She’s someone we know very well here. Having joined the company back in 2008 as a consultant, Rachel was promoted to Operations Director in 2018 and was instrumental in the brand’s multi-award-winning digital transformation.
To give you the opportunity to find out a little more about Rachel, we persuaded her to take a break from her busy schedule to answer a few of our questions:
Hi Rachel, when did you first get started with Swimtime?
So, I first worked with Swimtime back in 2008 as a consultant for a few days a month, helping the owners improve the company’s structure, processes, and procedures. After a couple of years, we parted company, and I rejoined in a more formal capacity in 2015 with a brief to help the owners exit the business. Everything went according to plan and, in 2016, the business was sold to Theo Millward.
Theo and I discovered we had similar views on the future growth of the business, so I stayed on, and here I am today, very proud to say I’m the new Managing Director of Swimtime.
So, what does a typical work day look like for you?
That’s a tricky one – the typical doesn’t really exist for me! Most days begin with utilising our software to review the main building blocks of the business: Sales & Marketing, Operations, Finance and Compliance. Beyond that, no two days are the same.
I could be involved with planning international expansion, liaising with National Contract Venues, assisting franchisees in the growth of their business, reviewing new product lines, attending franchise networking events or leading planning sessions with our Senior Team.
What have you enjoyed most about working at Swimtime?
The culture, the people, and the variety. We really do have a great team here at Swimtime; they’ve been through a lot and have really pulled together. I’ve also loved having a clear vision of where we’re heading and how we’re going to get there. Our ambitious plans are certainly making for an interesting and challenging journey.
You’ve been a big part of the digital transformation at Swimtime – can you tell us a bit more about that?
Absolutely. The fast pace at which technology evolves and the ever-increasing demand for an amazing customer experience meant we had to make some changes to our processes to stay ahead of the curve.
Having always been passionate about tech and understanding the benefits it can bring to a business, I could see that the previous software was holding Swimtime back. So, as a lot of people know, we built our own. In doing so, we automated a lot of the time-consuming tasks for both franchisor and franchisee and created an enhanced customer interface.
After we’d finished, the average booking process took one minute, as opposed to the 15 minutes it had taken previously! We also introduced taking the Management Service Fee at source, providing complete transparency for both franchisee and franchisor, saving hours in monthly reconciliation.
Before introducing the software, we ran franchisee focus groups to obtain feedback and to demonstrate how the software would benefit them and improve their profit margins. The move itself from the old to the new, we decided to roll out over a period of a few months. This meant we could support each franchisee with training along the way.
While it was a big step and felt quite daunting, making the move was the best thing for the business. It has propelled Swimtime forward and it meant we could handle those Covid lockdowns and come out stronger than ever as a result.
Being in a business so affected by the pandemic must have been really difficult. Can you tell us a bit about how Swimtime coped during that time?
When the lockdowns started, business came to a sudden stop for us and all our franchisees. The priority was communication with customers, teachers and venues, and then the customers’ accounts. Thanks to our software, within 24 hours of the lockdown happening, we had contacted everyone and suspended all payments, all dealt with by our Central Office team. This left the franchisees to focus on what help they could get for their business, and we helped with that as well. We kept them up to date with industry guidelines, available funding and support, government, and bank initiatives, as well as insurance claims. We met weekly online for a coffee and a catch-up, sharing information and providing much-needed support on a personal, mental and well-being level. In fact, I think that is the big positive that came out of lockdown, it brought us all closer together.
What are you looking forward to most in your new role?
I’m really looking forward to continuing to drive growth within the network and within the business. There’s still so much to be achieved and I relish the challenge.
What’s next for Swimtime?
There are several opportunities to make the brand international, as well as continue with our expansion in the UK. We’ll also continue to develop new features within our software to enhance the customer experience and to help us increase profitability overall.
If you could give one piece of advice to people about swimming – what would it be?
Great question – it’s never too late to learn to swim. We’ve had people in their late 80’s join our programme! As well as being a great form of physical exercise, swimming has other benefits for all ages including improving self-esteem, enhancing mental health and increasing social skills.
Thanks for answering our questions, Rachel. We’ve loved talking to you and we wish you all the best in your exciting new role.