Some men can build a community men’s shed.
What does it take to start and build a successful men’s shed?
That’s a question we get asked almost every day by people starting a men’s sheds and by members of existing men’s sheds that aren’t living up to the dreams and expectations of the members.
Although there is no one answer that fits all men’s sheds, there are a number of practices followed by the successful ones. No matter what type of men’s shed you have, you run a very good chance of being successful if you practice some basic business principles.
Obviously, there are a lot of things to consider and implement. Getting your thinking right is the first instance will help you make a good start.
- Find a champion to guide you through the startup stage, which might be you.
- Who will you get to be the men’s shed manager? Will it be you?
- Establish an initial committee of members to help you.
- Understand the basic things that need to be put in place.
- Create a well thought out business model, business plan and budget.
- Look for community partnerships to help.
- Be realistic about costs and expenses.
- Choose activities that are interesting and the men will enjoy.
- Decide on products or services that can produce an income.
- Set up contacts with the local health professionals.
- Start creating a well thought out men’s health program.
- Understand the importance of marketing your men’s shed.
- Start recruiting a good mix of members.
- Setup and keep your accounting up-to-date.
Starting a men’s shed well helps to get going well
What does it take to start and build a successful men’s shed? That’s a question we are asked almost every day by people starting a men’s sheds and by members of existing men’s sheds that aren’t living up to the dreams and aspirations of the members.
Although there is no one answer that fits all men’s sheds, there are a number of practices that are followed by the successful ones. No matter what type of men’s shed you have, you run a very good chance of being successful if you live by some essentials for succeeding.
The easiest men’s shed to run is one that produces products or services that the men and the community already want and need. You won’t have to waste a lot of valuable time and money convincing people that they need what the men’s shed is offering.
This allows you to spend your time focusing on finding the right facilities and setting the men’s shed up to meet the objectives of the members and the community so that you retain their continuing support.
“There are really only two requirements when it comes to starting a men’s shed. The first is that you do it, the second is to keep doing it in order to maintain momentum”. Peter Sergeant
Find a need and fill it. This is absolutely critical. The easiest men’s shed to run is one that produces products or services that the men and the community already want and need. You won’t have to waste a lot of valuable time and money convincing people that they need what you are offering. This allows you to spend your time focusing on why your men’s shed is the best to satisfy their wants and needs.
Have a well thought out Business Plan. There is an old saying ‘that if you fail to plan you plan to fail’. Remember the Mad Hatter saying to Alice when she asked him for directions, “well if you don’t know where you are going, then it doesn’t matter much which way you go”. There is templates, tools and support for doing this most important task.
Be true to yourself. If you run a men’s shed you and the members don’t like, are not passionate about or don’t believe in, it is destined to failure. No matter what other men’s sheds do, if you don’t enjoy your men’s shed and its activities, or you wouldn’t be proud to show your friends what you are doing and how you are doing it, then it is likely to fail.
Organise the best Board of Directors that you can. A Board is there to help and guide the overall running of the men’s shed and a good board will take responsibility for good governance and risk management. Depending on the experience of the board members you can expect they will introduce many innovative ideas to keep the men’s shed functions well and is integrated with the community.
Choose activities that are interesting and the men will enjoy. It will be difficult to motivate the members if they are not doing something that they like and have fun doing. Be careful about introducing your own ideas and expecting everyone to feel the same way that you do. Not everyone likes woodwork, or metal work or motor mechanics or arts and crafts. There must be a mix of activities to satisfy the vast majority of members.
Choose products or services that you can sell at a profit for income. Having products and services you can sell will provide income for the men’s shed and members can supplement their incomes.
If the difference between your cost and selling prices is too low, you will have difficulty growing the men’s shed and moving it to sustainability. When margins are too low, you won’t have enough money to do the things that are needed.
Have diversionary activities for the men. There are many problems in our communities today; alcohol, drugs, crime, loneliness, isolation and boredom. Ensure that there are plenty of activities and programs that will help divert men’s attention away from their problems.
Have a good mix of members. A successful men’s shed usually has a good mix of members ranging from young men to very elderly men, differently abled men, unemployed men and men with different backgrounds.
Young men learn from old men, old men learn from young men. Men’s sheds that have an inclusive focus are unlikely to be successful in the long run. Keep in mind “that there but for the Grace of God go I”.
Be realistic about costs and expenses. Many new men’s sheds underestimate costs and soon run into difficulties. Maintaining a reliable up-to-date budget is essential. Budget templates are available with support for this important function.
Keep your accounting up-to-date. Most men don’t become members to do book work, however, the job must be done. Too many don’t worry about money as they think their numbers are too small and can be kept in their head. Don’t be fooled, numbers grow and we forget and when the auditor comes he finds a costly mess to fix.
Be true to your members and customers. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Don’t lie or exaggerate the benefits of what the men’s shed offers and always deliver a quality product or service. Word-of-mouth has always been one of the primary ways to find new members and supporters, so be sure they are able to deliver the right messages throughout the community.
Have a well thought out men’s health and well-being program. This is the biggest issue most older men are facing today. Sure they want to have jobs and start businesses and do things for their community, but if they are not healthy then it will not happen. It is a catch 22, poor health results in poor activity and poor activity lead to poor health.
Understand the importance of marketing. The world won’t beat a path to your men’s shed just because you have built a better building or have a great idea to improve men’s health and well-being, or increase economic activity in the community, or provide exciting activities for the young people of the community. In order to receive the support you need, learn how to market your men’s shed and its products and services effectively and continually.
Focus on maintaining momentum
There is no room for the words I, me and my. A men’s shed is a team effort and your success will depend on the efforts of many others, members, supporters, partners, customers, suppliers and most important the community.
- Form a management committee.
- Conduct regular meetings with the members.
- Organise the best Board of Directors that you can.
- Have diversionary activities for the men who need them.
- Practice continuous improvement in all key aspects of the men’s shed.
- Be true to your members and customers and build trust.
- Take care of your members.
- Don’t take your partnerships for granted.
- Get your men’s shed ‘partner ready’.
- Utilise technology and the Internet.
- Remind yourself that one is the loneliest number in business.
- Get the community involved and the members involved in their community.
After the initial enthusiasm has subsided, maintaining the momentum could become your biggest challenge. This will be particularly so if you happen to lose some key members, or some key machinery falls into disrepair.
Take care of your members. Value and manage your membership. Start early as membership management can get out of control very quickly as you grow. You should be tracking the problems, frustrations wants and needs of each member along with such things as their membership fees and even attendance records.
Don’t take your partnerships for granted. Respect them and let them know you appreciate them as they are an important part of your team and your success. Don’t be a pest or a pain in their neck. Go out of your way to help your partnerships and supporters and they will help you.
Maintain your men’s shed ‘partner ready’ status. There is a lot of competition in the marketplace for good partnerships and scarce resources. Good support and funding are not about luck. Take the time to regularly review your partner ready (investor ready) status as you never know when the next good opportunity will arrive on your doorstep.
Utilise technology and the Internet. No matter what you offer or who you offer it to, there’s a good chance they will turn to the Internet in one way or another to make their decisions about your men’s shed and what it is offering.
If people can’t find you on the Internet they are likely to go elsewhere to satisfy their wants. Today the haves and the have-nots are being defined by their ability to utilise the Internet. Making use of cloud technology and engaging in content marketing is a great way to improve you member services and your customer experience.
Remind yourself that ‘one’ is the loneliest number. One product, one service, one main client, and all your records stored in one place is a recipe for failure. If you only have one product or service you’re missing out on the chance to benefit by offering more things to more people who already know and trust you. If your men’s shed has only one main customer and they suddenly disappear you could face big financial problems.
Get the community involved and get the members involved in their community. The mental and social well-being of the members is largely dependent on being involved, having social interaction and feeling good about their contribution to the community.
Create new conversations, that will lead to better relationships, better health and better businesses as well as nicer places in which to live.
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Don’t expect miracles. You have heard the old saying “the harder I work the luckier I get”. Well, luck and miracles only come after you have invested a lot of time, effort, and money in building the men’s shed and building the team that keeps it going and growing.
There is no room for I, me and my. A men’s shed is a team effort and your success will depend on the efforts of many other, members, supporters, partners, customers, suppliers and most important the community.