Triathlon organizer is set for success
April 27, 2012By Jason Frye
Set Up Events
Bill Scott, President
Employees: 6 full-time in the corporate office; 5 franchisees across the Carolinas
“When I started Set Up Events, it was really just a part-time thing,” said Bill Scott, president of Set Up Events, one of the leading organizers of triathlons in the Southeast. “I started the business in 1994, but I didn’t get serious about it until 1999.”
The last decade has been explosive for Scott and his team. Set Up Events has grown from a “part-time thing,” putting on two dozen races a year, into a franchise that will organize 145 triathlons from Maryland to Florida in 2012, handle 50,000-60,000 registrations via its custom built online booking engine, and continue a decade-long trend of growth as triathlons and endurance-sports gain more popularity.
“When I put on my first race in 1990, I had no idea it would turn into this,” he said.
That first race was in Dallas, Texas, and he organized it for a friend. It turned out he enjoyed running the race as much as he enjoyed running in the race. In 1992, he moved from Texas to North Carolina, where, like everywhere, the running community was growing. He joined in and ran in races from time to time, but focused on his business, Play it Again Sports.
Through Play it Again Sports and his connections in the running community, Scott fell into old habits and found himself organizing races. In 1994, he decided to formalize his pastime and started Set Up Events, putting together races on the side for the next five years.
During those five years, America’s obsession with running, specifically with running triathlons, grew exponentially. As more runners took to the road, demand for Scott’s organizational expertise exploded.
“I did more and more races until it was time to do one or the other – Play it Again Sports or Set Up Events,” says Scott. “I decided to pursue Set Up Events.”
In 1999 he sold Play it Again Sports and devoted his energy to Set Up Events.
“We didn’t do many races that first year, but I saw the way the racing industry was growing and I knew it wouldn’t take long before we were close to where we wanted to be,” he said.
As he organized more races, Scott saw the holes in his operation and fixed them, building as tight a process as he could, with one exception: race registration.
“For the first few years, [race organizers] went through a third party for registration and participant data. These third party companies charged a processing fee and, as our volume of registrations increased, I said to myself, there has to be a way we can do this, save the registration processing fee and capture participant data ourselves. We thought it would be best to build our own booking and payment processing engine and cut out those third party vendors, so we did.”
With its web registration portal, Set Up Events increased profits by about 3 percent, which doesn’t sound like much, but when it processes 50,000 to 60,000 registrations a year at somewhere between $50 and $150 dollars each, it adds up.
As revenues added up, Scott was able to rebrand the company, hire more fulltime staff at the corporate office and develop a franchise model. Now he has six full-time employees and five franchisees in Durham, Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina, and Charleston and Greenville, South Carolina. He’s also won legions of devoted race fans on both the organization and participation sides of the sport.
“It’s been remarkable, these last 10 years,” Scott said. “In 2001, we put on 35 races; this year we’re putting on 145. We had two production teams in 2001, three in 2003, four in 2007 and gained our fifth in 2010. It’s been a decade of steady growth and we see nothing but open road ahead.”