Running USA recently had the opportunity to talk with Troy Busot, founder and CEO of Athlinks and now ChronoTrack’s Vice President of Product, about the big changes the team underwent this year. Check out the full post below as featured on Running USA.
Synergy is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the technology industry. But in the case of ChronoTrack, Athlinks, and Life Time Fitness, it might just be the best word to describe how three companies have merged their resources to better serve the endurance sports industry.
ChronoTrack, a Running USA sponsor, is a subsidiary of health club and athletic event conglomerate Life Time Fitness. In 2013, ChronoTrack acquired Athlinks, a preeminent race results data provider. Two and a half years after the merger, both companies appear to have emerged stronger, and are continuing to grow with a strong foundation of support from parent company Life Time Fitness.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with Troy Busot (right), founder and CEO of Athlinks and now ChronoTrack’s Vice President of Product, about the big changes his team underwent this year. The Running USA team knows Troy well – data provided by Athlinks is an invaluable resource as we produce our annual reports on the industry.
In addition to relocating the company’s endurance sports division to Louisville, Colorado, in 2015, product development is moving full steam ahead, Busot said.
“We just finished our U.S. regional timer training – 9 cities in 4 weeks. We talked a lot about the products we’ve rolled out this year, plus some of the new things coming this fall and beyond. I love getting together with customers; learning about their pain points – finding out what we’re doing well, and not so well from their perspective, and making changes to our process along the way,” Busot shared.
The new office is designed to be a collaborative environment and a showcase of the ChronoTrack/Athlinks technology platform.
“We’re counting on it having a big impact on product development going forward. We’ve brought a lot of functions under one roof that had previously been spread out across the country. One example that is having a big impact already has been bringing a user experience (UX) design team together with our product developers and engineers, all under one roof. We’re excited for the fall season,” Busot said.
Read on for his answers to the rest of our Spotlight on the Sport question list:
Can you describe one or two things that make your business/event stand out in the running industry?
Take the best timing platform and timer network in the industry – ChronoTrack, combine that with what is now one of the premier, full-stacked, race services platforms – ChronoTrack Live (registration, live results, athlete messaging, photography); tie it together with Athlinks (30 million athlete histories with more than 180 Million results from 400,000+ events) and leverage the resources of Life Time Fitness – a $4 Billion company and you have all of the pieces to change the industry in a big way.
Rather than focusing on WHAT the pieces are, however, I think it’s more important to look at WHO the pieces are. ChronoTrack revolutionized the timing industry by doing what most said was impossible – providing 99.9+% accuracy with a disposable RFID tag. That culture of innovation and optimism drives the entire company today.
ChronoTrack Live (formerly Bazu) is the first to combine registration – both online and on-site – with live scoring, athlete messaging, live photos and video. Again, innovation delivered at the right time and place to change an industry. An artifact and key differentiator for our registration platform is that, because it was built first as a scoring platform, our data is always accurate. We don’t sell “tickets”, we sell race entries, coded for accuracy.
Athlinks has been the official data provider for Running USA for the better part of the last decade. We’ve prided ourselves on being good stewards of our industry’s data. We hear stories daily about the first time someone stumbles across their race results (sometimes spanning decades) and relives the memories from races they had forgotten about long ago. Combining that data with the race services platform will allow us to innovate in really exciting ways for athletes, events, and our timers.
Lastly, Life Time Fitness is the culmination of a “Healthy Way of Life” vision, and the hard work of over 25,000 employees. What they have been able to build, and how they have been able to build it, is inspiring. Most gyms succeed based on their paying members NOT coming to the facility. They just keep collecting monthly dues and keep overhead down. Life Time, on the other hand, wants you in the club. They want to be the cornerstone of your active lifestyle. It’s inspiring to be part of that family and mentality.
What general happenings or trends in the running industry are you most excited about, and why?
It’s really amazing to see the consistent inverse relationship between the endurance industry (in particular, event participation) and the economy. The economy booms, our industry struggles, the economy struggles, event participation booms. We’ve been analyzing this at Athlinks for years and really saw the trend on full display in 2008 when, hand-in-hand with the market crash, we saw massive event participation increases. But more importantly, the QUALITY of participation also sharply rose. It was the first such trend that we’d seen in our data to that point.
Typically large increases in participation has meant drops in quality – or average times. The thesis, backed by numerous customer interviews, is that things got so bad at that time, a lot of us turned hard to running and multi-sport as a way to physically and emotionally cope with the chaos around us.
We’ve been working on ways to sustain that behavior through the good times. We’re tailoring our sales and marketing tools used by our event customers to provide the right analysis and actionable intelligence to engage with athletes in the most meaningful ways, and the numbers are showing the success.
What is a current challenge for you that input and insight from other industry leaders might help solve?
I think our primary challenge as an industry is to get more people out to more events and do so in a manner that is sustainable long term. We call it, “getting them to the finish line fit, fast, and healthy”. We want to get athletes (however you choose to define that word) to embrace endurance sports as a lifestyle. A habit. Habits aren’t formed over night though. They are progressive. Over the past several years in our industry, we’ve seen people dive into distances and challenges with an amazing amount of enthusiasm. Only to learn, often after it’s too late, that their mind and body either wasn’t ready or wasn’t suited to that particular distance or work load.
If someone wants to take on the marathon as a challenge, fantastic! But let’s use our technology, relationships, influence – marketing – to get them into some 5Ks and 10Ks along the way. Get them into a half marathon trail race to test their legs. Get them to buy into the importance of strength and core training, etc. Again, fit, fast, and healthy – a sustainable solution.
Tell us about your corporate culture/office environment. Do you do anything that is unique, fun, active or running related with your employee team?
We’re actually four cultures rolled into one – ChronoTrack, Bazu, Athlinks, and, of course, Life Time Fitness. In other companies, you could see that causing problems. ChronoTrack was born in Evansville, IN and Life Time in Chanhassen, MN. Both have a very strong mid-western family vibes, which was something that I was really interested in when I joined the company. Athlinks has always had a very small, close-knit team in Phoenix and it was always our goal to have at least one hard belly laugh every day. Laughter and joy are really important to me and I believe that nothing that you can do or say will motivate a team more than simply loving what you do, who you do it with, and the environment in which you do it.
We have recently moved the bulk of our product and engineering staff up to Louisville, CO in a space custom-built for our business. By the way, if you’re traveling through the Denver/Boulder area, be sure to shoot us a note and come by and check it out. We do runs and rides from the office each week. We have a timed 5K + burpee challenge on the last Friday of every month (you haven’t done burpees until you’ve done them a mile high), and we race and volunteer at a lot of events together.
If you live in the area or are looking to relocate, we’re always hiring great people.
What role does technology play in your daily life, as a business or as a runner?
We all know that technology is playing a larger role in our athletic lives, and more so each day. Personally, I try to keep the tech to a minimum while I’m training. I track most workouts passively with a Garmin Fenix, but I don’t obsess on the data while I’m working out. The exception is if I’m doing intervals or some activity based purely on the data (reps in a given timeframe, etc).
We’re obviously a technology-first company, so it’s really at the core of what we do. We see the potential to bring together a lot of different technologies on race-day to provide blanket coverage of athletes on course – from RFID, GPS, etc. Also, there’s so much potential to deliver value back to the athletes utilizing our data to uncover trends and make the right recommendations for them to get better at participating in events.
We all participate for different reasons. For some, it’s about getting faster. For others, it’s weight loss or keeping age at bay. One of our Athlinks members races a half marathon every year to honor her relationship with her mother who passed away from breast cancer several years ago. She finishes the race with a cathartic sob that helps her keep that connection alive for another year. I think it’s tragic and beautiful and we want to find a way for her, in addition to the others, to use our platform to tell that story. To make that connection.