You are in the experience business: I guess most people who read this would say they work in the sport and active leisure sector, but in reality your key role is to provide great sporting and customer experiences which people will want to return to. You do compete for people’s leisure time and money, so if you want to attract people away from the shopping centres, watching X-Factor, apathy etc. you must provide a better alternative. So welcoming receptionists, the right social life, friendly, competent coaches/instructors and clean toilets are not just afterthoughts, they are key parts of the experience you provide. As are reminder texts and the birthday card to everybody on your database (yes, I am serious).
Become business savvy: whatever your role and level within your organisation being good at sports development and/or facility management simply is no longer good enough. You have to demonstrate that you are adding value and that you bring leadership and business skills to your job.
Can you calculate your membership retention rate? (Do you know it?) Are you familiar with the 8 steps to change or the concept and thinking behind social enterprises? Would you be able to give a compelling Powerpoint presentation to 25 potential sponsors/partners? Of course you can do all this and more; how else would you be able really drive your job forward and take charge.
Help community sports clubs to become community sports enterprises, involve the voluntary sector: some of our sports clubs and community groups could take on much bigger roles, take over the running of sports facilities and play key roles in the communities. Work with them and remove obstacles. Regard the voluntary sector as a potential partner; there is great potential for councils to work alongside the voluntary sector. It wants clear, practical, relevant and reliable support (and some money) but often the bureaucracy, jargon and maze put in front people completely scares them away (unless they are as resilient as people like John Cronin of Fylde Coast YMCA!)
Learn people’s language, have conversations – become the Community Ambassador: if you really want to engage with your communities simply go and listen and learn. Don’t send out brown council envelopes with boring questionnaires, they scare people off. Set up that Facebook page and start having online conversations and soon you will learn a lot. Especially when people complain, because you can then innovate and improve. And then worry about serial complainers: 27% of the UK population has made a comment on a consumer website over the last 12 months; 60% were positive and 40% negative, says MORI.
Pollinate – learn and transfer ideas from others: A sports entrepreneur takes a good idea and makes it better. Go out there; visit at least six exciting sports enterprises every year to see how they do it. Here are some of the best ones I’ve come across. I am sure there are many others where great sports enterprise is alive and kicking:
Adrenaline Alley, Corby http://www.adrenalinealley.co.uk
Hunslet Club, Leeds http://www.hunsletclub.org.uk
Keighley Table Tennis Centre, Bradford http://www.keighleytabletennis.co.uk/
Yellowave Beach Sports Centre, Brighton http://www.yellowave.co.uk/
Great North Dog Walk, South Shields http://www.greatnorthdogwalk.co.uk
Redbridge Sport Essex, Ilford, Essex http://www.rslonline.co.uk
Hillsborough Leisure Centre http://www.hillsboroughlc.co.uk
Fylde Coast YMCA http://www.fyldecoastymca.org
London Boxing Academy http://www.theboxingacademy.co.uk