Every school supplier knows that it is nigh on impossible to get hold of the principal of a local school. In comparison, it is way easier to get hold of the CEO of a listed company. As a supplier, you have undoubtedly encountered the dreaded gatekeeper, whose job it is to limit/prevent access to the head. To understand why the gatekeeper protects the head so much, we need to step into the head’s shoes.

Firstly, school heads have a vast number and variety of people they need to take care of:
  • School heads are the key point person for anything from 60 to 100 staff members
  • There are up to 650 pupils (or more) that see the school head on a regular basis. Some for good behaviour and some for bad behaviour (usually more for bad behaviour 😉)
  • And then, the most dreaded of the lot – parents. Since each parent of these 650 pupils pays school fees, they expect to be able to see the head whenever they wish

There’s one group of people we often don’t think of. This group of people are school suppliers. It is not unusual for a school to have between 100 and 300 creditors on their books – suppliers they pay monthly, yearly, etc.

Really? School heads have 100-300 creditors… Why?

To give you an idea, here are just some areas for which a school requires suppliers:
  • Pupils – the school makes decisions on behalf of the parents for uniforms, stationery, etc.
  • Classrooms – schools need suppliers to tend to the requirements of each classroom
  • Fields – similar to the number of suppliers a sports club needs
  • Gym and pool – similar to the number of suppliers a Virgin Active needs
  • Catering for admin staff – similar to the number of suppliers a company of 60 staff needs (tea, coffee, I.T. needs, etc.)

From the above, it’s clear to see why principals are protected by their gatekeepers. They are dealing with thousands of different individuals all vying for their attention. And, since the head is at the head (excuse the pun) of all decision-making, there are a lot of suppliers to deal with. Also keep in mind that for every one supplier, there is about another three looking for the business.

Therefore, it is often easier to meet with the CEO of a listed company. That’s why we, as suppliers of schools, need to be aware of these factors to better understand a school when selling to them.