1 Two fingers to the downturn

The following article is adapted from Duncan McGilvray's motivational seminar of the same name held during Harrogate Week 2009. It focuses on the present, very negatively perceived financial situation which, if accepted, is self defeating and does no-one any good.

"Redundancies in the leisure and sports world - 100s of golf and sports clubs in trouble"

This is the sort of headline which has been reported recently and fills us with fear. We do not, however, have to accept it! We can be in control of our own destiny, we just have to be positive and not become one of the statistics.

Over the course of this article we will cover why our industry is particularly prone to being affected by any financial downturn and how you can avoid becoming a victim.

The situation and the way we are

The leisure industry in general, and golf in particular, is perceived by the general public as money rich, therefore, we do not get any sympathy when times are difficult ... so don't expect any help from the government! We grounds managers are a strange bunch indeed. There appears to be a tendency for us to work very much in isolation. Perhaps not as isolated now as in the past but still, probably, the most prone industry to depression and failure to seek help. We think we can do it all ourselves without any assistance.

There is also a tendency to accept someone else's plan for us, whether that be from officials or bosses who invariably do not know anything about the job that we do.This all adds up to a situation where we are extremely vulnerable to not being in control of our own destiny.

For us to be comfortable, confidentand happy in our professional positions we have to be in control of our own destiny.

Staying positive and communicating

The first, and the most important, point to make is please do not accept what you are told by the 'doom and gloom merchants' - take control and stay positive.

Communicate with your employer. Approach them and suggest a meeting to discuss the situation. Tell them you are concerned about the overall financial situation in the country, that you know it is not easy to manage an establishment such as ours and that you may be of some help in getting the whole organisation through this difficult time.

Communicate with your staff.Y ou may be surprised just how much they can help if you are honest about the situation within your organisation. People will rise to any challenge if you ask for their help and everyone pulls together.

Communicate with your colleagues. Locally, they will be experiencing similar problems and there is no point in reinventing the wheel. In my experience, if you ask a colleague for help they will gladly give it - it may not have been the case a long time ago when we experienced insular attitudes, but it certainly is now as witnessed on the various forums and message boards used throughout the profession, as well as the late night conversations and heated discussions experienced during Harrogate Week.

It's simple - communicate, communicate and communicate some more!

Overcoming problems. Where would we be without encountering problems? We wouldn't be able to solve them if they never happened, so just tell yourself there are no problems, just opportunities to learn and move forward!

Now a very controversial statement - if you want to stay positive don't join a union! - just my opinion, but based on my observations and backed up by the following reasoning. When you have a body which acts on your behalf in matters of employment it invariably transpires that you do not bother trying to stand up for yourself, and there is less chance of you seeking training in presentation and communication because someone is there to do it for you.

In my experience if you are considering joining a union then you have not been communicating effectively with your employer - employers will not get rid of you if you are key to the success of the organisation. So, put your efforts into making your organisation more successful and not looking for other people to fight your corner for you. Stand up for yourself.

What to do to ensure survival

In the short term just get involved - and the best way to get involved is to speak to your employer as previously stated. Make yourself indispensable; become part ofthe team.

In the medium term plan to be the best. If you are having problems and finding it difficult to justify your existence, then the only way to ensureyou stay long enough to influence your employer is to make plans and inform your employer. This may even mean accepting thaty ou have not been as good in your position as you could have been, but are planning to take the necessary steps to ensure the organisation thrives in the future with you on board.

In the long term become the best. Simply do what you have promised to do!

Here's a survey statistic which is very interesting. 83% of people who write down what they wish to achieve in their life actually achieve it. If you simply say it or think it, only a very small percentage actually get there. So plan it, write it down and go for it!

The importance of training

The successful have been trained - training in both communication and professional presentation is essential.You may have the skills to do the job but, if you cannot present and communicate the need for the tools and resources you need to carry out the job successfully, you will fail. I know many well skilled grounds managers who do not reach their full potential because they are not trained in communication and presentation.

Your staff. You can learn so much from your staff if you just ask them for their help. Self appraisal is a great way of finding out how you are perceived by your staff and, if you ask for their honest opinion and assure them there will be no repercussions, you can learn a lot.

Employers and colleagues. In the same way, seek the opinions of employers and colleagues, listen to them, then take on board what they say and become a better communicator and presenter.

Where to go for training. It is always very difficult to recommend specific trainers but in this case I have no problem in recommending Frank Newberry whom many will know and can verify my recommendation. Frank has now been working within the industry for twenty years and can empathise with us in a way that I have not experienced with any other individual.

To back up my observations, here are two scenarios involving two real people, one of which is me!

Kerran Daly (Course Manager at Gog Magog and a past BIGGA Chairman) is one of the best presenters in the business. He has always been very knowledgeable but, until a training session in presentation, he was so shy and self conscious he could not even stand up at his wedding and thank the bridesmaids! He now not only presents well, he even recites poetry and sings songs - confident enough you may think … but he can't sing!

Now me! I was the opposite o fKerran. I did stand up in front of people and talk. I thought I was good,but everyone else thought the opposite!

So, effectively, whatever I wanted to achieve could not be achieved because I could not present myself properly, whether at work talking to my employers and staff or in conference talks (described as arrogant and all knowing, something you do not find out until someone tells you - Frank and my fellow trainees on the training course did!).

Those are the two extreme examples at each end of the spectrum - everyone else is positioned somewhere between, and I can guarantee if you make the effort to be trained to communicate and present yourself well, you will never regret it.

Proof that it works - if you need proof that training works just talk to the winners - the successful have been trained, so seek them out and talk to them - ask for their help and they will gladly give it.

Mutually beneficial partnerships

In the same way as we as a company forge partnerships with other companies in an atmosphere of trust and loyalty, our aim is to forge partnerships with customers.Customers such as DeVere Oulton Hall, where Jim Brown is Estates and Golf Courses Manager, are important to our future business and it makes perfect sense to work together to ensure he gets value for money and exceptional service and, by providing this, we can be sure of future business.

I believe the companies who will thrive in the future will be the ones who will have an open book policy allowing customers access to company information regarding environmental and financial matters. Those who try to hide information will not be trustedt o serve the needs of their customersand clients.

Making your position more secure

It is a simple fact that, if you managey our golf course or sports ground, you are the most important person in the organisation.

Without acceptable surfaces to play on the organisation will not survive.We know our employers should know this but many do not because we have not communicated it effectively in the past. It is not their fault, but ours. With good communication and personal presentation you will succeed in getting this message across; the rest is easy, well, easier!

Remember you are the best, and most important, person in your organisation.

Control your own department. In every way possible convey what you do within your department to make it successful - the way you manage staff, time, budgets, communications, equipment etc. etc. the list is endless - if you convey this information before being asked (as you surely will be at some point in the future, usually when things are not going too well!) you will be permitted to be in control of your department and manage it in the proper manner.

Take responsibility. When you are wrong (it happens to all of us unfortunately) say you were wrong, learn from it and move on. Everybody makes mistakes - the secret is not to make the same mistakes again. When things are not quite going well don't hide in your office or workshop, confront it, there are real reasons for what has gone wrong and usually it is something out of our control.

Don't convey a list of excuses, just simple reasoning of the situation and the likelihood of the same thing happening again in the future will be minimised.

In summary

• Don't be afraid to ask for help from wherever you believe you will get it - you will not be disappointed

• If you are not the best at what you do already, plan to be the best

• Communicate and get involved

• Present yourself professionally

• Take control and, above all, stay positive

Good luck, and we will see you on the other side, a battered and bruised individual maybe, but a much stronger and wiser person I am sure.

Duncan McGilvray, Managing Director,Enviropro H2O Ltd

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Contact Kerry Haywood

07973 394037

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