What You Should Know About Club Programme Management
For coaches running a business or programme this interview has unique inside information from 2 of the industry’s most experienced managers.
This session is primarily for tennis coaches who either coach at or manage programmes and teams of coaches. Richard Marklow and Brad Rowbottom discuss aspects of club programme management and running your own business that we’re sure most coaches won’t have heard discussed before.
Richard Marklow is an LTA Level 5 coach, qualified mentor and Master Coach Education tutor with over 30 years’ experience in running businesses in the commercial and traditional club sector. Since 2007 Richard has been one of the Directors of inspire2coach and has headed up the company’s club programmes, dealing with over 30 different tennis clubs and facilities, their committees and coaching teams.
Brad is i2c Head of Commercial Operations, joining at the beginning of 2020 from his previous role as UK Head of Racquets for Virgin Active. He has a wealth of experience in commercial operations within tennis from overseeing some of the largest clubs in the UK to building partnerships with leading brands such as Castore, Adidas, Asics and Wilson. Brad now leads i2c’s commercial and internal projects, sourcing new business and partnerships, and streamlining the efficiency and effectiveness of the business.
Key take-aways for coaches
- inspire2coach’s best relationships have always been partnerships. It’s all about in it together with the facility. To that end, it’s important that the coach understands what the club goals are so that they can work hard together on the partnership.
- The relationship between the coach and the facility has got to be built on trust – which takes time to build.
- The best relationships are built on trust and autonomy. The facility should allow the coach to get on with their job of coaching and what they’re best at. With the facility naturally being a part of big decisions.
- How important is the contract between the coach and the provider in building the relationship?
- If you’re a coach on court with a contract – get one. Apparently stats say that around 30% of coaches don’t have a contract.
- Facilities and clubs are sometimes not keen to set up a contract but 100% as a coach you should have one. It might help to provide the club with a template or draft. In every walk of life you’d expect to have a contract.
- When setting up a contract I [Richard Marklow] always think about what can go wrong if you fall out. The reality is that when things are going well the contract sits in the drawer. Also be sure that you know what you want out of the contract and what the club wants. Both parties must be getting a fair deal. Look at the contract from your own and the club’s point of view.
- Things to consider include:
- Court allocation – make sure it is clear and agreed exactly what court allocation you will get.
- Coaching members or non-members – who are you going to be coaching?
- Fees – what fees you’ll be charged and how will they change over time?
- Responsibilities – what is expected of you as regards to keeping the club clean and tidy?
- Reviews – if reviews are built in to the contract, definitely make sure you look at it again at 3 months and 6 months etc.
- Do you think that coaches should pay fees for using the facility?
- My view is that yes, coaches should pay fees to use the facility; you’re leasing facility (just as a hairdresser leasing a chair). It comes down to the deal being fair. It doesn’t need to be cash though. Our preferred option is that we commit to 90% of people on our programmes being club members. So, what we give back is lots of memberships. There can be a target based on that.
- We do also pay for floodlights. That’s the fair thing to do.
- We also add value helping with club websites and strategy.
- Clubs are often run by volunteer committees. Do you believe that coaches should have a role on that committee?
- Committees often have members who aren’t that familiar with the tennis industry.
- I think that coaches should definitely be on the committee.
- At every point coaches should understand the drivers of the committee or other key members. That way you can deliver on what is important to the committee.
- Always be well-prepared with honest factual numbers when talking to the committee. Keep subjective stuff away from discussions.
- Be flexible.
- How can coaches improve their relationship with the club and committee?
- If you understand the club/committee’s key drivers then make sure you deliver on that.
- Make sure that you show that you really care. Be involved in fund raisers, social events, working bees etc. Go the extra mile to show that you care. It goes a long way to building the relationship.
- The coach is an important part of building the club’s culture.
- You can’t keep everyone happy. Just make good decisions that you can stand by.
- If people on the committee are not part of your programmes or part of your products then that’s dangerous. I recommend aiming to have at least 50% of the committee as part of your programmes.
- When people start complaining about small things it is usually about bigger issues. It can be an indicator of a bigger problem.
- If you are not at a meeting and the meeting notes come out with negative feedback about the coaching – that’s a red flag.
- Another red flag is when committee members start talking about other good coaches and programmes in the area.
- How do you prevent a coach working with you from cutting you out with the club?
- To me it’s about protecting yourself with a contract or agreement up front.
- Make sure you have a good relationship with the club and committee.
- Drive from the front and lead with good quality relationships.
- What’s your view of clubs employing the coach and coaching income going directly to the club? Is this something you’d recommend and that you think will be seen more often?
- I think that employing somebody gives the facility/club more control over that coach – but it also gives the coach more rights.
- You must have a good structure and be geared up to understand human resources and the legal requirements before you start employing someone.
- What is a customer journey and why is it so important?
- To me the customer journey begins the moment a customer wants to interact with one of your products and wants to engage with you.
- It includes everything that happens to the customer whilst they’re part of your activity.
- The journey starts as soon as someone sees an advert or comes to a club – before they’re even a customer. Every stage represents your company.
- It lasts whilst ever the person continues to be a customer. It’s more than on court delivery.
- It includes making their journey as easy, efficient, consistent and quick as possible. The experience a person has should be the same before they sign up as it is afterwards.
- What does that look like from a tennis viewpoint?
- Awareness – where the customer is out there looking for a tennis programme. They want to get involved in the activity. They’re not necessarily sure where to go so they’re looking at programmes and what you’re about.
- Then they’re in a stage where we’ve given them some information and they might come down for a trial. It’s important to follow up, give them more relevant information.
- Hopefully then we’re signing them up for a programme.
- It’s really important not to be selling to them all the time. You’re first follow up question should be more along the lines of “How did you get on?” It’s important that they enjoy what they’re doing rather than feel like they’re being sold to every time that we communicate.
- Its easy to forget existing customers once they’re signed on – but you’ve got to keep engaging with people (email, social media, website updates) that are already on your programmes.
- Don’t just concentrate on bringing people into the programme, make sure you take care of the people that are already in your programmes.
- How has COVID affected the customer journey?
- Tennis as a whole has benefited from being a sport that people can get involved in.
- That taught us that it’s important to have a strong digital presence in your local community. If you don’t have a website – get a simple one up – because people are searching. Help them to find information about playing tennis. Also use community groups that have become very active. Keep your social media functioning.
- What can you do to re-engage with your customers?
- Get the basics right. Check you’ve got the right contact details for customers. Don’t assume you’ve got up-to-date contact information. It’s a win-win because to check that you’ve got to communicate with customers which is helping you to engage.
- Check in with everyone to see how they’re doing? Can you direct them to online tennis activities, relevant YouTube channels… Show that you’re thinking about them.
- Start to be pro-active about the classes that you might run when you come back. Send people information so that they have the lead-time to prepare. You must prepare if you’re going to be ready.
- Check your digital channels are up-to-date.
- Have good plans that are ready to go as soon as we are able to open up.
- What stats are out there?
- There is nothing wrong with looking at stats from other industries to see best practise.
- Open rates change a lot. In general at least a quarter of people don’t open your email.
- I like the purchase stages:
- Awareness – you’re looking about for information and you don’t want people annoying you to buy. So it’s important to get information out there for people to find.
- Consideration – people have information and they’re thinking about signing up (buying). This is an opportunity to engage and start to sell.
- Decision Time – some people will come straight in and want to buy.
- The more contact and touch times you have with people – and that doesn’t mean always selling – the better your relationship will be. It can be a chat about how they’re going, how they’re enjoying tennis. Sometimes NOT SELLING is selling for your business. You’re promoting your culture and your business.
- I [Richard] don’t like the word selling because it sounds hard sell – I think our product is great and what we have got to offer is of benefit to everyone. All we should be doing is matching our product with expectations. We’ve got a great sport and great products; why wouldn’t they want to come?
- Over the last decade the amount of competition for people’s time has increased. As a sport we’ve got to offer the best value we can.
- What systems or methods do we use to manage the customer journey?
- That will depend on the size of your business – but in real basics you can do it with a piece of paper and think about where the journey starts and finishes. Timeline from before they join and look at the activities that you can do. Look at activities that you can do to engage with different groups of people. Key is that it’s got to be planned.
- First step is to schedule/plan your term – when are the key weeks to deliver information. When do I send out re-enrolment letters.
- Then look at key weeks for retention activities. Activities to give back to players on your programmes.
- Start slowly and make sure you’re consistent and can sustainably deliver the activities you’re planning.
- What are the pros and cons for a rolling junior programme of 50 weeks versus 45 weeks? How do you convince people that a 45 week programme is good value?
- I don’t understand why anyone does terms anymore. We didn’t lose customers when we switched from term payments to direct debit programmes.
- Paying by direct debit is gives you more security (monthly payment), a better customer database, far less administration (re-enrolling and re-scheduling classes) and fewer opportunities for people to decide they want to leave (improved retention). All that time you gain gives you time to work on retention and adding value to your programmes.
- Parents know where they are so that they can budget.
- We build in lost classes due to wet weather.
- Loses flexibility for players who want to come and go – but we don’t want those customers anyway. We want players who want to stay.
- What kind of salary structure or format would you recommend to keep them motivated?
- Paying a player the same amount, say £20, for coaching 2 players or 20 players, then I don’t think there is a motivation for the coach to keep and look after the players. They’re going to get paid anyway. An incentive scheme helps the coach to buy in to the programme, retention and your business. We pay our coaches more for more players in the group.
- You can incentive in other ways; how many players they get into tournaments or on their qualification level (in countries with good education structures).
- Remember that money isn’t the only motivator. Some people are motivated by promotion, more responsibility, by being recognised.
- Why would you charge coaches a fee and what would they get for their fee?
- We personally charge it because it brings in an income to pay for the things that we provide the coaches. It also lets me pay people to be great administrators. So coaches don’t have to do it.
- By calling the fee a “lease fee” [terminology can change so double check that] we protect our coaches self-employed status.
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