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Rick Thompson, lover of all things techie. Callum Cook, dedicated personal trainer. Put them together and what do you get? A successful online business management system making life easier for personal trainers worldwide.

By Glenn Baker.

While working at an Auckland gym some four years ago, Callum Cook, an experienced personal trainer, noticed the struggles personal trainers were experiencing in managing their businesses, himself included. Major pain points included managing bookings efficiently, keeping on top of finances and tracking client information. “Handling all this through pen and paper dairies was difficult and inefficient,” he recalls.

The need for an online, cloud-based day-to-day business management system for personal trainers (PTs) was obvious.

Enter IT expert Rick Thompson; Auckland-born like Callum, and fresh back home after eight years in Sydney where he’d co-founded an IT company.

Callum and Rick had met through family friends, but it was after bumping into each other at the gym a few times that their brainstorming for a PT management solution started taking flight.

“There were products out there, but nothing specifically PT focused,” says Callum. “We looked up the stats on how many practicing fitness professionals there were by country. Not surprisingly we saw significant opportunities in countries such as Australia, the US and UK.”

They quickly decided that the SaaS (Software as a Service) model was most suited for their business – charging a monthly subscription fee for access to the system, and building up monthly recurring revenue.

PTminder was entirely self-funded as a side business while Callum and Rick continued in their other lines of work. Both wanted to create a lifestyle business, and to work on their own schedule. To keep costs down they mostly worked out of home offices and outsourced the bulk of development offshore. Finding the right contractors proved a challenge; after a few Skype interviews and skill tests, Callum and Rick found their main software developer guru based in Belarus. He’s still with them today.

“We don’t have employees and our entire team of long term contractors work remotely,” explains Callum. “Every now and then we meet up at a café and fire through a bunch of tasks together. This helps us stay on course.”

Callum and Rick admit there’ve been roadblocks in the software’s development. Their biggest headache was sorting how to best accept and process recurring credit card payments from customers.

“As a global product with 95 percent of our customers based overseas, we wanted to transact in all major currencies,” says Rick. “At the time only one provider in New Zealand offered this, but with long contract terms, complicated integration and higher than expected fees.
“There were much more simple multi-currency payment processing services available in other countries, however none here.
“Thankfully, we’re starting to see some good options emerge here now, which will be hugely beneficial to New Zealand businesses,” he says.
PTminder kept evolving with technology trends. Today users can simply tap a button to instantly debit their client’s credit card or debit card.

From idea to sign-up
Launching the very first release of PTminder back in 2012 was a major milestone.

“Our first customer sign-up came shortly after – a Kiwi PT who’d heard about us through word of mouth. There’s nothing more exciting than your first paying customer. It’s fair to say a few beers and high-5s were had that day!” says Callum.

“When we reached 100 customers we celebrated by going out for dinner and we’ve kept similar traditions as we reach our targets. It’s important to celebrate the small wins.”
Product enhancements have generated additional revenue streams for the business – such as the introduction of payment processing, SMS packages, and multi-trainer accounts aimed at studios and gyms.

“With a huge focus on customer support we’ve managed to build up an awesome support team,” says Callum. “Although it took a fair amount of time and effort to get this running like a well-oiled machine, it’s one of the best things we’ve done internally. It gave us time to step back and focus on other areas of the business.”

PTminder’s export strategy has involved three phases.

“To begin with we made sure our website had good SEO practices, which eventually got us listed onto the first page of appropriate Google search phrases,” explains Rick. “We also played with some Google Adwords campaigns targeting audiences in Australia, US, UK, Canada and New Zealand.

“We then started using Facebook adverts. But it wasn’t until we partnered with social media agency Socialites to help optimise our campaigns that we really started to see results. This continues to be our main driver of overseas traffic today.

“This year we’ve been developing strategic local partnerships in each of the major countries to help drive sales. This has worked well in Australia, so now we’re looking to do the same in the US and UK.”

Zac de Silva from Business Changing is Callum and Rick’s business coach helping take PTminder to the next level. “Zac helped us get on top of tracking our key metrics, which is really important when growing a SaaS business,” says Callum. “We have monthly meetings to go over everything – from performance reviews to future planning. We then set tasks for the month to make us accountable before our next catch-up. We leave these meetings refreshed and with a clear picture of where things are at and where the business is going.

“Our goal is to reach 10,000 customers. To do that we must tap further into the UK and US,” says Callum, who plans to move to the UK in 2016 to build relationships.
There’re also plans to develop similar business tools for other related industries, not just for personal trainers.
 

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