The power of the partnership between the Timer and the Run Specialty Store is advantageous and innovative – and one that is completely underutilized and overlooked in our industry today.
Whether partnering with a Run Specialty Store is a new concept or one you’re already keen to, it’s important to understand that, as a Timer, you have the power to shift the narrative and become a key player in building business relationships between Events and Run Specialty Stores. To get a better idea of the opportunities on the table, we reached out to Adam White, Store Owner of Running Central and Brad Henz, Co-Owner of ShaZam Racing – both well-respected players in our industry, who have been working on their symbiotic relationship for the past 8 years. We asked their perspective on the ever-evolving industry, what they are actively doing to help each other drive business and how Timers and Store Owners can do more than just profit monetarily.
The essence of their advice harkens back to the “Survival of the Fittest” theory. However relevant to our industry, we’re not exactly talking about physical stamina. We’re talking about adapting and evolving as the industry in which we all work does the same. We’re talking about re-writing the hierarchy between Timers, Event Organizers and Run Specialty Store Owners – and honing in on what Timers can do as the liaison, what they can bring to the table, and what they’re doing to create symbiotic business relationships that drive profit.
Before we dive in, let’s first understand what drives decisions between the key players:
- Timers make money by getting more clients and by timing more events
- Race Directors make money by getting Athletes to the start line
- Store Owners make money by selling more shoes, more product
If you understand the basics and how to establish yourself as the expert, your possibilities are endless.
Brad and Adam give us their perspective from a business owners standpoint, as well as real life examples that evolved from the think tank into tangible, profitable actions.
Gone are the Ways of the Past
In order to open up to new and evolved ideas, we first have to recognize what isn’t quite working like it used to and distance ourselves from the past. According to our experts, a few examples of tactics that used to be relevant, but just aren’t moving the needle anymore are as follows:
- Packet Pickup: It’s time to move away from the false narrative that if you bring people to a store, they are automatically going to stick around and buy things. Athletes typically pick up their packets during the lunch hour or on their way home after a long day of work and sticking around to spend money is the last thing on their mind. Bottom line, more foot traffic doesn’t translate into more purchases, and while still a great option for housing packet pickup, Store Owners shouldn’t and can’t rely on this idea to carry their business.
- Registration Discounts and Gift Cards as Prizes: While it may seem like the “right thing to do”, giving out discounts and gift cards translates into giving away your business. When you give away discounts and gift cards to bracket winners (Athletes who most likely already purchased their race gear for the season), what you’re really doing is giving away your margins. Smaller margins don’t help the Timer, the Race Director or the Store Owner.
- T-Shirts: We hate to say it but slapping a logo on a Finisher T-shirt is a thing of the past. No longer does your local running store need a 5K to get the word out about their brand. Truth be told, the internet ruined this novelty. They now have Social platforms and Google for that. Yes, having a run store offer to donate the finisher shirt with their logo printed on it is tempting. It might offset a small overhead cost, but it certainly won’t get more people to the start line, and similarly, won’t necessarily drive new business to the store.
Think Outside the Box
Change is scary, but the only other alternative is to miss out. It’s time to start bringing fresh ideas to our partners and that all starts with thinking outside the box. Adam comforts readers by letting them know there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Timers can offer novel ideas using the tools and resources they already have available to them; they just have to think differently about their delivery. Here a couple new ideas that our expert duo has proven to be effective and that any Timer can put in motion at their next event:
Through their conversations, Brad and Adam recognized a key component to success (and one that often gets overlooked) on race day: Volunteers. Whether you’ve been a part of 1 or 50 events, you know how important Volunteers are – and when Volunteers don’t show up, Race Day can be derailed. The key here is to incentivize Volunteers to show up to the event, and what better way to do that than by offering them incentives they can’t refuse? Take the in-store discounts and gift cards that you were going to give to the race winners and give them to your Volunteers. Chances are extremely high that your award winners already have the gear they need, and podium placements are far and few between. By incentivizing Volunteers, you create an opportunity to influence a wider group of potential brand-new customers.
The best part about this idea is that it’s a win-win-win situation:
- The Race Director gets Volunteers who actually show up
- The Store Owner gets new customers in the door spending money
- And you, the Timer, gets the credit for making it all possible
Bonus Tip: Take this one step further and pay Volunteers with a gift card exclusive to a specific brand. Help Store Owners leverage in-store business deals with partners such as New Balance, Adidas, Pearl iZumi, etc. This creates an exclusive and trackable program that has the potential to bring in new customers and get meaningful results.
In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed. – Charles Darwin
Employee Referral Program
It’s safe to say that if you own a run specialty store, you have competitive, knowledgeable, sales-driven people working for you. So, as Timers, why not take advantage of these strengths and incentivize them to start working for your events too? One way to do this: create an employee referral program. Build this idea around the people who are building relationships with potential participants every day, communicating with them about the industry in which your timing business operates. By creating a referral competition, you can incentivize the sales teams to give out qualified registration discounts, not just by the masses. When executed organically, your message is delivered to potential new participants in an authentic and trusting environment.
Just like that, an opportunity for the Race Director has been created through the Timer. Remember, it all comes down to what you can do as a Timer to position yourself as a liaison between the Event and a Run Specialty Store.
Building Your Tribe
As history has shown us, we can’t survive alone. Such is true with how we survive in business as well. Brad and Adam mention they are both are in the business of building a tribe and that ties directly into fundamental survival mechanisms. Part of survival is sticking together. Adam tells us “When we recognize the similar ponds we swim in – we find a common ground. The parties are more willing to partner together.” Brad encourages Timers to contribute to the community that will one day support you if it doesn’t already. Go down to your local track club and offer to volunteer with the youth in the community. Timers often have the advantage of living in the community in which their business operates. What better way to build your business than by building the community that supports your business? If you’re going to encourage Race Directors and Athletes to support local, you have to be the example.
Outside of just business relationships, Brad offers the following advice, “Relationships are the difference between the successful and the non-successful – and it all circles back to building the tribe.”
One parting thought from Adam is to reach out to your partners and have an honest, transparent conversation. Make the time to sit down, face to face, and open up about both the challenging and the positive aspects about both of your businesses. Through that conversation, find common ground on how to evolve and adapt together – just as our industry is.
For those Timers just starting out, or who haven’t had the chance to reach out to a Store Owner, just do it. Do your research and connect with the specialty store that has the best reputation in the community. Nothing gets accomplished from the sidelines. You have to start the conversation, because your relationships and your business won’t build themselves.
We get it, these new ideas take time. But time is money. Recent evolutions in the running world mean you can’t just do easy anymore. Easy doesn’t move the margins; creative thinking does.
Remember, you can teach an old dog new tricks – it just takes time.
A special thanks to Adam White, Store Owner of Running Central and Brad Henz, Co-Owner of ShaZam Racing. These two individuals are hard-working, successful and captivating individuals – and we could all take a page out of their book, as we learn to step outside of our comfort zones, adapt within the ever-evolving world we live in and never settle for “good”.