As children’s activity providers, we have unique solutions to everyday problems. However, we rarely get to collaborate and see how others solve those problems.
Last weekend we went to the Recreational Director Summit held by Ali Stoffels at Rec Gym Pros. Twenty-eight passionate directors and managers sat together to brainstorm, collaborate, and learn from one another. Over an incredible eight hour day, we each shared some of our biggest struggles and our best solutions.
First… What is an Open Space Conference?
The Recreational Director Summit was run in an open space format, with a participant-driven agenda where the participants are the experts. Instead of setting a fixed agenda ahead of time, the managers and directors can discuss the issues most important and pressing to them personally.
We started off the conference by listing each of our key pain points or business challenges on index cards. As a group, we paired common topics together and created an agenda of breakout sessions that focused on practical issues that many of us shared.
Children’s Program Providers: The Same Problems, But Very Different Solutions.
As we broke off into our groups we discovered that we had so much in common. Almost all of us directors shared the same pressing concerns. However, our solutions were very different.
Instead of being lectured at by a professional, we brainstormed and figured out the solutions as a group. As we each shared our ideas on how to solve a problem, we also came up with new solutions collectively.
The shared experience created new solutions that none of us directors would have thought of on our own. In a lecture type setting, perhaps we would hear one or two great ideas. But in this setting we didn’t hear just good ideas – we created solutions to our common problems.
And… it was fun. It was engaging. It was powerful.
The Biggest Problem in Running A Children’s Recreation Business Is…
Ali started the conference with the stimulation question: “If you could outsource one part of your job what would it be?” The overwhelming response? A coaches training program.D
One director summed it up so well. We all want to avoid the “Thanks and See Ya.” Ultimately we want to retain the staff members that we spent so much time and effort onboarding and training.
So we brainstormed several of the key ways to educate our staff and keep them motivated. Ultimately though, the staffing issues led us to slowly focus in on a much bigger picture: operations management and process mapping. What if the problem wasn’t the staff but how we set up the system?
Through group conversation we discovered that we didn’t actually have an staffing issue – we had a management and systems problem. When we stepped back, we realized that our staffing issue stem from systemic errors in how we operated our programs.
And these systems and operations cannot be outsourced. That means, we all needed to solve our staffing problem in house. How do we create systems that set clear expectations, directions on how to meet the expectations, incentives to keep the expectations going, and quality assurance to keep checking that the expectations are meeting our programs ultimate goals?
We realized that process mapping was the solution to this problem.
Why You Should Network With Other Children’s Program Providers
The process of sharing ideas created an intimate and shared connection within the group. In the process of helping each other overcome our challenges as program providers, we connected with one another as people.
The connections we made through collaboration were so much more powerful than the usual conference or networking event.
The most exciting part of small group learning is that the outcome is always a surprise, you never know who you might hear from in each session. The perspective shift is innovating, exciting, and unexpected.
It felt like a powerful business-owners round-table. We all brought and took practical suggestions to the table. And the co-learning process created deep connections amongst the participants.
Are you interesting in learning from incredible business owners, directors, and managers in the children’s program industry? Ali’s next event, the Refresh Rec Retreat, is May 24 – 26, 2019 in Orillia, Ontario! Grab your spot before it’s too late!