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Episode 15 of the OTP Podcast we’re getting down to business with Tim from TeamUp discussing customer service and hearing about their exciting new competition to win £8000 worth of market research with professional consultants for your pole studio.
Sarah: Welcome Tim. Thank you for coming on my podcast.
Tim: Great to be here.
Sarah: I will let you give a little bit of an introduction as to why you’re here. Why have you come on my podcast? Tell me a little bit about yourself and Teamup.
Tim: Well thank you very much for having me. It’s really exciting to be on your podcast. I think this is probably the leading pole podcast out there.
Sarah: So you’ve been told by Stacy (Snedden)
Tim: I’m really excited to be here. As you know at Teamup we’re really involved with the pole world. We have been for years. Since probably going back four or five years when we first sponsored UKPPC which I attended as well which just blew me away with the quality and the passion of the pole world, and we’ve absolutely loved kind of working with pole studios like pole members ever since, and I’ve got loads more to say on that, but at Teamup we’re really in the business of taking the complexity out of running these awesome businesses, and providing features that take away that kind of really annoying admin and the complexity of running memberships and payments and making it really easy for members to kind of, for example, go on to your website and book onto a class or buy a membership.
And so, what we aim to do is really take all that pain out of the business and allow everyone to focus on the best bits of the business which we have no ability to deliver at all. We’re kind of the boring friend in the room.
Sarah: Very well, that’s slightly putting yourself down, but yeah I’ve run a studio myself for a few years and it’s definitely like you start a pole studio because you want to dance, and you want to teach, and you want kind of that side of it, but you actually end up spending a lot more time in the office for of like a managerial role, and administrative role then I think a lot of people realize. So having something like a software system that’s actually gonna take a lot of that time out of it, because it takes a lot of time to run a pole studio as I’m sure a lot of the studio owners out there are silently nodding their heads in agreement. Yeah.
Tim: Yeah definitely. And also, just to add to that, it’s amazing at the beginning when you first set up your business how that admin is almost a total pleasure. A studio owner was telling me this just the other week which was, oh right at the start it wasn’t a bother at all. I took pleasure in taking every single payment myself. I was just a miracle that I’ve created this business and people are giving me money, and then about a year in suddenly with like a hundred members or a hundred and fifty members, suddenly it slowly becomes like this admin role that you never had envisaged at the beginning.
Sarah: So if someone is maybe looking into getting a software system like yourselves, what makes you guys kind of potentially stand out from other things available on the market?
Tim: A lot of it comes down to the way that we built things. Now, you can take payments quite simply. We often recommend businesses starting out maybe just start with online payments. Just try to get some kind of order within it. But where we really come to life is the way that we’ve designed the system to be really simple for business owners to use, and we back that up with ridiculously helpful personal support which we take absolute pride in. We have like a feedback system within the company where customers kind of tell us how we’re doing, and we share like every bit of feedback that comes back from customers. We share and celebrate and we’re all about our customers being successful.
Sarah: That’s great, and it’s one of the things I look for in companies is that if you can’t get hold of them, it’s so annoying. Like a lot of companies they kind of hide their contact details, and you kind of have to fill in a form or like an email form and you physically can’t get into contact with them if you need any help. So having that support system, I think, is really helpful. You just want to be able to ring someone up or throw someone an email and kind of get an answer as quickly as possible ’cause real life kind of happens quite quick nowadays with people want instant answers ’cause of the internet, the interwebs. And any time of day too. So, it’s like 11 o’clock on a Sunday night and people are messaging you like, why can’t I use this?
Tim: Yeah, absolutely, and that’s one of the big things about software as well which is, it’s amazing how people just think they have a right to speak to you at any time of day. Say they’ve got a private session with you on Tuesday morning, they feel that they can message you at like 11:30 p.m. and say, “Sorry, can’t make it tomorrow.” And of course, it’s like this kind of perception the fitness business owners or pole studio owners have no other life at all.
Sarah: No, and we don’t really, but sometime we should probably put our phones down and speak to real people in the outside world not connected with pole, but yeah that can be difficult.
Tim: Crazy talk. Crazy talk.
Sarah: It’s madness. Madness. What led you to try and kind of fill the gap in the fitness and dance, is it mainly those areas that you focus on, the fitness and dance studios?
Tim: Actually we started with crossfit. So we have a really big base of customers in crossfit. I really love crossfit as well. I see lots of similarities between the way crossfit businesses are run and pole studios which is you’ve got a limited number of weight racks. You’ve got a limited number of poles, so the problems that people face are really similar. They need to make sure that they’ve got their classes booked exactly, because empty poles is lost revenue, and too many people and having to turn people away is devastatingly disappointing. And also, it’s about fostering community and getting people excited.
So when we got started, all we did is we just started speaking to business owners, and they told us the problems they had. And so, we fixed those problems. Excruciatingly slowly at the start, and then just kind of slowly building up from there, and really the system that we have today is built entirely on that business model. And it’s not about trying to force people to run their businesses in the way they don’t want to run. It’s really just serving people, and making sure that they’ve got the facility to do what they need to do.
Sarah: Do any of those problems really stand out to you as something that was repeated from many other business owners, like a lot of people having the same kind of problems, and you remember any of those specifically what they were and how you fixed them?
Tim: Wow, that’s big one.
Sarah: I know. I’m sorry.
Tim: Well, probably four or five years ago, when we were really small. At one point there were kind of three of us, and we had two guys working on building the product and then at that moment, I was entirely doing all the support and all the sales and everything customer facing. So I’ve probably spoken with, it’s probably in the region of like ten thousand business owners or something.
Tim: So really, it’s amazing that you can see those patterns, and it’s patterns across everything. An example is kind of when people have been running their business in that manual way that we talked about, and then they have their spreadsheet system and everything is the way they understand it, and they don’t want to touch anything because-
Sarah: Change is scary.
Tim: … well just scared that something’s gonna leave, and just that’s it, okay. That spreadsheet is what was holding it all together. So those types of things, you really see the pattern on, because they’ve got this fear, but the funny thing is that their customers don’t have that fear. Their customers have absolutely zero fear and love the idea that they can change their booking on an iPad kind of late at night rather than message people. So that’s a big one.
The other thing is that people over complex-ify in their businesses. It’s just the amount of time that thousands of times I’ve seem business owners somehow think that they have to make everything really complicated ’cause then it’s a bigger business and it’s got, so okay we have 13 different memberships, and now we have 12 different classes, and we’ve got all these different bands and everyone’s got to do it in a certain way, and amazingly every single time that we help business owners simplify their business, they find that they grow. And you think it would be so obvious to see, but people are scared of that change, and so, therefore, they almost build this kind of structure around themselves, to like protect themselves from having to actually make those clear decisions about what to do.
Sarah: I think when you’re really close to something as well, it can be hard to see another way of doing it. Even if that’s going to make things easier for you, it’s still like, well it’s to say that unnerving feeling of like, yeah, but if it’s working-ish now, and I kind of know how to handle it, if I then change something, will I be able to handle it like that, but I’ve seen quite a few Teamup get support up quite a lot in pole forums and stuff, and a lot people have said like, they’re so grateful for the change, and they feel so much better about it afterwards, and yeah it can be quite scary to start relying on a software system, if you always just used an excel spreadsheet or notepad or something like that, but as businesses grow then you know you need to adapt as well.
You’ve also spoken a lot about the customer experience and how you want to try and assist studios really improve that side of their business. And what, in your opinion, makes kind of a great customer experience, and why is it so important?
Tim: Well, what I fantastic question. I think the customer experience is really the core of what makes a pole business be successful, and I think that it’s something that pole gets right in so many ways better than other businesses. It gets the community right. It bonds people together. People are excited about going. And what I’ve seen from my limited experience, I must admit I have never done a pole class. I should have by now.
Sarah: You need to change that. We’ll talk about some local studios after this. We’ll get you hooked up.
Tim: Well we’re doing some more events-
Sarah: After this, we’ll get you hooked up.
Tim: Well, we’re doing some more events over the next year. In fact, I’m determined to try. I almost did at UKPPC, but I was just … I was too-
Sarah: Taking it all in. There’s a lot going on at these events.
Tim: I was too shy, I was too shy. The thing that they get absolutely right is building the community, and that’s a big part of the customer experience. I think that the customer experience is … It goes back to every single part of their interaction with the business. For example, when it comes to software, you’ve got … the customer experience is well, okay, they’ve come to the website, they want to find out what your services are. “Is that right for me?”
I think a lot of customers, when come to Pole Business, are quite nervous. Obviously, it’s has a kind of risque feel to it, like always. But also, “I don’t know how to do this. So, everyone’s going to laugh at me.” Like me, I know everyone would have laughed at me, because I would have been absolutely awful.
Sarah: No, no. We don’t encourage that kind of thinking. It’s everyone’s inclusive, everyone’s on their own pole journey. Even if you suck at everything, we’ll make sure you succeed at something.
Tim: There you go. I should have spoken to you at that time. You’d have got … I’d be performing now, I’d be up to competent.
Sarah: This time next year.
Tim: I have some hidden talents inside. Yeah, definitely. So, that customer service is absolutely endemic. And, I think that … not by accident. But, because they love what they do, pole studio owners get that right way more than other fitness business owners. If you take a yoga studio owner or a Pilates studio owner, or you take kind of a, maybe PT. They don’t really necessarily focus on how much their customer is enjoying themselves at the business. They really focus on the mechanics, the results, and those types of things.
I think that it’s something that … It’s a big miss, generally. I’m sure that there are pole studios out there who think that their job is to deal with their classes. But actually, probably their job is to deliver entertainment. Also, to make people feel better about themselves, realize those kinds of life goals.
So, I think that is the fundamental. Does that fit with your experiences?
Sarah: Definitely. I feel like pole, from the outside world, it seems so ironic that pole dancing … We don’t wear very much, dance around, take lots of pictures and videos of yourself. That would be … it might seem quite narcissistic, or only a certain type of person might enjoy doing that, or a certain body type. Whereas actually, if you go to a pole studio, the variation in people and backgrounds, and ages, sizes, it’s so broad. I think that’s why it’s so inclusive and that’s why so many people come back.
I’ve said this many times, and I’ll say it again. I think pole, as an exercise, it focuses more on what you can do what your body, not what it looks like. I think that’s why people, each week, they’re coming back and challenging themselves. And, if they are succeeding in challenging themselves, then that spreads into their outside world as well. Because they can do things that they didn’t realize they could do with their bodies. I think that in turn, just massively boosts their confidence.
I think that’s one of the reasons why pole is so popular. And to say that the community feels, with the studios, is another massive part of it.
Tim: It’s so true. It reminds me of something a yoga teacher … I once had this yoga teacher, he was from India, he had really deep connections with proper gurus. He said something great along those lines. He said, he was talking about handstands, and he said, “Handstands are fantastic. If you do a handstand, then you become a tiger. Then you know that you can walk out on the street and you hold that inside you. You can do a handstand. So it lifts your head up higher.” And I think that’s exactly what you’re saying.
Sarah: Yeah, exactly. At any point, you could bust out with some crazy trick on a street pole, or anything like that. And people are just going to be like, “She’s basically a ninja.” So, we can save ourselves from zombie apocalypses, we can climb stuff, get out of the way. Yeah, it’s a life skill.
Tim: All the core life skills.
Sarah: So, how does the TeamUp, kind of bringing it back to you guys, how does TeamUp help with that customer experience? I know, obviously, there’s a lot of benefits from a studio owner’s perspective. It’s going to save them time, it’s going to make things a lot more streamlined. But, from a student’s point of view, how would it make their customer experience better?
Tim: Yeah, great question. Really, it comes down to making things easy. So from a student’s perspective, they’re not really that bothered about the process involved in the … like, in the paperwork, or the kind of minutiae. And in fact, I think it’s really off-putting. If you have joined a gym, and they have really complex contract, 30 pages, and all these kind of things. Everything there just ruins your experience. You’re really excited, they told they’d get results, you want to be part of a community, you want to be welcomed. Now, someone seems to be signing you up to a kind of contract, they’re going to lock you in. You’ve got to read the small print.
I think we need that stuff in our businesses, we need the terms and conditions, we need waivers, we need safety stuff, and we need the payments. But what we don’t want to do is, we don’t want to dwell on it, we don’t want to think about it. We also want to make it really easy to swap stuff around. We want to know where we stand. We don’t want to have to go and ask, “How many months minimum have I got left?” or, “How many classes have I got left in my class pack?” All this stuff is the stuff that takes away from all the good work that you’ve been doing.
Additionally, say if my payment bounces. I pay you monthly, I’m coming into classes, I absolutely love them. My payment bounces, I got paid late this month. And somehow … I’m really embarrassed about this. I’m coming along, I’ve got a great relationship with you. You’ve taught me some great stuff, and we’ve been building on that. Now suddenly, it’s introduced this awkwardness. “Oh, now you’re going to chase me for money?” And suddenly, it pulls the curtain back from the back stage. I can see behind there, and I can see the fact that, “Oh, wait a minute. This is actually a business, we’re not best friends.” And all that kind of stuff.
And of course, you as a studio owner, the owner is saying, “Well, I don’t want to … Now I’ve got to go and ask them about this. Oh my goodness.” That personal pressure. I think that people can go onto your website, they can change their payment method, they can update it. The system will automatically remind them if they’ve got to do something. They can see a banner at the top, which is going to give them advice about what they need to do.
“You need to update your payment method. Oh, only one class left, make sure you renew.” And those types of things. I think those things, they’re subtle, but they do actually really do improve the experience. I like booking my classes with you, because it’s so easy. I like coming along to … Because it’s such a pleasant experience. I don’t have to go through 30 pages of forms to get to your classes.
Sarah: Yeah. I think that pulling back the curtain thing is quite interesting. Because you do get very close with your instructors and students, everyone forms a little pole family. And, I think taking away the transaction has to occur between people, can sometimes make it a little bit smoother.
I use … A company that I go to, I go to a Hotpod Yoga at the moment, and they use TM. And it’s great, because I’m friends with the owners, and I just get to turn up, and my classes are already booked. I can buy everything I need online, and I can just turn up. We don’t have to be like, “Here’s the money.” It doesn’t make it awkward because we’re friends, and I’m paying her. I’ve just found it nice and easy. Yeah, it tells me how many I’ve got left at the top. So, I can just be reminded.
It also tells you how many people are in the class as well. So, if you wanted to maybe go to a busy class or a quieter class, you can figure out which classes you want to go to. Yeah, I found it really useful, from a student’s perspective, even though I’m an instructor. It’s nice to actually see it from a student’s perspective as well. That’s been good.
Tim: That’s awesome, that’s awesome. Yeah, they’re very challenging classes, aren’t they?
Sarah: I love it, I’m addicted, proper addicted. I went to Thailand, and they had yoga, and it was basically like hot yoga, because it was outside. I loved it. Yeah, the Hotpod has just started up in my town, so I signed myself up to a pack. Yeah, I love it. I just love being warm. I can’t wait for it to be Winter, I just go sit in the pod, which is warm, for an hour. It’s going to be great. I hate being cold.
So, you’ve also got a competition that you’re running, depending on when I put this live. I think it will have already launched. So, you’ll have the competition running. Can you tell us a little bit about it? Who’s it for, and how is it going to work?
Tim: It’s really exciting. It is actually live, as of today, at some point.
Sarah: Oh, nice. August 15th, for people who are pondering if this is in their future some time.
Tim: Well basically, everything we’ve talked about, the customer experience. One thing that we’ve really committed to at TeamUp is this process of customer success. What we’ve tried to do is, we’ve tried to understand exactly how our customers are thinking, what they like, what they don’t like. And, how we can get inside that. Part of that process is, we’ve done a lot of research, we’ve listened to what our customers say, and we break that down into stuff that can give us information about what we should do.
We’re always striving to be better. What we’d like to do is, we want to try and expand that to all the businesses owners in our community, and outside our community. So really, and any independent fitness businesses.
Tim: So really all … we’re aiming at any independent fitness business. So pole studios, it will include you know, yoga studios and all the others as well. And what we’re gonna do is we’ve designed this competition. We want to take four lucky studio owners through a process, and we want to give them a gift of it’s something like £8,000 worth of market research with professional consultants and like really getting in.
So we wanna go out, we want to you know, work with them, kind of set up service with their customers, really understand like the things that they can fine tune with the business.
And this will all lead to kind of a professionally produced report that’s gonna give them exact tips on what they can do to build the business to understand the customers. Great for customers too because it kind of … the idea is it’s about making their experience better. Like making everything better.
So we’ve designed this competition, but the one caveat is, we want to … for everyone who applies, we want them to be willing to share some of their results, obviously personal details etc. removed, but we want to try and share those results with the community that we want to build around this. And so we’re calling this the Fitness Journey Project. And we want to take those four people on a journey, take everybody else, all other studio owners with us, bring in some experts, kind of understand the process, and really build like a, it’s kind of a momentum around it.
The headline would really be kind of we want to give people the same insight that like big box gyms and big companies have, but able to deliver that in a small, independent business.
So we’ve developed this competition to try and achieve that.
Sarah: So the people that are gonna … obviously we’ll go through kind of how people can enter, and what it’s gonna involve, but if the people that win the competition are gonna go through it, but then everyone else can kind of follow along that journey and still kinda be getting the tips and things along the way that’s gonna be relevant to them, because they’re gonna see how other businesses are going through it at the same time. So it’s almost like reality TV, but for business owners.
We all like to like see the journey of what people are going through. So who’s it for? Like how would you get yourself qualified to enter this competition?
Tim: So really simply, we’ve set up a special page for it, and so it’s got all the kind of terms. Like one thing we’re asking for example is that people have been in business for two years. So if you’ve been in business for less than two years, then please sign up anyway, to be part of the community.
But if you’ve been in business for two years, you’ve got an email list, you’re kind of willing to take part under the terms that we’ve put together, then basically you just go along to the page, fill out the application form, and then your entry will be accepted and logged.
And hopefully, you’ll be part of the process and get all that insight for your business.
Sarah: Do you have to be a member of TeamUp already or is it … so is it just for TeamUp customers, or is it for anybody who wants to give it a go?
Tim: It’s open to everybody. So the idea is we wanna improve the standard for the whole industry. So everybody’s welcome.
Sarah: So they’re … all you have to do is basically sign up by like filling in a form, but then that’s you entered. You don’t have to do anything else? You’re just … How are you gonna like pick it? Is it gonna be random, are you gonna like go through who you think is gonna benefit most from it, or it’s gonna give the most value to the rest of the community, by following along their journey?
Tim: Well we haven’t bolted it down entirely. But it will definitely be random. So it will definitely be completely fair. We’ll definitely do an initial screen. So we’ll make sure that everybody is included in the final batch has been qualified. We’ll keep everybody up to date as part of that, so they know exactly where they stand.
And then the winners will be drawn. And the idea is for the winners to be drawn probably close to the end of September this year. For people listening in 2020, it’s too late. Come and join the community, and find out what we did.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s good.
And how did you realize that this would be …? Like what brought you to do this competition? Why did you think that this would be a good thing to start promoting?
Tim: Really simply, it’s … we’ve done this ourselves. And we just, the process just blew us away. For people who are obsessed by customer experience, and customer success, it was just such an eye-opener. It showed us places that we should be working on, things that we should improve, areas that we can benefit you know, our business and our customers. And so really, it’s just a passion project, to see if we can help everyone else do the same.
Sarah: Nice. So is there anything else you’re specifically looking for, other than just two years, or is that pretty much the only qualification that you’re looking for? Or is there other things that may make some people stand out more in the screening process? Just so people are aware.
Tim: So no we’re not looking for … we’re not just gonna look for celebrities or you know, kind of social reach-
Sarah: Things like size of studio doesn’t matter, it’s more like just-
Tim: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I mean I could … there are a few little terms and conditions on the page. Nothing complicated. For example, we’re saying you’ve gotta have like some kind of email list. Maybe like 200 people.
But I recommend just checking out the page and I’m sure it’ll be … like the idea is we lay it out really simply for people, so really transparent.
Sarah: Nice. And what is the page that they search for? I will link all this in the blog transcript and on the YouTube description, but just so people if they’re listening and have a good memory, which I don’t, but if they did, then they could search for it.
Tim: Right. Pens ready. Pens ready right now. You only get two seconds. It’s basically just go to goteamup.com/fitnessjourney. So fitnessjourney is all one word.
Sarah: See I forgot that already. But if I was searching … No, I’ll link all of this in. Because people like you know, simplicity as we now know, from discussing what we’ve just been discussing. You know, simplicity is best.
Sarah: And is there last words you’d like to share with the pole community? I know so you’re very well received in lots of pole forums and a lot of people have moved over to you already, but if people are thinking about making the transition to goteamup then what would your words be?
Your sales pitch. This is … I’m letting you sales pitch. This is not a sponsored podcast by the way. This is not … I don’t … I’m not getting paid for this.
Tim: I feel like you’re pitching for it.
Sarah: Well you know, we can discuss this afterwards. That’s fine.
But no, I think it’s nice to start … I wanted to start introducing some more business style podcasts, I think it’s interesting to get another look at from a student’s perspective what studio owners have to go through and have to think about. It’s not just about oh, just rock up to class and you know, give the money and everything’s good.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. And it’s very very stressful, and takes up a lot of mindset. And from a studio owner’s perspective, I think it’s always nice to get an insight into how to make their business easier for them, so they can spend more time pole dancing. Because at the end of the day, that’s pretty much what we all want to do, so.
Yeah, any words of wisdom to help us?
Tim: I think that you know, from the time that I’ve worked in the pole industry, and bearing in mind that you know, I’ve spoken with people from almost every single category of fitness, and I just have like the utmost respect for pole studio owners. I think that they are just incredibly hard working.
I can remember a very early customer of ours was a lady named Pippa Loveridge who I’m sure you know. And she you know, and it kinda struck me at the time, like she just was she almost run the business on like pure passion. And as I’ve got to know more kind of pole studio owners, it’s … it just seems to be like such a, it’s such a driven and passion based project.
And I think that for students, for teachers, for everyone involved in it, I think it is just absolutely fabulous. And it is you know, something that I think is like you know, one of the best areas that you can get involved with you know if it’s something. So just a-
Sarah: Well flattery will get you everywhere. So that’s good. We’re very accepting of flattery, and compliments. We just, we lap that stuff up. So just keep it coming, and you’ll be more than welcome.
No, that’s good.
Tim: Absolutely. And I think if you’re interested in … you know, if you’re running a pole studio, and you’re not already using TeamUp, I don’t know where you’ve been, you know. So come … but in all seriousness you know, come and … just come and check us out on our website goteamup.com. Get in touch with the team, book a demo, book a call. Test us out, if you want to.
We do a full business consultation with everybody. So we won’t even let you get started if it’s not appropriate. So if you know, you can come to us for impartial advice. We genuinely will give it, and try and help you if we can. And even if that means saying, “You’re not ready. Go and do this thing. But then come back and see us later.” That’s what we do.
Sarah: Fantastic. Well, thanks very much for coming on, and sharing like your competition that sounds really exciting. I’m sure lots of people will be wanting to get involved in that. Yeah, and just giving us a little bit of insight into TeamUp.
So yeah, thank you, Tim. And we’ll hopefully chat to you again some time.
Tim: Yeah look forward to it. Maybe I’ll come on and we could talk about the results, once we’ve got some as well?
Sarah: Yes. Yes, that would be good. And we can follow up on your pole dance classes that you’re gonna start taking.
Tim: Yeah. Videos and photos will be a must! Thank you very much for having me.
Sarah: No worries. Thank you very much. Bye now.
Enter the Competition HERE