We recently sat down with Eric Mitchell, Parisi Master Coach and owner of Parisi Speed School Downingtown, to discuss his experience as an owner and advice he has for other owners.
How did you first learn about Parisi?
I’ve been coaching since 1990 as a track and sports performance coach, as well as a personal trainer. Just like Bill’s $500 van, I used to drive around in a white Chevy Blazer packed with my equipment.
In 2001, an article was printed in Philadelphia Magazine about our speed training and Bill Parisi contacted me directly because he was so interested in what we were doing. I was already exposed to a lot of what Bill was doing, but I had never focused it the way that Bill did. We spoke about the upcoming franchising opportunity, but it wasn’t quite the right time.
Why did you decide to open Parisi?
In 2005, Bill contacted me again and my business partners and I decided that it was the time to open our own Parisi Speed School. We signed our Agreement in 2005 and opened in a sports complex in January of 2006. We were the third franchise to join Parisi and stayed at our original location for almost 12 years.
Opening my own Parisi exposed me to two of my biggest mentors – Bill Parisi and Martin Rooney. Even though we are the same age, it was revolutionary to see what they were doing and that our visions aligned in how to work with kids. Seeing how they structured their program, it was a no-brainer for us to be a part of it.
I was, and still am, truly an Owner-Operator. In the beginning, I taught 52 classes a week. I was in my 30’s and young enough to do it at the time. It was quite an experience. It was right when sports performance exploded in the Philly area. I have the same passion now today as I did the day we opened.
What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?
The number one thing I learned was how to be confident in my abilities as a business owner. In the past, I have allowed partners to run the business part of things while I was the face. The challenge I had was with partnerships that didn’t necessarily have the same vision. As an owner, we may tend to partner with people that might not have the same vision, or we trust those who we think have the same things in mind, but this can be detrimental to your success. I have spent a lot of money to get people out of my business.
Over the years, I have learned to be a lot more careful how I run my business and who I partner with. I will keep open relationships with people to help my business succeed, but I have learned to keep MY vision primary. I look for partners who mold to the Parisi vision. I have had 38 Performance Coaches since we started and finding those who are going to be the best fit and gel with the kids is not always easy.
Also, if you are a stand-alone business, the monthly EFT is the hardest to maintain. If your rent is really high, it will be a challenge to stay there and grow.
Competition has become very fierce. Our program is so great and continues to evolve, but we have about nine competitors in a 5-mile radius. If a stand-alone owner ever takes the eye off the business, you’re in trouble. Your competition will come in and make an impact on your growth. As an owner, I’m making sure I keep my eye on what’s going on. There are so many factors:
- Make sure you are dialed into the marketing campaigns with the corporate office and have a constant flow of communication. The most successful stand alones have targeted marketing and run multiple campaigns. Owners might think they can continue to do what they have always done, but if you follow the Parisi marketing plan that is laid out for you, you’re going to see success. What is built, is built for a reason – it works.
- Get in your community. Get your face and name out there. Don’t assume anyone knows your facility exists.
What have been some of your proudest moments as an owner?
When parents come to you and say that this program, or me or my coaches, have influenced their child’s lives, beyond speed and agility training, it goes back to exactly what Bill set out to do – empower youth.
When adult clients come back and bring their kids to us, I’m so proud to see how much our program has impacted generations of people.
I also love seeing others in our network succeed. Seeing what they have developed and grown is amazing. You have to get excited about people more than you are excited about yourself.
What advice do you have for future owners?
If you’re an owner, be an operator. Don’t just have your Program Director running everything. Your athletes need to see you. It shows that you are dedicated. Be present.