By Michael Padmanathan, WiSH Chairman

It’s amazing what one remembers as a youngster.

There were happy memories like  the moment as my parents carried me off the plane the first time. I set foot in Sri Lanka faced with a wall of heat I have never experienced since. There were other feelings I dreaded. I remember clearly having to tidy my room at our home on Haydons Road – what an awful, boring job. Years later I recognised the benefit of these mundane task.

Fast forward to October 2021, and on the WiSH front I should have been filled with joy. We had gained £1m in memorabilia and opened The Greatest Story Room (TGSR) at Plough Lane for approximately £5,000 in a rampant three-month sprint. I was filled with dread as I knew what we needed to do next – we had to tidy our room!

WiSH co-founders after collecting the keys in June 2021 to The Greatest Story Room.

This was not a nice-to-have. As I completed an audit of where we were (including team reviews and importantly looking at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – a “SWOT” analysis), my fear was that if we did not tidy up WiSH, there was a risk of burnout for our 35 strong part time volunteer organisation. We needed to improve efficiency, accountability and communication. Moreover, we need to be super compliant as we are a registered museum and charity.

So, I broached (in some dread!) with the team my four-month plan to get our room tidy. It actually took six months and if I told  you it was fun I would be bending the truth. However, like many arduous tasks, now that is done, I feel a sense of achievement and feel positive again about WiSH’s enhanced capacity to expand and broaden its work in the years ahead. 

The main tasks completed were as follows:

  1. The 2022 and 2023 Business Plan with a goal to raise over a quarter of a million pounds from 12 revenue streams
  2. A new Target Operating Model (streamlining processes within WiSH and with our partners)
  3. Creation of a secure, centrally held Memorabilia and Old Players’ Databases 
  4. Secure Cloud based infrastructure to support internal workflows (e.g. email, document repositories)
  5. New accounting software and a robust but pragmatic Financial Controls Policy
  6. DBS checks and FA Safeguarding course undertaken by all Management Team members
Plans start for Phase 2 before the Northampton vs AFC Wimbledon Carabao Cup tie on 24/08/21

Since 2019 we have been working like a Start-Up. The focus was on what heritage projects we could deliver immediately by making the most of the adrenaline and goodwill running through the WiSH team.  We are now in the “scale up” phase and we needed to have a re-organisation to support the above-mentioned goals.

There was too much overlap between the Board and the Operational Team. We have a goal that at least 60% of Board members are not operationally involved in WiSH so governance can be optimised. I expect this figure to increase as we scale. To achieve our ambitious growth plans, we needed a “Project Led” operational organisation to focus on projects in the next twelve months. The Board will, between quarterly Board meetings, research and make recommendations for potential medium term and long-term projects.  Moreover, as Managing Director I had 9 direct reports which is unmanageable.

After over three years as Managing Director of WiSH, I will now focus on my role as Chairman of the board which comprises John Lynch (Vice-Chairman), Peter Leng (Dons Trust representative), Tim Hillyer (Trustee) and Mat Haylock (AFCW representative). The board will be supported by a team of advisors who will help consider medium term projects, including Roger Rogowski, Roger Hobkinson and John Martin.

John Lynch, with whom I have worked closely over the last few years, will take over as Managing Director leading the operational project-led organisation. This is ideal as John is instrumental in creating and driving through new projects. John will be supported by five Management team members; Rhys Torrington (Operations), Peter Leng (Marketing), Chris Hutchison (Volunteering), Gerry Hever (Finance) and Mick Pugh (WOPA).

Despite my apprehension, I am so happy we cleaned our room and am now feeling upbeat about inspiring others with our Greatest Story in Football.