learned

Ensure that all key staff are engaged in the process from the beginning. Explain clearly why it is so important for our managers and their teams to become more commercially focused and work with them to generate the detailed proposals to be taken forward.

There needs to be oversight of the process and buy in from the top of the organisation and adequate resource to boost capacity and capability – hence the decision to recruit a business development officer. The business development officer will work with teams across the council to roll out more opportunities from the long list identified.

Contacts:

Adam Norburn, Executive Director, Rugby Borough Council

Grace Abel, Advisor, Local Government Association

Productivity@local.gov.uk