Dominic Tinodi, Co-Founder of Smarthlete tells us how this recruiting network brings together athletes (parents) & college coaches directly, but also intermediaries in the market.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dominic Tinodi: Thank you, doing pretty good. It’s a real roller coaster with the situation constantly changing, but I guess, needless to say, we’re all pretty much ready for this whole thing to go away in the very near future. Luckily, the situation is relatively OK in the part of the world where we live, but still dramatic for those families affected. We feel with them.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Smarthlete.
Dominic Tinodi: I’ve been lucky to hear about college sports back in the days before I was going to graduate from high school and privileged enough to have the prerequisites to qualify for an academic and athletic scholarship and get recruited by a university in California. A couple of years later (after graduating from undergrad and grad school), a former classmate and I realized that our recruiting processes (the process of getting recruited) is a fascinating topic, as we both had very different experiences of finding our scholarships in college.
So that was kind of the starting point, us thinking let’s do something different. Let’s set up the process digitally, create a platform, get the stakeholders connected directly with the purpose of trading college scholarships with athletes’ commitment to enroll in college and compete for the university team.
Today, Smarthlete is a recruiting network, which brings together athletes (parents) & college coaches directly, but also intermediaries in the market: recruiting services using the platform to work with their athletes and college coaches likewise.
How does Smarthlete innovate?
Dominic Tinodi: The starting point always is: What do the parties involved seek/need to make the recruiting process a smooth(er) one? We always bring a certain angle to the table, that of internationals, other recruiting companies, and the latter is actually one element of where we revisited our model the most in the past.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business?
Dominic Tinodi: Luckily, it’s been pretty fine for us due to the fact that the families who do care about sending their kids to college are very often prepared to invest, as a university education doesn’t come for free – even for the majority of those who qualify for a sizable portion of scholarship money. Having said so, however, the industry did change quite a bit, as other stakeholders in the process have been hit quite badly (universities & athletic departments), and we are in a situation where universities work with reduced budgets; which in turns means smaller scholarship offers to award to students. On top of this, the world didn’t see sports events for a considerable amount of time, and students received more time to finish their degree and compete in college. This has led to a fierce college application / recruiting market with fewer available roster spots for an even bigger pool of applicants.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Dominic Tinodi: As we’re a relatively compact team with remote local partners, Covid gave us the chance to revisit our approach to serving our customers. What are we good at, how can we train and onboard our team, what is it that we bring to the table, which sets us apart from the competition? It was actually a chance for us to try out a couple of new things, broaden our business, and set the direction for the near future.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dominic Tinodi: Our #1 tool to boost our efficiency is Smarthlete – the platform we built from scratch to accommodate our needs to do our job. For our business customers and us, this covers a couple of things at the same time: e-mail campaigns, task management, relevant industry data, login-area for our clients. We work with third-party CRM systems as well, which is integrated with ours, but that’s predominantly with the purpose of organizing our Pre-Sales and Sales activities.
Your final thoughts?
Dominic Tinodi: The thing we are really concerned about is the health and well-being of the young generation. We literally have a situation with some of our clients (athletes) not having been able to participate in their sport and train for soon a year, and they used to spend 15-20 hours/week doing so. In many parts of the world, the young generation has been forced to stop what they love to do, “move,” and that’s just very questionable, to say the least.
We see that they struggle and who wouldn’t if one of the most important years in your life is kind of being taken away from you. It doesn’t really matter if you “lose” a year at age 32, but age 17 is kind of big for a lot of people in their personal development.
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