Want to start a new men’s shed?

Be absolutely sure that the buildings you choose align with the activities the men want.

 

Double garages are inappropriate for a modern sustainable men’s shed.

Knowing where to start may be the biggest problem for people without knowledge of men’s health and well-being issues, communities and have the experience of how businesses and organisation actually work. It is important that a men’s shed also has experience with modern information technology and marketing in order to meet expectations.

We continually meet people who are full of enthusiasm for starting a men’s shed in their community but lack the know-how. It is rare to begin a successful enterprise without experience and well-researched know-how.

The real issues emerge as initial enthusiasm and support begin to wane. Funding runs out, personalities clash, the facilities become too small and membership starts to fall off.

There are many ways in which communities can commence a men’s shed, most notably:

  1. Guidance of practical and experienced people.
  2. Sponsorship of another local community organisation.
  3. Auspice of a government body, often part of the health system.
  4. With the influence of a like-minded group of local movers and shakers.
  5. Sponsorship of an existing community business (or acquisition)
  6. Sponsorship of another men’s shed.

 

“Be absolutely sure that the buildings you choose align with the activities the men want and need, that is if you want a happy and sustainable men’s shed”. Peter Sergeant

 

  1. Guidance of practical and experienced people
  • This is a way to fast-track the starting of a men’s shed and building it with good foundations and structure to a position of sustainability.
  • Entrepreneurship can add value to the commencement and operation of any approach you might choose to take.
  • With the use of modern technology, all you need to start a men’s shed can be obtained online from people who are reliable, practical, useful and helpful. 
  1. Sponsorship of another local community organisation
  • This can also be a way to fast-track the starting of a men’s sheds.
  • The organisation will have the capacity to provide the physical shed either free or sharing facilities can be a great way to save time, cut costs and get started. The set-up costs are minimal, often shared, subsidised or donated by the organisation.
  • The men’s shed joining fees may be donated by the organisation, or subsidised to help in the initial attraction of members.
  • The identity and integrity of the men’s shed need to be separated from the organisation, as cultural differences can create problems once you are operational.
  • The men’s shed board or management team may include representatives of the organisation, whose experience could be invaluable.
  • The sponsoring organisation should be open to the men’s shed leadership learning new skills that may surpass those of its sponsoring organisation.
  1. Auspice of a government body, often part of the health system
  • This can be another way of fast-tracking the development of a men’s shed but has the additional risk of the turnover problems of government people and dealing with micro-management.
  • The government department or local council may have the capacity to provide the physical ‘shed’, and equipment.
  • The set-up costs may be requisitioned from the department’s available resources or provided by a new grant.
  • The affiliation fees for the men’s shed may be paid or subsidised by the organisation under one of its programs.
  • The identity and integrity of the men’s shed may be difficult to separate from the government mentality. The organisation may be more intent on following its government processes than in allowing the men’s shed to develop its own identity.
  • The men’s shed management may include a representative of the organisation to help with start-up and funding arrangements.
  1. With the influence of a like-minded group of local movers and shakers
  • Starting a men’s shed from scratch may well be the way but could have the longest lead time and development time. It could be the fastest and best approach.
  • The provision of a physical shed is often a major accomplishment. The movers and shakers will know what is available and do the negotiations.
  • The set-up costs may be the result of a major community drive or provided by the philanthropy of an individual or group of movers and shakers.
  • The identity and integrity of the men’s shed are only maintained while ever there is harmony among the sponsoring group.
  • The selection of the men’s shed management must be democratic and the movers and shakers will help identify the most suitable people to be involved.
  • The men’s shed will have more liberty to develop its purpose and character in line with the original intention of its founders.
  • It is sometimes difficult to replace the founders with new people who can develop the men’s shed as the members and community would like.
  1. Sponsorship of an existing business (acquisition)
  • This is the fastest way to start and to develop a sustainable men’s shed. Often the businesses will have facilities and resources that they can make available. The business may provide the physical shed, fit it out and supply it with resources.
  • Set-up costs should be minimal, met by the business, or heavily subsidised as their contribution to the community.
  • In some situations, they can advise groups on how to purchase an existing business, run it commercially and provide the partnership to operate the men’s shed. In some cases, this can allow older skilled tradesmen to continue to be involved in “their business” while contributing to others. It may also relieve them from the increasing stress of managing it.
  • In other situations, they can advise how to ‘adopt’ a business and have it deliver benefits to the men’s sheds while continuing to trade commercially.
  • The affiliation fees for the men’s shed may be paid or subsidised by the business.
  • The men’s shed management may include a representative(s) of the old business or the sponsoring business(s).
  • The business owners may readily see the relationship with the men’s shed contributing skills, training, materials along with some products and services they wish to outsource.
  1. Sponsorship of another men’s shed
  • This approach can give a new men’s shed a level of comfort, as they usually know the sponsoring men’s shed.
  • It can be a problem when the new men’ shed tries to emulate the sponsoring men’s shed and doesn’t pay enough attention to its own special requirements for the men and community.
  • There are traps if the new shed takes on old baggage, or practices that are no longer relevant, or safe from the sponsoring men’s shed.
  • It can be a faster start using the combination of the sponsoring men’s shed and their expertise.
  • A sponsoring men’s shed or other organisation may not have the necessary expertise to start a men’s shed that is appropriate to another community and can lead to a group of low-level ineffective men’s sheds.

 

“Men’s Sheds are in a unique position in their ability to reach several priority populations for health intervention in Australia and result in proven improvements to their health and wellbeing”. Jeff Kennett

 

Regardless of how the men’s shed is commenced, it must have:

  • Have a clear purpose and vision that is a good fit with the community.
  • Have strong leadership.
  • Have an ongoing commitment from the community.
  • Have an appropriate building for the planned activities.
  • It must be well funded, and
  • Have good men’s health and well-being program and outcomes.

Always be on the alert for new approaches for starting a men’s shed. It is very easy to see where the value is added as ‘old baggage’ is replaced by comprehensive plans, skills, training, mentoring and professional coaching.

Whichever way you decide to start a men’s shed be sure you have a sound business model, business plan, value chain and budget.

Why not use a One-Page Plan to build a better men’s shed. goo.gl/ZRbfF6

 

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Personal Experience:

Having been responsible for the initial impetus of men’s sheds in Australia and other countries, it is interesting to reflect on the emerging thinking of many of the men’s shed managers I talk with. My approach of treating the average men’s shed as a business, even though it is a non-profit organisation, has now taken root. Many of the original men’s sheds with their ‘double garage’ approach have disappeared or have become dysfunctional.

Arguably one of the biggest things missing in the development of men’s shed is entrepreneurial activity. You know the old saying, “A leopard can’t change its spots”, and they don’t without entrepreneurial characteristics being applied.  The so called ‘gurus’ continue to tell us that our behaviours don’t change without years of painful effort.

After working with men and men’s shed over many years I know that extraordinary outcome can be achieved where there are business people involved with practical experience in starting businesses. In fact, I know (because I’ve seen it first-hand) that change can happen in the blink of an eye.

Funding is always an issue with men’sheds but there are ways and means of overcoming these and other difficulties with the right approaches. In fact starting a men’s shed can be exhilarating and a lot of fun.

When it comes to actually achieving the outcomes and making progress in the areas that are important to you, your systems could be a much better way to do things. It can come down to the difference between aspirational goals and systems.

You may be petrified about starting something, as are many people I have met, but it really doesn’t matter, if you are able to secure the right type of support.

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