It’s amazing what men can achieve with a little external advice and a little support.
It can be too hard doing it by yourself
In every community, there are isolated men, and men living with a disability, along with new men in town, all wanting to communicate and to be involved and appreciated.
And in every community, there are men of all ages wanting to make connections with other men and to engage with their community, and there are others who can offer support in many practical ways.
Engaging and connecting all these men can be very difficult and is where a practical and experienced advisor fits in.
A men’s shed can be involved in a broad range of diverse activities, many of which can be generally the scope of people in the community, or they don’t have the time to help. Such as building trades, manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trades, professions, transport, storage, finance, property, business services, community services, recreational, tourism personal and so on.
Men’s sheds are not unlike a small business, but with the added complexity of the inexperience in a range of business management skills, knowledge of health and well-being issues, working with the disadvantaged in a community and dealing with governments.
The men’s shed’s operations are usually locally based, although its markets and suppliers might not be, adding additional burdens on inexperienced people.
“A good advisor is an investment in your future, not a cost”. Peter Sergeant
It is almost an impossible task for many of the people involved in men’s sheds if they are to build something worthwhile for the members and the community and to make the activities of the men’s shed sustainable. In saying that ordinary people can do extraordinary things given the right support from an external consultant, facilitator, coach or advisor.
If leaders are to serve as leaders and visionaries for their men’s shed, they must sense where the opportunities and markets are moving and where their men’s shed and its community should be placed in order to benefit the men and the community.
Like other community leaders, the men involved should also spend a lot more of their time looking outward, rather than inward, which is where an external advisor can really help. Internal pressures in the men’s shed often prevent the leaders from seeing what is happening in the larger environment and to see where the opportunities and possibilities are for their men’s shed.
Need for practical startup experience
It is important to select an advisor with practical experience with startup businesses. This is because a men’s shed is not unlike a small business as it will have to deal with all the same issues as a start-up business plus a few additional issues.
You won’t need a lot of an advisors time during the start-up phase, just a few minutes here and there. You will probably find good advisors will give a start-up men’s shed they believe in, some of their time for free.
When someone goes through significant change, and there are a lot of changes to contend with when you start a new men’s shed, you need external advisors to help you to adapt successfully.
An advisor can provide you with a behaviour model or examples of the ways you can accomplish significant results and save time and money, way beyond any investment you might make in them.
Would you build a house without a plan? Do you think people like working in a business without a sound plan? Use your advisor to help you with this very important function and you will find your men’s shed will achieve a far better start.
The business advisor selected should be a person of trust, someone who can be open, is willing and can be transparent. Remember to look for a person with similar values and with special skills to help you to manage your men’s shed and its future operations.
Advisors come in different forms. They can also be, role models, mentors, trainers, networkers, fundraisers or even be a sponsor.
Need for business management skills
Skills for men’s shed leaders and managers encompass a range of subjects including, planning, management, marketing, personnel, operations, financial management along with communication, technology and computer skills.
The importance of having this diversity of expertise is often not recognised in the men’s shed industry. It is sometimes wrongly perceived that the basic craftsmanship skills are sufficient and all that is needed.
Furthermore, the diversity of men’s sheds means that their needs in relation to skills development vary greatly, depending on factors such as their size, activities being undertaken, and their involvement with men’s health and well-being. In relation to training, the needs of certain groups within men’s sheds can be divided into the following segments:
- People intending to start a new men’s shed.
- Managing an existing but unstable men’s sheds in trouble, or in decline.
- Managing a well established and expanding men’s sheds.
- Start-up men’s sheds taking over an existing for-profit business.
In consulting to men’s sheds it is important to keep in mind the following
- Generally, there is little money available.
- There are no established revenue streams.
- There are mendicant attitudes to overcome.
- You must work with philanthropy and partnerships.
- Regional people generally do not understand the need to pay for consulting.
- Often there is very little in the way of basic business skills and experience.
- You should understand the health environment in a men’s shed
The key issues for a consultant might include
- Provision of a comprehensive Website and social media capability.
- Provision of an online Knowledge Base.
- A Help Desk facility.
- Delivery comprehensive training programs.
- Provision of simple tools, processes and templates.
- Provision of practical experience and helpful advice.
- Negations regarding funding and other resources.
- Able to intervene and help resolve conflicts.
Management skills development must be delivered in a relevant, timely and efficient manner using a flexible, hands-on approach and in a familiar language.
Men’s shed people are reluctant to seek skills development which cannot be delivered on time when they need it and in the form that they can learn from.
The advisor must be able to assist the men’s shed leader and managers to better utilise their own skills and those of other community advisors.
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In today’s fast paced life, more than ever before, we need help in a timely manner. Researchers have found that even back in Biblical time there were few people who finished well in their chosen fields, without the support of many people. Mentoring has nothing to do with money, mentors simply help you to grow and finish better.
By making a quick assessment of the people who have made a significant contribution to your life you can start to identify possible mentors. They will be few in number, perhaps only three or four, who have helped you significantly.
Analysis of just what these people did, will give you insight into the type of people who could be possible mentors of your future and the attributes you require. Providing a listening ear, without taking on your problems and giving specialised advice, can serve as a powerful aid to help you get your men’s shed started and move it forward.
Often you can find retired entrepreneurs or businessmen who can give your men’s shed a real shot in the arm as they will have more time available. They might even become members.
One important thing I have found is that you should not overlook the women in your community. They have a lot of skills and are often very keen to become involved and help. Their organisational skills are usually well developed.