Enter The Entrepreneur

Curiously, the risk carried in both instances mainly falls on the public sector. For public recreation, the risk is in breaking the bond that distinguishes public from private–access for all people. Clearly, requiring fees to participate discriminates against some citizens.

In comparison, the alliance between public funding for private enterprise raises the equally unfortunate possibility that “the people” will be fleeced by private owners who will collect a healthy profit, while a municipal government spends its precious budget on crowd- and traffic-control on the new sidewalks and roadways it also paid for to get the stadium built.

The other risk concerns the agencies’ people. An entrepreneurial tactic having negative consequences is the right sizing of staff, which can involve outsourcing, independent contracting and part-timing, to list a few methods. Every normal business plan makes clear the enormity of labor costs as a percentage of the total budget, and entrepreneurship actually encourages the minimization of labor costs as a surefire way to increase profits.

The danger here is the destabilizing effect of losing–or not replacing–permanent staff. The public sector, while not necessarily paying top dollar, has been perceived as steady and dependable. When long-time, and favorite, staff members are laid off, the external people–citizens who pay the taxes–begin to feel uneasy, or even to lose confidence in their public agencies. At that point, they may ask, “If public recreation operates like (and costs as much as) any other enterprise, for what reason are we paying taxes?”

The present scenario continues to unfold, and the two trends (and risks) mentioned have not yet peaked. The entrepreneurs have arrived. What the people will make of them remains to be seen.

Works cited:

Crossley, J., Jamieson, L., and Brayley, R. E. Introduction to commercial and entrepreneurial recreation. 3rd ed. Champagne, Illinois: Sagamore Publishing, 2007.

Edginton, C.R., et al. Leisure programming: A service-centered and benefits approach. 4th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Uhlik, K. S. “The Breaking (Even) Point: Matching your organizational philosophy to financial reality.” Parks & Rec Business (November), 50-51, 2006.

Kim S. Uhlik is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism Management at San Jose State University. He can be reached via e-mail at kuhlik@casa.sjsu.edu.

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  5. Management & Mission Q&A

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