Rajesh Gosain - North West London

CASE STUDY

What did you do before becoming an S4K Network Partner?

I trained as an Engineer and for the first two years I worked in a factory making gears. My urge to get out of the factory made me get an MBA and for the next 22 years after that I worked in Capital Markets/ Investment Banking/ Invest Management and Private Equity. My forte has always been strategic execution and helping organisations transform themselves. 

Having worked with some of the largest brands in the world my last piece of work was to set-up the worlds largest private equity fund worth $100 billion

What prompted you to investigate Franchising?

Well, I didn’t really. After setting up the worlds largest private equity fund,  nothing in the corporate world looked interesting any more.

As a dad of a 9 year old I had taken my son to several coaching outfits and been frustrated with each and everyone of them. The lack of transparency, no feedback and arrogance from coaches kept frustrating me and I would pick gaps in the business model. Over 8.5 years, my son started swimming at 6 months, I now was equipped with a laundry list of gaps in the children’s development business. 

An accidental look at a listing on LinkedIn resulted in an email to Steve Jones and a coffee in a Costa outside Richmond station. I still remember when I told Steve that I would like to launch the business within zero to 4 months. The uneasy shift is his chair should have been captured on camera.

There are all sorts of franchising formats out there and this one really did fit my needs. It was the right time and place. I was never going to be a coach myself but loved the whole area of child development, sports and making a difference. This is more what I call a management franchise model as opposed to a franchise model that gives you a job where you become self-employed and you work in the business. The S4K version of franchising is all about working on the business and partnering for growth to build something significant. This is more of a leadership and investment format which is where I feel more comfortable coming from a corporate background.

Why the children’s sport and education sector, and why an S4K Network Partner?

I have played a lot of cricket, badminton and table tennis in my growing up years. As mentioned earlier having a nine year old son, with an ambition of playing for England, helps with the familiarity in this market. 

In our area, there is very limited choice and huge demand for children’s activities, care and sports coaching. For quite some time, this scarcity has intrigued me as a business opportunity. Also the lack of structure and quality in this space is something that many parents are challenged with. I have observed some local companies with big numbers, quite expensive really with a limited offering and never a complete solution for the child and the parent.

Doing something in children’s development was slowly becoming an obvious and becoming an S4K Partner was useful as there we set methods and processes. The S4K range of products and services was attractive, in the way that S4K structures all their programs. It is impossible to find any structure in this space. Most coaching is driven by a sports coach, on a set day, running a session on what she/ he fancies. With my drive to make a difference for parents and children having a structured curriculum and pathways was mandatory.

The innovation, passion and commitment at S4K reflected in my interaction with the leadership. James, Mark and Steve came across as a credible combination of child development, experience and business acumen.

How was it in the beginning?

Well we were quite fortunate as even during my due diligence period we won a piece of work. We were abler to do some trial sessions and secure a Monkey Puzzle nursery in Stoke Newington. The core S4K Team were very supportive and on the ground immediately the opportunity arose. It gave me the chance to see the approach in action and alive in my very own territory before I had even started. This gave us a great start in the area and I could see first-hand the great demand for sports classes all year round.

What I also learnt in the process was that S4K is a growing organisation and there was huge appetite of leveraging my own skills and experience which helped build on top of what S4K brought to the table.

The operational aspects of S4K and the launch and support programs are well honed. That coupled with my knowledge of the local area helped us recruit some good coaches and secure some quality venues quite easily. 

The support, training and infrastructure in place at S4K made it easy to make our decision to join the S4K Partner Network. We did a lot of research and there is nothing out there like the Sport4Kids program, we are very proud representing the brand and bringing everything S4K has to offer the London market. It feels great being part of the Sport4Kids mission to truly transform children’s sport and build an industry like no other.

What is your typical day like?

A typical day is all about thinking, planning executing the growth of my business. The S4K core team provide the products, service and support infrastructure and my role is to build on the growth levers in my business. This includes the development of the coaching squad, involves advertising and recruitment and onboarding of coaches as well as helping the training and development of those coaching assets. It means the planning and hiring of new venues and planning and executing the marketing.

I get to do the school runs, watch my son play sports at school and have quite a different experience to my corporate life. I am still in touch with the banking world but that is more out of choice than out of necessity.

My role is also about building relationships with schools and nurseries. This includes the marketing and promotion of the S4K brand with pop in visits, leaflet drops, promotional offers, scholarships and information gathering on particular school needs and facilities. At the weekend it is the venues set up and management. I am a good communicator and can build relationships so the S4K experience on a day to day basis fits my natural style. What I have learnt is the difference between relationships in the corporate world and the real world. At the end of the session when one sees a child giggling with excitement or another child not wanting to leave and train more one is left with a feeling of fulfilment and satisfaction that the next generation is in good hands.

How is business in the current economic climate?

It is early days, however we have started strongly. Parents in our area are always going to prioritize spend on their children and there is huge opportunity out there. Parents are willing to pay for a good quality service. We see camps as a massive opportunity and working parents are crying out for more options. 

There is also good demand for weekend skills classes, parties and sports programs.  Parents are always looking for variety and different experiences, but once they find something that is of high quality they will remain loyal and bring their friends as well. So we see the market as being buoyant right now. 

Despite the relatively recent recession and the whole Brexit cloud there are a lot of market trends that point to a positive and growing market in children’s sports, development and education. Every day there is a new obesity report and new initiatives to get children more active and healthier. The trends around increasing screen time and unhealthy lifestyles mean that there is going to be increased focus and demand for an answer to these challenges from parents, schools, nurseries and government. 

What advice would you have for others considering an S4K Network Partner in this sector?

Research, research, research. Do all of that and more. Make yourself comfortable. If like me you have been through the pain of unstructured coaching then this is a no-brainer. Talk to other partners, go to venues and challenge the S4K staff. Seeing is believing so make sure you put your arms around the market issue we are trying to address. 

The network is growing at pace so I would say to any prospective network partner to make a quick decision and secure the territory of choice as they are going fast. I had no hesitation to secure the three territories I was interested in. I have decided to throw myself in and fully commit as it is the only way I can see myself making the most of the opportunity. There is perhaps an option in the S4K model, in the early days, to keep some freelance consulting going, but for me it was, either I do this full-time or I don’t.

I would say treat it as a business decision and an investment decision for the longer term. For me it is building a business, that leads to more flexibility in lifestyle and a future for our family that has a secured future.  In business it is about grasping opportunity and scaling that. I would do your analysis but get on and get going, just like we have. 

How do you see the future of your business?

We will build a robust business and be the most successful S4K territory in the UK. That’s the aim!

We would like to get the full set of service lines in place as soon as we can. Investing in the coaches and in things such as the camps will be a big thing for us. With professionalism, the quality and the product innovation at Sport4Kids we are very confident of giving something back to our community and building a great children’s sports business.  

We are looking to grow something significant, so we are looking to build a team that can grow this business with us. Putting in a General Manager/ Chief Operating Officer in place who is also sports aligned is a priority. We will couple this with even some more business development resource on the ground as we have a lot of ground to cover especially in the number of nurseries and schools in the territories I have with me. 

We have three territories and obviously building across these three is important for us and maybe as S4K seeks to grow internationally we may get involved in that side of things, as this market is a growth market worldwide and we see ourselves being a part of it for a long time. 

 

S4K Franchising Ltd.

Windlesham Court, Bagshot,
Surrey, GU19 5NG, United Kingdom