It has been almost three years since I left the United States Tennis Association as the National Manager of Wheelchair Tennis. In my moment of departure, I was certain that my time in the tennis industry was done. It was clear to me that in order to move forward in my career I had to test the waters in other industries. I did, and while I had some modicum of success one truth materialized: I am a coach. I love coaching, I love direct impact, and I love helping others to become better.
Thus, the birth of my new company called Story 19 Consulting. My areas of focus in corporate America have been public speaking (storytelling), culture, and leadership all under the umbrella of communication. As my curriculum gained traction my heart drifted back to tennis and I realized that our industry has the same needs as others. We need to develop leaders, we need to develop culture within our programs that our staff, parents, and players buy into. And, we need to be able to tell the story of our programs. Clarity in all of these areas results in a clear business model, retention of teaching professionals, and retention of clients.
Tennis Center Sand Point
I met Johann Tan, Co-Founder and General Manger Tennis Center Sandpoint, in Seattle Washington, through a local volunteer opportunity in wheelchair tennis. Johann is a progressive leader in the tennis industry keen to identify a scalable business model for TCSP. Having had previous business operations experience, his perspective and philosophy allows him to see tennis differently versus someone from within the industry such as a coach or former player. He sees the business implications of running a club and the necessary leadership skills inherent in success.
When our discussion led to my current company an interest was struck. He brought me in to deliver a Culture Workshop to his teaching professionals and key members of his desk staff. We focused on the “Ultimate Impact” of the program rallying around the legacy his staff would leave on each member. We identified the traits that make “TCSP” unique and meaningful. And, we developed a sense of belonging that each staff member could identify. When asked about his decision to invest in his staff’s development he said, “We (TCSP) had previously used other methods of personal assessment and development consultants. Dan’s background and his emphasis on identifying a person’s ultimate impact was exactly the type of mentorship and consultation I was looking to infuse in our staff. We can research technical & tactical fundamentals internally and with others in the industry. But digging into a person’s true motivation to work in this industry was what I had been searching for to help invigorate our staff.”
I am often brought into companies to work with developing leaders and executives who strive to be better. There is an inherent fallacy in promotion that assumes if you are good at “doing” your job you are good at “leading”. These most often are two vastly different skills, with leadership like any other skill, requiring training, repetitions, failures, and growth. I was brought into TCSP to work on leadership development with burgeoning teaching professionals and managerial staff aligning their strengths, style, and voice with a leadership style that works for them. Within a club or a program there are numerous direct and indirect leadership responsibilities that, if ignored, create a leadership vacuum impacting the quality of your program.
Tennis revolves around the incredible developments in teaching. There are so many brilliant voices in our industry transforming our professionals to become better teachers, trainers, and coaches. This, undoubtedly, is critical to the success of any club or program. I cannot minimize its import, rather I would simply add that as new staff members join the fray the foundation of the “business” is critical to operational success. At TCSP we sat down with the Junior Program Directors and brainstormed the initial portion of the onboarding process. This was an addition to the on-court training required to teach at TCSP. We focused in three areas:
- Conditions of Employment (neither fun nor sexy, but necessary)
- The Communication Chain (operational procedure for who to address)
- Why TCSP (What makes the culture amazing to belong to, storytelling)
The staff in the brainstorming meeting came away with two things: First, this portion of the onboarding made celebrating success and addressing problems clearer and easier. Second, it brings clarity to process and development saving everybody time in the future. While this will add two hours to the onboarding process the concept of “short term loss, long term gain” goes a long way in putting everybody at a club on the same page.
For most of us tennis is a passion born in our youth or discovered in adulthood. It gives us the opportunity to impact so many lives with so much more than the tennis skills gained. It truly is the sport of a lifetime. But it is also our careers. Clarifying the culture, leadership, and business model gives us the foundation to use tennis as a vehicle to impact lives. Johann Tan says, “The work that Dan has done with a handful of our staff in just a few short months has been extremely beneficial. I’ve seen a different attitude and commitment in those coaches and managers that have taken the time to inherently understand their impact story and reasons for being here. Dan is an incredible asset to TCSP and I’m excited to see his work flourish with many of our other employees.” By bringing everyone together on the business of tennis we can create an organized platform to maintain passion, deliver an exceptional on-court product, and achieve financial success.
Founder/Chief Impact Officer
Story 19 Consulting LLC