Sometimes a fishing club can be a good place to start a men’s shed and grow from there.
Ten key challenges of men’s sheds
While many different people with many different backgrounds become involved in starting a men’s shed, there are some challenges common to most.
- Finding suitable facilities
- Funding a men’s shed.
- Starting a men’s shed.
- Maintaining momentum.
- Health and well-being programs.
- Management capacity.
- Access to key knowledge and practical experience.
- Governance and accountability.
- Comprehensive marketing activities.
- Provision of tools and equipment.
Finding suitable facilities
Men need their space but unfortunately, the spaces made available in many men’s sheds is totally inadequate. Finding the right facilities can be very time consuming and frustrating and sometimes compromises will have to be made.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have a purpose built men’s shed? Well, it’s’ often easier to find a suitable block of ground and build your men’s shed. There are many tradesmen involved with the men’s sheds so having the skills is usually not a problem.
The challenge with facilities is usually the funding but for those who don’t lean on their own understanding of funding, possibilities are endless.
The biggest issue is to find a shed that will have sufficient space to accommodate the number of members anticipated will adequate space for all the desired activities and of course room for expansion.
Some of the key challenges associated with finding suitable facilities might include:
- The size of the premises.
- Space for all activities required.
- Storage space.
- Meeting room.
- Coffee and sitting room.
- Sound proofing.
- Heating and cooling.
- Disability access.
- Toilet facilities.
- Location in the community.
- Parking area for members and visitors.
Funding a men’s shed
You will need to make a realistic assessment of the financial needs of the men’s shed, including startup costs and how long it will take before your men’s shed can become self-sustaining. This will form part of your business plan and is essential for applications.
Your assessment needs to demonstrate that you will be able to manage the funds, taking into account possible risks. Will the men’s shed satisfy the needs of the members and for how long? Do you have enough skills to run the men’s shed? Can you demonstrate that you have a clear direction and understanding of the issues involved?
Funds will be required for:
- The premises.
- Startup costs.
- Fit out supplies.
- Energy, telephone and Internet connections.
- Tools and equipment.
- Raw materials.
- Professional services.
- Working capital.
Of course, there are many ways to fund a men’s shed such as crowdfunding, donations, partnerships, philanthropists, memberships and government grants.
Starting a men’s shed
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.
It 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 finding the right facilities and setting the men’s shed up to meet the objectives of the community so that you retain their continuing support.
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 wants and need and what needs to be put in place.
- Create a well thought out Business Plan, business model and budget.
- Be realistic about costs and expenses.
- Choose activities that are interesting and the men will enjoy.
- Decide on products or services that you can sell for a profit.
- 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.
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.
- Forming 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, focusing on the experience they are having.
- Make use of content marketing for recruiting members and servicing them.
- Don’t take your partners 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.
- Don’t expect miracles, it will take the time to learn how to run a men’s shed well.
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.
“No matter how good you think you are as a leader, my goodness, the people around you will have all kinds of ideas for how you can get better. So for me, the most fundamental thing about leadership is to have the humility to continue to get feedback and to try to get better. Because your job is to try to help everybody else get better”. Jim Yong Kim
Health and well-being programs
Most men don’t talk about feelings and emotions and many do not take an interest in their health and well-being. Unlike women, most men are reluctant to talk about their emotions and that means that they usually don’t ask for help.
Probably because of this, many men are less healthy than women, and suffer more from isolation, loneliness and depression. The big issues arise when there is a relationship breakdown, retrenchment, early retirement or loss of children following divorce.
Physical or mental illness are just some of the problems that men usually find difficult to deal with on their own, which is where the men’s shed comes in. Men like to mix with other men and work together on projects.
Good health and well-being are based on men feeling good about themselves, being productive, contributing to their community, connecting with friends and maintaining an active body and mind.
A men’s shed provides a safe environment where men can find many activities to create a better lifestyle and learn to cope with the pressures they face. The challenge is to create an environment in and around the men’s shed where men can be together, do things together and foster mateship.
Often the starting point can be simply creating a warm and friendly place for men, or all ages, with all kinds of issues, can hang out have a yarn and a cup of coffee and enjoy each other’s company.
Many men’s sheds leaders and managers will come from a technical background with limited exposure to driving an organisation and the role of management. It is good when a men’s shed has a person with previous experience at running a small business at the helm. Many of the problems and frustrations of running a business can be found in a men’s shed.
Often new managers will find people who will offer to do things, or help with addressing issues, but when push comes to shove they do not deliver. This is a real challenge for the inexperienced manager.
You will require the services of an accountant or bookkeeper or both. There are very specific laws about the records that men’s sheds need to keep. They can help you to set up your bookkeeping and member management systems before they get out of hand.
Governance and accountability
Most men’s sheds will be funded by either the community or the government. This means that public money must be accounted for and used according to the expectations of the funders. This requires good governance practices.
Good governance requires you to strive for and maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct, with accuracy inclusiveness and transparency. Good governance is the responsibility of your Board of Directors and the Management Team and refers, in brief, to the following:
- Quality Decision-Making.
- Financial management
- Following the Rules and Laws of the country.
Access to key knowledge and practical experience
Particularly in regional, rural and remote areas, you may find it difficult to obtain the information, knowledge and practical experience you will require to start and manage a men’s shed.
Should you be challenged by a lack support please make full use of the FAQ Support Knowledge Base. https://goo.gl/8giu4K.
The knowledge base not only contains specific knowledge about men’s sheds but covers most of the aspects of running a business or non-profit organisation which have most of the characteristics of a men’s shed. Things such as planning, management, marketing, operations, technology, relationships, finance, analysis, knowledge management innovation and action orientation. You will also find much to interest you about health and well-being, working with advisors and working with your community.
Comprehensive marketing activities
Possibly the first question to ask is, what is the future of a men’s shed in the new global environment, without being involved with the Internet?
The Internet brings it all together, at a price men’s sheds can afford, links members and the men’s shed to other useful networks and provides them with a wonderful resource for building a knowledge base for members to access
Specific economic and social consequences of the massively connected world are hard to predict, but things like the cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and analytics will all play a part in the modern men’s shed.
The technology foundation stones for men’s sheds are already being laid to provide the members with a way to keep abreast of future they want to create.
Your will need to create a website and social media platforms in order for potential members to find you and to disburse information to them and existing members. Suppliers and funders will also be making use of your website and social media.
This will require some writing skills and an understanding of the potential of ‘Content Marketing’. You should be able to find someone in your community that can help you with both the writing and your marketing efforts. These skills will be important in maintaining momentum.
Provision of tools and equipment
Obviously, a men’s shed requires many different tools both in quality and number depending on the activity levels your are aiming at. Tools can run from painting supplies to heavy equipment for servicing vehicles.
You will find that the community can often provide you with much of what you will need. However, be careful of accepting secondhand equipment, particularly old electrical equipment. Proper instructions on equipment use should be a feature of your men’s shed.
The challenge here is to acquire the best equipment available, as much of it will be in constant use and in the hands of different users. Handyman or home equipment is generally not robust enough for a men’s shed.
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I always found the biggest challenges revolve around the attitudes of the local government and their cooperation.
The local government can make it easy to establish a men’s shed or, they can be so frustrating that nothing happens and the movers and shakers of the community become frustrated and stop trying.