January 18th, 2010 by Stuart Falla
Stuart Falla MBE was guest speaker at the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce lunch at the OGH Hotel, St. Peter Port in January 2010. Stuart Falla is Chairman of the Garenne Group, which has businesses in both Guernsey and Jersey that employ 500 people.
My chosen title today is “Putting something back in.” And whether or not you respect our current crop of States members they have at the very least have had the spirit, strength and fortitude to stand up and be counted. They are putting something back in.
Now that I’ve given up all that excitement, I’ve decided to join the ranks of the ‘grumpy old men’. In fact I think I’ve become pretty good at it over recent years. Not taken it yet exactly to an art form but at least verging on the edge of being a pain in the neck. Just ask my wife. She says I could get an ‘A’ level in it. But what’s my particular bug bear?
Well, we’re all incredibly lucky to live and prosper in this lovely island. We’re all quick to take advantage but are we as quick to put something back in to our community?
In my business career I’ve seen it as an essential skill to be able to recognise and observe trends. By doing this you hopefully get ahead of your competitors and then stay there.
Well there are non-business trends as well.
Generally people in Guernsey now work for companies that are based off island whereas formerly you tended to know personally the guy that owned the company. As such patterns of work are less flexible, time off for charitable or voluntary work less easy to secure and we tend to work harder and conform to UK norms. Most of us are concerned with trying to climb the corporate promotion ladder for a better pay packet.
People are generally marrying later and having children later in life compared with those in my or my parent’s generation. New parents are conscious of sharing the burden, parenthood, with their partner whilst trying to fit in as many holidays abroad as their mates and their peers.
Success is related to your remuneration package and to how early in life you can seriously contemplate retirement from a job that may never been as satisfying as you have made it out to be.
Sport is often seen as a way of keeping fit and you tend to move on from one sport to another as you get older. Accessing sport for what you want out of it rather than becoming integrated into a club and being concerned for its future.
You might join in some other endeavour, some hobby or activity because it would look good on your CV. Dropping it when the demands of something else becomes urgent. You feel that you must keep up with technology which itself is a private activity linked to a large public structure. Intimacy and connection with others is missing even though you may be a part of a social network.
As all this is happening around you, you may find time to moan that things aren’t as good as they used to be, that the States is rubbish and that the football club that your nipper or your grandson attends on a Saturday morning isn’t being that well organised. I could go on.
Well it’s alright moaning about these things but if I’m right about the trends that I notice emerging in our island and admittedly elsewhere then it’s down to us to do something to ameliorate the effects of these trends.
I believe that we can’t stop those trends continuing inexorably affecting our lives but I do believe that we can create sufficient of that elusive and precious time by simply reorganising our priorities so that we can put something back into our community.
I have taken it for granted that we would all prefer to live in a place with a strong sense of community. A place where there is a richness to life and a variety of opportunity. A place where things happen and where you and your family feel comfortable. Where there is a sense of history and an identifiable local culture that you can almost feel and almost touch.
Well such a place is created by people who do things simply because it’s the right thing to do. They get involved because they have fun and fellowship with others in so doing.
But sadly the current crop of these wonderful people will eventually pass on and must be replaced with their like for all those things to continue. Ask yourself. Do you think that the next group of volunteers are quietly standing in the wings?
The next football coach, the next charity organiser, the next Chamber committee member, the next producer of the panto, the next environmental activist, the next selfless carer for the less fortunate, the next Deputy for St. Sampson and the next person to join the school PTA.
Guernsey has an incredible record of public service. It is an island community built upon that concept of volunteering, generosity and selfless devotion to a cause.
But if the recent trends of which I spoke earlier really do take hold, and there are signs already in the sporting fraternity lacking administrators and coaches, signs of charities suffering in finding committee members, signs of service clubs like Round Table being short of recruits, and signs of a lack of talented individuals offering themselves for political service, then we have to do something.
Mention was made earlier of my involvement with the Sports Commission and the Commonwealth Games. Well in addition to this I have been working with several others in the business community to form a new charitable organisation called The Guernsey Community Foundation which hopes to establish itself as the Voice for Philanthropy in the Bailiwick. Established to help reinforce the work of existing charities and to lobby for change in the way the States interacts and influences the charitable sector. Does the states too little or too much? With the possibility of budget cuts will the effect on charitable organisations be disastrous. These are only two of the many questions that we hope to help answer. Then help provide the funding or solutions to make a difference.
However more importantly in the context of my talk today, what else can we do?
I have found that if a job has been identified that needs doing and doing well then often one only needs to lift the phone to cajole an individual to offer their services. It usually works. I also know of people and companies that want to do something as a whole business that have approached a club or organisation to offer their services just on the off chance. They have rarely been turned away.
So do you need to have a list of skills and experiences as long as your arm or a certificate in this or a particular qualification? Not necessarily, in fact generally not. Yes you have to be willing to learn and be energetic and enthusiastic. You must enjoy helping others. It might be the perfect thing to consider doing if you reach that nirvana of being able to retire earlier than most.
Give some time to think of how you might be able to help and in which area of our rich community you would like to help most. Then go out and volunteer.
If anything that I have said today resonates with you or your colleagues back at the office or in the pub the please make contact with me either in relation to helping out in the sporting arena or in getting involved in the charitable sector. If it’s the arts that is your bag then The Arts Commission will be happy to engage with you and if it’s the political world that turns you on then I am pleased.