#CATJRF: Taking over the local pool? Get your business plan sorted before taking the plunge!

There’s no doubt taking on the ownership and running of a community asset is a daunting task. If you don’t think it is then you haven’t thought it through properly! On the flip side it can be hugely rewarding and if you plan it right it will be well worth the effort.

There’s no set process for taking on a community asset but one thing that you should definitely do is put together a business plan. Sounds tedious I know but the public body you are taking the asset from will want to know in some detail what your plans are – you can’t just pop in to the Council, sign a document and all of a sudden you’re in charge (or at least you shouldn’t be able to!). So hopefully you’ll see the benefit of a bit of proper planning as you read on…

There are some key things you will need to consider if you embark on the journey towards running the local swimming pool or library – I’ve set out some of the key steps of the journey below. Excuse the business jargon!

Here’s a bit more info on each of the steps:

• Define your vision – You need to be really clear in your mind why you would want to take on this asset and what you want to achieve with it. Is it at risk of closure but still in demand by the community? Is it being under used or poorly used? Is it an important local fixture that the community would support to prevent it from being knocked down etc?

• Involve your stakeholders – Who else should you involve in this project? The key thing is that this needs to be a community asset so getting support from as many people as possible is helpful. Local schools, community groups etc can all play an important role.

• Get your team together- If you start the process – do you have the time and skills to see it through? You’ll need to do a variety of things like financial planning and contract negotiation etc so why not put a team together who have the right mix of skills. In any case it’s always helpful to be able to share the responsibility and work. Also, who is going to run the asset day to day if you take it on – will you need to take on staff?

• Do your market analyses – Who will use the asset? Why is it not fulfilling its potential? Is there another similar asset nearby that people are already using which is why this one is facing closure or underused? If there is then maybe, sad as it may be, it simply isn’t needed…

• Decide your organisation structure and governance – Thinking ahead, how would you organise yourselves to take on and manage the asset? Do you need to set up a company or a co-operative society? It will probably need to transfer to some form of legal entity. Within your new organisation how will you make decisions?

• Do the numbers – The finances are critical. If you got it could you make the numbers add up? Can you generate enough revenue from the asset to sustain it? The last thing you want to do is take on a big liability which ends up just being a massive drain on your own resources and energy. Do you need any additional investment to make it usable (a refurb maybe) and where will this come from? There may be grants that can be applied for – lottery money etc.

If you can think through this list and answer most of the questions positively and you haven’t been scared off… then you are probably in a pretty good position to go for it! Good luck.

Andrew Laird is a Director of Mutual Ventures, a social enterprise which specialises in helping public sector staff and communities take on the running of public services.