Episode 32 – Guest: Shannon Harting

Your Sports Resource

Our guest, Shannon Harting, is the Board President of 757swim and a client of Your Sports Resource. In this episode, we discuss Shannon’s thoughts on building a great relationship with the Head Coach.

Spoiler she says it’s a combination on being a leader and knowing when to butt out!

Shannon also offers great advice on recruiting volunteers and how the work on the Vision, Values and Behaviors has made an impact on the club culture and how bought in the parents are because they did that work.

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TRANSCRIPT

00:00:03 Introduction

This is the Your Sports Resource podcast where each week you’ll learn actionable strategies that you can implement, so the operations of your club support your coaching staff and the direction of your organization. We are committed to excellence in youth sports leadership. Let’s get started.

Renata 00:00:25

Hello and welcome everyone to the Your Sports Resource podcast. Today, I’m really excited to have one of my clients on as a special guest. Her name is Shannon Harting and she is the president of 757 swim from Williamsburg, VA. So just to offer a bit of background, 757 is a USA Swimming Level 3 Bronze Club with approximately 300 swimmers and their head coach is Morgan Cordle.

00:00:52

Now I started with 757 because they had an urgent matter that needed to be resolved, but I won’t disclose what that was, but I work with Shannon and Morgan and her board to get through that situation.

00:01:05

And then from there, they decided to engage me to work with them on developing their vision values, and behaviors. And we went through a whole organizational design process as well.

00:01:16

So today we’re mainly going to talk about what it means to be the President of a swim club, president of a board of a swim club, and then we might talk a little bit about our working together. So, welcome Shannon, I am pleased to have you on the podcast

Shannon 00:01:31

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Renata 00:01:34

No problem, no problem. Now what I’d love for you to start with is just, you know, tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been at 757? And then maybe a little bit about your progression onto the board and to the President role.

Shannon 00:01:48

Sure, so I am inherently a business person, in my real job I own a hotel management company and have been doing that for 25 years. I don’t want to exactly date myself, but I’ve got lots of business experience that I brought to the role I was not a swimmer. I know you know college or high school-level athletic experience.

00:02:13

Anyone who knows me would tell you I’m a klutz and not coordinated enough to be an athlete. My husband wasn’t a swimmer either, so we found this world of swimming just because of a really passionate neighborhood swim coach that saw my son and was like “hey! his feet point outward, he’s a breaststroker, I want him” and so we kind of tumbled in without having any idea of what we were getting into.

00:02:35

And after a couple of years of summer swim, my son loved it, and so you know, we started exploring clubs and at time or at the time 757 was just starting up. In fact, the first time we asked our coach about it, she said, you know, there’s a new club starting. Why don’t you give it a couple months? Let’s see how this shakes out.

00:02:52

I think it might be something that would be a good fit and you’re interested in and so you know it’s like, OK, great, and so we ended up actually waiting about another six months before we joined the club. But didn’t know anything. Had no idea what we were in for.

00:03:09

But after, I want to say a year and a half my husband have since to be a PGA golf professional and so they asked me to run a fundraising golf tournament for the club and that was my entrance to, you know, the more you work. The more you work. So I was later asked to come on board as the secretary where I served for a year.

00:03:31

And then when 757 first started, there was a caveat that board members could only be on the board for four years.

00:03:39

And so I came in on the board at three years, and then at that 4th year all of a sudden we realized that a ton of people were rolling off the board and there was really no one to roll into that President role and so I had only been on the board a year but they were basically two of us that were staying that were potential candidates and the second person wasn’t able to do.

00:04:04

So I don’t know if it was so much that I sought it out or the position picked me, or karma or fate, but that was in May of 2019 and I took office in August of 2019. At the same time. You know over that summer in between, when I was elected and when I took office.

00:04:28

We had our second full-time head coach at the time. We only had 140 members and two full-time employees and one of them decided to move home to New Jersey to be closer to family and so that was a struggle from, you know.

00:04:42

OK, you’re walking in and this is a you know, small club and you’ve got now half your staff gone. And then six months later we were in COVID and we had all of those challenges.

00:04:54

And then a year after that, we ended up being faced with either, you know, you have to buy your pool or you could end up losing control of your swim space. So I had no idea what I was walking into when somebody said, hey, you’re one of two people that’s been here a year.

00:05:10

Could you step up and do this and you know at the time my husband said it was an intelligence test and I failed when I said yes.

00:05:20

But we’ve done you know, I look back on it now and so much fun stuff has happened and so much growth that I wouldn’t change a thing, but it was definitely I had no idea what I was jumping into.

Renata 00:05:33

Yeah, so there’s a couple of things in there that I wanna pick apart, but the first one is because I think it’s it’s really relevant to a lot of clubs is that you know, you said you don’t understand the impetus, but like you fell into the president’s role and I think that that’s pretty common in a lot of clubs that they take whoever really puts their hand up because they’re so desperate for volunteers. And one of the things that I try to work through with clubs is OK.

00:05:59

It’s OK to have that mindset to a point. But you have to actually recruit for skill sets because it’s not just a kids’ Sports Club, right? It is actually a business and you need leadership skills to be the President of an organization such as a swim club. No matter what size it is.

00:06:24

Now I know you already had that background as you’ve mentioned, but like what do you think the right skills are for someone to be the president of a, generally, cause I know the role is different for every club, right?

00:06:37

Some are very active and involved in, in the doing and some are more guidance and leadership. But like what skills do you think you feel lend themselves to the role that clubs really should be looking for?

Shannon 00:06:49

You know, I think it takes someone who is able to see the big picture because it’s so easy to get focused on what matters to your child or your child’s group and I think as a president or even a board member, you really have to be able to look at what’s best for the whole, even if that’s not what is best for you all the time, because there’s no situation that’s going to perfectly serve every athlete, unfortunately.

00:07:14

So it really is. It takes someone that is able to look at the big picture. Certainly a leadership component, but I think that that really you have to have a leadership component, but you also have to know when to butt out.

00:07:31

You know it’s very difficult. I have a strong personality. I’ve run my own businesses. I think I have a good idea of how things should always go.

00:07:39

And more than once, Morgan has had to say to me. You know what you’re overstepping here. You need to step back and thankfully we have a good enough relationship that I can take that and go. OK. You know that this is not my role, and let’s look at it.

00:07:53

You have to be able to kind of navigate that, but also not get your feelings hurt super easily and you have to be able to really communicate with your members. If you’re not a people person, this is not the job for you, because you’re going to get 10 million Emails, probably not 10 million. That’s an overstatement. But there are times when I open.

Renata 00:08:16

It probably feels that way though.

Shannon 00:08:16

There are moments, yes, where you know whether it’s questions or information and if you mind being bothered then it’s going to drive you crazy. You know I’m someone who I would much rather someone just shoot me a quick e-mail and say, hey, where’s this? What’s that, and you know, I can say. You know what?

00:08:35

And hopefully, try and teach them and say, you know, this is where you can go on the website to find this information in the future. But if you’re going to get annoyed by every single one of those little emails then, it’s just going to drive you crazy.

00:08:47

You really have to enjoy teaching and helping members along, and it’s nice for me to know that I was once someone who was clueless of the swim world because I can relate to those new families that are. Like what, huh? You know, you have to be able to relate to that.

00:09:06

So you know you mentioned talking about Morgan telling you like hey really staying in lane kind of thing. But, and I, I think one of the conversations that I tend to end up having with clubs, and it’s usually one way or the other, is that you have to let whether it’s your swim school director, your head coach, or the person who runs any form of program in the business, you have to let them own their role.

00:09:35

But what I typically see is either the Board is massive and micromanaging and finger-wagging, or they’re the exact opposite. They’re completely hands-on with no support and no accountability. How do you feel like, and if you do, how do you feel like you straddle that line and do the balance of letting Morgan own her role, but also not being afraid to hold, you know whoever her or anybody else accountable to ensure that they follow through on what the vision or what the delivery should be or the outcome and goals should be for the club.

Shannon 00:10:15

So I think that’s an area where we really had a challenge and it goes back and forth. There are times where, especially because of our growth, when we were a club of 150, she didn’t have the resources to be able to do everything herself, and so we had to be a little more involved, and we still aren’t to the place where we can, you know. Just be procedural and you know set policy and step back.

00:10:41

There are times where she needs support, but frankly  it is an area we have struggled with because you know parents come to board members and they’re like, hey, I think this, and hey, can I do that? They’re all wonderful, great ideas, but if you put yourself on the receiving end as a head coach, if all seven board members are calling in hand-pecking you with every idea from every member they’ve gotten.

00:11:06

It’s going to drive you absolutely insane, and so frankly, that’s been something that you have really helped us with. I think that’s an area that was a struggle for us. As we have grown and it was really invaluable when you were able to come into town and sit with the entire board and kind of say you guys need to stay in your lane.

00:11:25

And you know, if there’s a problem, you know this is how you can respond, because some of it is, you know, as a board member you are still a man of the people, meaning you are in the bleachers in the stands at swim meets, or you know, at whatever the athletic you know, tie. If it’s in the fields or whatever, but you’re out there with all the other parents and so they see you and want to give you feedback and be the representative, and that’s awesome. And I love that.

00:11:56

But at the same time, if every single idea you get, you then go running back with or every single “hey, there was a typo in this email” and you run back with all that. It drives people crazy and so you’ve got to know the big picture. Think about it and I think you were really helpful and kind of outlining some of those roles and responsibilities for us so that we all really had a good understanding of where we should be operating. And yet, at the same time, we also want to support so at any time the member wants to come to us, we want to hear that feedback, but then we’re able to kind of filter that through some of what you taught us and say OK, is this something needs to be acted on or is this something that I can help educate someone? Or you know, where can we go from here? You know, as opposed to running back with everything?

Renata 00:12:48

Yeah, I think the key factor to my mind is building that relationship because you want a  relationship to where let’s say Morgan was just thinking of something really, she’s trying to solve a problem and she like went way out there on her creativity right? And it was just foreign to anything that you’ve ever done before.

00:13:08

Well, you want her to be able to be comfortable or any head coach to be comfortable enough to say, “Hey, I wanna float this idea.” I wanna put this forward because being innovative is going to be key for you guys to stay ahead of your membership and to be relevant to the community, right?

00:13:24

But you may, as far as the accountability is concerned go, “Ah, I understand your reasons. I love one, two and five, three and four can we mitigate these problems? Cause we see this is coming down the pike, how can we handle that?”

00:13:38

And I think the problem is with that relationship piece missing with a lot of clubs they don’t get to have that back and forth of a board truly supporting the head coach because often 9 times out of 10 they hear about an idea after it’s already been tossed out and implemented. And then it all comes crashing down.

00:13:57

And then the board is, uh, you know on the back flip, because everybody’s coming and complaining and they can’t even support the head coach because they’re taking all the complaints about something they didn’t even know about. So, I do believe it’s a really good delicate balance between ownership and accountability, but it all stems from that relationship piece.

Shannon 00:14:17

Yeah, and we are really fortunate, I think I’ve met a lot of different folks. And we are very fortunate to have Morgan because she is a forward-thinker. And so she does, you know, like to try some stuff out-of-the-box, but I think that she’s really good at filtering and probably, this is a better question for her.

00:14:40

But she’s really good at filtering, you know. Having the check box, the boxes she checks with questions OK. Is this in the budget? Because if it’s not in the budget then she’s going to go to someone and say, “Hey, you know is this? Is this doable? Can we make room for this?”

00:14:54

But if it’s already something where we’ve built some discretion where it fits into a budget line where we knew we were going to spend some money on XY or Z, we just weren’t really sure what that was going to look like. Then she knows OK, she’s got that availability to her. And then secondly, does it fit with our policies?

00:15:11

Meaning, you know, does it conflict with any formal policy that’s been set by the board, so you know, once we cross those hurdles, the last one really has to do with, you know where you helped us in developing our vision, values, and beliefs because that those provide a good litmus test of OK. Does it fit with these items? And then once you go through all of that, then yes, she might.

00:15:31

You know she’s very good at keeping us informed and she’ll shoot emails if something happens during the month, but then she has a monthly coaches report that she gives to us at the board meetings, but she’s very good at recognizing where we might get feedback and trying to have us ready for that. Before, you know, there’s any fallout.

Renata 00:15:50

Right? OK, great, that’s great advice for those who are listening. I love it.

00:15:56

So are you able to give us an example of a problem the board had to work through and how you navigated through that? The back and forth and how you came to a decision and how you worked together to solve that problem.

Shannon 00:16:12

So I’m going to give an example that relates to COVID and so I know that may not. Hopefully, we are never going to be in that situation again, but I thought it was a unique situation because there was a lot of question about when to reopen the pool deck to parents for them to be able to come in and watch practices.

00:16:36

And for every parent that you know, we had parents that said, you know we want every child on the pool deck to be in a mask at all times when they’re not in the water. Parents that said, you know, realistically, if they’re swimming and they just hop out to go to the bathroom, we don’t think they should have a mask at all and everything in between.

00:16:52

And on the board, we had, you know, both ends of the spectrum and it really was challenging to try and find something. I mean, at one point a few parents had gotten together and gone to one board member and really put him on the spot.

00:17:05

And you know he came to us and said, the people have spoken, and his attitude was he had heard from 5 members and of our, at that time 220 member club. He had heard from 5 members. The people have spoken and these things needed to happen, which wasn’t necessarily all of the people.

00:17:24

And it didn’t necessarily fit with all of our, you know, our processes. There were so many things to think about. You know it’s safe sport procedures had changed quite a bit from before COVID to after COVID, so for reopening the pool deck, what other, what new things do we have to put in place to be compliant with safe sport and so we really had to all come together, we consulted experts.

00:17:57

We had a team of people within our club that were healthcare professionals that we were able to kind of call on and say OK, what’s reasonable and the best advice we were given and this is what we ended up doing. There’s a gentleman, Steve Quinn, who’s one of our parents and is also an ER doctor.

00:18:15

And he said you need to pick a board or some type of organization and follow them. He said for example and in our case, we picked the Williamsburg James City County School Board and he said if you say we are just going to follow what they do then that really takes the pressure and the impetus off of you.

00:18:37

He said you guys don’t need to sit back as a board and debate back and forth.

00:18:41

But find an organization who you trust and respect, and it might be, you know for other clubs and other situations it might be we’re just going to follow the USA Swimming guidelines or we have you know, XYZ club that we feel like is our mentor club that we’re trying to trend toward and for us as a smaller club in Virginia. We, a lot of times we’ll look at tide swimming in Nova Swimming, who have kind of especially Tide, I feel like its a few years ahead of us, but in the progression of kind of steps that we’re taking and we were really fortunate, they recommended you to us, and I think that that’s been key to our growth, but you’ll look at key other clubs and really just find an organization that you say, OK, I’m going to really trust that these folks and again back to our current problem. In that case, it was the Williamsburg James City County School board.

00:19:32

We’re going to trust that they’ve done the research that they know what they’re doing, and we’re going to mentor that, and he said. And as long as you’re following another organization. That is a trusted organization, you won’t really get in trouble for it, and so that’s how we kind of came together to agree, to maybe disagree in our personal lives.

00:19:47

And you know, maybe this isn’t how we would all run our own businesses, but that as a non-profit as a member of USA Swimming as someone that represents 300 Members, this was something we could stand behind. That wasn’t an opinion.

00:20:03

It wasn’t one person thinks this one person thinks that, but something firm that we could say, you know, this is something we can all be on board with and present a united front.

Renata 00:20:14

And you think that really helped with people who were coming in with their personal bias that kind of pulled you together. Like you said, they kind of you agreed to disagree, but felt confident in that following another organization to where you trusted their process.

Shannon 00:20:28

Yeah, I think. It took some of the ego and personal sting out of it because I think people can initially feel personally attacked and feel like they’ve got skin in game and it’s so important to remember that what you would do at home or in your own personal business that you own.

00:20:48

Can’t be 100% the same in what you would do for a nonprofit, so , you know that was really something we had to work through and just decide that you know. This was a universal decision.

Renata 00:21:05

Yeah, alright good, good. That’s great, alright. I wanna shift gears for a second. Can you tell us, I’d like for you to share with the audience what impact you feel the work we did together. Either with the, what impact it had on the club, either through the vision values, and behaviors, or the organizational design, or both.

00:21:25

You know what kind of impact do you think that or, and I’m not trying to say that what I do with you but you as a club doing that work? What kind of impact do you feel that it’s had on your club over the last year?

Shannon 00:21:40

So I really feel like the vision, values and beliefs gave us a larger direction, as I mentioned, our club has grown quite a bit and really quickly, so we’ve gone from 150 members to over 300 members, so more than doubled in size in about 3 years, and so inevitably we were having trouble servicing all of our members and really understanding how we had changed from a club.

00:22:09

That was, you know, a small town feel and everybody knew everybody and everything you know and everybody knew the vision and values, right?

00:22:16

Like everyone that had helped start the club was on board and they created. You know what the club culture was. And of course, that was the same to now at 300 members there were people who didn’t know everyone’s name and so and when you first mentioned to us, vision and values.

0:22:37

To be frank, I thought, well, you know, I think we know who we are. Like I, I feel like we need to figure out a way to get volunteers more involved and get you know, some things under control. But I feel like we know our vision and our values. I think that’s OK, you know, and I thought is this really the most valuable, like use of our time?

00:22:55

And then you know you came into town and we were spending time together. And, you know, as you’re sitting there going through it, you’re thinking, man, this is all big picture stuff, but I’ve got a list of like 25 operational things sitting in the office waiting for me.

00:23:09

And like you know, gosh. This this how am I gonna get it all done and here I’m sitting here talking about this Foo Foo stuff. And yeah, and that’s it. Like you’re you, you thinking there’s a million other things you could be doing, and then now in hindsight and Morgan and I ironically had this conversation three days ago.

00:23:26

Ironically, it has really framed the whole, the whole club, and really positioned us for growth. It is what has professionalized what I think we all kind of felt in our hearts, but it was interesting when you had all those cards with different words on them.

00:23:49

We each had a different word. We would have put on it. It was articulated slightly differently, and so it was great to kind of pull that together and come together on the same ones. And we’ve been able to use that.

00:24:00

You know we have bought in full bore on the vision values and belief, meaning if you go to the homepage of our website they are there loud and proud on banners. We have had banners made at our club meeting our initial full team meeting at the beginning of the year.

00:24:17

We had, you know, stands with every single one of them. You know it is something we have embraced full bore for our coaches. They send weekly emails and Morgan sends, you know quarterly emails and those each have a theme based around that month value.

00:24:40

It is a litmus test for you. We were talking a little while ago about the decisions. You know whether Morgan feels she needs to bring them to us always, or whether she can go out on a limb.

00:24:51

Or, you know, when there’s something on a board basis that we aren’t all on the same page for, it really provides a backdrop for all of those things a litmus test that say, does this fit here? Is this the right thing there? And so while I might have told you when you first recommended it, oh, I don’t know. I’m not positive we need that.

00:25:16

In hindsight, I’m so glad we did it, and Morgan said the same thing like when we had the conversation like it just changed the culture and the standard, and I can’t tell you so in September we have our full club meeting and you know all of our new members.

00:25:35

That’s an opportunity for them to come pick up their uniforms and kind of meet everybody. And whatever, I can’t tell you how many Members after that meeting came up to me stopped me, and said, wow, this is just so professional.

00:25:48

This is so well done. We’re so impressed. This is unlike anything we’ve ever been involved in, you know, with baseball or soccer, or you know, whatever their current club was. I mean they could you know, certainly, it doesn’t have to be swim.

00:26:00

But the level of professionalism that provided really spoke to parents, and I think it’s a difficult time right now, I’m just going on and on, so feel free to stop me. If you want me to.

Renata 00:26:10

No, it’s good, it’s good.

Shannon 00:26:11

But no, Sports have gotten expensive. Everything has gotten expensive right now, and so it’s hard when you’re writing a check every month or an annual check. And it’s a lot of money and you’re like, man, what is the value in me spending all this money on my kids’ education when I’m spending so much or not education on my kids’ sport.

00:26:31

When I’m spending already so much on groceries and so much on utilities like the cost of everything has gone up. And why are you not cutting out your kids’ sport? And I think so many of them felt like the vision and values.

00:26:46

And were added value to what it costs to be a member of our club because it showed not just how you know we’re going to make your kid a superstar and they’re going to the Olympics someday because let’s face it, they probably aren’t,  you know and not say, I don’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want to shock anyone, but they probably aren’t.

00:27:07

But we are building good humans and we do have a culture of strong vision, values, and beliefs, and I think when parents see that it helps them to feel good about the investment they’re making. Because it is an investment.

00:27:22

I mean it’s not just teaching their kids the breaststroke. But it’s also teaching their kid integrity. It’s also, you know, teaching their kid to be responsible and ready.

00:27:31

It’s also all those things, so I feel like it really, as we’ve had to, you know, evaluate costs going into this difficult time. You know we’re of inflation, etcetera, etcetera. Having those things there have helped parents justify making the investment in the club.

Renata 00:27:50

That’s amazing, I think I use you guys as an example quite a bit because like you said you were, you guys were all in on walking the walk on the behaviors and values and I think I still have clubs that kind of do the work, but they have no interest in making it real and so from my perspective that’s just a waste of money, effort and time, right?

00:28:11

So I think because you guys, you know you took it on board and you incorporated it into all of your volunteer work. All of the work that you do with the swimmers and the families, and then all of the staff and it’s on your job descriptions.

00:28:26

It’s everywhere, right? And I think teaching like you said, making great humans, great young adults, you know, teaching to the swimmers is another area. So you completely embrace the work and you made it a reality.

00:28:39

You’re walking the walk and I think that’s why you’re getting the benefits and you know we talk all the time that people want to align with other people who meet their values. Well, that’s no different.

00:28:51

Like you said, when you’re spending the money on a club, you know you want to align with organizations that align with your values, and that is not only from the family members. I’m sure if you haven’t already. You will see that come.

00:29:05

In through sponsorships and everything else. Because you know, these people wanna know that they’re sponsoring a club or using their money wisely and they want to align themselves with clubs who actually walk the walk on what they talk about.

00:29:16

And it’s not just ah, you know words or you know words on paper, so I have to commend you guys because you went all out and I use you guys as an example all the time on the vision, values and behaviors. So congratulations on that and I’m so happy to hear that you’ve, you know you’ve made those.

Shannon 00:29:34

We appreciate it. Like I said it, if you hadn’t led us down the path, it’s not something we would have chosen on our own so.

Renata 00:29:42

Right, right, right? Alright, I have two more questions for you. First one is I wanna go back to something you said at the beginning of the conversation when you said you guys were faced with either having to buy your pool or finding another pool.

00:29:57

I think it might serve the listeners to understand, and I know you know you don’t have to spend all day, but I think you know kind of understanding how you guys prioritize the decision like. What did you go through in order to decide, Oh no, we’re gonna buy the pool because that’s what you did versus you know, go and find another one.

00:30:17

So how did you come to the decision to purchase the pool?

Shannon 00:30:21

So that’s really interesting, and I think that you know to backtrack a little bit. I believe you know we are end up in the right place at the right time for the role that we need to have and the first President of the club when the clubs split off from another local club happens to be a former member of the Peace Corps and that was necessary to get us started.

00:30:45

You know, at the right time and you know. Heal wounds and it was actually fantastic that I was not a part of that and didn’t carry forward any of that drama, emotion, angst, whatever.

00:30:56

My history in you know properties was knowing how to buy a property was in banks financing. So I was fortunate to have that knowledge to be able to guide the club through where we were. We had worked with, so when 757 started we were actually in an outdoor pool, an outdoor 25-yard pool. We got a neighborhood to agree to let us put in a heater and practice there through the winter with six lanes and 30 kids and tried to make it work.

00:31:25

And then shortly after that, we worked with a facility locally known as the WISC. The Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex and talked to them about the possibilities of adding a pool to their facility.

00:31:38

And so we did a lot of research and gave them information from USA Swimming and long story short, they decided to, you know, jump off the deep end. And it’s my understanding I wasn’t there at the time.

00:31:50

I was not a part of 757 at the time, but it’s my understanding that in all of the pro formas, everything was laid out to say, basically having us secured as their main renter would take care of the mortgage, and that you know the, the other cost, the insurance, the power, the payroll, whatever that they would need to have a really robust lessons and instructional program to fill out the other part of the equation.

00:32:20

And so it was kind of too, and there were lots of performances to say that that could be very successful and work well. The challenge ended up being while the folks at the WISC are fantastic guys and they have been really, really successful, their soccer guys, and they really didn’t know how to dig in and embrace, it was great that they had us and so they knew they had part of the equation.

00:32:47

But they never built a prominent and successful lessons and instructional program. And so long story short, we were three years into our lease with them and the pool was losing money hand over fist and basically, their position was that they weren’t going to keep it.

00:33:06

So they were either going to sell it to someone and we were going to lose what was then. What is our home primary water or it was going to get turned over potentially to the county to run. In which case we would have to share time with other clubs, and so we were in this position of losing, you know, basically, at this point we had over 200 swimmers losing our space. You know they had talked about. Or you can stay and we’ll double your rent. While we couldn’t afford that, that wasn’t an option, and so there weren’t a whole lot of choices and we were at this point.

00:33:46

It was 2020 late 2020 and so through COVID there had been a fair amount of really attractive SBA loans out there with really attractive interest rates, and so we started. In full disclosure we did not end up using one of those, so you don’t have to have a COVID SBA loan to make this work.

00:34:09

But it’s what got us thinking. OK, this could be possible. How could we do this? Because really losing the pool wasn’t an option. I mean we needed it and so we had to put together our own numbers on. Can we make the lessons program work that they you know?

00:34:27

I think they just really didn’t have the expertise and the knowledge you know they embarked on something and thought that it was going to be easier than it was, and a pool can be a whole animal of its own. I think they may have underestimated the repairs, the chemicals, the whole thing.

00:34:41

But you know, we then had to prepare pro formas and you know bless Morgan’s heart. To her credit, she her history is in athletics and in coaching, but she is so willing to learn and she is so willing to dig her teeth in. And now she knows a whole lot more about financing and insurance and buying a pool than she ever (Buddy, you got to calm down) than she ever has before and so we were able to pull it off and we put together a capital campaign and we were able to raise money from local sponsors from businesses in town. You know it was an all-in, all-hands-on-deck effort. But it wasn’t what we chose. It wasn’t that we wanted to be pool owners.

00:35:28

I think we would have been happier to have continued paying our rent and just be renters and not have to worry about when the pump breaks or when the fire alarm goes off at 2:00 AM or all of those pieces of the puzzle. But I do think it has allowed us to grow in a way that we would not have grown had we not taken that step.

Renata 00:35:53

Yeah, and it gives you the flexibility, as well you know, to make changes or you know, like you said if you go down or you go up or you can add more programs that just offer so much flexibility as well instead of having to constantly renegotiate your status at the pool with the…

Shannon 00:36:09

Yeah, you know and they had, you know I went through one renegotiation with them.

00:36:15

And they had all the leverage, you know, so they could charge us whatever they wanted. So that was no fun, at least this, at least now it is ours and you know we can make those decisions.

Renata 00:36:29

Right, great, great, great, all right. I have one more question for you. So, I mentioned earlier that one of the problems with having new board members is sometimes you don’t have people that are really skilled and they’ve just put their hand up to volunteer because there’s space and you need to volunteer.

00:36:50

What is some advice you would offer the board, other boards out there and trying to recruit new board members, like what are the things that they should do that would make the process easier?

00:37:05

If you don’t want to go that route, you could also go if you’re thinking about becoming a board member. What are the things that you should know and understand before you put your hand up to be the board member.

Shannon 00:37:14

So I would say that in recruiting every board needs to come up with a checklist of minimum requirements of what it’s going to, what people need to be able to offer to make it work because there are a ton of well-meaning members who think that we like meet once a month for coffee and talk about suggestions and just implement a few things.

00:37:39

Who would all love to be on the board? And yet they don’t have the capacity. You know, there are lots of people with great ideas, but are they going to be there when it follows through? And so I think a checklist that they can that any board can send out to potential new members or really thoughtful membership application like board membership application is really beneficial as a screening tool and as an educational tool for the other side.

00:38:12

Because somebody who thinks that they’re applying needs to know what they’re getting into. You know, a few times we’ve brought people on board and they thought Oh my gosh, I had no idea and then they get in and they’re there for two years and they don’t want to not fulfill their responsibility, but they never had the time in the first place.

00:38:31

You know, they don’t want to not love club, they don’t want to let anybody down, but it was never a fit from the get-go. So you know the skill sets, yes, are important. And I think the skill sets being diverse are important. So if you get a slew of good applications then more power to you.

00:38:49

Because I’ve found that you know, once they know the commitment level, getting the number of applications is a challenge, so you know there is a point at which you need people. I mean I recognize that if you can’t find anyone, you need people.

00:39:04

But in order for your club to really soar, those people need to have some diversity. For example, one of our new board members, Margaret Keithley, is, I don’t know what they’re called. An independent marketing consultant. She’s built her own marketing business and she’s fantastic.

00:39:22

But Margaret is wonderful at getting people to do anything and make them feel good about it. So she’s in charge of our volunteers and she can explain to them really eloquently why it’s important what the positive impact is, why it needs to happen.

00:39:43

But she’s also not going to let herself get run over, you know, if somebody says, oh hey, I need to, you know, I found out my kid doesn’t swim till. I can’t work my morning shift because I found out my child doesn’t swim till later.

00:39:55

She is very good at coming back and saying, well no this is what you committed to, and this is what we need, and you know so she’s not going to get run over but she has that great unique skill set.

00:40:05

Our Treasurer happens to be the CFO of NASA Langley, and you know, that’s unique to the Virginia Peninsula, but we have an area of or of an office of NASA here and we have their CFO, as a former swim mom and our Treasurer.

00:40:20

And so, she brings, you know, not only, because we had a couple of people volunteer to be our treasurer. And they’re like, oh, yeah. Well, you know I’ve kept the books for my sons, um, Boy Scout Club or for my church and it was great and I’m going well, we have a $1,000,000 budget.

00:40:38

You know, this is not. You need to be able to read the balance sheet. You need to know, you know all the pieces of the puzzle and Lisa is just fantastic at that. You know, we’ve just got a very diverse. If you have a bunch of people that are all from the same background, it’s not going to accomplish the tasks you need to accomplish.

Renata 00:40:59

Yeah, there will always be gaps in tasks and work.

Shannon 00:41:01

Well, and we really wanted a lawyer on the board, and we talked to a few of them among our membership when we were recruiting board members last year and one gentleman, in particular, said, listen, I love the club.

00:41:14

I don’t have time to be on the board, he said, but I am happy to offer you legal advice anytime you need it and he said so you know, I’m not gonna, I can’t be the board member, but at least we were able then to say, OK if we don’t find an attorney to fill one of these slots, at least we have somebody we can fall back on. And so we were able to, you know, look in some other areas and we’re really fortunate.

Renata 00:41:39

Well, I love that, I love that because you know, you’re already demonstrating that you have to have a balance of skills and capacity. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are if you don’t have the capacity to do the work, so what you ended up doing is turning that into, it still solves the problem, but it’s a bit creative, right?

00:41:57

So, they don’t have to donate as much time. They can be an advisor and you can check in and out with them, and they’re not constantly having to be on the board and deliver monthly as the other board members have, so that’s really, that’s good. That’s really great.

Shannon 00:42:08

Yeah, that was helpful. I think the biggest thing really is the capacity that’s the one I would stress because it’s, um, I don’t think people have any idea how much time it takes, and you know when you’ve got members and this isn’t, you know.

00:42:27

I think every club does this, but they are in it for the extent that their kid is involved, you know. I mean, that’s what got us all involved in the 1st place, right? But if you are for example. The social chair of a specific group or the group leader of a parent leader of a specific group and then your child moves groups and you say, OK, I’m out.

00:42:49

I can’t like I can do it for the new group, but I’m no longer part of this group. Without recognizing that there is a, you took on this responsibility and there’s a group of families, you know certainly can we look for someone new to do it and form a transition. That’s one thing, but when you’re just like, well, my child’s no longer in that group. So, I’m done. I recognize that yes, it is no longer a direct benefit to you as an individual or your child, but you have taken on this responsibility on behalf of the club.

00:43:19

And so, if someone, if you’ve seen that type of behavior and then that person is like. But I’d love to be on the board, well, not everything that you do as a board member is going to directly affect you, your child.

00:43:36

You have to be willing to have the capacity and have the capacity for the club as a whole, not just have the capacity to the extent that when my kid is on deck and at practice or in a meet, I’m happy to do whatever you need me to do because. I need to be there anyway.

00:43:54

Well, that’s great, but we need you to be willing to have the capacity on that half of the entire club.

Renata 00:44:02

Right, right. And I think you said it well that you know a lot of times when people jump on the board, they think they’re going to be able to affect change for their kid and their kids’ group.

00:44:11

And often that’s nowhere near any of the work that they do, so you know. It’s kind of. Yeah, yeah, so it’s interesting.

00:44:19

All right Shane. Well, I really appreciate you coming on board. I’m sure that you know, a lot of people are able to take on your experiences and your words of advice and apply it to their own organization.

00:44:31

So I really appreciate you spending time with us today.

Shannon 00:44:33

I appreciate it and we appreciate all that you’ve done for us Renata, I have to say the biggest thing when you say that after a club you know employees you or uses your services that you’ll be available for a year.

00:44:47

You really do that, and we really appreciate it. Like the ability to call you and bounce something off of you or ask a question and then not like get a bill every time I ask a question.

00:44:59

A like you completely deliver on that like for anyone you’re working with who thinks is she really going to do that?

00:45:05

She absolutely delivers on that, and I think the value of that is almost equal to what we spent on the work itself. I mean, it just really has been a wonderful asset, so thank you.

Renata 00:45:17

Oh thanks, that’s great. Thank you very much, I appreciate it, alright, thank you.