Our final entrepreneurship story comes from The Swim Specialist.
Before starting his own business, Nathaniel Birkett ran a successful football and swim academy in Majorca. Not settled with his success abroad, Nathaniel came back to the UK in order to form The Swim Specialist, a leading swim school operating throughout Yorkshire.
Entrepreneurship has always been in Nathaniel’s blood!
‘I remember being around 14years old and me and a friend used to visit his grandma in Scarborough every summer. I have vivid memory of a conversation we had when we asked her ‘what do you think we will be when we’re older?’ I remember saying to her I would be a car salesman or a business owner. I’m very grateful to now be an independent business owner. Ironically enough just, before I made the jump at 25years I had an interview with a car company and when I told my partner, she was very disappointed! She gave me some stern words and told me to pursue my dreams. I think the car salesman job interview was just the inner critic playing his part.
I’m currently part of a business accelerator called Entrepreneurial Spark so I’m constantly surrounded with like-minded people who demonstrate entrepreneurship on a daily basis. I believe everybody has entrepreneurship qualities, for me what makes a good entrepreneur is the level of persistence they demonstrate to pursue their dreams and ideas.’
It’s an entrepreneur’s mindset that can help to set them apart, as Nathaniel explains:
‘The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is relating to people with a fixed mindset. I believe mind-set is the biggest noticeable change in those who are labelled an entrepreneur to those who are not. Once you make the jump you will realise that everyday hurdles are part of the process. Being an entrepreneur allows you to believe that anything is achievable.
The biggest hurdle for me was defeating my inner critic. Our thought processes are naturally conditioned to make us feel safe and protected. For example, when going in search of pool space, I told myself that all the pools are already taken, how would I ever negotiate with swimming pool owners, even then, how will I even afford the rent, I can’t guarantee I will get swimmers? This is the mind’s natural defence mechanism to ensure we don’t take risk which may jeopardise your current state and well-being. The biggest lesson I have learnt is ‘be comfortable with being uncomfortable.’
Any successful company has to evolve a mission and reason for being. Here at CAP2, we see our mission as to provide incredible software for the people we care about; our customers. For Nathaniel, this mission has changed over time.
‘The original business mission was very simple, ‘To meet the needs of children and the demands of parents’. This was derived from doing my initial phase of customer research on what parents wanted for their children. Which is why we partnered up with CAP2 which allowed parents to monitor and track their children’s progress. We also ensure all our venues have a viewing area on poolside for parents giving them 100% transparency. However, after recently re-evaluating why I started the swim school, I released that many other swim schools have now adopted a similar service and we don’t have a significant USP to differentiate ourselves. I am now in the process of changing our mission, which reverts to my ‘why’ which is to teach all children how to swim using my unique learn to swim pathway.’
So, what is Nathaniel’s style – A bit of an Alan Sugar or more of a Richard Branson!?
‘To be honest I have never really followed or read the stories of Richard Branson or Alan Sugar, although I have always understood you need to have key influences. I’m very proactive with watching inspirational and motivation videos. I’m very much a visual learner and have always watched Ted Talks. I have recently started watching Impact Theory on YouTube. Part of my morning routine is to watch a video before I exercise which helps improve productivity throughout the rest of the day.’
We wanted to find out whether The Swim Specialist modelled their business on anyone else; we asked Nathaniel whether he took inspiration from any other sports providers when setting up the company.
‘Funnily enough, this is something I have never been interested in or divulged in. This could be an area for improvement as I’m not sure how we compare with our competitors. I haven’t looked into what other swim schools are doing well which may help strengthen the swim school. In hindsight we may have fast-tracked some growing pains. However, for me, I have been one track minded in why I want to set up the swim school, how I am going to do it, and what it will eventually look like. Unlike other swim schools or franchises, I love the journey of growing my business. It allows me to grow as an individual and enrich my story with experiences and key decisions.’
It’s not only the company’s mission and model that has helped The Swim Specialist’s success.
‘Technology in modern-day business is a must, we all know what happened to HMV, Blockbuster, and Kodak. They failed to jump on board the digital economy which resulted in them going into administration. It’s inevitable that as future generations grow up with the internet at their fingertips, they are more inclined to source information and make purchases online. As a business it also helps us manage data, manage operations and scale easily.’
Their success, according to Nathaniel, isn’t purely defined by the achievements they’ve made, but by the growth of the business.
‘Everyone is different, some people measure success on what awards you have won, what house you live in or which car you drive, or even how much money you make. For me I measure my success on the number of children we’ve taught how to swim, along with how many job opportunities we have created. Since establishing the swim school in June 2016 we have taught over 881 children how to swim and have 12 teachers that have adopted my swim teaching methods.’
Nathaniel leaves us with his exciting vision for the future!
I have a ‘dream big’ idea, the dream big is for every child worldwide to learn how to swim using my unique learn to swim pathway. How this will be done is top secret for now, although if you’re interested in following my journey visit my website to find out more www.theswimspecialist.com