Tennis pro turned franchise owner Scott Read reveals why owning an i9 Sports franchise has been one of the biggest blessings in his life
Scott Read was a tennis pro and country club manager, but when business started to dip, he decided to take his business savvy and passion for sports and run his own youth sports league franchise. Now, Read is a proud i9 Sports franchise owner, and has grown to 24 locations across four territories in the Houston and San Antonio markets. Here’s how he did it.
What did you do before you became an i9 Sports franchisee?
Growing up and through college, I was a tennis player. I played collegiately and professionally. When I got out of college, I was a tennis pro at a club and in 2000 had a unique opportunity: The club contracted me to come in and take over the tennis, fitness, nursery, massage and swim section of their club. That gave me business training as I managed that whole side of the club, and that gave me a taste of being a small business owner while staying in tennis, which was my sweet spot.
How did you learn about i9 Sports?
I decided it was time for a change when tennis was struggling a bit and country clubs were kind of in trouble in the mid-2000s due to the economy, so I went to a franchise headhunter and said, “I’d like to have my own business; what might be a good fit?” They did a profile and some tests for me, came back with several recommendations, and i9 Sports was one of them.
What was it that made you choose i9 Sports over the other franchises you looked at?
Sports have been a part of my whole life. The sports piece was the main draw, and I like working with kids, impacting children’s lives and teaching them some life lessons through sports, that seemed like a natural fit.
What do you enjoy most about being a franchise owner?
The flexibility of the schedule is tremendous. I take my kids to school, pick them up if I need to, have lunch with my wife. It affords me a tremendous amount of flexibility and family time. The second thing I would say is that I wake up every day thinking I’m making a difference. I’m able to hopefully teach life lessons to kids through sports and help people enjoy sports. I feel like the cause is a really good one.
How did you manage to grow the business to 24 locations?
I was very blessed with success in my first territory and did well quickly. And i9 Sports provides a pretty standard model; you do something well in one place, you just transition it to another place. Any opportunity I could find to expand, I did – and then I implemented the formula in those new locations to continue to grow.
How has the corporate team supported your growth?
You know, they’ve always been fantastic. If you need something, they’re there for you, and they’re always trying new and innovative things to help better the brand.
I’ve relied on them less over time, of course, as I’ve gotten more familiar with how to implement the systems, but they’ve still always been there every step of the way and been very helpful. They’ve done a good job of continually taking steps and investing the money into improving the brand and making it better for all of us, for the franchise and for the franchisees.
What kind of experience or skills do you think it takes to be successful as an i9 Sports franchisee?
I think there are two things. As I mentioned earlier with my prior job, that small business experience was very helpful in what we do today. Owning your own business or running a small business is completely different from working for a big company, and I think that having small business training and expertise is very critical.
The second thing is, this is a business that you have to have passion for. You have to be able to market and sell not just i9 Sports, but yourself. It takes confidence speaking in front of groups, being able to go out and support what you’re doing and show that you believe in the product.
What does your typical day look like?
It’s definitely changed over time. Initially, you wear a lot of hats. You’re the marketer, you’re the site coordinator, you’re the coach, you’re the everything. You do it all when you start out.
As I’ve scaled over time to 24 different locations, it’s obviously much more management-heavy and operations-heavy. I’ve got a general manager and a marketing director and an operations manager. I’ve put a good staff in place and I’m helping them be successful.
A typical day nine years ago was go do some marketing, answer emails, recruit coaches, train staff, teach a sports class and host a coaching clinic. Now it’s more about making sure my staff is doing a good job, supporting them, going to some of the higher-level meetings and stuff like that. The level of commitment and flexibility has changed greatly. Having a good staff in place is a critical thing when you have such a large group of locations to manage.
Why do parents choose i9 Sports for their kids over park district or travel leagues?
I think compared to park districts, they choose us because we’re a professionally managed program, meaning that we do this full-time, we treat it as the business it is, we answer emails and phone calls very promptly, and we spend a lot more time making sure the teams are balanced. In a professionally managed program, you’re going to get a lot more attention to your child and your child’s experience.
Compared to the travel leagues, I think a big deal for us is the convenience. We’re able to offer the parents a one-day-a-week program. We have additional instructional opportunities during the week as well, but if you want to come out and play in a league with us, while handling busy school schedules and other activities in your life, you can come out on a Saturday, have your practice and your game in an hour and a half or two-hour window and be done for the week. You don’t have to fight traffic on a Tuesday to drop kids off at practice like you would with a travel league, and there’s a lot of convenience in having it at the same time and the same place every week.
How do you feel about the future of the i9 Sports brand?
The future is bright. We’re rolling out new programs and new sports. I feel like our professionally managed program is unique. We have a dedicated group of people focusing our energy on continually providing a great sports experience for kids and we’re providing them with a safe place where they can learn life lessons and have a good time with their friends.
Besides my three daughters and my wife, i9 Sports is the biggest blessing in my life. It’s been a tremendous opportunity.
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