Brad Putnam

Community Arenas Operations Manager, City of Peterborough

Share some of your most memorable career-related experiences

My career has brought so many memorable experiences to me, but there are a few specific ones that stand out.

Most recently, in 2019, the Peterborough Memorial Centre, our Major Sport and Entertainment Facility, underwent significant renovations requiring displacement of tenants and events during the summer and fall. While this brought many challenges for many of our users, we worked together with our stakeholders to ensure the best experience and outcomes of this situation. Our staff embraced the many changes this brought to our everyday business. Collectively, their efforts were the key to this project being a success, and I was proud to be a part of that.

When I was with Burlington, I had the opportunity to visit the then ACC (now Scotiabank Arena), in Toronto.  It was and a "behind the scenes" tour of the facility with all of our operations staff team. This experience was really valuable to me. Firstly, as a Leafs fan, but more so to see that even at the largest stage, the staff at the facility faced many of the same challenges we do in community facilities. It was a great opportunity I was able to arrange based on connections in the industry.

For the last one, I would have to say it's just a combination of all of the events we provide as a public service to our citizens. From everyday use and rentals to tournaments, special events, trade shows, professional sports, our job in this business is to provide the home to these community events. I sometimes do need to take a step back to realize how important what we do is to our residents and visitors in our communities.

What would you describe as some of the most significant workplace and/or industry challenges you have faced over the past five years?

I am sure that my highlights here will be the same as all others in our business.

Staff turnover is a significant one. With many senior staff retiring, it is leaving us with significant gaps in skills, knowledge and resources within organizations. Having a plan to manage this is a job in itself, but planning for these changes is a task that needs to be addressed. It's vital to ensure that you're preparing yourself and your team for developing new and more junior staff replacing those experienced employees.

Budgets are everyone's challenge. For operational budgets, it’s difficult with limitations on increases to look for creative ways to generate the revenues to offset the expenditures. Maintaining service standards and providing quality facilities is a top priority, but it costs money to support facilities and services. Capital projects need to be carefully planned with the right asset management approach, strategically budgeting necessary and priority projects to improve facilities and operations. Similarly, operating that is easier said than done with many other challenges in budget processes.  But identifying and planning this out effectively it will hopefully help ensure that critical projects are complete.

The above budget challenges are a result of ageing facilities and infrastructure. It's an industry challenge that is a struggle to find the funding readily available to support these needs. As I mentioned above, prioritizing projects and having a good asset management plan is essential to ensure that facilities are efficient and remain safe and reliable.

How has your involvement with the ORFA affected your career?

Personally, for me, the ORFA has been a fantastic resource. I have had access to take many educational courses for my own for professional development.  The team at ORFA has always been available and willing to answer questions and provide support where needed, as well as providing guidelines and best practices.

With multiple organizations, I've also had the pleasure of working with ORFA on hosting in house training opportunities. It allowed staff to continue with their professional development and chance to connect with some of the great instructors during these sessions.

List any best practices or tips learned at an ORFA professional development opportunity.

There have been many invaluable lessons learned from my involvement with the ORFA. As I mentioned previous, getting to know some of the instructors personally and learn from them and their experiences is genuinely invaluable. You can read and learn from a textbook or article, but learning from others around you isn't an opportunity you get without participating in these experiences.

The ORFA's support and information as a follow up to the Fernie B.C incident have helped us all better prepare ourselves and staff for developing emergency plans, procedures and training. Additionally, I learn at every course to take the lessons learned back to your operations and facilities. Using the knowledge gained at sessions or meetings with the ORFA, you can then apply it and supplement those lessons learned in your environment.

What advice would you provide to colleagues considering teaching or mentoring within the industry?

I would suggest looking at taking every opportunity that you can. Ask questions and get engaged in your workplace, take leads on getting involved in any aspect of the job you aren't as experienced. Showing initiative to better both yourself and your organization is something you, as an individual, can control.

In addition to that, I would encourage you to listen. Listen to your staff and listen to your stakeholders; they have lots to teach you in turn. Be approachable and engaging, remembering that nothing gets done without communication and a collective team effort.

Continue to develop yourself into being a good leader. You should always be learning yourself to be able to share knowledge and experience. Remember that being a leader is part of being a good team, and you're only as good as the team around you. As much as that might be a cliché sports analogy, I do genuinely believe that it is vital to a positive and successful workforce as well.

Final Thoughts

Enjoy what you do! Our environments and business are incredibly fast-paced. Take time to slow it down when you can and reflect on the positives. For me, I get to walk into an arena every day, which as a kid growing up and loving the game of hockey that is a great feeling. Whatever your career path is or your goals are, I would tell anyone one thing- go for it. Learn on the job, take initiatives and opportunities to better yourself for today and tomorrow.

Lastly, to the ORFA, I want to say thank you for this opportunity to share some of my thoughts. I know that a lot of my development and knowledge of the industry has come from being an engaged member. I would strongly encourage others to take advantage of the many resources and educational opportunities that the ORFA provides to you as well.

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