The BMF Diploma in Merchanting, the course that started the Federation’s structured management training, is now firmly established as a core element in many merchant development programmes.
The Diploma offers an in-depth specialist management development course with nine separate modules studied in three month blocks. The modules cover Managing People, Managing Yourself, Managing Operations and Managing Resources — each designed to develop students as both operational and strategic thinkers. The Diploma is equally appropriate for merchanting and supplier operations.
Students attend a one day tutored workshop as part of each module. These bring together individuals with a range of different experiences to share at one of the 12 regional or in-house groups held throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
With another new student intake starting in January 2015, there are over 100 students currently studying for the Diploma in Merchanting. Kellaway Building Supplies and Howarth Timber and Building Supplies, two of the merchants who regularly enrol staff on the course, explain why they value the Diploma so highly.
Kellaway has a branch network target of 15 depots by 2016, and a longer term goal of over 24 branches across the south of England. It uses the BMF Diploma as part of a management and senior development programme designed to support the growth of the business.
Abigail Tovey, Kellaway’s Personnel and Welfare Manager, explains: “We aim to fill at least one third of middle and senior management roles from internal promotions. The BMF Diploma is a vital element that helps to develop well-rounded and knowledgeable managers who are committed to the business. We use it alongside internal development initiatives such as secondments and coaching to give a structured approach and to provide a foundation of knowledge to build upon.
“The majority of our senior management team have undertaken the Diploma. We currently have four members of staff mid-way through, and another three started the course in January 2015.”
Howarth also has plans to extend its branch network and views its staff as a most valuable asset. The merchant, which became the BMF’s first Training Company of the Year in 2014, starts 2015 with 20 employees studying at various stages of the Diploma.
Jason Rothwell, Howarth’s North-West Regional Manager, said: “Management training is vital, in part to provide our customers with the best possible service, but also to ensure succession planning within our business. We need strategic thinkers in place who can step up to the next management level as the business grows or people retire or move on.
“The people who participate in external education, like the BMF Diploma and the degree and graduate courses that follow on from it, develop their strategic thinking and bring something back to the business. They are able to look at their day-to-day work afresh through the lens of that learning.”
Howarth’s first set of Diploma students are nearing the end of their course. Several have been promoted to manage mid-size branches, turning over £2.5m, during that period. The company will also draw on its Diploma graduates to fill senior positions at the new branches planned to open over the next 12 to 18 months.