The Swim Specialist |Livingnorth.com

The Swim Specialist

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The Swim Specialist
We speak to Nathaniel Birkett, founder of The Swim Specialist, to discover more about his company, life as a swim instructor, and what his plans are for 2019

How did you get into being a swim teacher?
I actually started out in football. After I graduated from sports coaching, I went to America to do football coaching. I did a season over there and actually came back and realised it wasn’t the American dream. I wasn’t enjoying the company I was working for, but the job itself – the coaching and the football and the people – was brilliant. By the time I left, I thought, ‘Right, I have been able to walk away from this experience being able to deliver fun sessions to all ages and abilities.’ So I went abroad again to a holiday village to work as a swim teacher, using everything I had learned in America to create a unique coaching experience.

How did The Swim Specialist start?
After the holiday village, I was adamant that I wanted to start my own swim school. But when I came back to the UK, I was back to square one – I moved back to my parents and started sending out enquiries to all pools within an hour’s radius, to see if I could get any space. After nine months of persistence, one pool got back to me and said they had two hours on a Sunday afternoon, and that was when I started to really get going with the business. So I left the swim school that I was working for, and made the jump. I had three kids in my first lesson, and I thought ‘I’ve made a terrible mistake – how is this going to work out?’ But I believed in myself, and I knew what I was doing was different, so I knew we could attract more customers. Now we have over 500 weekly swimmers across four venues, with 11 teachers in total, and we are hoping to expand even more in the future, both physically and online.

You have an online presence as well?
We’ve got a YouTube campaign going at the moment, which is going really well. We’ve managed, since March, to get over 930 subscribers and we’ve got over 100,000 views. We’ve got people watching from all over the world, from India to America to Australia. We want 100 per cent transparency for our customers, so when I do the videos it gives children an understanding of what they’ll be working towards, and it shows parents what they can do if they get their child into our lessons. But not only that, if they take their children on holiday, or down to the local pool, it complements the swimming lessons that we’re giving anyway. We’ve also got expected standards videos, which show parents exactly what their child is working towards at each specific stage. We just want to add value to the customer experience, basically, to make sure that every child learns to swim properly.

What’s your typical day?
I get up at half past five, get to the gym for six, work out for an hour and a half and get to the office for about eight. I do a daily to-do list, which must include at least one thing that will impact the business long–term. Then I’m sorting out new bookings, any online enquiries and managing the teachers and liaising with other companies we’re working with. That’s during the week – on Sundays I do the YouTube videos, and on Saturday I spend time with my daughter and my fiancé.

What are your plans for the future?
Our main focus is to expand the number of people we can teach to swim. This year, we want to get to over 700 weekly swimmers – which means 30 new customers per month – and our long term goal is to have taught one million people to swim by 2025. I don’t want to give too much away, but we are also working towards online courses in 2019, which is why our YouTube channel has been so useful. We’ve been using that as a platform to see what the customer response is, and how we look on camera. So online courses and increasing the number of swimmers are our two main goals, along with refining the brand and the lessons that we deliver.

What do you love most about swimming?
I actually love teaching more than I love swimming. People sometimes assume that I started this company because I’m an ex-Olympian, or I swam competitively, but unfortunately I didn’t! I’m just a guy who loves sports coaching, and I’ve found a niche in swimming, where I can use my own unique methods to get great results. I love having an impact on children’s lives and making sure that they’re equipped with a great skill in life. I always say children are life, because just working with children breeds innocence and happiness, and you just forget everything else in the world.

Where’s your favourite place to go in Yorkshire?
I’m afraid I’m a bit of a workaholic – I don’t really go anywhere or do anything! I do live right next to Roundhay Park, so I go there quite a bit – at least once a week – so I think that’s probably my favourite place.

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
I haven’t really got any strict ones. I want to add more organisation, both to my day and the company, which will make sure I’m a bit less stretched. I also want to ensure the company gets even stronger by getting people in who add some value and clarity to parts of the business.

What do you do to relax?
There’s nothing better than just putting my pyjamas on, putting my feet up, watching a movie and just escaping form the world. I love being with my family, switching my phone off and not letting the outside world in.

Published in: January 2019

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