Revenue Generation: Happy Campers
A tennis camp at your facility can be a valuable source of revenue in tough economic times.
In today’s chaotic economic environment, we’re all looking to increase revenues and keep our businesses healthy. If you own or direct a tennis facility, you might be worried about declining membership, decreasing pro shop sales, and the loss of league or clinic proceeds. But one valuable source of revenue — which frequently is overlooked — are tennis and sports camps.
If organized properly, camps can provide a reliable basis for improving your profitability. Whether you already run camps at your facility, and especially if you don’t, these suggestions can improve your overall bottom line and, in the process, help you establish quality camps at your site.
Even when a family’s budget is tight, parents will spend money on their children. When it comes to camps, parents want their kids to go to the best, just as they want them to be at quality schools. Yes, cost usually is a factor, but parents often will make necessary sacrifices to locate the appropriate camp for their children.
A tennis facility can accommodate these parents by being flexible in the fees charged, weeks when camps are offered, and types of camps available. This makes it easier to attend the programs at convenient times, and for the right price. For instance, offer camps in different sessions, with weekend and nightly programs.
You can run adult and kids camps, with different price ranges. This flexibility gives potential customers choices to find what would fit their budgets, and it gives you numerous avenues to increase capital.
In today’s economy, many people aren’t taking expensive vacations. Instead, they’ll attend an affordable camp where they will enjoy great fitness and fun. Facilities need to market their camps as a wonderful, enjoyable option to save money.
To maximize revenues, try to have more than one camp. If your facility has space, bringing other camps into your venue is an excellent way to increase revenue. College athletic facilities are prime examples of this. Frequently, these sports venues will attract numerous camps over the summer, and the schools are able to generate considerable income. As a tennis facility, you can emulate this concept, but on a smaller scale. The camps you bring in can be charged rent, or you can have a profit-sharing
With these additional camps, new people will visit your club, increasing the likelihood of potential customers for other programs. You should have an arrangement with these outside groups to be able to market what your facility offers.
Establishing a tennis camp
- Make a commitment: Whether you house a camp already or are thinking of starting one, form a business plan, get a mission statement and determine how viable it is. If it looks good, then you’ll need to commit your full energy going forward.
- Treat camps as a separate business: Even though camps will often be part of a tennis facility, and directed by similar individuals, there needs to be differentiation. These points will be addressed further, but suffice it to say that the camp and facility need to be treated as two distinct entities; to make a camp successful, it needs to be a business unto itself. If you simply think of the camp as something on the side — an addendum to the other business — you’ll fail. If you can’t put your full energies into it, put someone else in charge who has the time and knowledge.
- Licensing and accreditation: All camps need to be licensed and need to have a permit to operate. Each state is responsible for camp licensing, and usually it is the state’s Department of Health, or a similar agency, that takes care of this. The process of licensing should be started early on, because often it involves a good deal of paperwork. But with a licensed camp, you put yourself out there as a professional operation and gain in credibility. You should also get your camp accredited with a professional camp organization, such as the American Camp Association. This will further your camp’s reputation.
- Get insurance: Take care of this early on. Liability insurance is imperative, and you want it separate from the insurance that covers your facility. Property coverage, and transportation insurance, may also need to be explored. There are insurance brokers who specialize in camps, and I would recommend dealing with them. Workers compensation and disability insurance will also be required. Each state has its own regulations with regard to these two types of insurance.
- Employees, not independent contractors: Your instructors and counselors should be treated as employees, not independent contractors. You are in control of their hours and are directing them on how to perform their duties.
Marketing your camp
Once the basics of setting up are completed, then the task of marketing your camp begins. At the outset, when you were formulating the business plan, a marketing plan should also be incorporated in the process. This is a strategy to help guide you forward with the business of finding campers.
Some elements that work best when marketing a camp include direct mailing, advertising, internet marketing, and referrals from clients. Having a website that is simple to navigate and highlights your camp’s features is essential. Increasingly, people seek camps through the Internet and want the ease of online registration.
To gain enrollment, make sure you contact everyone who is a participant at your club, involved in any of the programs, or is a staff member. This can be by brochure or letter highlighting the camp, and through email and email newsletters. These will often be your first customers, and they frequently bring their friends and relatives with them.
One vehicle that has worked well is local and regional magazines for parents, which often have camp guides. Newspapers also may have a bulletin section where you can advertise your camp for free. When I ran my camp, I was amazed at how many individuals responded from this section.
The best way to increase enrollment is to be professional in everything you do at your facility. People see how trustworthy you are, and they will want to send their children to your programs. Having an excellent reputation for integrity will do more to establish your camp in years to come than anything else. Isn’t this how we all want to be perceived when building a business?
See all articles by Bruce Knittle
About the Author
Bruce Knittle is president of the sports consulting firm Knittle Sports Solutions. A former sports camp owner, he also was a college head coach and directed sports programs for many years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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