Sometimes when opportunity knocks and it's a bunch of skateboarders at the door, you have to listen. Here's the story of how Jeff Platt got the franchise business Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park (#152 on the 2014 Inc. 5000 list) off the ground.
One of the smartest things that I did in business was listen to a bunch of kids who hung out at the indoor skate park in Las Vegas.
It was 2002, and my dad had come to me with a crazy plan. He wanted to create a new professional sport played in an arena with wall-to-wall trampolines. This was no fluke. My dad had drawn up rules, trained professional athletes and was wooing cable TV execs to buy into that audacious dream. We had even plunked down money to make an indoor training arena for athletes in Las Vegas.
But after a year, it was clear that the plan was starting to fizzle. We organized a big event in Vegas to drum up interest in the sport, and about 4,000 people showed up to watch two live games. Yet after that event, we had no plan and no TV execs called. The bank account was running dry and we were going to have trouble making payroll. That’s when the teenaged skaters came knocking on the door, asking to come jump in the training center we created for our athletes. At first we would let the kids jump for free before athletes would come in to train for the game. But when money got tight, we decided to charge them $8 apiece.
The lightbulb went off. My dad saw an opportunity: we should take our trampoline training center and turn it into a trampoline park for the general public. I had just graduated from college. Two years later, we opened our second location, and then my mom fell sick with cancer and my dad left the business in my hands.
But competition was heating up and we needed fast, but controlled growth. I decided that franchising could provide that. Plus, it could bring on new minds that could help us evolve the business. Yet getting it going was cumbersome and new. I suddenly spent my time selecting and working with franchise owners, working on contracts, training them, listening to their concerns and figuring out how to maintain a consistent culture and brand throughout.
It paid off: Today, our company has 75 operating locations across four countries and will generate over $150 million in network revenue. It was an opportunity my father and I wouldn’t have seen without the gaggle of skateboarders banging on our door.
As told to Inc. contributing writer Jennifer Alsever.