I’m pleased to announce that TGA has officially launched a second franchise company called TGA Premier Youth Tennis that closely replicates the model of TGA Premier Junior Golf.
The decision to enter the tennis industry has been under consideration for at least a year and it brought up a host of issues that drilled to the core of our company and its entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to share some of them with the hope that they’re applicable to you as you consider, pursue and/or manage your entrepreneurial endeavors.
Core Competency – What is the company really good at?
Most people think of TGA within a golf context – that we’re really good at running golf programs on elementary school campuses. For many years, we saw ourselves in this way too.
But as the company evolved, we recognized that anyone can walk onto a school campus and try to teach golf. Many have. But no one has achieved anywhere close to our type of size and impact. The reasons for this are twofold – 1) we created a viable business model for scaling a school-based youth sports business; 2) we focused heavily on being an “enrichment” program – i.e. building a classroom environment with instructors trained on educational concepts who deliver programs that include character development, life skills, physical activity and the integration of academic subjects such as math and science.
Thus, our core competency is not about golf but rather the ability to deliver enrichment programs through a business model that is viable, replicable and scalable. As such, we believe that any popular sport/activity not traditionally done on a school campus (e.g. tennis and golf) can be plugged into this model with success.
I believe that understanding a company’s core competency is probably the single most important factor to building long-term sustainable growth and I’m confident that we got it right.
Organizational Values – What does the company stand for?
Everyone involved with TGA is hugely passionate about golf. Most people get involved with us to pursue this passion and it's one of our single most unifying values. However, while some of these folks are also tennis enthusiasts, just as many are not and have no emotional interest in being involved with a tennis company.
We put tremendous thought and research into whether a voyage into tennis would fracture the foundation of our organizational values. We determined that the answer is “no.” The reason is because we believe there is a deeper value we all share than golf, and that is a stronger passion to positively impact kids, families and the communities we serve. We feel that tennis adds opportunities for us to do this in greater scale and effectiveness.
Additionally, franchise law forced us to offer tennis as a separate franchise from golf so people can choose which programs and passions they want to pursue – golf, tennis or both.
I believe that having a corporate identity with clear core values is critical to building a strong organizational culture and I think tennis keeps ours intact while offering opportunities to make it stronger.
Risk vs. Opportunity – How much are we willing to gamble?
We ran pilot-programs for tennis in six markets nationwide and the early results were encouraging, albeit preliminary. Then, various opportunities of high intrigue within the tennis industry started arising as people took note of what we were doing. Joshua Jacobs, TGA’s CEO and my friend/partner, is an ambitious visionary who operates mostly based on experience and instinct so he wanted to move full steam ahead. I am more of a quantitative, process-driven individual so I wanted to proceed slowly, if at all.
Ultimately, I remembered something my dad always says which is: “Things either get better or they get worse, they don’t stay the same.” And I think that is very relevant here. Josh was right – we have an opportunity to do something great with tennis and opportunities like this are few and far between. So we compromised by slowing him down and speeding me up.
Yes, there are definite risks and significant challenges with our decision. But we’ve been diligent about our preparation and feel confident with our decision. And that’s the key – understanding risk tolerance and making educated decisions. For us, it’s time to take the leap and see what happens. “Ready Fire Aim.”
Or, as we say at TGA, “Keep Swinging!”