The Evolution of a Business

Vacation Sports

The Evolution of a Business

What to expect at FrontRunner in 2018

I was talking to a friend this past weekend, who had just sold his business. I brought up the subject of how FrontRunner/Vacation Sports, Inc. had changed over the past 25 years. His comment was not how the business had changed but how the bank account had changed. As I reflect of how FrontRunner has changed of the years, I must also admit that the checkbook balance has also.

I started Vacation Sports in 1994 and looking back at that year’s tax return I had a total income of $650. Renting bikes and canoes didn’t make me much money.

Run for the Apples was our first event, starting back in 1986. Our first triathlon was in 2001 with the creation of the Square Lake Triathlon. Events grew in numbers and in size over the first 10 years. During the mid 2000’s, Vacation Sports had more than 40 events and was managing another dozen races for local groups. Our triathlons were filling with over 500 participants. Those were the days when only a handful of triathlons were held every summer. Now there are that many on any given weekend.

At one point in the late 1990’s, I looked at the numbers of t-shirts we were purchasing and decided we could print our own shirts for less money. The intention of starting a screen printing business was not as part of the business plan but soon a local church mission trip asked if we could print some shirts for them. Another school group asked and then a large race asked the same thing. Before you knew it, we had a successful screen printing business. I sold the screen printing business to an employee a year ago and he and his wife are doing great. They would love your shirt business.

Next – in the fall of 2008, right as the economy was tanking, Vacation Sports purchased Midwest Events, a company that was an early entry into the online registration business and a local magazine that was a strong promoter of multi sport events in the Midwest.  In the overall plan, Midwest Events was a great addition to our business. I soon discovered that I had bitten off more that I could chew and ended up selling Midwest Events to Brigid and Terry Thompson a few years later. Midwest Events couldn’t have landed in better hands.

We made a name change somewhere in those years to FrontRunner to better reflect all the varied services we provided.

There were other business activities added over the years. We had our own timing equipment and still provide timing/result services for many area races. We discovered how much we could save if you produced our own medals and awards so we bought the equipment and saved thousands each year. We still produce medals and awards for a number of local events. We entered the promotional event business after some screen printing customers asked about putting their logos on a pen or coffee cup but discovered that we just didn’t do enough to justify the additional expense it took.

Back to the bank account. As I said, that first year a total of $650 went into that account. During the peak years, it was about a million. Not a huge business but respectable. 

This next year, FrontRunner will produce 2 events. The Jump to it 5K/10K May 4th in White Bear Lake and the Run for the Apples 5 Mile on October 20 at Pine Tree Apple Orchard. We will also be providing timing/result services for about 25 other events. It is a far cry from the hay days but still enjoyable and will help pay some bills.

People have asked why I have cut back. They ask about their favorite event that I no longer put on. What I can tell them is that I loved what I did and did well with my business over the years. It was hard work and involved most weekends. It was time for me to make a life change. Other people have picked up many of the events we no longer do and I will post information on them in the future.

Besides the FrontRunner activities, I am selling residential real estate for Edina Realty here in White Bear Lake. I would love your help and referrals making this new venture work. 

Both my friend and I were correct after owning a business that lasts more than a couple years. Things change and a business evolves to grow and stay alive. If you do it right, so does the bank account.

Thanks for reading.