An intensive residential workshop designed to help ambitious wholesalers adopt new skills and attitudes to help with their personal development as well as achieve their company's commercial goals has been hailed a resounding success by delegates and the organisers.

The Scottish Wholesale Association sponsored seven individuals to participate in The Gap Partnership's Complete Skilled Negotiator, a much-lauded three-and-a-half day programme which focuses on understanding the appropriate way to negotiate in any given circumstance and encourages different thought processes and behaviours.

This advanced training programme - known as  GAP  II - followed the trade association's previous Essential Negotiator sessions in association with The Gap Partnership. These workshops also looked at structure, process and behaviours but worked at building confidence as well as identifying an indivual's strengths and weaknesses.

Lloyd Barrett, client director of  GAP , praised the Association for providing such a high level of training for its members: "The group made a quantum leap forward in their understanding and approach to planning as well as executing the deals they do with all of them planning multiple initiatives they wanted to action as soon as they got back to work.

"Most of these individuals would most probably never get exposure to a course like this and I look forward to working closely with the group, mentoring them over the next 12 weeks - no doubt the results will speak for themselves."

According to Sandie Holmes, principal consultant at the Association's training partner, 121 HR Solutions, the delegates were "bowled over" by the experience and keen to put into practice the new skills they had learned and introduce different attitudes to their negotiations. "This was a seriously intensive workshop which continued at the end of each day as delegates were set 'homework' tasks," she explained.

"Even though they had successfully completed the Essential Negotiator they were venturing into the unknown and it was great to see everyone rising to the challenge and thinking on their feet."

The participants were:

  • Stuart Harrison, buyer, JW Filshill
  • Anshu Chandra, licensed director, United Wholesale ( Scotland )
  • David Rowan, wholesale manager, Dunns Food and Drinks
  • Patricia Harding, junior buyer, Sugro
  • Imran Ambalia, junior buyer, Sugro
  • Karen Kelly, national account manager, Bidvest Foodservice Scotland
  • Seonaid Holsgrove, assistant buyer, Gordon & MacPhail

David Rowan of Dunns Food and Drinks said the highlight for him was working with buyers from other companies to "see how they think", commenting: "I am in sales so it was great to see things from their side."

For Bidvest Foodservice Scotland's Karen Kelly, the workshop increased her self-confidence. "Lloyd was very good at making me look deep inside at my behaviour and body language - the course really made me think about preparation and planning before meetings, and how to take control and stop a meeting being confrontational ... recognising the signs and adapting my behaviour."

Sugro's Patricia Harding said: "There is no limit to our learning capacity - the more we learn the more we evolve. As an old psychology student, I thoroughly enjoyed being psychologically challenged and constantly put outside of my comfort zone.

"For me, the biggest highlight was recognising that no matter how much you think you understand people, you need to also understand yourself. In this case, in negotiation, I have become more self-aware in my thought processes and adaptable to circumstances. I definitely feel more evolved as a person"

For Stuart Harrison of JW Filshill (pictured) there wasn't just one highlight - there were several. "I feel that I have really benefited from an in-depth understanding of different ways of negotiating," he said. "It has made life a lot easier when negotiating with suppliers who have been on this course or something similar."

Kate Salmon, executive director of the Edinburgh-based Scottish Wholesale Association, said that there was clearly an appetite for this type of top-level training within the industry. "We've really struck a chord with our members and it's extremely encouraging that they are prepared to allow their most ambitious individuals to progress their careers in this way.

"Providing relevant and effective training is one of our Association's core pillars and we are delighted to be working once again with The Gap Partnership whose excellent programmes have set global standards for experiential learning.

"In  Scotland , food and drink wholesalers operate 78 depots and employ 6,900 employees generating in excess of £3 billion a year - it is our job to nurture their skills as we strive to enhance our sector's role as key contributor to the Scottish economy."