A captive audience

6 September 2011
I oversee the running of 19 venues in major towns and cities in the UK. Each has its own on-site general manager and they have individual goals to meet to ensure the collective success. These include being promoter-friendly to encourage the best new and established bands to play at their site, delighting the customer, making them feel welcome by constantly reviewing and improving standards and maximising revenue potential by increasing spend per head and reducing costs. I work strategically with procurement to agree category targets at the start of the year through spend analysis and internal working knowledge of the venues. This allows us to establish a clear timeline for project delivery and enables me to adapt real-time budgeting to understand where realised savings can be utilised. Procurement is a vital part of the team and understands my business. It recognises the changing environment and is cognisant of the impact that events like the global recession and rising product costs have had on our business. Throughout the year we have regular, open dialogue to discuss new risks and opportunities and have quarterly update meetings scheduled to understand the progress made and the cost savings achieved. The procurement department has established credibility with the general managers of the venues through consistent delivery and working collaboratively with them to reduce fixed costs, while improving profit margins and service levels. This means they now contact procurement directly for help and guidance whenever they see opportunities to reduce costs, which for me is a true sign of success. Live Nation operates a small procurement team with a consultant mentality. The team is Brian Grew and Jody Finn, both of whom are fully CIPS accredited. They are available for the venue managers for high-value and high-risk projects. They are category agnostic and give the benefit of their CIPS training across various parts of the business – venues, festivals, Ticketmaster and shared services. The team runs a turnkey operation from category analysis all the way through to negotiation of contracts. It engages with internal stakeholders to drive commitment, define targets and ensure a joined-up mentality and full understanding of what constitutes a successful outcome.   Tips for working with operations 1. Take the initiative – be positive and confident about what you can bring to the table. 2. Be resilient – a lot of people will be happy to work with procurement, but some won’t. If a stakeholder was worth your time contacting in the first place, the chances are they are worth persevering with even if you don’t get the attention you crave straight away. 3. Preparation – when you get the chance to add value, don’t waste it. 4. Be versatile – know what you want to add, but be ready to innovate when the situation calls for it. 5. Love procurement – when you meet someone who has a genuine passion for procurement it shines through, so don’t be frightened to be enthusiastic.   ☛ Graham Walters is chief operating officer of venues for Live Nation
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