Commercial Enterprise for the Benefit of Bradfield
Kester Russell, Commercial Director, explains how the College benefits from its Bradfield College Enterprises Limited (BCEL) partnership
WHAT IS BCEL AND WHAT ARE ITS ORIGINS?
Bradfield College Enterprises Limited is a standalone company, set up and wholly owned by the College, which aims to maximise the revenue the College can make commercially and to run a number of facilities on its behalf. Its origins go back to the early 1990s when Bradfield College Developments was set up to oversee the conception and building of The Sports Centre which opened in 1994. The Enterprises Company was set up in 1998, largely to offer weddings, social events and to look into the market of commercial letting of facilities outside of term time. The two companies merged in 2006 to create Bradfield College Enterprises Limited.
HOW DOES BCEL SUPPORT THE COLLEGE?
We support the College in a number of ways. Primarily BCEL raises revenue from the use of facilities for commercial purposes when they are not in use by the College. Any profits realised out of that activity are passed back as a tax-free covenant at the end of each financial year. The College also benefits from BCEL running a number of facilities on its behalf with the commercial activity covering the running costs. For example, both the Sports Centre and Golf Course have a substantial financial cost to run each year which we absorb. Finally, because we have a pool of staff who are experts in events and lettings we often provide advice and assistance for College events.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE FACILITY USE BETWEEN THE COMMERCIAL CLIENTS AND THE COLLEGE PUPILS?
That varies with the area of the business. Within the Sports Centre it is a straightforward time division model where we have allocated time slots for each group which do not overlap to ensure we have safeguarding controls in place. It is different with residential lettings. The residential programme only operates when the pupils are not here, which includes the three week Easter period and for six weeks in the Summer. We also have to manage the time of other internal stakeholders, particularly the Maintenance and Grounds Departments, who are tasked with maintaining, renovating and enhancing facilities also during times when the pupils are away. We liaise closely with them regarding which facilities we use and when we release facilities back to them to undertake the enhancements and maintenance work.
HOW DO YOUR STAFF FACTOR INTO THAT AND HOW DOES THE COLLEGE BENEFIT?
Currently BCEL employs a Director of Tennis and five tennis coaches who split their time equally between College and commercial as well as a golf professional who provides around 25 hours a week of coaching and course time for College pupils. That means the College is gaining six LTA professional coaches and a professional golf coach free of charge. Similarly within the Sports Centre, all the lifeguarding for pool use, the monitoring of the gym and general maintenance of those facilities is done by BCEL staff. The College is then able to focus its finances, quite rightly, on educational facilities and staffing.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A COMMERCIAL ENTITY WORKING IN A LIVING EDUCATIONAL ENVIRONMENT?
The biggest challenge is safeguarding and ensuring that our work does not interfere with the requirements of the College. We also constantly manage the pressures from both the College and our commercial clients wanting more time available to them. We have to navigate that line between the two and act as a mediator to ensure we arrive at decisions which are fair and practical for both.
HOW DO YOU RAISE FUNDS TO FINANCE THE IMPROVEMENT OF YOUR FACILITIES?
We have recently agreed on a new process which enables us to use funds from the covenant we pay each year. The first £250,000 of it will go directly to the College but the next £250,000, which still goes to the College, will be ring-fenced exclusively for BCEL projects. Any further profits made will be split equally between the two bodies. This should mean that in the long run, the College will end up having a new facility without having to pay for the whole build. We hope that within three to five years we will have accumulated a significant sum that will help us build a major new multi-use facility. In the short term, we are planning to improve the School Shop. It is your first physical interaction with the College once you gain a place, so we want our pupils and parents to have the best possible experience.