Is the procurement process broken?

In this Skip the Queue podcast episode, I speak with Sarah Bagg from ReWork Consulting.

“We, as attractions operators or leisure operators, understand some of the stresses that suppliers have to go through, and suppliers also understand the stresses and the challenges that the operator has to go through, because without being open and honest about your businesses, how are you going to be able to work together?”

Sarah Bagg spent 24 years working in the Attraction, Leisure, and Hospitality sectors, from hands-on front-of-house roles to senior commercial and operational positions, before honing her knowledge in ticketing/membership/Epos/CRM software. As a supplier, she led the strategy and delivery of sales and marketing, development roadmap, as well as client engagement and retention.

Through ReWork Sarah now combine the experiences and knowledge she gained as an operator, with those of a supplier.

It’s these lived experiences, and dare she say it, navigating the bumps in the road, that provide clients with the knowledge and confidence to plan for future growth.

ReWork helps leisure and attraction operators and software partners to get to where it needs to be quicker, with a clear focus on the long-term relationships that play a central role in commercial success.

ReWork Consulting will help you find the optimum tech partnership.

What will you learn from this podcast?

  •  The procurement process and why it feels broken
  • Sarah’s top tips for both attractions and suppliers entering into a new process
  • How to improve long standing partnerships


Sarah Bagg Skip the Queue


To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.


The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Sarah Bagg



Kelly Molson: Hi, Sarah. 

Sarah Bagg: Hi, Kelly. 

Kelly Molson: Welcome to Skip the Queue. It’s lovely to have you here. 

Sarah Bagg: I know. Thank you for having me. 

Kelly Molson: We’re going to start with some icebreakers. So I would like to know I like this one. What strange food pairings do you love that nobody else understands? 

Sarah Bagg: Oh, that’s a good one. I don’t know. It’s probably not a food pairing anymore, but how you used to live off a budget when you’re at uni and the strange things that used to have and I remember when I was really skinned, I used to have a bowl of couscous because you don’t even need to cook that with ketchup and Worcester sauce. 

Kelly Molson: One, that is disgusting. 

Sarah Bagg: It’s disgusting. 

Kelly Molson: But two, I’m laughing because mine also involves, like, a grain and ketchup as well.

Sarah Bagg: Surely there’s five a day in there somewhere. 

Kelly Molson: Ketchup is good for you. Of course it is, isn’t it?

Sarah Bagg: It’s bound to be. 

Kelly Molson: Absolutely. 

Sarah Bagg: A bit of carbs.

Kelly Molson: How gross. So mine is really similar, actually. So it was, you know, the bags of white rice that you can get that you put in the microwave. So one of them whack it in the microwave. A tin of tuna and ketchup. 

Sarah Bagg: Ketchup makes everything better. 

Kelly Molson: Protein goals. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. Your head is in that space where this requires washing our pizza. Bonus. 

Kelly Molson: Good. Just while we’re on the topic of things that we ate, what about cold baked beans straight out of the tin? Yes, isn’t it? 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. When I was again at uni, we went to Prague on a trip and went on the coach. So it’s like a marathon journey. And loads of us were eating cold beans. 

Kelly Molson: So delicious. It’s the best thing ever. My daughter loves baked beans. She’s baked bean fiend. But that is the first thing that as soon as that tin is opened, I’m getting a couple of spoons of those down. Right, good. Learnt a lot about each other there, didn’t we? 

Sarah Bagg: We’re on the same wavelength. 

Kelly Molson: Okay, attractions related. What are you most likely to buy when you exit through the gift shop? I love this question.

Sarah Bagg: I am a massive fan of postcards. Not because I send them anymore, because it feels a bit like and I mainly go I would say my choice of visitor attraction would be like a gallery immersive type of attraction and it always stays on my fridge. Or it’s not just something. Maybe you can frame it and make it into a piece of artwork rather than some tap that’s just plastic. 

Kelly Molson: That’s nice. Thought you were going to start dissing rubbers then. 

Sarah Bagg: Big fan of fridge magnets, too. But they always have to be, like, of something that looks nice and tacked. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, like a model of that. If you went to, like, a historic house. A model of the house. Good, postcards. And thought about that. That is quite a nice one, isn’t it? Okay, last one. What one thing would you make a law that isn’t one already? 

Sarah Bagg: Well, technically it is. It’s about finding people, though. My biggest bugbear about anyone in life is dropping litter. I can’t stand it. Makes me feel I turn into a big old moany person. I figure it’s a good thing to moan about. It will be a way of being able to find people and find them on the spot for dropping litter. 

Kelly Molson: See, that is a thing, though, isn’t it? But who does that? Who does it? Who does the finding? Yeah, that’s a good one. Okay. 

Sarah Bagg: Because there’s no point in having a law if you can’t implement the law. There’s signs all over the Brighton Seafront saying, “You’ll get fined if you drop litter”. But who’s the litter patrol person that’s going up and down? 

Kelly Molson: There’s a job there, isn’t there? There’s a job there. Good. Okay. Thank you very much. What is your unpopular opinion? 

Sarah Bagg: This might spit the room slightly. I guess that’s the point of an unpopular opinion. It’d probably be unpopular for most marketing professionals and web designers. Watch out, Kelly. Absolutely hate pop ups on website. 

Kelly Molson: That’s okay. I’m with you. 

Sarah Bagg: Absolutely hate them. They’re, like, the worst invention. I don’t understand why they’re still on website. Like, I’m just browsing. I’m literally been on somebody’s site for, like, barely 15 seconds, and you’re asking me whether I want to subscribe to your newsletter about your company yet? Why are you asking me to subscribe to your website? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. So there is a good user case for them. I hear where you’re going. They are annoying, but there is a good use case for them. But I think it’s about timing, isn’t it? 

Sarah Bagg: Right, yeah. 

Kelly Molson: It’s about time and place again. So not when someone’s just come on and is browsing, but if they’re in your blog right. And they’re invested in some of the things that you’re talking about, then absolutely. That’s the time to with a little pop up. 

Sarah Bagg: Definitely. You’re right. It’s about timing rather than enough time to blink. There should be some way of it’s, either certain pages or the time that you’ve been on. 

Kelly Molson: What are you annoying? Are the pop up adverts that you get on local newspaper websites? Have you ever gone on, there must be, like, a Brighton local news website. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah, the Argos. 

Kelly Molson: Oh, my God. They just drive me insane to the point where you just can’t read. You can’t read the article. 

Sarah Bagg: No.

Kelly Molson: I’m not okay with those. There you go. Well, let’s see, listeners, let us know. Pop ups.No pop ups. Is Sarah’s opinion that unpopular? We should see. Tell me about your background, Sarah. What have you’ve done previously and where that brings you to now?

Sarah Bagg: So, I have spent ridiculous amount of years working in the leisure and hospitality and attractions industry. I don’t say attractions because it hasn’t just been attractions, but I guess before my management career, which started probably about when I was 23, I’m 46 now.

Keep on saying 45 for keeping forgetting I’ve added another year. I probably spent all my working life in leisure, hospitality and attractions. From the age of 15. I was working in Green Leisure, which is theme park in Somerset, where I grew up from, working in the Swan Theatre in High Wickham, where I went to uni, and then part time roles in Australia. When I was travelling in the Sydney Maritime Museum, I managed a hostel over there. 

So I’ve always been in customer facing leisure operation roles. And then when I came back to the UK, after travelling, I moved straight to London. No offence to Somerset, I still love my home county, but I needed bright lights and excitement of London, and I guess you could say I honed my management craft and skills in the pub business.

So I was a really young manager, I started working on nails, which is a whole I talk about that for about an hour. We haven’t got that time, kind of by accident. And I remember a guy saying to me, look, if you’re going to be here, I know this is a part time gig, but you might as well get trained in management while you’re here. 

Sarah Bagg: And O’Neill’s, for people that don’t know it, and the overseas listeners, it’s owned by a company called Mitchell’s and Butler, so it’s a big corporation and they used to have a very good management training programme, almost like fast track learning on the job, but also lots of assessments.

And I think four months after I started, I was managing the pub that I took a part time job in. And it’s a massive learning curve for managing stock, cash people, public drinking, massive issue, obviously, profit, events, you name it, you can learn it in the hospitality and pub business. And then after a few years working there, I went to Monopolis. 

Again, people might not know it, but it’s a wine tasting and events company in London Bridge, London, three and a half acre site, and I was head of operations there, and I looked after about 120 staff, my responsibility, and that led to me getting a role at Chelsea Football Club. So I, for about five and a half years, managed the stadium tours and museum there, as well as two Capex museum redevelopment projects.

So, yeah, that was when did I leave chelsea, 2013, something like that. So I spent all of that time in sort of London, in that area and then went to sort of the supplier side. So I went to work for the visitor attraction company first. They were opening a series of attractions throughout the country. And I went in as a contractor, head of ops for them. 

And then I went to the technical supplier side and worked for a UK ticketing provider. And initially I was doing some business consultancy for them and then the owner offered me a full time role that was sort of sales, marketing and customer success and I was there for about seven and a half years.

And then got promoted to a directorship where I helped the owner in a more strategic direction of the company in terms of development, roadmap and recruitment strategies, et cetera. And that was up until April last year, actually, a year. 

Kelly Molson: Oh, it’s a year, it’s your year’s. So Sarah and I, we met actually at your time at Tour. I think that’s how we got talking, didn’t we? Because we had a client that was using the system. Actually, I think that’s how the conversation started. But you have branched out on your own as an independent consultant now and you doing that has kind of formed the topic of this conversation because it’s kind of what you help your client base with. So tell us a little bit, the company is called ReWork. Tell us a little bit about what it is and who you work for. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah, so maybe a little bit different to some consultancies that support attractions. I support attractions or leisure operators and tech suppliers. Basically the main aim is to increase revenue, grow their businesses, that’s the end goal. But for attractions or leisure operators it could be procuring use solutions and finding the right partnership with whatever tech suppliers the requirements for.

But it also might be helping them with their current partnership and improving it. Because my experience, the easy bit is the procurement, it’s maintaining the partnership for the years to come where there’s obviously lots of areas for improvement and many of the reasons why people jump ship deciding to go and find another supplier is because the relationship has gone down the swannie. And then with suppliers, I’ve been helping them with their sales and marketing strategy. 

Either new suppliers that are coming into this market and want to understand visitor attractions better than the marketplace and where it stands or where there’s improvements to be made, I think lots of suppliers, everyone’s guilty of it. You get in your own headspace, don’t you, of you keep on doing sales demos, you keep on doing processes and just take somebody that has an external view.

As a consultant, you’re in a perfect position because you get to see loads of attraction, loads of suppliers presenting and doing demonstrations and responding to RFIs and RFPs. So actually going in there and reviewing that process for them to improve their sales conversions is part of my offering. 

Kelly Molson: So we’re going to talk about procurement today, and it is a word that I think probably fills suppliers and attractions with dread. It’s a daunting process, it can be time consuming. It’s kind of a necessary evil, isn’t it? I’m a really realistic supplier in the sense that there’s a lot of agencies out there.

Well, there’s a lot of agencies out there, and there’s a lot of people that will advise you to not don’t go through procurement process, don’t do it, you shouldn’t pitch for stuff. And one hand, I totally and utterly agree, because it is painful. And some of the things that make it painful, we’ll talk about today. But unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil in the sectors that we work in. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: It’s the process that is followed and so you kind of have to play the game, but the procurement process has to be run in the right way. And I think that is why I believe that procurement process has broken down quite drastically over the last God knows how many years. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. And I think when some people, some suppliers say, I don’t get involved in public procurement, for example, it’s so labour intensive. I was involved in one which people were nameless not so long ago, and they were using the same kind of procurement processes as when I was involved with a supplier, maybe like I don’t know, must be like, ten years ago, even references to things like fax machines. It’s like, God, like you no one’s updating this process from the government side things.

Obviously, that’s where they’re getting their forms. But on the very flip side of that, you might have a private attraction, leisure operator, but I’ve seen procurement done on one sheet of A4. That’s their basis of spending tens of thousands of pounds on a solution. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. And neither makes sense. Right. So we have to find a process that works. So I feel we have to find a process that works and the whole industry adopts that process. That’s what I think would be. Anyway, I want to ask you, what are the biggest challenges for an attraction when it comes to the procurement process? 

Sarah Bagg: Well, definitely, I don’t know about top, but the most pressing one, which you get from whatever organisation takes it on, is time. It’s very rare that you would ever find somebody that’s like, “Right, I’m going to procure a new solution and I’m going to recruit a new member of staff to run that whole process for me”, that just doesn’t happen.  

And then there’s obviously downsides to that too, because that person doesn’t understand the organisation. And yet that sometimes there’s a perception that as soon as the solution goes live, that’s it.  It’s fine, we don’t need to put any time aside now. Maybe you’ve got an administrator or somebody that does administrating for the system, putting new tickets on or creating new events or retail items, but the emphasis on time suddenly goes, which I think is all wrong, because the partnership should start from the moment somebody says hello all the way through the life cycle of that. 

Kelly Molson: So you mean that relationship isn’t managed past the point of the solution being implemented, that then the relationship isn’t managed in the correct way. 

Sarah Bagg: And I know the term partnership gets floated about so much and some suppliers, it might be ticketing, but it might be something else entirely. Some do turn up and action things that make partnerships great, others just use that name as a selling point. But I think the key thing is that the person that’s procuring the organisation, that’s procuring the solution and working with that supplier and the supplier have a 50 – 50 ratio responsibility for making that partnership work.

And I don’t know if that is anywhere evidenced. I don’t see any evidence of that within our sector. And I guess that’s where I feel like I’ve got a good, I’m in a good position to see both sides because I’m working with the suppliers to hopefully raise the standards and I’m working with a leisure operation, Attractions, to raise the standards. So hopefully, although I’m only one person right now, in time that will have some impact. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Okay. So biggest challenges for attractions we talked about, you mentioned time resource because lack of time and you potentially need someone to run this process for you that you don’t have. And then the challenge of how to get the most out of that relationship once the solution has been implemented, it doesn’t stop there. What about because you sit very much in between the attractions and the suppliers? What do you think are the biggest challenges when it comes to suppliers about the procurement process? 

Sarah Bagg: Well, I would say that they both have similar stresses. And the second one I was going to say, apart from time, is knowledge. There is maybe a lack of awareness about how much the process of procurement matters to the end result, as in who you’re going to choose.

And that’s about if a consultant is on board, you’re expecting them to have market knowledge. So obviously awareness of the actual sector, but also market knowledge of what technology providers are out there and which are suited to that particular client, but also what process works the best to get the best result. And I don’t think that emphasis is strong enough. And I think that also impacts the suppliers. 

So if they don’t have most of the time, they don’t have any say, apart from maybe how they turn up to a demo about the process at all, and it totally impacts them and how they can perform.

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I totally agree. A lot of the procurement processes that you are part of are for ticketing and for systems or platforms, maybe. And I kind of come at it. We’re slightly different in that. Yes, it’s a digital offering that we have, but it’s a website, so it’s it’s more of a it’s not like a plug and play kind of kind of thing.

But I think the biggest challenge that I find is lack of conversation early. So give you an example. Tender comes in, a brief comes over, looks really exciting, looks absolutely up our street, read the brief. There’s no opportunity for me to have a conversation with them about the brief. I can send questions, I can email questions over. 

So there is a dialogue, but it’s not a way to it’s not even about building relationship, if I’m honest. It’s about that two way street. Should you be like, can you work, should you be finding out early enough if you gel? Is there a relationship there that could be developed? Are we right for you? Are you right for us? Kind of thing. I think the thing that I find the most frustrating about the process is that complete lack of conversation at the start of it. 

Sarah Bagg: And I think that opens up massive issues because I wrote a blog post, an article recently about I can’t even say the word ambiguity. It’s really a hard word to say because when you’re relying on the written word, you read into things. Whereas actually, if you just get on a call and say, right, these suppliers, you don’t need to names who ask what questions, but these are the answer to all those questions, and somebody then might say to you, “Oh, that’s great, because that makes that much clearer. Can I ask another question?” And it’s just there you clarify everything exactly really well, whereas you wouldn’t be able to do that so easily. Back and forth, back and forth. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, exactly that point. And then the other one is open tenders. I’ve talked a lot about this, actually. Sophie Ballinger from Eureka came on, I think, last season, actually, season three, and we had a good talk about it. So Eureka is a client of ours. That’s public knowledge.

When we first started working with them, were lucky enough to have eyes on a tender that had been sent out, and it was a public tender. They put it out to they did send it to a few people, but anyone could find this tender and potentially put in a proposal for it, and that’s what happened. So they had 40 tenders come back in, you know, 40 proposals for their brief. This is a weird one, in that were one of those 40. 

We’d been up to meet Eureka, we’d been up to see them and ask questions. They were really kind. They gave everybody that wanted time with them, time whether that was on the phone or in person. So it was a really good process. We got shortlisted and we won that tender. Right. So, in one hand, I can’t knock that process because we have the opportunity to work with an incredible client that we still work with today. They’re amazing. However, I questioned Sophie and said, “Would you do this massive open tender again?” Because surely, respectfully, you have to read 40 briefs, 40 responses that come back right, and evaluate them. That’s a s*** load of work. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: It’d better to do your research first, pick, like, three or four that you think are a really good fit on paper for you. Do a little bit of groundwork and then just send it to those. Yeah, she was really torn because she was like, “Yes, one hand that would have been sensible, but then they wouldn’t have found us through that process”. And that’s why I kind of raised it as I’m really torn about this, because we wouldn’t have got that opportunity if it hadn’t been an open tender. But also, does it work? I don’t know if it works. 

Sarah Bagg: No, I know. I honestly believe that if you rush the process, even though you say you short time, you’re only going to cause yourself more grief and you’re investing in a system that isn’t like a couple of hundred quid and you really want to be with them. I know technology is moving faster.

And I could argue for the fact that these old legacy systems now, where they have the, “Oh, we’ve been working with this client for 15, 20 years”. Well, have you been doing a really great job, or is it just too much of a pain to change because it is so ingrained in your organisation? It’s obviously all the cloud based solutions are much easier to sort and change over anyway,  that’s a side topic. 

I think that if people can do a step by step process, whether you call it RFI or RFP, whatever, somebody said to me last year, “Sarah, I just don’t have time to sit in. These suppliers want me to sit in on a demo for like, two and a half hours”. And I was like, “Yeah, that’s quite reasonable”. If you can’t put time aside, and that means changing how your organisation is for weeks or months, whatever, to give you some support, or you bring in somebody that’s going to help you through that process, you do need to put in time, otherwise you’re going to be making the wrong decision. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, I totally agree that two and a half hours seems quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things, that you’re going to spend, like, potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds on this system over the year, that two and a half hours. You kind of really need to know if it will do what it says it does for you. 

Sarah Bagg: For people that don’t really understand the market and how massive it is, even though whenever I talk to people about that aren’t in our industry, and I tell them what ReWork does, they’re like, “Wow, that’s from a niche, isn’t it?” And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s amazing how we’ve got a niche of ticketing.”

And when I say ticketing, this obviously gets confusing sometimes, because ticketing does encompass membership, I call it retail. Catering does it? Because some organisations that are smaller want a system. They might call it a ticketing and CRM system, but it does everything if you went up a scale. And they might be looking at a best breed solution, which has got higher functionality in ticketing, but they don’t have catering or retail, et cetera, and they might integrate to another best agreed solution. 

But the market review I did earlier on this year for a global entertainment organisation had 25 ticketing suppliers to the visitor attraction sector. So with somebody that has no knowledge, how do you work out where that 24 are going to be shortlisted to the first stage, let alone second stage? And you might be missing out on an amazing supplier if you don’t.

Kelly Molson: Because you don’t know how to evaluate from between them. Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that. That’s a really hugely daunting process and probably why people should use a consultant, Sarah. We talked a bit about that partnership piece. How do you evaluate what a good partnership is? 

Sarah Bagg: I briefly touched on it about the fact that people think about partnerships as the ongoing process, but it starts at the very point of contact. So whether that’s me as a consultant doing a Q and A with some suppliers, I’m acting on behalf of that client at the end of the day. It’s not, “Oh, you’re a supplier” it’s, “we turn up together, we’re in this together.” We, as attractions operators or leisure operators, understand some of the stresses that suppliers have to go through, and suppliers also understand the stresses and the challenges that the operator has to go through, because without being open and honest about your businesses, how are you going to be able to work together? 

Kelly Molson: Yes, good point, isn’t it? You have to understand the intricacies of each other’s businesses. And we probably don’t do that enough, actually. There’s been times in the past where we haven’t asked enough of the right questions. Being brutally honest, I’m sure there’s plenty of suppliers out there that have done exactly the same as us and we haven’t understood the intricacies as well as we should have.

So we do make sure that’s a focus now, because if we don’t, we can’t build the solution that works for them and works for the level of understanding they have of certain technologies or just the level of resource that they have, like this thing that we’re going to build for them. Do they actually have the internal capability to work with it? That’s a question you need to ask. 

But what I guess we don’t often do is flip that on its head. So we as suppliers probably don’t go, “Well, look, this is our team, this is our capabilities.” We also have X amount of suppliers and this is how our we just probably don’t go into the level of detail that we need to about how we operate so that the attractions can understand maybe some of our limitations as well. 

Sarah Bagg: Exactly. And I think once a solution goes live, if you’re talking at that kind of handover period between implementing and then going live, suppliers also need to discuss and make it’s vitally important for them to make this partnership work. If they don’t, they’ll be losing that contract. So how can you put something in place?

And it’s not just saying, we’ll do account meetings whenever you feel like it. What actual credentials can you put? There evaluation processes to say whether the partnership is working. And I know that suppliers issue SLAs, but then their SLAs, like, “Is the system down?” those kind of things. And that’s not really about the partnership, that’s about the solution actually working, like you’re being paid on a service contract. 

Kelly Molson: So you mentioned SLAs. I’m laughing because one of my other bugbears is actually sometimes it’s not just for instance, we work with attractions, we have a partnership with the attraction, but also we need a partnership with whatever ticketing solution they have. Right. 

Because we’re controlling the website that their ticketing solution is attached to and to a certain extent vice versa if it’s API driven. So we’ll have our SLAs, ticketing provider will have their SLAs. Again, we don’t know what they mean, but we get given it’s with support and it’s an SLA level of XYP and we’re like, “Again, we don’t know, but we get given it’s with support and it’s an SLA level of XYP and we’re like, “Great, what does that mean? When do we get a reply then?

Because the clients coming to us, there’s an issue. Are we going to get a reply in an hour or is that a 16 hour?” I don’t know. It’s define what those SLAs are and actually share them with everybody. 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah, exactly. So if you took the example of like, say it wasn’t all in one ticketing solution and it was best to breathe and there was a ticketing supplier, a retail supplier and an F and B supplier, you would want to know that all of those three know which, how they all operate. 

Kelly Molson: Yes. 

Sarah Bagg: Of the account meetings that you have them. 

Kelly Molson: I totally agree. This came up on a panel discussion at the Ticketing Professionals Conference a few weeks ago, didn’t it, about who’s in control of that user journey when it comes to ticketing and websites. And that was one thing that we kept saying, is actually, it’s not about them and us.

We all need to work together for the best solution for the client. And that does mean all speaking and all having those open conversations about stuff. Stuff goes wrong, it’s always going to go wrong. But it’s not about who’s at fault here, it’s about how do we rectify it and how do we make it not happen again. And you can’t do that unless you’ve got all the right people in the room at the same time.

Sarah Bagg: I go back to my days at O’Neill’s, we used to have a mystery shopper scheme and it used to put on everyone on edge, like, “Is that the person that’s shopper?” And it’s like a snapshot of your business, wasn’t it? It’s like one visit every quarter and then suddenly you’re given, like, this result and it’s like, “Well, that’s not really fair because most of the time, this may run really well. Why have I got 80%, 95 or whatever?”

But if there was something in place that you could see over a period of time, not like, “Oh, the ticketing supplier isn’t doing great this week”, every quarter you could sit down and say, “Here’s the benchmarks, what are we doing well? What is Supply doing? Well what is the attraction doing well? Are they getting the responses back to me quickly enough?”

If a supplier has got an issue, an attraction has got an issue with the system, and they’ve reported it to support, for example, but they haven’t been clear about what the issue is, then it causes frustration for the supplier because it’s like emails back and forth or help desk portals with massive long lists of questions. So it does take the attraction also to turn up and give the right information for that supplier to investigate the issue properly. 

Kelly Molson: Yes, that is a very good point, actually. And that, I know, can be a challenge because attraction teams are often quite small. Sometimes ticketing can sit with marketing, sometimes Ticketing can sit with visitor experience, operations, and those teams are pulled here, there and everywhere. So, yeah, that’s a very good point, is that there’s an element of more triaging that needs to be done internally before it goes out to the ticketing or the web agency. And that comes down to good account management, right? 

Sarah Bagg: Yeah, 100%. And how you obviously there used to be a high turnover of staff. Now, at the moment, the recruitment is really hard for most attractions out there. How do you, with your supplier record issues, report back issues to management, make sure the member of staff that’s actually using the system on the front desk is accountable to X, Y and Z, but that actually manages the partnership. So the structure within your organisation as an attraction really matters in terms of how the partnership works. 

Because if you’ve got loads of casual staff on a Saturday and Sunday and the manager that manages the partnership doesn’t work Saturday and Sunday, something needs to be in place for that communication to be clear and the supplier to get the right information and therefore investigate and get back to the person and the organisation as quickly as possible. So I just think it’s a 50-50 level of responsibility, but we’ve always thought this kind of it feels like suppliers are down here somewhere and it’s the client, you’re up here just because one’s paying for the other. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, no, I get that and I’ve felt that in some circumstances, it’s good to highlight that. Okay, few more questions. What would be your two top tips for attractions when it comes to the procurement process? 

Sarah Bagg: Definitely would be to if you want to get advice, and this should be for any consultant out there, too. Is that even if you don’t think you need because you’ve got great team to manage the procurement process, get some external advice early, even if it’s just like pay for one day’s consultancy in the grand scheme of things, that’s going to be like a tiny pin brick in the big budget.

And it might allow you to go if you start the project, say, for instance, in 2022, and thought, I need a new system, but I can’t afford it till 2023. Have the conversation with the consultant early. They all should be able to give you an indication of timelines. 

So therefore, then you can work back and know when you’ve got to start the process, because no one everyone always underestimates how quickly time goes, holiday, absence. Then you’ve got to rely on getting all the suppliers ducks in a row in terms of organising demos and presentations. And then people within your organisation. Who is going to help you because you can’t do it all on your own? Through the procurement process, you’re going to be sick on holiday. You’re going to be sick on holiday. 

You’ve got a million other projects to go. There needs to be more than one person and ideally, it would be a project team, people, different departments, but somebody that is accountable to take that support and to take it forwards. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah, great tips. Same question for suppliers. What would be your two top tips for suppliers going through the process? 

Sarah Bagg: I think, in terms of procurement, listen to the brief and respond to the brief. Don’t just put out some blanket template response. We increase sales by X to X so that when the references come up, you can go to that client and say, “They’re saying that they’ve helped you increase sales by X.” They’re like, “Yeah, they did.

The previous system was shocking and our relationships are really great now” because anyone can say, airy Fairy sells waffle, as I call it. Give the potential client some facts where you’ve actually helped. But even if you can, got two examples, that’s better than just coming up with sales waffle, in my opinion. And I would say, get somebody to review your processes. 

When I started working for Tor, in that consultancy period, I reviewed all of the tender processes that were going on in the organisation and in the end, obviously, I started working, so I had to put my words into practise. But I think getting somebody to look at it from an outside perspective, sitting in on some demonstrations and seeing it from a new perspective always helps. I’d probably say that, to be honest with you, for any organisation, occasionally, it sometimes takes a new person starting, doesn’t it, to go, Why are we doing it this way? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. Because we’ve always done it that way.

Sarah Bagg: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: Can’t we do it a different way? Good advice. Yeah, I like that. And to be fair, you probably answered my last question is, why is it important to work with a consultant? You answered an element of that briefly in that get an outside pair of hands, getting outside view sorry, on what you’re doing. Also, I guess you’ve got knowledge of systems that they may not be aware of, so you’re keeping up to date with the current trends and the current things that are happening within the industry. What else would you say was a reason for working with a consultant? 

Sarah Bagg: Many people will think, “I can’t afford a consultant”, so they see it as a cost to the project. Whereas, and I know people will say, “Well, of course you’re going to say this because you’re a consultant”, but I’ve always thought consultancy and expert impartial advice is a cost saving because it’s filling the gaps that you don’t have. Like, even that global entertainment company didn’t have ticketing expertise to be able to do a market review. They identified that in their business. So actually, if they had moved forwards without putting that step and getting that independent person involved, they wouldn’t have been able to move forwards with clarity and reassurance that they’re making the right decision. 

Kelly Molson: Yes. 

Sarah Bagg: And those decisions end up with lengthy contract terms unpicking a mess, which I’m sure everyone at home is nodding, going, “Oh, God, I’ve been there”.

Kelly Molson: For sure.Well, they make the decision that actually they don’t have the time, capacity or the budget to go ahead with the project anyway, so there’s that to consider too, isn’t there? Offer what we call a discovery session, discovery workshop, which could be it’s exactly what you were saying about getting someone in just to do a day or two consultancy with you to give you an overview of where you’re at and what actually would be the right steps to move forward with.

And that’s kind of what we do as well. And it’s a really good way of evaluating, actually, can you do this project at this point? Do you need to do it now? Do you need to put this on hold for six months? Do you need an X person in? Do you need this person to be in the role before you go ahead with this project so that’s invaluable? 

Sarah Bagg: Or do you even need to do it at all? Because I think sometimes there’s a tendency to have blinkers on, not because anyone’s fault, but because you’ve just been dealing with the day to day grind and actually, has anyone tried to make this partnership work? I know it should be suppliers. So this is a shout out to all suppliers there.

Don’t sit back on your laurels with contracts. I heard somebody say a while ago, somebody that I met, a conference, they were like, “Oh, it’s great, I haven’t had to deal with my supplier for weeks, months now or something, ages.” And I was like, “Is that a good thing? Is that a good thing that you haven’t heard from your partner, ticketing partner, for such a long time?” Yes, it means the system’s not down or whatever, but surely there should be more engagement. Are you getting the most out of the system to engage with your customers and make you more money?

Kelly Molson: Yeah, that to me says that isn’t a healthy relationship, though. That sense I get from that is that you’re hearing from them because stuff is going wrong. You’re not hearing from them, so nothing’s going wrong, but that’s still not right. No, you should try and to engage and improve. 

Sarah Bagg: And I think this sort of sits outside procurement, but one thing leads to another. Is that my biggest piece of advice, and I said this at the Ticketing Business Forum the other week when I was asked that suppliers need to and whether it’s ticketing or whatever is to really target decide which part of the market they are targeting and as I call it, pick a lane.

Because I honestly don’t believe you’re trying to be everything to everyone is going to service the industry well. Your current clients will soon be left behind because they’re not important enough anymore. Because another group is. Do you really have a big enough development team to service all these requirements from all stretches of our sector? And it doesn’t help when you’re trying to shortlist because all this supplier says they’re everything to everyone. 

How does that help anyone try and push if he wants to, I don’t know, develop your membership area? Is that important to that supplier? In terms of their roadmap? 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. So niche within a niche, Sarah. That’s what they say, niche within the niche. 

Sarah Bagg: There’s enough suppliers out there, 24 plus that actually everyone could have a niche and everyone could be doing it really well and there won’t be any niche or a flat there. 

Kelly Molson: That’s good advice. And we don’t need to send out RFPs to maybe four of them. Yes, all 24. Amazing. Thanks, Sarah. I could talk about this topic all day long. I think, as you’re well aware, I’ve got lots to this conversation, but I would like to know what book you’d like to share about to our listeners.

Sarah Bagg: For those of you that haven’t probably seen on LinkedIn, I’m also a life coach and it feeds quite into a lot into consulting about how I ask my clients questions. And I love this book, it’s all about time. It’s called Four Thousand Weeks and it’s about the average we have this time on the planet and how we should use the time.

And what I love about it is it’s like lots of time management books always like they make you try and let’s eat out every minute and productivity hustle harder. I feel I’m like exhausted listening to, whereas this really takes quite a reflective view of what’s important to you and take a step back and I think we can all learn massive lessons from that in this ever fast paced world that we live in. So, yeah, Four Thousand Weeks would be my recommendation. 

Kelly Molson: Great book. I like that. I think I might go and check that out there. I think I might go and check that out there. Not going to lie. Hectic is the word that I’ll describe the beginning hectic and I could do with taking a bit of a step back and evaluating how I spend a lot of time. I’ll add that to my list. Listeners, if you want to win a beam with the chance of winning a copy of that book, if you head over to our Twitter account and you retweet this podcast announcement with the words, I want Sarah’s book, then you might just win it. Who knows, you might get lucky. So, it’s been lovely to chat. Thank you. 

Sarah Bagg: Lovely to have me on. 

Kelly Molson: I will see you at an industry event very soon because we always bump into each other and it’s always a pleasure. But yeah, thanks for coming on and sharing about the procurement process. We will link out to all of Sarah’s contact details and her website in the show notes. So if you do want to get in touch for a chat book that day of consultancy, go ahead and do it. 

Sarah Bagg: Thank you. 



Do you know someone we should be talking to?

Do you know someone fascinating we should be talking to?

If so, email us at hello@rubbercheese.com – we’ll get back to you shortly.

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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