Busy Bees Childcare Streamlines Ad-Hoc Procurement and Increases Productivity with Amazon Business

Busy Bees Childcare is the largest provider of childcare services in the UK and Ireland, with 375 centres in operation, and a growing presence across the globe, including Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Australia, China, Italy and Vietnam. For 35 years, since its start-up nursery in Lichfield, Staffordshire, it has been expanding steadily while preserving the standards on which it was founded, quality care and a child-centred approach.

The past 10 years have seen particularly rapid expansion, and the organisation has begun a journey to transform its procurement function into a streamlined, more efficient process that would meet the business’ three core principles of service, value and quality. Keelie Leahy, was part of that beginning, having spent two decades with the firm in roles from Nursery Manager to Operations Manager to Regional then Divisional Director, and now Director of Innovation. She decided that they needed to focus more intently on how the nurseries procure, and to find a solution that would rationalise that operation. She began by using Amazon Business as a solution for ad hoc and maverick buying behaviour.

“Growth has been immeasurable in the past 10 years,” she says, “but as we have acquired either single nurseries or groups, we have bolted them onto our system rather than creating a holistic view of how we procure. As we are very sensitive about delivering excellence, especially in our catering and fresh food procurement, we decided it was time to look more closely at streamlining our purchasing and supply.”

New brand – new procurement

At closer scrutiny Busy Bees uncovered a list of over 300 suppliers nestled in its accounting system. Not least was this incurring a lot of back-office work, it was very challenging to make sure that all resultant invoices were being processed efficiently. Initially Busy Bees decided to create a list of resources from which the nurseries could purchase. After researching all nursery needs, Keelie consolidated those 300 suppliers into a list of 12, supplying the likes of furniture, toiletries, staff uniforms, stationery and so on. “But I naively thought at the time,” said Keelie, “that we could use one supplier to provide all the resources we needed – I quickly realised if we want quality, value and service, then that wasn’t going to be the case.”

What Busy Bees really wanted to do was create a ‘Resource Hub’ where the nurseries could log in to one website, click on an item, and purchase in one place. This was achieved with the help of the in-house Accounts department and the Creative team. The timing also coincided nicely with a business rebrand which saw the 30-year-old logo of ‘Busy Bees’ “hang up its wings” and make way for a new bee, Buzz. The new look kick-started the drive for procurement also to come in line and ensure all resources matched the rebrand. The expectation was that each nursery would use the new purchasing method as they rebranded.

By coincidence, Amazon Business contacted Busy Bees about opening a business account, given that the nurseries were already buying from Amazon. Keelie decided that this fitted well with the plan to streamline buying. She discovered that they had 49 business accounts across the UK paying for 49 lots of Amazon Prime, and 250 nurseries purchasing from it. “The only way they could conduct these purchases was on their business credit cards,” she said, “which created a huge amount of back-office work and gave us no visibility of what our Managers were buying. This didn’t make good business sense. We spent time working with Amazon Business researching how best to make this work, and came to realise an Amazon Business account was an absolute requirement for our nurseries. Within 30 days we had 90% engagement from the nurseries. All the ad hoc accounts that had been set up were closed and were signed over to one Amazon Business account. This was a huge success.”

“We are very much committed to creating a procurement solution that saves our Managers as much time as possible,” she affirms, “we don’t want them to have to go out to local supermarkets or communicate with suppliers, as was the case years before when they received massive amounts of brochures, cold calls and visits. We want our Managers to focus entirely on excellent child care, not shopping – we can do that for them. So we are very comfortable with our preferred supplier list, which we feel adds value.”

Good reasons for buying through Amazon Business

The Busy Bees set of standards represent the organisation’s commitment to implementing and maintaining the highest standards to achieve their vision of giving every child the best start. Their newest approach to delivering this is ‘UP’ (Unleashing Potential) with an innovative and flexible early years learning programme that is unique to them. “Within this,” says Keelie, “we have different resources for different areas of learning which are sourced by us and available for the nurseries to buy. As part of that we needed to source Samsung tablets to support the UP app. This was our first spot buy with Amazon Business. We purchased 450 tablets using our new account and in doing so saved £15,000.”

Each National Support Centre employee, where required, and each nursery has their own Busy Bee log in. The flexibility of Amazon Business allows Busy Bees to block any items it does not want nurseries to purchase outside of the Resource Hub, creating a preferred list of items for Amazon Business. “Avoiding ad hoc purchases has transformed the use of credit cards and petty cash,” said Keelie, “giving our nurseries next-day delivery on purchases they know have been approved by the business and eliminating the need for expense reimbursement, as this is all taken care of by consolidated invoicing at the end of each month. Given that there is no longer a need to leave the office to make a purchase, the whole process is made more efficient and a lot more cost-effective.”

“We can identify many opportunities for developing spot buying with Amazon Business. Our main goal is to continue to give our nurseries choice, value and quality. It is early days, but we will soon have three months of analytics to give us real insight into not only what the nurseries have been buying but how much they have spent and how that reflects on the back-office work we have saved. But we are expecting a good set of numbers for our first quarter.”

“The benefits of our Amazon Business account have been threefold: we are streamlining purchases and therefore back-office time and resource; we are reducing our carbon footprint by eliminating the need for people to travel around looking for best price, which is very important to us; we are protecting our nurseries’ budgets, which are very precious to them, making sure they are getting best value for money. And crucially user feedback has been very positive.”

“All in all we are delighted with our Amazon Business model and I cannot fault their flexibility, our excellent Account Manager and the team we have dealt with. They have worked closely with us along the way to make sure this works for us, and been very patient with a non-technical team. Their account management is unrivalled.”

As the project moves forward, Busy Bees intends to release more and more items and extend the resource list. The organisation particularly is keen to open this up for satellite operations, like maintenance teams, who buy ad hoc items like lightbulbs and screws.

“This would be ideal for them too,” Keelie says, “making it simple for them to procure what they need for a maintenance visit and have it delivered straight to the nursery, in turn making it much more productive for us.”

Over the next 12 months Busy Bees aims to streamline and develop procurement further within the business, focusing on more and more ease of use and efficiency. Said Keelie: “As part of that we will definitely plan to extend the use of Amazon Business and develop that relationship.”



This is a Brand Studio article written for Amazon Business, not as Spend Matters’ analysis or news content.


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