Energize transitioned from a small business unit within a Council to become a Company Ltd by Guarantee in the summer of 2012 and within a year had tripled the head count of both Trustees and staff. A lot had been done in the transition to ensure that we had a clear approach to delivering and growing the business inevitably there were new ideas and the local landscape for sport and physical activity was also changing quite dramatically.
In early 2013 we had recruited some new Trustees with new ideas and also some of the staff were beginning to express a desire to progress through their annual appraisals.
The Chief Executive had taken part in local workshops and heard some positive things through other County Sports Partnerships who had benefitted and so a plan was hatched.
Issue(s) we faced
Traditionally County Sports Partnerships had worked with predominantly sporting partners, ie National Governing Bodies of Sport, Local Authority Leisure Departments, local community sports clubs and the like. Energize was no different but it was becoming increasingly clear that if we were going to make more of a difference to local participation rates we were going to have to extend our reach.
As a newly formed charitable company with a strategic role we were becoming more engaged with our local community and voluntary sector and recognised by public health but it was clear that we needed to talk in a different language in these worlds.
Like all community and voluntary sector organisations we were / are also being challenged to diversify our budgets. To look at new sources of income in order to sustain our business and grow into new markets.
What we did
- We mapped out the process – we knew it would be important to involve our newly formed board of trustees and also engage our enthusiastic team of managers and staff. So we drafted a 9 month project plan and developed a new business and marketing strategy.
But we didn’t just employ them and leave them to it, our part time marketing & communications manager worked with them throughout the project. Developing her skills and ensuring that what came out of the work could be deliverable at the end.
- We also factored in research and consultation with stakeholders – both those we work with traditionally and some of the organisations we are trying to work with in the future.
What went well
Three particular engagement activities worked really well for us
- We have an annual awards evening with over 200 people in attendance and we used this event as a means to consult with our stakeholders – we got back some really useful information which has informed our rebranding.
- We spent a number of team meetings considering ‘our values’ and how we would live them which I think has really helped us all to consider our approach to customers. Staff particularly also had a considerable input into our brand promise – ‘to help people find something that makes their heart beat faster’. I have already experienced staff using the phrase with potential customers.
- In January we had a board / staff away day and staff team meetings where we did a SWOT and considered new business ideas; these were presented ‘Dragons Den’ style to the board. All the team were involved and we were careful to create a supportive and inclusive environment. Some really good priority themes came from the day – and not just the ones the senior management team expected.Now we have a six year business strategy which the team and board are behind. We have refreshed our brand and have a new website and CRM system launching in the autumn. Seeing the tangible outputs from all the discussion and planning has been very rewarding for all.
What didn't go well
We didn’t have a great response to our public engagement – we learnt that we needed a more focussed approach targeted through specific communication channels and with appropriate styles if you’re to get better engagement here.
Towards the end of the project we also had some staff transition - nothing to do with the project and all very positive in one sense but it did cause some challenges to help newcomers get up to speed. We have included further team business planning sessions to aid this.
Key lessons learnt
We still have a long way to go but already we have been successful in:
- Winning funding alongside some non-traditional community and voluntary sector partners to enable people with a disability in Shropshire to access recreational activity.
- Public Health departments are becoming much more interested in working with us – as they see our interest in delivering wider outcomes and I have already experienced people asking how they might become an Energize Trustee in future.
- I think confidence within the team has also grown. Staff are much clearer about how we as an organisation are planning to grow and make an even bigger difference. Evidence of this came in a manager nominating Energize for a local business award and us being a shortlisted finalist.
It’s been a really positive (although challenging at times) experience. It’s really helped us as an organisation to take that next step.