Edition number 30; 1 October 2010
Is it going to kill you?
Maybe it’s because I’ve been on holiday, maybe it’s because you have all been on holiday but I was struggling for inspiration this month when I slipped in to the tub and considered my subject options. Then it came to me: it’s not only me that’s become stuck. The whole industry has become frozen into not thinking or doing anything, adopting instead the view that it’s too dangerous to think about the future. When I talk to anyone from either the voluntary or public sector it is not very long before the comprehensive spending review is brought into the conversation and there appears to be fear on all sides; the public sector folk are all fearful about whether their service and their jobs are going to be cut and the voluntary sector are worrying about how they are going to cope with whatever ‘The Big Society’ turns out to be and the influx of work which appears to be heading their way.
What makes me most fearful is the paralysis which seems to be afflicting the majority of people in the leisure industry in all sectors. I know it is difficult. How can you move on when them that makes the decisions won’t give you any direction and they suck air through their teeth and shake their heads when you ask to do something – anything? For your own sanity, please stay with me.
I can say with some confidence that the sport and leisure industry will go on, even beyond August 2012, and we shall all have to find our place in the new world. I wish I could predict what things will look like in even 12 months time but I can only take educated guesses. I am fairly sure that we will still have a problem with ‘health’ in 12 months time, whatever they do to the primary care trusts. In fact, that particular issue is unlikely to go away for a very long time. I am also sure that we will still be obsessed by football, we will still want to play competitive sport, we will still keep going to museums and stately homes, we will still want to dance, paint, write, use parks and we will definitely still need to be buried and cremated. All of this means that there is a future for our professions and our obsessions. And let’s face it: you have to be a little obsessed to work in this sector.
So what can we do? All we can do is what we have always done: continue to be excited by our obsessions. Most of us got into all of this because of a hobby so the first place to start when looking for a reason to come out of this paralysis is to remember what it was that you enjoyed about your hobby before it became a job of work. The last thing you would do would be to let your hobby stand still because someone else told you it had to – you would always find a way to make some steps forward, never mind how small. Now is the time to return to that way of thinking. You may need to do it outside the work environment and I have shouted before about reawakening your interest in doing your activity as well as it being your job. Or perhaps you could look at this in a different way, try something completely different through an evening class or even by volunteering in a different sector. We are seeing a lot of interest from people coming out of other industries during the recession and thinking that ‘something in leisure’ would be fun. Perhaps we can take a look outside of our box too, transfer our skills. How will all this help? Haven’t you got enough to do without me sending you off doing even more? I am sure that you have but we all need to do something to break the current stagnation and I am a great believer in taking control of what I can do something about and not worrying too much about things I am unable to influence.
Let me take you back into the work environment. Do you really have to stop doing everything? Will there be an epiphany on 21 October? The answer is no. Things will change but not immediately and we will still need to be putting our messages out there, letting people know about what we can offer. Recently I came into contact with a company that has been frozen in time because its owner has died. It is still making its products and selling to current customers but the initial reaction from the person managing the estate was not to do anything in terms of marketing and promotion, instead taking a “sell the company and let the new owners deal with that sort of thing later” route. Of course business, even with the existing customer base, dropped off. It was easy to concentrate on the ‘doing’ or manufacturing side of the business, keeping things going, but customers are looking elsewhere for their needs as the company hasn’t stayed prominent. After all, what are customers going to think if the only message they have is that the driving force of the company is dead? So are you going to let your customers or users think your driving force is dead? The message here, if I haven’t already made myself clear, is that if your customers think you have given up on them they will either go and find a new outlet for their needs or they will give up.
So, where are we? Is there really no money in your budget or are you just frightened about spending it just in case? Is your future in exactly the same sector it has always has been? For those of you who have been with the same organisation for many years this can be a pretty scary thought but as a colleague of mine used to say, “Is it going to kill you?” If it isn’t, whatever ‘it’ is, then don’t worry about it and you will find a solution. As this was from someone who managed the markets (the ones which sold fruit and veg rather than those things in London that have placed us in this current difficulty) where there was constant conflict, this was wise advice indeed. Will working for a voluntary sector organisation be a bad thing if you have always worked in local government? We are often frozen by our perceived financial needs so, on a very simplistic and personal level, perhaps taking a little financial advice will put that particular demon to rest. You may even begin to feel more relaxed about the changes ahead. Moving around sectors may not be as bad as it appears.
Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.
To find Tales from a Tub in previous issues please visit the Comment page.
Tales from a tub
the last word in contemplative comment on the leisure industry
Kay Adkins, hot tub correspondent