For i9 Sports franchisee Todd Peterson, running his business provides enormous satisfaction, both on and off the field
For Fairfax, VA, i9 Sports franchisee Todd Peterson, his business represents the way youth sports should be run. Initially he was just looking for a way to get back into the coaching he’d enjoyed in his younger days, but as he looked into the business model, he decided to go a step further and open his own youth sports franchise.
“It is a business that requires a lot of hard work,” he says, “but there’s enormous satisfaction both on the field and in the operations behind the scenes.”
Read on to learn more about why Peterson finds the i9 Sports opportunity so fulfilling.
What did you do before you became an i9 Sports franchisee?
My background is in international affairs and economics. My wife and I started our i9 Sports franchise as a team effort, where she did a lot of the day-to-day stuff and I did the marketing. Now she handles some of the HR, but she’s also back with her full-time job as an accountant, which works out great. It’s a very important skill set to have on hand.
How did you learn about i9 Sports?
I used to play a lot of soccer, I was an active swim coach very early on in my 20s and worked with kids. I really wanted to get back into coaching or working with kids even though my job didn’t lend itself to that. I was looking into volunteering as a swim coach or a soccer coach. One thing led to another, I discovered i9 Sports and it just clicked. I really liked the philosophy that it had towards youth sports. It’s synergistic with the way I believe youth sports should be run, and I saw that there wasn’t an i9 Sports in our area.
My wife and I had always batted around the idea of owning a business, and although I really enjoyed what I was doing before, I decided to make the transition and become an i9 Sports owner.
We officially purchased the franchise in June of 2013, and our first season was that fall.
What appealed to you about the business opportunity?
First, there was a fairly low cost of entry. We weren’t looking to invest $500,000 in a business. My wife and I launched this together. I initially kept my job while my wife worked full-time on i9 Sports to ramp up the business. I worked weekends and evenings. My income was able to sustain our household needs. That was one thing that was attractive to us, and another was simply that i9 Sports ranked very highly in terms of franchisee satisfaction.
We knew that there were very strong youth sports programs in our area, but we felt that there was a real void for a fun-focused, convenient program, so that niche had not been filled in our area. All those factors considered, that made us pretty confident to take that step.
What would you say you enjoy most about being a business owner with i9 Sports?
There are a lot of things. Everything from the family-focused component of being able to have flexibility to be there for my kids at any function that I need to be at. I set my own schedule. Since owning the franchise, I’ve missed, at most, just one or two activities. There are a lot of things that I certainly would not have been able to be a part of in my previous career, when I was traveling a lot. The flexibility to adjust my schedule to the needs of my family is a big source of satisfaction.
The other is just understanding that, truly, if I work hard and stay hungry and follow through on the strategies and the plans that I lay out, the rewards from that will also be my own. I put a lot of work into it. I’ve stayed up late. I’ve pulled all-nighters. I have done things that I would have resented maybe if I’d been working for someone else. But the fact that my business is a part of me and it’s very personal, it’s exhilarating and success is that much more rewarding.
What are some specific ways that the corporate team has helped support you?
The business coach initially was very helpful in providing orientation and helping identify ways to learn from the experiences of others. I think having that support was essential to our success.
I’ve been a member of the Franchise Advisory Council, and I really can see how the franchise is invested in the success of the franchisees. They actively mine the franchisees for ideas. I’ve seen that firsthand, and advocated on behalf of the franchisees for certain things to be put in place and, sure enough, they’ve come about. I think that they’re doing a great job of responding to us in a very productive and helpful way.
What kind of person do you think it takes to be successful as an i9 Sports franchisee?
I think it takes somebody who is committed. Like any business, this is not something that you can do in your spare time or as a hobby. This has to be something that the franchisee believes in to the point where they’re willing to dedicate themselves to it. That doesn’t mean that they’re working 24 hours a day at the expense of seeing their family, but it means that they’re mentally and physically present for the business every step of the way. That doesn’t end after the first year. It really is essential to providing the level of quality that the customers will expect and be willing to refer their friends to.
Someone that’s hungry, that is willing to work those long hours, that’s willing to do everything from putting up road signs to the higher-level stuff. It also takes someone that’s organized, someone that is able to lay out a strategy with their business coach and has the focus to follow through on it. I think that can be a challenge to some people. You’ve got to be able to lay out a strategy and then stay focused in its implementation, step by step.
What does your typical day look like now?
Generally I spend about 70% of my time in the office at this point and 30% out of the office, building relationships and doing on-the-ground work. I’m still very present. Four years into it, I am still visiting the venues on the weekends. It’s critical for me to be present where the product is being delivered and to keep the quality of the programs where they need to be. I know that eventually I will be able to delegate that more and more to others, but there are always improvements that can be made.
How do you feel about the future of the brand?
I think it’s looking very bright. The direction that we’re going in is exactly where we need to be. The way sports should be – fun, organized and convenient – that’s exactly what we want to do. I think the franchise is actively putting together the strategy to help the franchisees implement that. I’m very enthusiastic about where the company’s going.
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