• Ian Sandbrook

Unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of your clubs

"If I had asked people what they want, they would have said faster horses" - Henry Ford

I love that quote. Very witty, concise and says a lot about the man and his entrepreneurial spirit. About having an idea, being brave and really going for it. He wasn't going to stick with the status quo. He was going to think differently and achieve something great. And I believe it has a lot of merit when discussing how we can support club and community sport providers to grow and improve. And by 'we', I really mean National and Regional Sporting Organisations whom the clubs are largely members of, or are affiliated to.

My view is that if you really want to unlock the growth potential of your sport, start giving some prominence to unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of your clubs.

The true long-term growth and success for your sport will be achieved by creating self-motivated clubs with real identity and drive to make things happen. Nail that and they will attract, improve and retain people in your sport for you, and at a fraction of the cost of bloated staffing structures and programmes.

How do you go about making this happen though? Well, start with the first step, help them see a different future. You need to get in front of people and inspire and motivate new ideas, show them how to find and support the connectors and change-makers for their club, and above all encourage them to pick their best ideas and go for it. Light the fire in the bellies of those involved to get an influx of enthusiasm, people and new ideas into clubs. That first step, which we seem to largely ignore, is to simply motivate and support clubs to get out there and start doing something different! How would Henry Ford or Richard Branson or Walt Disney approach turning around the fortunes of your clubs?

By removing the shackles and encouraging and supporting clubs to pursue new ideas we also make being involved in a club fun again. Don't underestimate the power of that. Those tasked with running clubs have become overburdened and largely stale, and as governing bodies our response is often to lump more bureaucracy on them and tell them unintentionally that they aren't 'capable'.

The reality is that every club is unique, in terms of what it can offer, it's aspirations, and in the challenges that they are faced with. Therefore, to unlock their potential we should be fostering the entrepreneurial spirit within each club to find their own solutions. Lets help them create their own USP and culture to stand out from the crowd. Believe me, that will create greater buy-in and enthusiasm from those already involved. It will help attract new people, it will bring out the skills of your membership that you never knew you had, and it will create action at the club.

However, sometimes we just get bogged down in the detail. We let the system become an excuse for inaction. As the famous Canadian educator Laurence J. Peter said, "bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost it's status". The landscape is changing and moving so quickly that flexibility in your approach is now king. I believe we should be aiming for 'positive disruption' as NSOs and RSOs to stimulate constant improvement and ideas from our clubs.

So how about we strip it back. Stop trying to make it more complicated than it needs to be, and above all, lets rediscover the human touch to motivate and support. We have to get back to face-to-face, human interaction that builds real trust and relationships with clubs. In my experience, clubs are tired of one way relationships with NSOs and RSOs largely based on them doing what you ask or decree. Show you care about them and are genuinely there to help them become the club they want to be. The smart NSOs will find creative ways to motivate and support clubs to take control of their own destiny.

Do that and the payback will be tenfold.

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