National Trust trialing external consultancy – what have we got to give and do people want it?

the education building at Castell Hellys

the education building at Castell Henllys

education-buildingThe ‘fit for the future’ work mentioned quite a bit in this blog is now growing up and spreading its wings. Its based around sharing experiences, questioning myths and assumptions and having a go. Paul and I have been asked to see if this is approach by the National Trust is actually an asset we can use in the outside world. There are as many consultants in this field as there are clients and what does the National Trust have to offer which others don’t already and in bucketfuls.

Not everyday you review the environmental impact of an iron age village. But it was the development of the visitor facilities we worked with the National Park team on

Well we started a couple of weeks ago on a trial / pilot or call it what ever. The advice we received from a business development manager was…’stop writing business plans. go out and do it. learn and then write your business plan’ We have been working with Andrew at Pembrokeshire Coast National Park trailing our approach at a few of the authorities sites. The first one was the very special Castell Henllys in  Pembrokeshire which is looking to take another step in its sustainability journey and we were there to see if we could help, add value or generally act as a sounding board and share our experiences. From this first site we certainly have something to share but we also have to test this against the mountain of work we have to do day-to-day in the National Trust.What will it take to set something like an external consultancy up, will the wider world want it, pay for it…and so on? But too early to say as we make our way in the big bad commercial world. But we are seeing a new side to the heritage sector and gaining as much as we are giving…lets see

ps this is my 200’th blog.

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5 Responses to National Trust trialing external consultancy – what have we got to give and do people want it?

  1. Keith, firstly congratulations on your 200th blog. Do you now get time off for good behaviour? Regarding the consultancy approach, I would absolutely agree that NT now have a huge wealth of knowledge to share, and that provided there are no constitutional reasons why you should not leverage this, then there is a large market for your advice. Targetting the charitable sector would seem to make sense – especially large charities. All you will have to do is wait for them to make a decision and come up with the money!

  2. Ache says:

    Who is taking out professional indemnity insurance for the NT consultants? Regional advisors are advisors and not legally liable for their advice, that is why NT had conservation advisors and environmental compliance advisors. If NT staff start to offer advice to external groups, they are liable for the quality of the advice and have a duty of care to the clients. NT has a role in education, it always had and always will, but advising external groups and the financial implications of this advice, this is a new issue for the Board of Trustees to consider.

    • Keith Jones says:

      Agree with you totally. It is in the NT’s development plan for research and evaluation we are currently doing the research and scoping. PI has also been researched and because of what we are offering which is sharing experiences then the PI is not too onerous on this one. we already have a commercial arm which this would sit under. we need to make an informed decision and this is where this learning comes in. its more a resource issue from my side rather than a PI one which our insurers were happy with as long as we don’t get into the technical design aspect. thanks for the comment and it all helps our understanding of implications

    • Keith Jones says:

      thinking some more on this and in my previous role as a countryside manager we already offer advice across the board from management of building contents, badgers, invasive species, conservation management and so on. As a charity in need the question is should we be charging for it and understanding the implication of that role is what we are scoping for the NT’s senior management. this is why your comment was really valuable and also why we are blogging about it gain as much opinion as possible to supplement all of the other research. again thanks

      • Ache says:

        With regards charging for NT staff time to external groups, this is tricky. Are you commercial consultants who are readily available to the client and expected to deliver a product / service on time and to a brief – in which case charge the full commercial day rates for that sector. If you are an advisor, and helping the client form the direction of a project, but not responsible for the development of the project and its delivery, then you have two business models. Firstly charge a “golden day” rate, namely the first day is the most valuable and the client saps you of all ideas, but has a direction. The second is value billing. You determine the value of the advice to the client based on the estimated commercial gain and charge a percentage of this gain. The second is more suitable to commercial projects where value added can be quickly determined. NT could operation all three models, and do through the enterprise department. Interesting times for NT and its relationships with external consultants who work with the organisation. Should NT sell on the skills of its external consultants under a NT brand and then take a cut of the fees. This could get really interesting and financially dynamics.

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