How to demonstrate you have a commercial mindset

How to demonstrate you have a commercial mindset

By Robert Weaver

Many local authorities are adopting a more ‘commercial’ approach to delivering services, maximising efficiencies and looking for innovative ways to generate income. The ability to demonstrate such attributes often forms part of an authority’s selection and recruitment process – so how can you ensure your skill set reflects this way of working?

1. Hit the right note

Commercialisation means different things to different councils, so make sure you get the balance right. Under or overplaying the commercialisation card can be equally off-putting to prospective employers if it doesn’t fit with their ethos. Commercialisation at some councils may be little more than adopting a businesslike approach to managing resources. For others it could be an all-out desire to set up trading companies and commercial investment programmes in order to become financially self-sufficient. Check to see if the council has a commercial strategy, and if so, find out what are its key aims and objectives. Try to establish what the authority has delivered in terms of commercial projects or programmes, and find out how successful it has been.

 2. broaden your knowledge

View commercialisation as part of your ongoing learning and development. Local authority employees tend to be subject-matter experts, but many may not be naturally entrepreneurially or commercially minded, so take every opportunity to enhance your knowledge around commerciality. Local authorities are great at sharing information and advice, so if you read about a successful (or unsuccessful) council commercial venture, make
contact to find out how it was done, and how it was received in the community.

3. offer up your services

The commercial project teams that tend to work best draw skills and experience from across the organisation. So offer up your services. Getting directly involved with contributing or initiating a commercial strategy at your authority will help you no end in gaining practical skills in this area, as well as providing the perfect springboard to demonstrate your skills when it comes to that next career move. Initiatives don’t need to be related to EH – recently, three of my EH officers presented a good business plan to set up a drone-surveying unit that would offer their colleagues in building control a safer and more efficient way to inspect old mill buildings.

4. Reflect on your own commercial experience

Unless you’re looking to join an overtly commercial authority, big isn’t necessarily better. So don’t feel that unless you’ve been involved in setting up a local authority energy company you’ve nothing to offer. Look for opportunities to sell your transferable skills. Demonstrating how you have maximised cost recovery to reduce spend in your service area, or the part you played in the introduction of online self-serve application forms as part of an efficiency drive, reflect a commercial mindset and businesslike approach to improving service delivery that an employer would find attractive. Make sure you can quantify what you’ve done and what the measures of success looked like.

About the writer

Robert Weaver is an EH officer by profession with more than 20 years of local government experience, predominantly within the regulatory and development-management sectors. He has recently completed an MBA exploring the relationship between non-financial risk management and governance arrangements associated with local authority commercial investment programmes.

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