Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cs Get Degrees - Ironman Access Program

A new "access program" to signing up for Ironman races came out and then was squelched last week in a short amount of time (28 hours) "on the market" proving (once again) that you don't need to be a genius to be in race management or buy a race management company. The goal of the program was to bridge the issue of someone signing up for four full Ironman races a year and then showing up to one. Three "slots" that someone who actually WOULD show up race (read: and spend money) when only one "slot" gets used.

When Ironman (WTC) rolled out the Ironman bike helmet several years ago, there were focus groups, discussion forums, surveys and a seemingly a great deal of thought behind the new product. For the Ironman Access program there was no such communication that I am aware of. You? Once again, the WTC gets a black eye.

At Apple, the moto is "we make products that we want/would buy". Apple has become the fifth largest phone manufacturer in the world based on a smart phone that plays music (among other things), computers that don't have viruses and tiny, light music players. Perhaps the issue at Providence Equity and WTC is that they no longer (if ever) consume their own product. They have so much money that they WOULD buy the Ironman Access program. It shows that Ironman management is severely out of touch with it's customers. (Not unlike any other struggling company.)

As a customer and a volunteer (marshal at in season and championship races), I've seen these races change to a cheaper "made in China" version of themselves. Races like Silverman are nipping at Ironman's heels. Even USAT National Champs is offering better swag bags and event worthy goodies. Even the medal offered at the "Big Dance" - the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, went from a GIANT SILVER MEDAL to a cheap, brass and ceramic painted medal; like any you'd find at a decent local race. What a shame. I've reduced my consumption to one family friendly race a year (even if the race is overcrowded); a guy only needs so many crappy medals and branded race t-shirts.

What is interesting... look at the parent company of WTC the list of academic achievement is staggering: Wharton, Princeton, Brown, Duke, Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Missouri (really?), Berkley. What is notably missing are any athletic achievements. Interesting. This equity firm bought WTC and Ironman without ever having completed one themselves. In high school I hung out with the top 15 guys in my class. Not the top 15%. The top 15. Thankfully, my friend Tom was a 3.21 gpa and was the "dumbest" in our group of friends. I was a bit higher than Tom. (36 on the ACT = "perfect" - four of my friends had 35 or better). My point? In HS, we used to say things like, "You may be smarter than me, but I just kicked your ass in the pool." Or, "You may have just beat me in the pool, but one day, you'll call me 'boss'." Maybe we would call these (Providence Equity) people boss, but I'm pretty sure we'd all kick their ass at triathlon and common sense.

Another story from my past relates to book smarts versus actually "smart". I have two friends who are fabulous doctors. If you need an abdominal surgery or a brain surgery, Dr. Julie or Dr. Dan are your people. They are smart, nice and in Julie's case... amazingly beautiful. Dr. Julie (when we were undergrads) was studying with my room mate and I when another of our roomies came around saying he was going to go fro a ride in his convertible. Julie asked if she could go topless. Without missing a beat, my room mate said, "You can go any way you want Jules." She turned bright red. Dr. Dan is one of three people in the world to go into your brain and fix things you can't even see without a microscope and not kill or paralyze you. Dan once took 90 minutes to park a car when it snowed 1/4" because he couldn't see the yellow lines in the parking lot. I suspect the equity folks are like them.

The folks at Providence Equity bought a hell of a business. They are doing a great job at sucking the life out of it and pissing off the customers that made it great. Just like companies in the airline industry and software - triathlon is following down that road too.

To all you folks who got degrees with Cs at "lower" institutions of learning (but know how to park a car or talk to your customers) thank you. You have what I call uncommon sense and you call bullshit when you see it.

PS: Many of my friends started swearing off Ironman branded races three years ago. While I still love the idea of the Ironman "struggle", the races themselves have lost a bit of the appeal they had for me in the 1990s and early 2000s. The next thing to watch for is how Ironman will improve it's customer experience. I've done this management work for years. I think I have a new prospect.

PPS: Ironman is still awesome. I'd like to be treated awesomely instead of disdain as a customer. I don't need someone kissing my ass. I just don't want the attitude when I ask a question or need something at a race I go to.

1 comment:

  1. Just paid $675 for Kona '11. They'll get my money one way or another. Just wait till IM entry hits 1K per know it's coming. I'd love to see their 10 year plan.