Like many small businesses, SportsRunner emerged as the result of an accident of fate. As distinct from a process of strategic planning around a pre-identified market opportunity.
Here, in a nutshell, to mark our 20th anniversary, is how it got started.
For many years, College Sport Wellington have managed the delivery of the bulk of secondary school sport competitions in the Wellington region.
In 1997, they were undergoing a big upgrade in their computer systems, and moving to use Microsoft Office.
To put the key players in the picture:
- John Hornal had been the Director of College Sport since its inception in 1989. A role he continued, incidentally, until his very recent retirement.
- At the time, Prue Kelly was the Principal of Wellington High School, and was also a member of the Board of College Sport Wellington.
- And I was teaching computer skills courses at Wellington High’s Community Education Centre.
- John asked Prue if she could recommend someone to help him and his staff get on board with their new software.
- Prue put him in touch with me.
- I went to College Sport and did some staff training.
So I was there as a trainer. But in the course of my work, I noticed the way they were setting up their sports competitions, using tables in WordPerfect documents. And I asked John about how much time it took them to process the draws and results.
And then I, knowing next to nothing about sports administration, was somehow inspired to suggest that I could come up with a better way to manage their competitions.
And then John, knowing next to nothing about computer database applications, said okay, let’s do it.
Bear in mind that, even though only 20 years ago, things were pretty different then, and the idea of using software to automate sports competition management was quite radical. So for both John and myself, taking this on was a huge leap of faith.
Well, the rest is history. We got stuck in, building a system to automate much of their work, using College Sport Wellington’s existing manual procedures as the model. And before too long (after a lot of work!) we had something in place that was definitely providing great benefit.
Of course, it was still pretty primitive, compared with what the SportsRunner system has now become after 20 years of continued enhancement and development.
But it was useful enough that other sports organisations, who saw what College Sport Wellington were doing, decided they wanted some of that too.
Thus was born a process by which the SportsRunner project became the central focus of my work and learning ever since. It has been a fantastic ride, and it still is.