What has The Circle manager been doing all this time? A behind-the-scenes story

It’s now been over seven months since I started in my role as Facilities & Services Development Manager at The Circle. I have the ‘lived in’ desk and a well-used whiteboard to show for it. Hopefully, there are other visible changes too!

The biggest change I have felt has been the ‘buzz’ around the building. You can measure this to some extent by an increase in the number of the cars in the car park, or the number of sign-in sheets we now go through at reception. But mostly you feel it.

Room bookings

First of all, we have increased the number of events happening in the building. Our tenants ACK, Prestige Training Services and Apex Scotland all now use the conference room regularly for their training sessions which are free-of-charge to them.  The classroom and training room are also much more subscribed with organisations making multiple bookings such as Life Skills Centres, The Richmond Fellowship Scotland, Creative Dundee, Dundee Social Enterprise Network, Ashton McGill, Vertical Motives and Deux HR Consulting.

We increased this activity primarily by social media marketing and leveraging our memberships of the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce and Dundee Social Enterprise Network. Our Monday tours have also brought visitors into the building who have then come back and booked a room.

Room bookings keep us busy with welcoming visitors, setting up the rooms and ensuring a steady supply of refreshments. We like to help our clients promote their events and we’re always keen to follow up on feedback.

Tenants

We have added new tenants into the mix too. Food Train moved in at the beginning of this year and their flow of volunteers and delivery vans keeps the building lively. They are a charity providing an essential service for people unable to get out and about. They deliver groceries to people in their homes every week which also means they get a visitor.  Food Train also offers a befriending service. We are very glad they decided to move to The Circle and run their impressive operation from here.

Two more tenants will join us later this spring.

Infrastructure

I spend a lot of time supporting the people that are upgrading the fabric of the building. I can now engage with some knowledge in conversations about boilers, water tanks, heating systems, circuit boards, fire doors and fire alarm testing. With the help of caretaker, Alex, we are making some sense of the hundreds of keys we have inherited too.

Something I had thankfully come across before in life was network infrastructure and I knew enough to know I didn’t know enough. I was delighted when our Board of Directors agreed to bring Shackleton Technologies in to help us get this right. Steve and Andy have been brilliant in advising us, implementing a new network with their partners Converge and getting us connected. There is more work to be done on phones, desktop support and AV but for now, we are delighted to have a connection to very fast WiFi via our very own leased line.

A DIY day, new signage, new reception furniture and new blinds donated by Balgay Blinds have also meant that we are starting to smarten up the building. We started a regular cleaning schedule with Star Clean last September and the building is looking and smelling fresher than it has for years. For Spring we would like to see some progress made on the outdoor spaces and are keen for volunteers to come and help us.

Marketing

We are sharing the story of The Circle more widely all the time. With a limited budget, we have to be creative and invest wisely. We make a lot of use of social media and regular blogging. Our website was designed by Faff Digital and launched at the end of last year and it has been a great tool for people who need information or want to make bookings. Faff Digital also develop apps so we can look forward to integration with a booking and payment system as we develop. We send out newsletters and hope to take our followers along on the journey with us. A strong brand, designed by Graphic Picnic, means it’s easy for me to put our stamp on fairly common marketing tools and make our communications look great. We never claim to be a finished product, but we are a continually evolving enterprise that wants to work towards its aims and get a little bit better for our tenants, clients and members every day.

People

We have made great contacts with people who share our vision and values. Many of them are mentioned throughout this post.

One of the best things to happen in 2017 so far is the arrival of our Modern Apprentice, Jasmin. Jasmin is one of four Creative Apprentices in Dundee and as well as learning skills relevant to her apprenticeship in Creative Digital Media, she is assisting us in all the tasks necessary to run a hub. Daily rooms checks, looking after clients, sorting out refreshments and being a very friendly front-of-house for The Circle will help her become a very employable young person in any industry, as well as an asset as she moves on to our partners. The apprenticeship was made possible by the opportunities that together Creative Dundee, Open Change and The Circle can offer.

Jenna Cook is a 4th year Interior and Environmental Design student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. We were really pleased when she decided to her final year project on the Circle. She has studied the building as it exists and has understood our vision. She has a very grand plan for what The Circle can be that we can’t wait to see. Jenna also understands that the imagination she can show in her project is not necessarily something we can achieve in the short-term here, so she is also helping us with some accessible plans for the building, and in particular, is looking at the co-working space.

Volunteer, Flor Maria Vargas, also joined us this year. She helps every second Monday afternoon with our bookkeeping. An Accountancy HND student from Dundee College, she helps keep the cash book up-to-date and our records in order.

Admin

Ah yes. The fun part. To make The Circle work effectively as a hub for our tenants, members and clients we need to be on top of the admin. Policies and procedures need to be in place to keep everyone safe and well, but also to make sure everyone has a good experience here. Writing and implementing these is a big job. I need to keep on top of enquiries, bookings and invoicing as well as coordinating appointments with people wanting to look around. I help tenants preparing to move in and the regular flow of people we have in to do work and give us costs for the next rounds of development.

Our Chief Exec, Kirsty, sorts out all the legal stuff and is the funding application queen but I do help start documents to get the process going. At the moment we are doing a co-working survey and I am building a strategy document that will make sure we get this space right and we use funds to deliver a service our clients really need.

What’s next?

We want to continue to increase room bookings and support tenants moving into the building but now that we have processes in place for these things we can look ahead. Co-working, a social enterprise café and community gardens are next on the agenda which require more work on the funding strategy, new relationships to be made and no doubt, plenty of coordinating with trades and looking for keys!

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