IN this week's SME Focus we hear from two accomplished rugby players who harnessed their enthusiasm for the oval ball game to develop an innovative business.
Name: Mark Cairns, I am the Co-Founder of Coach Logic along with my business partner Andy Muir.
Age: I'm 30 and Andy is 33.
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What is your business called?
CAM Solutions Ltd trading as Coach Logic.
Where is it based?
We're based in Edinburgh but trading worldwide as our product is online.
What does it produce?
Coach Logic is a secure online platform, which helps the modern coach manage the needs of their team in one place. It allows coaches and players to analyse games, track performance and player welfare and it also ensures effective communication between all members of the team, helping to enhance performance.
It's primarily targeted at educational institutions and ambitious amateur clubs but has also been taken on by elite teams and governing bodies, including the West Ham Football Club Academy and Badminton Scotland.
How many employees?
Currently it's just Andy and I. However we do outsource a lot of our work to local businesses as well as freelance professionals with a specific skill set. We're working on assembling a sales team with distributers across the globe.
When was it formed?
We launched as a limited company in August 2011 and coach-logic.com went live in November 2012.
What is its turnover?
Turnover was around £25,000 in our first year with our focus very much being on product development, free trials and beta testing has allowing us to ensure Coach Logic was ready for its market. The research and development process involved consulting with sport coaches, administrators and players and using them as beta testers.
Having recently signed new contracts with West Ham United and SportScotland we're confident turnover will continue to rise in the year ahead.
What were you doing before you took the plunge?
Andy is actually a sports lecturer at Edinburgh College and I teach P.E at George Watson's College. We met while playing at Currie RFC. He later went on to become the strength and conditioning coach at Stewarts Melville College FP and Boroughmuir RFC. I've also just retired after playing 13 years of premiership rugby with Currie RFC. Over this period I won the league twice for Currie and represented Scotland 7s on the IRB circuit over two years, which included the famous Honk Kong 7s.
Why did you take the plunge?
Andy and I have always been around ambitious amateur sports teams and we were becoming increasingly frustrated with what we felt was a lack of products out there that catered for this market. It felt like the performance management tools out there were targeted at professional teams and were expensive and required specialised knowledge to manage.
In August 2010 while out for a drink we got chatting about how we could help amateur sports team improve on and off the pitch. As a result the concept of Coach Logic evolved over a pint. Over the next few months we carried out some market research and looked at our competitors. We also approached Business Gateway, who assisted with advice on the creation of a business plan.
The following spring in 2011 it all started to come together. We met with web developers and realised that our idea was doable. This then encouraged us to seek funding and finalise our business plan to secure the funding we needed from Business Gateway.
Our concept was finalised between November 2011 and January 2012. This was followed by a long period of testing and final tuning and eventually in November 2012 Coach Logic went live.
How did you raise the start-up funding?
Andy and I invested a significant sum of cash from our own pocket and we were backed up by a private investor. We then consulted with Business Gateway and set about compiling a comprehensive business plan which in turn won us an Innovation Grant from Scottish Enterprise. Scottish Enterprise gave us the maximum amount of funding available by contributing 40 per cent of the total website development costs. Business Gateway supported us through their growth pipeline over an 18 month period.
What was your biggest break?
Going up against world leaders in performance analysis when pitching successfully for a SportScotland contract to assist them in the lead up to and beyond the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since then we have worked with the Scottish Rugby Union and developed specific features for West Ham United, however we are keen to stick to our ambitious amateur roots.
What was your worst moment?
Going into August 2013 we had been improving the video upload process in time for the new season. Due to additional testing on our servers and a small administrative error on our part, users were unable to upload for a short period of time, which just happened to fall slap bang in the middle our window of peak usage!
Honesty is the best policy and our users are a great group of people so were very understanding. Between us and our web development partners we managed to sort the problem out by the Monday morning.
What do you most enjoy about running the business?
Our users. We really enjoy interacting with such a wide range of talented sports people. In one week we recently met with an U15s football side, Badminton Scotland's head coach and the West Ham United academy GPS co-ordinator.
What is your biggest bugbear?
Andy gets pretty annoyed with my obsession with colour co-ordinating spreadsheets. I'm easily frustrated by expensive snail speed wifi in hotels and people who talk a good game but don't action anything.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
In the past year we have proven a huge potential market for Coach Logic, we have well over 5000 users, from eight countries around the world, ranging from social to professional outfits. Our task now is to reach that market.
What are your top priorities?
Our users and making sure our product continues to satisfy their needs whilst maintaining its usability. With something of Coach Logic's nature, it's really important to find that fine line between continued product developments to keep current users happy, whilst at the same time getting it out there. I recently heard that sliced bread lay undiscovered for 20 years!
What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?
The support we have received from Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise has been invaluable. Tax breaks would however be really helpful, especially for businesses just starting out and who are juggling costs, especially when out put is usually more at the beginning than what you are banking.
What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?
Put a value on your time, accept you don't know everything and be willing to seek help.
At the start we tried to save money by taking on as many roles within the company as possible. We then fumbled around and spent three to five days working on something that could have been outsourced to specialists for one day's work.
Surround yourself with specialists rather than attempt to be a jack of all trades on your own. This will add a huge amount of value beyond the initial outlay.
How do you relax?
I think we both find it difficult to switch off when we're balancing our teaching jobs with Coach Logic. However it's vital for our sanity we do. So to relax I love nothing more than spending time with friends and family, usually eating good food, and now that my wife and I have a little girl, Olivia, this time is very precious. Andy on the other hand relaxes by taking to the fairways and come July his spare time will be further limited as his wife is expecting their first child!