Kiwi coach disrupts sports industry with client management tool - Lightning Lab
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Kiwi coach disrupts sports industry with client management tool

DD-60Professional coaches choose their line of work because they like being active and playing sport. Unfortunately, the paperwork and administration time that accompanies their profession can put them in a chair for hours.

Ian Bishop, a tennis coach and the CEO of CoachSeek, has created a startup that helps coaches be where they want to be: in the field with their clients. The cloud-based management tool is designed to allow sports coaches to run and coordinate their entire coaching business from a single place.

”There are many hardworking, passionate sports coaches out there with incredibly successful programmes and results, but when you drill down into how they run that business, that foundation is typically built on paper diaries or excel spreadsheets,” Ian said.

“We’re replacing the paper and Excel pain with our online solution, helping coaches with their scheduling, bookings, clients, and general programme management.”

It’s an intuitive platform that was born from Ian’s personal frustrations when he was managing his own tennis coaching business. Over 15 hours of every work week was devoted to administration, and managing his business meant sifting through details in over 150 separate Excel spreadsheets.

Dealing with enquiries, bookings, coaching schedules, and invoicing became a huge headache as his business grew, and this confined him to the office chair rather than the court.

“I thought it must just be me,” Ian said, “but after interviewing hundreds of sports coaches worldwide, over 80% were experiencing the same pain. Paper and Excel methods are still widespread among sports coaches. Candid stories emerged of passionate sports coaches already working unsociable hours, having to get up even earlier and stay up even later just to stay on top of their administration.”

“Our management tool is designed therefore with one simple goal; to save sports coaches time so they can do more of what they love.”

 Maybe the reason that something of this calibre hasn’t been already created is that few people possess the skills, knowledge, team, and drive that Ian has. With over 10 years’ experience as a tennis coach and coaching director, Ian knows the industry intimately. He’s tried every other method, he knows their strengths and weaknesses, and this knowledge is an asset that can only be gained from first-hand experience.

The CoachSeek team is equally equipped to change the way coaches do business. Shaun Fitzmaurice, the company’s CMO, comes from a background in tech sales and marketing and co-founded the startup after leaving a position at Samsung Electronics. Olaf Thielke has just finished a role as lead architect with Unleashed Software, and has joined CoachSeek as the CTO to head up the technology team.

“We have an awesome team of investors, advisors and directors behind us,” Ian said. “We are in the process of finalising our board, which will be headed up by Wipster chairman Serge Van Dam.”

CoachSeek was one of the entrants to the Lightning Lab accelerator programme this year, which culminated in them exceeding their $450,000 investment target at Demo Day 2014.

The ability to focus full time on the idea in the Lab was pivotal in helping the team get to where they are now, Ian said, and this helped accelerate an idea into a fully operational business.

“We had access to some of the brightest, most hardworking and creative minds in NZ and overseas who were always happy to follow up, discuss our business, and laugh at the sight of my 150 spreadsheets!”

“But in all seriousness, their insights have been invaluable for us to learn from people who have been there, done that and who openly shared their experience, success and failures.”

While some teams said that the busy environment in the Lab was challenging and hindered them from working productively, Ian said that having other teams around helped CoachSeek to get through the difficult days. This led to the company’s decision to work in shared office spaces now, which allows them to build off the good vibes of other successful startups. 

But the best thing about the Lab was the connections that were made, Ian said.

“We met awesome entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors. Business is all about people, and Lightning Lab was great at giving us access to the right ones,” he added.

“Enjoy the journey,” Ian advises. “Building a business is a roller coaster, so it’s important to celebrate the success you have and have fun. Dan and Sam did a great job of leading the charge on this one!”

Coaches in over 40 countries are using CoachSeek now, and the team is continually reviewing the valuable feedback that their customers give them on how to improve their service.

“Moving forward,” Ian says, “our main focus will be how we can continue to automate certain processes so that coaches can spend less time worrying about admin and more time actually coaching.”

This story originally appeared in NZ Entrepreneurs.

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