The value of business relationships: leveraging free services

In today’s world of ever-increasing costs and shrinking budgets it’s increasingly important to get, not only best value for money, but – even better – free goods or services. Building strong business relationships can help you achieve this, explains Howard Rose, director of funding and publicity for the Central Schools Trust

I like to break business relationships down into four key areas: goods, services, trips and visitors. Below are some examples.
1. Goods
I was approached by a local hotel asking if our children would like to design the new cover for their children’s menu. We were, of course, delighted! The winners received a cookbook and the design was used for the menu. From this, our relationship grew, and they supplied the school cooking club with all of their ingredients, helped with the Children’s Food Trust cookathon and donated prizes for raffles and quizzes – all at no cost.
This saves the school around £700 per year, plus the money it has made from raffles – and the £2,000 we won for the cookathon.
Other goods that have been donated include:

  • Camp stoves from Go Outdoors, in support of the cookathon
  • 50 rugby balls, at a cost of £250, from MA Claims
  • A £650 digital camera from CMA Video
  • 100 high visibility jackets, worth £200, from Specsavers
  • Winter coats for our playleaders, worth £300, from Camera One.

2. Services
Jaguar Land Rover is a large, local car manufacturer with an excellent record for – and policy of – corporate and social responsibility (CSR). As a large, three-form entry school we have lots of fencing to divide the different areas – these had become weather worn and scruffy looking. We wanted to paint them and were faced with two choices: do them ourselves, which would cost around £600 in materials and mean our site manager would be tied up for around three weeks, or pay someone at a cost of more than £3,000 – which was simply not an option.
I contacted Jaguar Land Rover and 20 employees came to school and took two days to complete the task – and, as a bonus, also made a huge bug hotel for us.
3. Trips
When the Skills Show decided to exclude primary school children during the week I decided to try and set something up myself. Our event was held at Solihull College’s Woodlands campus and 90 year six pupils were invited to take part in various activities, including using the flight simulator, the 3D printer and a wind machine.
It was a great event and showed real collaborative working. If it had not been for the college it would never have happened – and 90 children would have missed out on the experience and inspiration I am sure this day brought.
4. Visitors
When we had a maths week I asked a friend, who is a carpet fitter, to come in and talk to the children; perhaps not what you would first think of. Well, Phil the carpet fitter came in with all his work gear on, carrying his tool box. I introduced him and the children just stared at him as if he was mad.
He asked if they knew why he was there. None of the children did so he told them I had asked him to come in…so now they all stared at me as if I was mad! ‘Tell you what I do, shall I? I’m a carpet fitter! How big is this room? You, at the front, grab this tape [produces huge tape] ok, now the other way. Right, so how big is this room?’ Slowly but surely the penny started to drop – they were using maths!
We have several other visitors who come in and cover a wide variety of topics; our list includes the mayor, Severn Trent, a local magistrate, a local MP, E.ON, Barclays, The Lions, Lloyds, the Air Ambulance, EDF and the RNLI.
All of these people will give up their time, for free, and can help you enhance the curriculum and pupils’ learning. Remember to explain why you need their help, tell them what impact it will have on children’s learning, talk about CSR and give them the opportunity to receive some positive publicity.
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