How do you measure success at a sailing school?

by Chris Kameen on January 27, 2014

How do you measure sailing successOver the past couple of weeks I have had a chance to take stock of what we have achieved in a very small space of time and it made me question how do I measure success? If it’s by getting kids sailing with a dolphin then we nailed it!

I started thinking about all the different measures that we have:

  1. Number of hits on the website
  2. Number of people on the database
  3. Number of people taking action on emails
  4. Number of Likes on Facebook
  5. Number of People talking about on Facebook
  6. Number of Twitter Followers
  7. Number of views of videos on You-tube
  8. Number of sales per week, profit/loss / turnover ratio
  9. Amount of outstanding money owed
  10. Amount spent on fixed overheads – insurance/accounting /  phone  etc….
  11. Customer satisfaction score

And the list goes on, you will note that all of the above measures relate to any business and it is important to keep a good eye on these indeed if you don’t you will likely go broke (or as my accountant says – you will have an even more expensive hobby as you will be financing everyone else’s sailing!) but are these the important measures for a sailing school.

To me the most important measures for a sailing school are as follows:

  1. Number of people going sailing
    1. Try sailing
    2. Taking part in a sailing course
    3. Taking part in a holiday camp
    4. Social sailing – practicing
    5. cruising in dinghies
  2. Number of people doing a second course
  3. Number of people not doing a second course
  4. Number of people buying a boat – all of Sydney Sailing School’s boats are for sale.. (why would someone who has learnt and enjoyed a particular boat buy something different?)

Now,we are still relatively new and so have only just started advising and guiding people on their way into what we hope is a lifetime passion for the sport of sailing, but note that I don’t measure success in how many people go racing or join clubs.

I firmly believe that if someone loves sailing enough that they will encourage others to go sailing and become advocates and that is what we want. Irrespective of whether somebody comes sailing more than once it is absolutely vital that the experience that they have is a positive one. Going racing before somebody has a good grasp of what is going on is a surefire way of putting people off.. How many people do you speak to who say – ‘I did a twilight once and got screamed and shouted at.. or ‘my daughter is looking for a crew because her friend that was crewing got a bit scared and doesn’t want to go sailing anymore’. The people who had a bad experience will rarely allow their kids to try sailing  in the future, whereas the people who have a good experience but weren’t really into it would be open to letting their kids have a go.

I think we as a sailing industry need to be in this for the long term, and this is the challenge. Sailing clubs, Yachting NSW, Yachting Australia all measure success by how may people go racing and are members of their clubs and the boards and committees all want instant success which is getting people through the doors and racing.  This is in my opinion is short term thinking, people should want to join a club because they want to hang out with like minded people, doing the same thing, if that is sailing with their kids or cruising then we should facilitate it. I understand that most clubs are all about racing and my background is in racing, I am a racing stalwart, a club man through and through, I love it, but I recognise that it is not for everyone. We need a mechanism to keep these people engaged, and I think sailing schools play a vital role here, at Sydney Sailing School we are working on how we should do this, but equally we’re up for any input from the broader club based and non-club based sailing community.

I would love it if as Sydney Sailing School we could offer silver card membership to Yachting Australia or Yachting NSW directly for a nominal fee of say $20 that included the personal accident insurance that we get as racing members of clubs. This would allow us to offer something that is low cost, low risk (for the purchaser) and allow the sport to start seriously measuring participation. Sadly I think it will be a long time before this is reality due to the structure and financial model of the sport.

So how does Sydney Sailing School measure up? Well in the last 4 months we have had 687 people try sailing , 50% of these took action upon receiving an email about their sailing experience. Of these about 15 have gone onto be one of the 130 that have completed courses. These are numbers that we are massively proud of, but I have no idea how this stacks up against other clubs and schools. We are 100 people away from a 1000 people sailing… ….. How to celebrate?

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