Another happy i9 Sports customer, another i9 Sports franchise owner
Accounting firm partner and satisfied i9 Sports dad leaves old life behind to invest in an i9 Sports franchise
What could public accounting and i9 Sports possibly have in common?
For Mike Taormina, an i9 Sports franchise owner whose territory includes East Kane, Northwest DuPage and Northwest Cook counties in the suburbs of Chicago, quite a bit. Before he bought his franchise in 2015, he was winding down his career as a partner in a public accounting firm.
“Prior to owning the franchise, we were an i9 Sports family,” Taormina says. “In fact, my son started in i9 Sports when he was 3, and that’s a long time ago now because he’s in high school. We were very familiar with i9 Sports, the i9 Sports model, what i9 Sports stood for and much of what i9 Sports was built upon is very characteristic of what I was doing for the firm. The firm that I worked for was the first and only organization in the United States that solely focused on health care, health care audit and health care consulting, much like i9 Sports is the first and largest provider of recreational youth sports programming.
“There’s a lot of similarities, a lot of things in terms of mission, vision and values that I felt synced very nicely.”
As a partner in his accounting firm, Taormina worked primarily in business development and client management — skills he knew would transfer well to an entrepreneurial environment. It was ultimately his wife, Danielle, who helped him see it was time to leave behind the accounting firm for something different.
“She was stepping back and saying, ‘Hey, what are you doing here? You spend 75% to 85% of your life on the road. These kids are growing up really, really quick. You’re never around.’ We decided to take a look at this from a personal and family perspective for the short term, and then see where it would go from there. That was in 2015 and here we are in 2021, so things are working out pretty good.”
Strategizing through 2020
Taormina’s standard business advice to prospective buyers is simple: You get out of it what you put into it. And Taormina advises going all-in; i9 Sports is not a part-time opportunity. “If you’re going to jump into this, you’ve got to jump into it with two feet,” he says. “You’ve got to be fully immersed in it if you’re going to be successful and if you’re going to grow and if you’re going to be able to maximize your territory.”
That means prioritizing strategy, marketing and business development as well as operations.
“We’ve put together a five-year strategic plan. From my past experience, I know how important having a plan, both a strategic and operational plan, is to be successful. We have budgets. Each and every year, I work against my budget to see where we are. Obviously last year was just a mess from a budgetary standpoint.”
Once the pandemic hit, Taormina says, they had to reforecast the budget to adjust for the unfolding event. That turned out to be a key survival tactic for the business. There was also a lot of marketing, networking and reaching out to the community, all to figure out how to keep operating throughout shutdowns and restrictions.
“At the end of the day, we ended up doing way better than what we thought we were going to do,” he says.
Sharing franchise duties
Taormina and his wife currently share duties as program director, making sure everything’s ready for league play, setting up programs and making sure the staff is prepared. They also divide operational responsibilities, while Taormina handles strategy and business development on his own.
As for whether he’s had an “aha” moment that validated his decision to become an i9 Sports franchise owner, Taormina has them all the time.
“When I spend Sundays at Primrose Farm Park watching hundreds of kids playing, smiling and having fun while families thoroughly appreciate what we are doing, I know we’re doing something positive for this community,” he says.
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