14/07/2011 - 00:00

Surf lifesaving gets on board as a business

14/07/2011 - 00:00

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Martin Kane is part of a committed team that has been paddling hard on the board to help make surf lifesaving in Western Australia run more like a well-oiled business and to better handle its main task – saving lives.

Surf lifesaving gets on board as a business
SUPPORTER: Martin Kane is a board member of Surf Life Saving WA and has helped bring about a change in the organisation's board structure. Photo: Grant Currall

Martin Kane is part of a committed team that has been paddling hard on the board to help make surf lifesaving in Western Australia run more like a well-oiled business and to better handle its main task – saving lives.

As a board member of Surf Life Saving WA since 2007 and a trustee of his local surf club, Mullaloo, Mr Kane’s involvement with surf lifesaving has been broad but he still remembers why he got involved with the organisation.

A scare on Trigg beach, with his kids getting caught in a swell, led him to signing them up at the local surf club, before he was persuaded to do his bronze medallion.

That was in 1990 and Mr Kane still holds SLSWA in high regard for the contribution it makes to the community.

“Surf clubs are really categorised as sports organisations not community organisations,” he said.

“We run leadership development camps for kids, youth development, keeping kids off the streets and doing things. It is not just a surf club, it really is the community development aspect that to me is very important,” he said.

When he joined the board four years ago, the corporate make-up of SLS had recently undergone a transformation.

“Most surf clubs along the coast have got a structure where they have directors specifically responsible for portfolios. You’ll have one in charge of membership, one for competition, one for junior activities, one for education,” he said.

That often led to 12 or 13 directors. The same system was replicated on the state board, which had obvious implications. The governance structure of the organisation was changed, with new rules and regulations. A new constitution was implemented.

“Since that time the board has turned over,” Mr Kane said.

“When I came on board, I sparked a review of the whole organisation and a relationship with our national body and tried to break open the thinking into bigger picture stuff.”

SLSWA chief executive Paul Andrew said introducing new governance ultimately allowed the organisation to operate as a business, with a strategic board rather than an operational one.

He said the organisation was then able to attract a high calibre management team, given the newly established autonomy for management.

Mr Kane agreed and said the organisation was now operating as a more professional body.

“The level of all our reporting, accounting, management reports, the level of professionalism since we changed from a portfolio board to where we are now has been absolutely enormous,” he said.

“The reaction from staff at Surf has been fantastic. There is no longer the big brother looking over their shoulder, we are letting the managers go on and manage; to do exactly as they want to do.”

Mr Andrew links the changes directly to the success of the organisation and said since 2005-06 its net asset base had increased from $2.2 million to $11 million (including state government and Lotterywest funding for a new headquarters).

The membership base has grown from 11,100 in 2005-06 to 17,500 last year. Turnover grew from $1.1 million in 2005-06 to $5 million in 2009-10. “It’s like anything, if you surround yourself with good people, you will achieve,” Mr Andrew said.

Mr Kane sat on the board of Brightwater Care Group for two three-year terms until last year, when he retired from Centrepoint Alliance Group, a company that was established out of a merger between Mr Kane’s stock exchange-listed insurance premium funding business, Alliance Finance Corporation, and Centrepoint Finance.

He said sitting on not-for-profit boards and commercial boards was fundamentally different, based purely on the ability to change the costs of a commercial entity.

“The focus of a commercial board, apart from corporate governance, is really the bottom line – profits and shareholders. In terms of a not for profit, particularly with Brightwater, it is improving the care at the front end,” he said.

“Unless you are going to help save lives and build better communities at Surf, there is no point in doing it.

“You have got to have business principles in place and financial controls, but at the same time you can’t lose sight of your goal, which is saving lives.

“The difference is, one is an emphasis on bottom line, profit, return on equity, return on investment versus our return on investment at Surf, which is how many people died on the beach this year?” he said.

 

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