I want to thank Scott Bay for giving me the opportunity to speak. I’m not your standard coach; I’m a little bit different than other coaches, mainly because when you talk about coaching probably this entire week they talk about the competitive side; what I’m going to refer to is the wet side you know, stroke technique and growing the team and championship swimmers and how you can motivate them. Everything has probably revolved around the competitive side.
Well mine is going to be a little different because in 2010 I had over 300 registered USMS swimmers. I’m at a one pool. I had over 300 registered swimmers. Our goal was 300, I was excited about it. As Scott said, we won the 2010 national championship down in Puerto Rico. We had 80-some swimmers go to travel to Puerto Rico. Some people say well, it’s Fort Lauderdale, that’s like a home meet. Well so we had to get on a plane and fly three and a half hours, so I don’t really call that a home meet and I thought you know everything was fantastic. You know it was really good.
Then in 2011 I didn’t have a job. You know the team just – it’s from the business side, it just didn’t work out. So 2012 I had to kind of start from scratch and I kept thinking there are a lot of lessons can be learned from this type of scenario and that it’s great to focus on the competitive side. But today we’re going to talk about the business side; it’s kind of what I’m going to call it, the dry side.
And there are a lot of things that you need to learn and it’s prior to being a swim coach. I always call myself the accidental swim coach. I’ve been swimming my entire life. I started Masters swimming in 1988. I love swimming and if anybody knows me really well, there’s one reason I swim — it’s because I love to talk. Anything that would get me in the water — you know it’s social, if you swim with me I do nothing but talk from start to finish. The only time I’m not talking is when my face is in the water. So everything about US Masters Swimming I just think it’s fantastic.
In 2004 I semi-retired, had a great business career, corporate US, and kind of ran into my mentor Duffy Dillon who is sitting in the very back off here analyzing me. And he happened, and his Master’s Coach at Fort Lauderdale Aquatics happened to find me at a time after I retired from corporate America. I said for six months I’m going to volunteer. And if anybody asked me to do anything my answer is going to be yes, so I was always at the pool. Can you cover practice we have a Cardinal Gibbons high school meet, yes. And then they were having a swim meet, can you time? Yes, oh you’re around all the time, do you want to learn Hy-Tek and how to run a meet. So I’m this accidental person and then Duffy is like, well you’re pretty good at this coaching thing, would you like to coach? And I remember Duffy offered me $200 to coach evening practices or something and at that point not to brag, but I was doing consulting at $200 an hour; and Duffy kept trying to hire me and I kept saying you can’t afford me, you can’t afford me, but that’s another story.
But today we’re going to talk about the business of swimming; how to start a program, how to get your foot in the door, and we’re going to talk about the different models and then once you get in the door, how do you focus on the business side to keep everything operating? So here is my agenda today, first we’re going to talk about as a coach knowing what you bring to the table, because you’re going to have to approach different opportunities and we have a lot of good assistance from USMS and we’re going to talk about that. But you got to know what you bring to the table as a coach, not only your coaching skills. But you have to understand the environment you’re talking to, are you talking to somebody who is running a health club who has a pool that has eight lanes that you want to try to get into, are you talking to somebody at the school board, because the high school has a brand new pool that you want to get into? So I’m going to help you understand the environment you’re talking to and then defining the different ones and how they cross over, because they kind of have different languages, they talk a different language. You have to know the mindset of the person you’re going to talk to and I’m going to try to take some business terms.
I was going through this, I was going through 25 years of business training, sales training, implementation, project management and try to put it into English that a coach would understand if they had not had some background of that. Once you’re trying to get into a new facility, talk about that, that evil thing called a business plan and I really hate it, but I actually even brought a business plan of how I would approach a private organization and I’m going to tell you how you push the buttons and how you rework your business plan to address whoever you’re talking to.
But once you’re in there, it takes a lot of work to get a contract, it takes a lot of work to get these lanes, but I want to make sure that you understand what you have to do to maintain that relationship. At the same time you’re getting the swimmers there, you’re marketing your program, you’re getting your national champion or you’re getting your people to go to nationals or participate in practices or your tri–athletes.
And then the pitfalls and this is something that I think is what I always say to learn from the lessons – I always prefer to learn from somebody else’s mistake, but sometimes when you make the mistake yourself you hope that you can share those mistakes that others don’t run into the same thing.
And then the final thing is some ongoing revenue generators because to continue on at the end of the day you have bills to pay, you have to be able to pay your coaches, you have to be able to pay your pool contracts, you have to be able to collect money. So I want to just say there are other means to be bringing in some money.
So let’s go to the beginning of the process and like I said it’s two things; first what to you as a coach bring to the table and there’s a lot. I mean obviously your resume; you obviously have a skill set, you have a passion for a sport that’s going to take you into going to a gym that happens to have a 25 yard pool or whatever but it is. I hate to use this but it’s kind of like sales 101, most of the people are going to embrace you and your product of swimming and coaching, because of you who deliver it. Frank was talking about all the good things they have done that they’re able to parlay and that’s the thing, it’s to really know about yourself and your skills. Your resume obviously is not just your typical business resume, but it’s your team’s resume if you’re starting into a new location, because you already have some or if you’re just a group of swimmers and that’s the thing we have to look at.
This presentation is not just of talking about a very large team but this could work for anybody who would like to start a program. I think back to – and I’m from the DC area originally and I won’t say anything about Wilson High school, we used to get that pool water for free back in the 80s, but it’s a matter of we were starting that as swimmers who wanted to find a way to swim, and we had no interest in running a business. We started out as five, five swimmers and we wanted to start practicing and maybe get others to go in there with us. So you have to define what do you as a coach want? Do you want to have a mega size master’s team like Frank or are you in an area that’s very small where you wouldn’t mind having a group of 10 or maybe 20 swimmers. How much effort you want to put into that? Is this something you want to make money off of; is this something that is a large term, full time career? Or is this something hey I like to run a Masters group and I can do this in the evening after practice and I wouldn’t mind making a few dollars with it?
So then you have to look at your business plan, how do you want to approach? You know anytime you’re going to go and then talk to somebody, you have to have some kind of goals and objectives, that’s all a business plan is – it’s goals and objectives. One of the key elements regardless of the size of the program, when I talk about knowing your skill set or what you bring to the table, in Masters Swimming we have an organization that’s going to do a lot of that pre-work for you, but what I’m going to do in the next slides is tell you how you can help build and enter into the different avenues be it a municipality you know a city, state program, county run facility or something that is private; private could be a health club, a yacht club, country club, anybody – or some of the pools especially summer time or some of the winter pools are privately owned. You don’t see too many of them, because again it’s just a matter of where the money comes from. But going in you should have some kind of plan.
Now I don’t know if when Frank started this back in the 80s his intention ever was to have 1,000 swimmers, it’s just you know where do you want to begin? Mine started with wanting to have five, when I started back in 2004 coaching; I was just a part time coach, kind of picking up where we had been.
Knowing the environment, so you get the idea that you want to start and build a program, when you – this is this phase in business that we would call the discovery. For example when I was in DC we realized this pool was empty all the time, the old Wilson High School pool. We could go in and get some lanes and some people didn’t like that we’d have three or four people, so you start identifying what goes on there so that this is the research stage and I think this information would help a person going in, that I think I want to go into this pool. They have so many empty lanes all the time, there’s no programming, they bring a group of people in later in the afternoon, but every time I get there at 7:00 it looks like the pool’s been empty. So then you start going and asking for questions, you start talking to the lifeguard. And they may say well this person is the manager; then you have to decide is this pool for profit or do they want to use pool utilization? And this is when you start kind of talking about the private versus the municipal and we’re going to get into that a little bit more. Is there a program there already because sometimes there are programs that aren’t really being run well, they just – you’ve tried swimming there and you just feel, you know it’s kind of hanging on by the – what we would call kind of struggling. There are some pools that have multiple programs in them, I’m not a fan of that, but there are sometimes where there’s such a different philosophy in the process for profit companies, they’ll rent their lanes to anybody in certain markets, because again they need to look at their bottom-line.
Is there an age group program already there? Mentioned briefly in Frank’s presentation, there’s a lot – a majority of the Masters programs have been offshoots of age group programs. I’ve always been a firm believer of that, because the age group program really has set the standard within those organizations. It’s not a must, if you would ask me 10 years ago could you have a master’s program free standing. I probably would have said absolutely not, I just really felt it was an offshoot and beginning of an age group program. That’s how I started, but then you start realizing that there is such a demand and the money and the resources out there that you can have organizations that have split off. So, I’m not an advocate saying that you must be with an age group, but I’m just certainly saying in Masters do not shy away from the ability to be a completely self-sustaining organization, because I’ve run numbers time and time again and it can really happen.
If there’s pool with no existing program I’m going to keep going back in the beginning portions go to USMS, they have resources. A lot of times if you’ve done sales in business organizations they have a whole marketing department behind you. Most Masters clubs are swimmers who want to put a club in or coaches who want to start a club who do not have anything that comes close to those kinds of marketing resources. USMS has them, if you go to the booth you see the table but it’s more than stickers, cups and pens; a lot more because they have to know how to start talking to these different people.
So now the environments, this is where it starts to get a little tricky, you have your private pools and in the private pools a couple of things they’re looking for. Number one, profit so you’re going to be talking and we’re going to start talking about the language of a private institution; they want to know about money and what’s going to put money into their pocket. Private pools; I always bring up the pool utilization, because if you go to the gyms, the 24 hour fitness or some of the other locations and you it empty, any time I see an empty pool to me I think there can be a program there. So I’ve always looked at lane space that way. Municipal pools same thing, you’re going to look at the same thing, see the empty lanes but municipal pools, cities, counties — the profit thing isn’t a big deal to them, to them it’s programs. You know they have learn to swim, they have lessons, they have aerobics, they’re looking at a grid — how can; I fill in my grid to keep the pool busy? Most of the times money is not of any issue to them, in those municipal pools. Whenever I think of parks and recreation and I have to admit I work now fulltime as an employee of Parks and Recreation. And let me tell you after 25 years in the business world, it’s a whole different mindset, whole different language and sometimes things just don’t make sense. I hope there are not too many Parks and Rec people here but I’m a Parks and Rec employee.
So, those environments — when you look at the empty lanes to me an empty lane, is an empty lane. And I see an empty lane and I’m like oh I could get a practice going, how many groups within that practice, how many people? – that’s a coaches mentality, but I can’t go to you and say you know you have 10 lanes empty and I think I should just go and put my swim team there – I can get a swim team in there and you make a lot of money. You can’t go in there like that, you might need to find out why those lanes are empty. Municipal pools a lot of times now they want to go away from managing those pools, they want to go away from it so they’re doing – I guess they want to go to what they call privatizing. They want somebody else to manage the time at that pool. City governments are doing that quite a bit. I mean even in South Florida cities are going away from even running their own lifeguards, they want somebody else to do the work. So in those scenarios those municipal pools almost came back up for the profit center because they’re going to look at some numbers and they’re going to look at a couple different areas so we’re going to start talking about the languages.
Some are going to talk dollars and the only way you’re going to be able to address them is dollars, the bottom-line. If you put this many people in there, they bring X-number of dollars and this brings this to the table. If you went to my Parks and Rec people that would mean absolutely nothing to them because they figure they could get a public swimmer in there who lives in the city, who could use that lane and they’re happy, all they care about is satisfying their local community.
Some want to make sure that the lanes are full, they don’t care how it happens and they don’t want to have to do the work, so for the language to work you have to determine who may be able to make the decision, you’re going to have decision makers in every different organization. From the business side, how do you find those out you have to ask? And again you go in and sometimes I’ve learned just first talking to the lifeguards, lifeguards can tell you what’s going on within the organization. From that point you’re going to know who’s running the place and then you start talking to them and find out avenues and you have to start listening. You can’t go in and tell these people I’m going to bring U.S. Masters in here and you can have a great Masters program in there. You have to first start finding what is their mindset, what are their buzz words.
There are just some for example in D.C. and I go back to that one because that, I was young, naïve and didn’t know any better, I was just the captain of the water polo team. And it turned out the captain of the water polo team; their only responsibility was to get pool time. So when you got elected captain you’re kind of cool you know, I’m out of college, captain of the swim team, now I’m captain of the water polo team, this is kind of cool. What does that entail after you’re voted in? Well we only have two nights a week of our time you need to work with a deputy director of Parks and Rec for D.C. And so that, I was like oh great. But we don’t have a budget, now you don’t need to talk to them. Just go and ask them what they need.
So I set up my first meeting and I’m like, you know we currently have two nights a week you know, is there anything we could do to help you out? He says well I have a pool and we’re really short on our programming. So I got educated on the fact all he cared about is that he had programs to show up on his list of activities for his job. But it, it wasn’t just that I walked in, it was just a matter you have to ask questions. What are you looking for? I see that your pool is empty are you – how are you going to use that? How would you like to see that used? And they may say well I need to find a way of making more money. We’re short on money this year, our budgets are getting cut and if they focus in that conversation, every – nothing but dollars and budgets, what are you going to lead in with of what Masters swimming could bring to them? Dollars, if they’re like oh I’m short of my programming, we have water aerobics swimming; you’re going to hear what their focus is.
Then the next thing and I’m going to go back to sales 101, and I hate to use this but, are they the decision makers? So you have to – again there’s a lot of sales involved and USMS can help you with this. But you ask questions like who makes the decisions on what programs you put in? Or who makes the decisions and they may say alright that’s my call. I accidentally learned that in D.C. government, it was made at that level. Back in 2012 when I was unemployed and looking for a job I had to figure out how to reinvent myself as a swim coach. I thought I was a pretty good swim coach but I had to go back to my business side. So I started asking around. In the Fort Lauderdale area there are not a lot of Masters swim team, but there’s a lot of water. So I would start going to the different places and I went to the city of Pompano Beach. All they talked about was utilization; I mean they made it kind of easy for me.
There is a private school in Fort Lauderdale who one of my swimmers, a former swimmer, said yeah they’d been forced to up their revenues, something they had never done before. I walked in with the business plan showing this individual coach, a head coach who’d never been tasked to raise money, on what money I could bring to the table. So, getting in the door is challenging, defining their needs is important. Sometimes these people know that they need programs. And that’s, the whole business sense, know defining their needs. You know, how are things going at the pool?
And these aren’t things that just happen in one conversation. You know back in sales 101 when you’re a 20 year old kid doing your first sales job, you build the relationship, you start talking to them and visit to the pool when you’re just generally talking. How are things with the, the pool? Are they looking for new avenues of revenue? Are they looking to fill in the lanes that are empty? There are pools, in the state of Connecticut Masters programs, most of them usually train after nine o’clock. Don’t hesitate to ask when is this pool empty? Are there times when you have the pool that it is underutilized? So you have to start asking the questions. You have to be prepared if they talk dollar sense to show revenue possibilities. When and how can you do that? Typically in a business plan and we’re going to get to those in a little bit.
You know if you have X-number of swimmers in this hour empty pool slot paying this much money over X-period of time, be it monthly, quarterly, etcetera we’ll talk about delivery when those things become important. The utilization, again I’m big on looking for empty lanes and filling them. I look at our own pool. One of the biggest frustrations we had, I would say for my first eight years, is we would look down at these two huge, 50 meter by 25 yard pools empty, empty all the time. Age group would come in and between three and six fill them totally full. Masters would come in one of the pools, fill it and then Public Swim would have the other pool and three or four swimmers would be there. My greatest challenge for the first eight years is that noon practice, it would only get me eight lanes of a 10 lane pool. They would only give me eight lanes, but my thought is I’m a business man. They have two empty lanes and they’d have one swimmer and they’d have a life guard on the chair. I did this pencil sale in my head over and over and over again. Two empty lanes, one swimmer; one guard, swimmer paying $3, you do the math with me. Swimmer’s paying $3, and $12 or $15s I believe for the guard. The pool behind me was 20 lanes of short course yards, two swimmers each paying $3 with a life guard on that pool.
Okay let’s do some math. So right now I have $9 of revenue, my expenses without talking any overhead, chemicals, anything else, 15 and 15 that’s $30. So every day I would look at this and in that one hour just in plain all view I was seeing a loss of the city of $21. And I was frustrated because every time I would go to my boss or even mentioned to the manager that they really should give us those two extra lanes, that’s a $15 savings, you can move the person over here.
I only thought visits, so for eight years I did my – this pencil sale in my mind, to my boss to the, the director of the pool. Well now I work for the director of the pool in the year I’ve worked with them I have never talked about revenue. Have never talked the language of numbers, so who was the fool in that scenario? I failed to define their language and that – and that’s a shame. So what I should have looked at is additional or talk about programming. You know maybe there is a way you don’t open up your dive well. The dive wells are only open for an hour and a half every day in the summer that’s it, hour and a half. And the reason is – I don’t know why. We have long course pool and so when I would try to get a rationale that my pencil sale wouldn’t work I would say, “Why do you have to give these two lanes?” And her response was, “because we’re the only 50 meter pool in the City of Fort Lauderdale; we’re obligated to give them.” So, you have to learn their language. Is there a way to work around it? And I found out after the contract why it was not allowed, because it wasn’t written in the original contract. So the way to talk to her was, all she cared about was the contract. So I failed in those eight years of frustration to learn how they’re, they talk their language.
There are going to be times when their people are only motivated by what their boss thinks of them. They are motivated to make sure they never screw up in front of their boss. So, and that’s an easy sale. Wouldn’t it be great if you were able to talk to your boss and then you list the successes that you would be able to take to your boss? I mean there are different motivations. How do you define or how do you determine you’ve done a good job? My boss tells me. How do you determine you’ve done a good job? Look the bottom line; look at the dollars, if I bring in X-amount of revenue.
So it’s all a mindset learning how they talk. I mean it’s a crazy thing and you learn in sales 101 there are a million ways to ask questions. You’re around these pools all the time – these people most are approachable, because in the pools, any place you go these are people that are sports minded, they know that you’re athletic. These are easy people to approach and they have – they have plenty of time to talk. Okay, so once you speak their language you start asking as you get closer to the process. If you have brought a new USMS, there are a lot of times, and now you might need to put a formal business plan together. In municipal pools most of the time they will not do anything unless it is “goes out to bid.” It has to be done through purchasing; they can’t just add a program that’s going to bring in dollars. When I worked with DC Government, they didn’t care because we weren’t charging for our swimming, everything was done for free. But if you are a contractor who wants to go work with the city they cannot enter into a contract with you. The school board cannot enter in a contract with you. If it’s a state run facility they can’t just enter into a contract, they are all formalities, so the business plan is the first thing. Business plans work primarily if you are going to a for-profit type of organization, where they can make a decision right there on the spot. A business plan, if you are going to work for municipality as an outside contractor, then you have to probably create a bid. A business plan can help you with that. The other option within municipality is that you would become an employee of them.
And then they have to go through their steps. Municipal, anything dealing with municipalities, school boards, cities: everything takes time. And they will tell you and it’s not a brush off, you have to be prepared for that time, everything takes time. With businesses if they have the ability, if they are “decision makers” it can happen immediately. But the key is the addressing of their needs. They are going to take it to the next step when they see that you are going to satisfy or hit a hot button that it’s going to make them look good. There’s no revenue of profits and bottom-line is the additional programming at this Municipal. Now with the business plan basic you can pull this up on Google; you can get this in Word. Business plans when they get to a point especially when you have to work with somebody that can make a decision, you’re going to tell them your business plan from your executive summary: who you are, what you want to do. You can pull information from USMS and like I said I have a sample of the one that I wrote.
Objectives — what you are trying to create. To what extent you need to do this, for whoever you’re talking to, if you are working with somebody directly, they may not even require it, but I highly recommend having it prepared. If you are working with somebody in an organization that then has to in turn go to a board of directors, business plans help out. But your business plan is pretty much like a resume – your business plan like your resumes – and again I’m going back to so much of my business experience, when you have a resume, they say you should have multiple copies of versions of it. So if you have a skill set in one area and you are going apply for a job with that, you use that resume if there is another where something else is more important you change it for that next job you are applying. Business plans are the same way, if you have a business plan that is written for bottom-line dollars and dollars and cents and that’s where the emphasis is, if you are working with somebody who is not interested in the dollars and cents, but in programming, filling lanes and adding services to their member base, then those are the things that have to be within your plan.
Again at this point USMS can help you across the board.
Okay, so you get in, this is probably to me the most important part once you get in, what do you do? And this is where a lot of people start to lose focus, because once I get in the door the job is done, I’m going to start building my team, I’m going to do everything I need to do. Well you want to not lose focus on the business side, you know like the competitive side, the wet side most coaches are really good at this. This is something that comes so natural to each individual. Business side does not come through, and I was kind of – I was very impressed with Frank’s talk because when he was showing you the layout of his organization, he had a lot of the key components of what you need to do to make sure you deliver what you promise. You have to have focus on both sides, so if you promise that you are going to be filling lanes, having programming, there are all these commitments that you have made, you have to make sure that you can do it.
One of the biggest problems is the financial side. Once you get started especially if you are starting out small and I keep forgetting that, we are not coming from a thousand member club, but once you start out small, if you have 20/30 members there is a lot of things that you have to do. And it can be very expensive, it’s going to be time consuming, when you get into a new pool, you are starting your program you are starting your practice, as you put together all of the – the practice time, you start hiring your coaches, there are a lot of things that have to happen and that when Frank was talking about what kind of organization are you? Did you get hired as you are just doing this as a volunteer, did you go in as an employee full-time part-time? I have to tell you that probably the easiest thing because you get a pay check and all they really want to focus on is that you are doing what you said you were doing.
The hardest part is that you are going in as a contractor and you have obligations to make some financial needs. And a lot of times like that especially with Municipalities that’s the direction they are going. They going to either hire you as an employee or I would say probably 80% of them now are moving towards the contractor. Privatize it; they want to let somebody else do that and that opens a whole another kind of want, because you have to become your own company. So you can choose to go the nonprofit route, the 501c3 and there is a lot of setup involved with that and that’s why when you have to go out either hire an accountant or hire an attorney to write these things up. But one of the beauties of Masters is you probably have every single one of these on your team. You will be surprised, even the smaller teams have access and when you are starting up they are even more apt to want to be able to help you out. You have so much knowledge base, we are not like an age group team; I can of feel bad more for age group coaches who now get to this point. Because there’s a lot involved with it, but once you have all these things in place they have to go hire the accountant. They have to go hire the attorney to write all their contracts. They have to deal with hiring and payroll and there’s so much involved. And in the delivery of these products and services, Masters gives you what you need, and when I say that look within your own organization. I think Frank got his web designer, I mean there are so many avenues try to look and network through your own swimmers. Because they want you to succeed, all of a sudden when you are in the door, you are starting your program, you are doing your coaching and building your club, your people are going to give you the resources you need. You will be absolutely positively shocked.
When we started Swim Fort Lauderdale the only thing that we had to go outside and pay for was a CPA person to do our auditing, that’s the only thing in the past two years when we started the new club that we have ever had to pay for. Because initially when we started, I had to start as a private contractor, and I hated it, but personally initially I had needed to go get an accountant, tax accountant, attorney and I looked no further even when I started out as an LLC. I set up my own organization, paid me as an employee of my organization and I did it all through my master’s swimmers. A knowledge base a Masters team brings to the table is as outrageous, not just in the business side, I mean earlier you were talking about therapists, personal trainers I mean the list goes on and on and on which is helpful to the club, but you as a coach or the leader of the club, so if you are in a private pool, you need to make sure they are going to make money. If you are a contractor even in the private, some of the private clubs will hire you as a contractor versus hiring you as an employee. So those are the things you have to remember, what got you in there and you have to make sure that you are delivering them. Municipal Pools, the same thing with the programming, are you delivering what you said you’re going to do?
A problem in the municipality, they’re going to hold you to the contract. They’re going to hold you, they’re going to keep going back to the contract, and the problem is usually that the contract is good for a year, maybe two years and you can’t make changes midstream, so you have to stick with whatever they had given you; and, again, the same thing with the municipal.
Pitfalls: coaches, like I said we’re competitive. So we lose track of that dry side because we want to be the best, we want to offer the best services to our swimmers, we want to in some cases win at all costs. And what does that mean? Well I keep thinking “Okay, for my team, if I win a national championship, that’s going to do great things for the growth of the team, so I need to help pay for people to go the meet. ‘Oh, Nadine I will pay for you to go to the…’ you know, I’ll, I’ll pay for this, I’ll help you out.” You start spending money you don’t have because you’re not looking at the business side. Remember, you have to pay bills. I always say take your business plan and turn it into your goals and objectives. If I said that I would like to be at the end of one year, 40 swimmers, and the 40 swimmers if they’re paying 70 dollars a month it brings in X-amount of dollars, there’s the beginning of my budget unless I have anything else that I can do. So, you can’t do things if the money is not there, and we’re going to talk a little bit about where to find some money.
Ignoring your noncompetitive swimmers: probably the greatest mistake any Masters coach can make. If you look at the makeup and I’m going to give you the makeup of our team; currently: we have about 200 dues paying members. Now once upon a time, being the best to me meant I’m going to have 300 registered USMS. I went to USMS and I would look up how many registered swimmers I had. And to me, that was important. I remember that the first year we had 300 swimmers, I thought that was fantastic; I’m the best coach around. But, what I have learned is; that’s nice, but what I have to look at is ‘who’s paying the bills?’
So now to me, although I am now city employed they don’t care, I still look at it as if it were my business, and I always felt that if I had 150 swimmers paying dues each month based on our annual fees that’s about $150,000 of revenue. That’s a good budget to work on for coaching Masters Swimming, $150,000. Now I look at that. So, although it’s not in my goals and objectives as a municipal employee, I have 25 years of business that always has me looking at that. What I recommend to coaches doing, once they get in the door; they may not ask you for a report every month, but there are minimum reports I would want of myself. How many swimmers do I have registered who are paying dues that month? I can look in how much money I’m bringing in that month. I also like to look at pool utilization because I’ve been around city employees long enough, so I do a splash count every month. Every day I like to look at how many swimmers showed up. Why is that important to me, because when the Aquatics Director looks out I want her to see a full pool; so I look at each practice. I remember the first day had 100 swimmers at our practices in one day. I just thought that, that was, because they, they will notice things, that’s something that’s visible to a lot of people. So, but, more important if it’s a private entity, I’m going to look more at the revenue; who’s paying my dues each month? If I’m at a private company and they’re going to want to, I told them they’re going to make money, I need to make sure; they do not care how many USMS register swimmers I have. They do not care how many national champions I have. They do not care how many All Americans I have. What they care about is how many dollars I brought in for them and what were my expenses. So those are the things you get – you can’t ignore that.
I was getting to the non–competitive swimmers. In my organization, I would say my noncompetitive and I’m going to put those out who wouldn’t go to a triathlon, who wouldn’t go to an open water swim, who wouldn’t go to a swim meet, I’m going to say they probably account for at least 60% of my swimmers, at least 60%. Now, I look at how do I keep that 60% coming? Now, you go on and so, so you have to go to some of your coaching skills; what are their goals and objectives for being there? So those are things we learn on the coaching on the wet-side, making sure you understand the needs of your swimmers to make sure they’re still coming so that they feel that dollar amount is worth it. It’s a healthy balance, but you don’t fixate on it, I always say I recommend just having reports at the end of each month, and it’s the best way; but you can’t to go look at it every day. I remember in early, my early business days we checked the mail every day to see what checks were coming in. You know you can’t fixate on that, but you can, you must fixate that if you are bringing in $1,000 for a month and you’re expenses are $1,200 you need to figure out; how do you deal with that shortcoming.
So you have to have certain mechanisms on an ongoing basis to know how much you have. Do not take the eye off. And if you can’t do it, you need somebody who is going to do it for you and somebody you trust. I come from a family business and my corporate days I worked for the world’s largest company out of college. I worked for Exxon, and I finished my career in Corporate US working for a family company. I learned a lot. I learned a lot of lessons from this business. And, one of the things I learned in the family business, they’re going to employ every sibling. They’re going to employ their wife, their siblings, their son-in-laws; they’re going to employ everybody. But I can tell you in the company that I worked with the family business, I was had to fire a family member and that was very difficult. That’s where the difference was in the family business. So if you are starting your business of coaching the team or building the team and you want to use family members, the one pitfall I’m going to say is; you need to be able to be prepared that you can fire a family member. And if you can’t, you’re going to be in big trouble. I learned that early on in my career; you just get too comfortable then let the people do what they’re doing, and, you can’t do that. And in coaching I see it a lot. I’ve seen it across the board in the US where they, these are quasi family run businesses where you have spouses sharing the responsibilities, you have you know some business partners they’re like closest brothers, or brother and sister, and it just doesn’t work all the time. You have to be able to make those hard decisions. And most of these are small businesses that we’re operating.
Getting too comfortable: You know, I can tell you back in 2010 I was pretty comfortable; the national championship, a lot of swimmers, getting the pay check every couple of weeks, and then it all changes. And then in the two years since that occurred, many things have changed. You know first I was a contractor, and then all of sudden they wanted to keep as contractor and I decided I didn’t want to run a business. I like coaching, but I didn’t want to run a business because I was used to running a business that made millions of dollars. Coaching doesn’t. I can tell you I work twice as many hours than I did when I made a lot of money. And I mean I used to make a lot of money. I told this to Duffy all the time, you can’t afford me, but I have a passion for the sport. And I, and you, you have be very cautious that you’re just going to keep doing things but you have to, to look at how things are going to take place. Things change all the time. Frank was talking about open water. You know, he had a good open water deal going on and things change, out of his control, and that’s where you have to have a little bit of flexibility.
Making people happy: If you ask me that’s all that they really care about, and I don’t make waves, so in my annual review is I made people happy, my swimmers like me, I made them happy. The only thing I didn’t get along periodically is sometimes I couldn’t handle being managed, that’s how my management is today they don’t care about how many swimmers I have in my revenue, but I have to be prepared, that if a new person comes in next month they may – all they may care about is what revenue, how many swimmers, how much money. Things change that quickly with one person changing in the organization. One change, we have a new director of Parks and Recreation, and all of a sudden; things I had to do outside of work, or outside of just coaching and showing up 40 hours a week, have totally changed. They expect us to be doing all kinds of recreational team building training. This is my newest thing and I’m going to adapt, I’m going to actually have some great classes. So municipalities, I am well prepared, at the city of Fort Lauderdale that should we ever get a new facility created that they will privatize. So I am sitting comfortably as a city employee, collecting my paycheck, being nice to everybody, but I know in a year or two years when those things change I will have to make a decision about am I going to change. So you can’t take your eye off what’s happening outside of the water, it’s something that you know I can’t stress enough and I see it a lot in a lot of the age group programs.
Ongoing revenue generator: we charge X-number of dollars, each month to swimmers, and I’m going to kind of go back to the private model where people are all about making money, and one of the things that you learn in a general business is when in sales, you make the money when you close the deal. You agreed to buy my car, I’m selling a car, you’re going to buy it — what happens as soon as you buy that car, they start asking – offering to sell you extended warranty, new mats for the back, a car back cover, or do you want that extra polish that will keep the car looking new: that’s called the up sale. So a lot of times in business we – in swimming we start thinking about activities that can raise money potentially. There are ways to raise money, if you’re nonprofit a 501c3, you have your swimathons, you can host meets, there are a number of ways you have to look at especially in your private organization, or a contractor, how can I make additional money over and above, just people coming in each month and paying, you know $60, $30, $40 in some of these places to swim for a month. You have to look at swim lessons, hosting swim meets. A friend of mine told me a number of years back, you know for us at swim Fort Lauderdale we host two meets a year and that generates some pretty decent revenue for when I start talking about our booster club, but we raise money that way.
A swim team in Philadelphia said, you know we can guest bar tend at one of the local clubs and make more money in the night than we would in a swim meet, as guest bar tenders. So sometimes you have to look outside the box. Swim meet, to host a swim meet is six months of effort, if you think about it, six months from getting the pool space, working out the contract for the pool space, sanctioning it, marketing it, and when I think back to that comment there are times you know we – I have to run my two meets a year I’m thinking; we could just make so much more money guest bar tending – just at taking one night, but as activity for the swimathons if you want to you can use those time into your ePostal. You know there are so many postal swims, that could be also ways to generate revenue, you can generate revenue by adding your – for $12 you can swim the 10K, but you can offer the service of, getting other people to count and the pool time and charge them $25 and make some profit. Or if you are 501c3, that $13 you made extra could go into your fund, and that’s one of the things that – well I’ll skip ahead to the booster club.
If you have a municipal program, one of the first things you should do, is just start a booster club, because for us to run a meet, if in the city of Fort Lauderdale, for us to buy a case of water, I have to go out for three bids. So anything I do with the city, if I’m doing it as a city employee, and I’m going to any kind of vendor, I if go to Jimmy Jones I get subs, I can’t do that. So if you’re municipal, and if you look up if you Google swimming booster clubs, one of the things you are going to notice in every one of those swimming booster clubs are; they’re either with the school board type program, high schools, or they are city type program.
If you are a contractor to a municipality, it’s not an issue whatsoever; contractors can go out and buy water from whoever they want to. So those are things, booster clubs are essential if you’re working directly for a municipal. Donations yeah, yeah but think about if you run meets if that’s the way of raising money, there is a lot of things you have to purchase, if I have to purchase paper, to put into the computer to print results or that the – anything dealing with that you have to – it has to go through bids. A lot of times you can go to a contractor like if we have an Office Hippo we are allowed to buy from, so if it’s through them I can buy it, but if I want to get tee shirts for the meet I have to go for three bids. So your booster club can raise money but then there is other things they can do, if you – the booster club and – and the municipal arena, it helps us, when we want to do our scholarships, take people to nationals, pay for our coaches to go to nationals, pay for our coaches to come to ASCA, pay for our coaches to do things or education, because unless they’re budgeted within the city, in city approved classes, they have to be paid outside. So the booster club can really help out, but a booster club is not going to pay your bills, remember that booster club can’t pay your bills.
Investors: Well that’s a whole different thing, you can have investors who donate money, just because they’re nice, if they want to donate money through your booster club and take advantage of the tax write off, they can do that. Investors can also invest into your private organization to help you fund, but typically if they’re going to do it that way it’s almost like buying stock in our company. So you have to be very clear when somebody lends you money upfront, what their expectations are, do they expect that money back, do they expect that money plus interest, do they expect that money back plus?
Another way to make money is selling team gear, specialty items. It can be a problem on some of the organization is if you’re a smaller organization, where are you going to store it? How are you going to deliver it? Yeah so you have to look at, big picture.
Sponsorships: Anybody can sponsor any type of company, you know sponsorships if you’re 501c3 they get some tax write off, if you’re a private organization and they want to sponsor money for your private swim team to go to nationals, or they want to do certain things for you they can donate as much as they want there is no limitation but there are tax implication, that’s when you got to go back to your tax account. They’ll help you with that.
The final thing is a payroll. Right now Frank is talking about having some sponsors come in. You’re going to have different level of sponsors. We are very excited, at Swim Fort Lauderdale we have Speedo. We are one of the first Masters teams to be sponsored. I’ve always been involved with the age group program, but I’ve separated quasi from our age group program where we have our own budgets, we have our own booster club, and so Speedo has offered us a sponsorship, so the only picture I’m going to put today is my next picture, because Speedo sponsored this year and all they did is they made us look good. Yeah, so they – you know you have to be cautious when you say that you’re going to get a sponsorship, so they took care of making us look good at nationals and we won nationals this year.
So I know I kind of went around – around the clock on a number of different things that we are dealing with it, there’s no set rules on work in these organizations, they all operate different as they structure as a whole. Municipals have a lot of structure, a lot of guideline but take it to the next step, who are you talking to within that organization. A lot of times their motivation is going to help you get your foot in the door. But one of the things you learn in sales, one of the first things they teach you in sales 101, it cost a lot of money and time and effort to get the pool space or get into the water as I said. So you just want to make sure you don’t screw up and lose that opportunity, because a lot of times programs are replacing other programs, so it’s good to find out why weren’t they successful.
Remember what it took to get you there, because a lot of times that’s going to help you to set your goals and objectives from the business side. Dollars: you got to keep track of that if you have payroll and you have staff, you have to be able to pay them, so you need to know what money is coming in, what’s going out. If things get tight you have to be able to tighten your belt, where can I tighten it? So you don’t want to get crazy upfront, never lose focus of the business side. The best part of coaching is what I call the wet side, there’s no question, I love every aspect of that. You just want to spend a little bit of time each day each month, keeping track of the business side. But relishing the competitive side and you just want to create a win-win environment.
So that’s all I have to say. Any questions, comments?
[indiscernible question on opening another program at another facility]
[Hendrick]: No, there is not a problem one. The first thing you have to do is make sure you are not in any violation of current contracts as they are written; it is the very first thing. Because of the fact that we are in the process of potentially losing access to our long-course space, I am now tasked to find pools that we can rent space. But the caveats I have, I have a pool that somebody is willing to pay me to coach practices at this pool; I can’t do it. Why? Because I asked. When in doubt, ask the original: are there limitations?
USMS does not care; you are fine. Your name can be on a municipal pool, your name can be in all sorts. I mean there have been organizations where it is a combination of private pools, municipal pools, etcetera. The key is if you have a contract with one, you first need to make sure there are no stipulations that say you cannot. Mine says that I can… we as a club can practice anywhere we want; the booster club from mine can charge fees for a non-city pool—City of Fort Lauderdale will not bill them for use in another pool, they have nothing to do with that pool, so they won’t stop us from doing it. But my status as an employee eliminates me; it is against my contract to accept funds from a different organization. So can I run it? Yes. Can I do it as a volunteer? Yes. The only thing I cannot do is be paid. How do I know that? I asked.
So I would always ask, because you do not want to screw up a relationship. You do not want to go, set-up the relationship with a new pool, and then go back to find out you cannot do that.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: Yeah, there are no rules. USA Swimming and U.S. Master differ greatly on that topic. U.S. Masters has no anti recruiting, it’s just bad but there’s no rule stated – yeah its bad karma. There are no rules against it – in the way I would have addressed it and now I am going to go to my coaching side — if there are people that you value being on the team my comment would be, you know we love having you here, is there something that we didn’t do, that we can learn from this.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: Well what you do in that scenario if it’s a triathlete and raise your rates for the triathlete, because they are going to go to whichever programs is more expensive. I mean I am quasi joking but I am really not.
What I’ve said to our triathletes where if there are other programs and they are going to spend the money and I will say well you know we should be charging more but we are subsidized by the city, I mean I just make something up. But that the bottom-line is dialogue communication asking questions is always what I do first – in any of these scenarios that we discussed — they are all similar and they are all different and how do you know they are different because you ask, you can’t assume anything. So if you know the individual or if one of my swimmers, I would probably talk to each one individually and say — and be honest if they are people you like and you would love them to be there — tell them I would love you to be here, you know I can’t change anything, but if there’s anything we can on how we run – are we missing something please educate me.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: My next step well from the marketing side or from the growth of the team? Well for – as I went back to the very beginning the first thing you want to ask yourself is and what I would ask me – what do I want? What do I want as an individual in running this team – I don’t have dynasty in my blood, I like what I am doing, I’m perfectly content, so I have to first ask what would I want to do next? If I want to grow the team do I want to be at a different facility then but the other thing is from the coaching stand point and Frank hit the nail on the head, we don t spend any money on marketing and I think in Masters majority of the market – the marketing in Master is word of mouth and location. You know and location does make – helps out a lot, word of mouth you know if they hear you got something good going on they are going to come check you out and even if there’s competition in the area, and so you can’t take advantage, you can’t take for granted the people who come in to your location every day, you do have to as Frank said about his coaches, they have to connect, you really have to connect with your swimmers, and there are just certain things, all of my coaching skills came from how we connected and all I learned through business and how to run operations – do keep people happy and it’s just a lot of communication.
But the next step that I would have is knowing that things change. That’s my, if I would call it a worry, my worry would be what would be our next step. I may lose my pools in next month or the next month, but I have some backup. So you have to always kind of play your next step. If you look at playing pool and if you talk to somebody who shoots pool, they are not going to tell you just try and hit that ball in their pocket, they are thinking a couple of plays ahead. So I have to think of what’s the next step what can, at my current rate can I add better services, you know you might be content on one pool, two pools, what can I add to this? And I am always thinking what’s going to generate review. I was always taught in business to have a healthy discontent for the status quo. Don’t work; at the city at any city government if that’s your motto, so that’s my biggest challenge today. There’s a better way of doing everything always. If you work for a city there’s a forum for everything that’s all I have learned in the past two years there’s a forum. But in my old company in the business world if we said we do it because that’s how it’s always been done, if you said that three times you are fired. Yeah, so but the thing is, we wanted our people to be forward thinking but so I have lots of thoughts, but being with the municipal it’s not going to happen, but then that’s my personal decision is this where I want to be and I happen to like the people I work with, I happen to like the swimmers and to me it’s been a great scenario.
I got a great opportunity offered to me in 2005 and I’ve never regretted it, it was the best opportunity ever. I’m not saying it because you’re back there, but you know if I was given an opportunity in 2005 by a forward thinking head coach who said you know this Masters’ stuff is pretty cool. This could be something not only from the business standpoint which it is financially at the City of Fort Lauderdale at my complex Swim Fort Lauderdale. The Masters program, we have 200 dues-paying members. I focus on that because that’s my business side. We have 200 dues paying members, active members paying monthly membership, and our Age Group has 140. So this forward thinking coach in 2004 said there’s something to be said. That was not his only motivation, that coach also said this is what aging swimmers need to do so it was twofold on the business side, dry side, wet side. Wet side best thing you could do and focus on is getting swimmers in the water with no if, ands, or buts. All this and hopefully if there’s anything you take away from this talk, don’t take your eye off that dry side. I mean that’s the only – if you walk away and that’s what you walk away with today I’m happy because I’d rather you spend 99% having a blast, coaching swimmers, getting adults in the water; there’s nothing better than that. You walk home and that’s what I feel like I carry in my wallet. I mean you can’t make – nothing can pay you enough to get that joy of doing that. But you want to be able to keep doing that every day by looking at this. I know it’s a boring topic but you can’t take your eye off that because without doing that properly there may not be a place for your adults to swim and that would lead to shame.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: My swimmers? They range from, we have a one day a week only rate but I have for people outside our county that’s $25. They have – I should know this, $75 if you want to swim any three practices during the week, or $85 for unlimited and we have 22 practices a week at our pool, alright just one pool, one pool. Okay we have two pools at the same place.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: Our learn-to-swim is probably less than 5%. We don’t turn anybody away, if they come and they have an interest, if they are not able to complete at length or two, we have either adult swim lessons, because we have a Swim Lessons Department within Parks and Rec or they can do private coaching – or private lessons. I’m so accustomed to saying private coaching; they can do private adult lessons.
[indiscernible question from audience]
[Hendrick]: First thing I would look at is your facility, are there times when the pool is empty? For example lunch time. Lunch time is my biggest – what a fluke how that came about, total fluke where we as coaches couldn’t – we were always coaching and we are all swimmers. So we just started going at noontime to swim on our own together as the co – the age group coaches and the two Masters coaches. And now that turned into be our biggest practice, so it’s past. So new time; and when I say noon adults especially as you get 40 and over are very flexible in their times; triathletes know to find time. So if you find that – what we call our noon practices, if the pool is empty from 1:00 to 2:00 I could fill it, because if they really want to swim they’re going to take a late lunch. So and if you’re near a city or a business area like I said our noon practice consistently now for eight years probably have been our biggest practice every day. But if, if I only had the pool and if it’s empty between 1:00 to 2:00 I’d make that work, because all of a sudden most of your adults from noon practice; demographic of that is people who are more entrenched in their career, meaning they can get away so usually take their lunches so they can get away. The sales people who are entrenched they don’t care about their boss as much they can manage their own bosses. You’re not going to get the 20 something, because they’re too new in their career, they would never not take just their one hour lunch. But the ones that I have and then you have homemakers, your retirees, the list goes on. I happen to be very hospitality oriented so my hotel workers, airlines, so there’s a lot of flexibility. But you’d be shocked if I had pool space from 2:00 to 3:00. I still – I would be confident I could fill it. Again, with the adult market and in D.C. with flex time I bet you could fill the 2:00 to 3:00, some – in some locations.
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