Using systems in your tennis business

This title sounds a bit like management-speak, Something David Brent might say, or Michael Scott – I’m a bit worried you won’t get past the first few lines, so let me try to grab you by telling you what I mean by systems, why you need them and what they can do for you.

If you are a coach who only does individual lessons, or only runs a small programme, and you’re happy to keep it that way, then I say that’s great and I wish you luck. You may not need the kinds of systems that this is about – but if your tennis business is bigger, or if you are looking to grow it, then the following will be very relevant to you……..

What can systems do for you and what are the signs that you need them?

In no particular order:

  • Good systems mean you can attract large numbers into your coaching programme or club.
  • Good systems mean you can do the above whilst keeping the quality high.
  • Good systems mean that you won’t be snowed under and overwhelmed with work, particularly the dreaded ‘admin work’.
  • Good systems mean you can make more money because you can cater to more people whilst keeping the quality high.
  • You need better systems if you find yourself doing the same work repeatedly.
  • You need better systems if you are answering the same questions repeatedly.
  • You need better systems if you feel that it’s becoming difficult to maintain the quality of your coaching programme as the numbers increase, either in terms of on-court or on the oraganisation side.
  • You need better systems if you are snowed under, overwhelmed or your work-life balance is being negatively affected.

So what exactly are systems?

I would describe systems as ways of streamlining and automating actions that you are likely to repeat often.

They may be simple systems, such as:

  • Every time you send an email which you will have to send repeatedly, save it as a canned response in Gmail.
  • Setting your email signature.
  • Creating an FAQ section or page on your website, and every time someone asks a new question, add the answer to that page.
  • Writing a training manual for your team – so when a new coach joins your team, you can easily train them – and add to it regularly as you develop new ways of doing things.

You can also combine some of these smaller systems. For example, the canned response¬† / template which you save also directs people towards the FAQ page. So I might have a template email reply which says “Thanks for your enquiry about membership of Sutton Tennis & Squash Club, you can find the answer to that question and more HERE. But don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or problems….”

But doesn't this take away the personal touch?

This is the most common argument against creating these kinds of systems. I say that it’s the opposite. If you have good systems to deal with all the things which you shouldn’t be doing, then you have the time to be available for the stuff which DOES need you.

It doesn’t take your skills or your personality to tell someone a time, a price, to collect contact details, to process a payment etc. So if you can automate most of those tasks, then you have the time to do the things which you can’t and maybe shouldn’t automate, such as:

  • Talking to a parent about their child’s progress / development.
  • On court coaching.
  • Answering genuine problems or complaints.
  • Working on the business (not the admin).
  • Just being you and talking to people.
  • Talking to your team of coaches.

Bigger systems

These are the systems which may take more work to set up, and will probably use a combination of sotfware and your website – but these are the systems which can really help you to grow in a high quality way, leaving happy parents / children / members / coaches. Examples are:

  • Signing up a new person to the tennis coaching programme, aka the ‘onboarding process’ – that’s everything from their first enquiry to being fully signed up. I’ll give you an example of our system for this later in this post.
  • The coaching programme itself – I’ve written HERE about our switch to a direct debit / recurring payment system. That has had amazing results and is a great example of the power of a good system.
  • A new member joining the club – right from their first enquiry to being fully signed up to receiving all the welcome info that they need.

Real-World Examples

Example 1. Onboarding system for our junior programme

This is the whole process of a child joining our programme, right from an initial enquiry to being fully signed up and invovled in the programme. Click on each stage of the system to expand it…….

Automated step – it is on our website at www.stscsport.co.uk/junior-tennis-coaching but we’ve made it easy to remember by buying the domain JUNIORTENNIS.XYZ which redirects to that page. I’ve written a post about that little trick HERE

Automated step – we have used our software, TennisBiz for this form. The client enters their info and their kids’ info which goes straight into our database. We then get notification that someone has signed up for a free trial group lesson.

This step is not automated, but is nothing more than a few clicks. As all their info is already in our database we just click a couple of buttons to add them to a class.

This is the great part – it’s automated again! Our software allows us to set up this ‘automation’ so that whenever we sign someone up for a trial, it automatically sends them a pre-written email and text. This contains everything they need to know about thier trial.

 

Note: By this stage, the only action needed from us has been a couple of mouse clicks, yet the client is all set to bring their child(ren) to their trial class. They have all the info that they need.

This step is kind-of automated, because it is an existing class. It will be aproximately the right level for the child, but not a big problem if it isn’t. The coach will hopefully give a great lesson and note the child’s level, ready to be followed up.

This isn’t automated, but it is streamlined. Our software can generate this list and they can be emailed with a pre-written message inviting them to join the programme. It will contain almost everything they need to know.

Again, not automated but quick. Only necessary for people who haven’t responded (of which there may not be anyone). One follow up and then we take them off the system.

If they have signed up, they are now into another system, which is also mostly automated. This is our direct debit / recurring payment system for lessons, which I have written about HERE

So this may appear to be lots of steps, but in reality there has been very little action needed from us or from the client (parent). All they did was fill in a form, receive a reply and turn up to a free trial. All we did was a couple of clicks to add them into the class, then one or two pre-written follow up emails.

Estimated total time 10 minutes – and if they join the programme, which the majority do, they will be paying an automatic monthly recurring fee / direct debit which may go on for years.

This system allows us to attract LOTS of new children into our programme, but also leaves us free to do the important stuff, like the coaching, talking to the parents, taking an interest in the development of the children’s tennis, working on the business and more……………

Example 2. A new member joining our club

Automated step. This page is at www.stscsport.co.uk/membership but we have once again used the Redirect trick to buy an easy-to-remember domain name which we can tell people. That domain name is suttonmembership.com.

So this is the first step of the system – it may be that someone has searched online and found this page, or they may have phoned or emailed and we have directed them to the page. The page contains most the information that they need to know about membership.

Automated step. I wrote a post HERE about moving our membership to a direct debit / recurring payment model and generally improving our systems. We use software called Club Manager, although there are plenty more software options available for managing membership.

But whichever software you use (and I do strongly recommend that you use some kind of software), it should ideally do the following:

  1. Have the facility for direct debit / recurring payments for membership. These may be monthly or annually depending on your set up, but the point is that the membership renews and takes payment automatically.
  2. Be able to be ’embedded’ into your website. If you look at the joining page of our website at www.stscsport.co.uk/join/ you’ll see that potential members can click and join without having to leave our website. This is because the software is embedded.
  3. Have the facility to email the members straight from the software, including options to filter the emails.

There is more, but that is for another post.

This is where we have to be a little creative. There are many types of members who may join our club – junior, adult, tennis, squash and more. So how can we send an automatic confirmation email which is relevant to them all, without it being too long?

The answer here was to create a page on our website which has sections for every type of membership. See it HERE. Then the confirmation simply directs the new member to this page. And any time we want to edit or add to the info given to new members, there is only one place we need to do it, which is that page.

By this stage, there has been ZERO action needed from our end, unless this was a phone / email enquiry, in which case we simply gave the link. So the member has joined, set up their reecurring payment and received a confirmation message with lots of useful info about thier membership. Their details are in our database and they can be emailed at the click of a button.

Not automated. These 2 jobs take a couple of minutes.

That’s it! The process is finished. A new member has joined, is set up to pay, has been given lots of info about their membership, set up to book courts. And that took a total of 2 minutes work from our end.

Even better, at the end of the month or year, their membership will automatically renew without any action needed at all.

Conclusion

So there you have it – the reasons why you need good systems, what it can do for you, a couple of examples (although there are many more).

Are there any areas where you can see that you need a system, or you need to improve a current system? It is an ongoing process. I find myself often realising that there are areas where we need to introduce a system or improve one – and it is a great feeling when we do, as I know that particular area will be easier and better forever as a result.

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