Building a thriving business requires hard work, passion, and grit. It’s not as simple as just making a decision to open the doors. But, with the right systems in place, you can exceed your goals and turn your dreams into reality.
Tom Emig has always had a passion for baseball. A love that began with playing catch with his dad.
Tom was lucky to create a lot of experiences through sports. His dad was his coach throughout youth baseball. As a high schooler, Tom won a state championship and was a two-time All-State catcher. He also landed an opportunity to play college baseball.
"Every day, when I got home from school and he got home from work, I would ask my dad to ‘have a catch.’ That’s how we communicated. We always just shared our day and the things that were happening in our lives through ‘having a catch.’"
After Tom got married and started a family, he began coaching, and his love for the game was renewed. For 5 years, he founded and coached a non-profit travel team, an experience that required a lot of effort but was extremely rewarding. Through that experience, Tom uncovered his passion for working with young baseball and softball players.
Today, Tom is the Owner of D-BAT Newark, a state-of-the-art baseball and softball training facility. In his role, Tom is fueled by the ability to teach the sport and recreate the experiences that he had growing up for other young athletes.
The only facilities previously available to athletes in the Newark area were academies that ran teams. But, D-BAT’s business model is different, as they are open to anyone that wants to learn, practice, or enjoy the game. “We want to be the place that you look forward to coming to when you get home; your outlet from your stressful day,” said Tom.
D-BAT Newark has seen revenue growth of 106% in the first year, and just celebrated its anniversary with a big community event. But while the business has been off to a fast start, it didn’t come without countless hours of hard work and a passion not only for the sport, but to impact the lives of others.
The hustle and grind of managing a D-BAT franchise began long before the doors opened. To generate buzz and excitement, Tom had to find and engage with his prospective clients and athletes.
Having grown up in the Newark area, Tom leveraged his contacts through youth and high school sports, as well as teachers and coaches who might be interested in what his facility has to offer.
In addition, he also began to build his brand through engaging with the community online, via social media. Tom found that word of mouth traveled quickly because of the need for this type of training facility. “A lot of our clients expect that we’ll introduce these clinics and they’ll be notified by social media and constant contact,” said Tom. “So, these things are always present.”
In just the first month, D-BAT Newark welcomed 185 members to the facility. Since then, Tom has continued that momentum, growing their membership count by 271% in just 13 months. On average, he welcomes 24 new members each month.
Over the past year, Tom has found that his clients have begun to form relationships with his coaches and staff members. This has led him to refine his marketing strategy by putting his facility and instructors at the forefront of his offerings.
To do this, Tom will take photos of his instructors engaging with his athletes. From there, he will include those images on the event within Upper Hand as well as on flyers and social media.
“It’s neat for the kids because they get to see themselves on a flyer. And, it’s neat for the instructors because we help them build their business, which also helps maintain the business that we are creating.”
In his first year, Tom has catered his offerings specifically towards 8-12 year old athletes. This gives young athletes the opportunity to learn the sport and provides a lot of opportunity to retain them as long term clients.
“The younger athletes may be less seasoned in the actual sport itself and the lessons may be a little bit more challenging. But, it’s more rewarding because there’s so much more upside when you coach a beginner player. We also feel like, long term, it makes sense to keep them with us when you get them early. Our goal is to, within the next three to five years, see that our lessons are pretty balanced throughout our 8 to 18 year old kids.”
During his time in Corporate America, Tom was introduced to the mantra “think of yourself as the customer.” He has taken these words to heart, intentionally creating client-first experiences. This ensures that every customer feels welcome, supported, and encouraged during their time at the facility.
“I think that the emails I send out and even through Upper Hand, for one reason or another, every person that comes into our facility seems to know my name.”
Tom and his wife have invested countless hours into the little details at the facility, creating experiences unlike anything else in the area. But, the facility is more than just brand new lights and great nets and turf. As Tom believes “it’s the people that make it what it is. If you don’t have the right people in place, then you may not be as successful as you want, no matter how nice the place is.”
Tom has an immense level of pride in his business, and has learned how to communicate the value of the facility to his staff and clients. As a result, he has positioned his offerings as experiences, not merely products or transactions.
“All of our employees are taught what the benefits of our memberships are, and there’s a ton of them. It really doesn’t need to be sold. It just needs to be explained, which is really nice. All of our staff, along with myself, practice giving tours. I enjoy doing it because it’s a place that I’m very proud of. I think through those conversations, the value comes through.”
Just as Tom and his father used to communicate with a catch outside, Tom is driven by the ability to create experiences for families away from an iPhone, iPad or video game.
Tom typically spends the morning working on any paperwork and managing any payments, cash, or checks for any camps and clinics. He also spends this time to focus on any marketing and advertising efforts.
Around 10am, Tom hosts the Hit Squad, a group of seniors who come in to hit softballs, listen to some “Golden Oldies,” and help out at the facility.
“It started with just a few guys, but word of mouth just spread it. The average age is anywhere from 65 to 85. I enjoy them so much. And they help me with different things around the facility.”
During the day, Tom usually has the facility to himself, where he has found ways to efficiently manage the phones and the cages. By about 4:00pm, his staff arrives and they prepare for the evening, making any adjustments to ensure the facility is ready to handle the night’s schedule.
“We don’t want any teams in our small cages when we could better host a private lesson there. So, we move our resources around and make sure that our plan is appropriate for the night’s workload.”
The weekends also have no shortage of excitement, with various camps or clinics being hosted; including an instructor series, cage rentals, and a hitting league. With so much going on at the facility, Tom has relied on Upper Hand to set goals, track progress, and establish a strong client experience.
“Upper Hand helps me get through my day. It manages our time, it manages our space, it prevents duplication of bookings, it helps us track payments, it helps us manage check-ins for camps, I mean, it really does everything.”
Through Upper Hand, Tom is able to set small daily goals that help him stay on track. Through the home dashboard within the software, he can see key business metrics such as new clients, revenue, or event numbers. By having a constant pulse on the health of his business, Tom is able to quickly and competitively make adjustments to his strategy that grow his bottom line.
“The main screen allows me to have daily goals, so I know that I have to do X, Y, and Z. If our revenue numbers are down for the day, I know I might have to send out another flyer about a camp or clinic to try to get a late push to try and get my daily goal.”
Having a strong pulse on the health of the business is critical to success and influences where Tom invests his energy. That’s why Tom lives in Upper Hand’s reports to manage where the business is at compared to where he wants it to be.
One report in particular that he pays extra attention to – memberships.
“I manage our memberships from a day to day perspective. All the time. There are different kinds of memberships, so I’m always looking at the different boxes to see where we are from a membership perspective. I’m constantly looking at that.”
For Tom, the Membership Analytics report has been most helpful from a forecasting standpoint. As they continue to collect membership data over the next year, Tom anticipates using this report to identify any trends in sales in a particular month to inform future membership sales.
In addition to tracking membership numbers, Tom also relies on Upper Hand’s revenue reporting capabilities.
“I’m always looking at where we are from a revenue perspective. Having things broken down with our memberships, camps, and clinics, and everything from our daily revenue, our sales, all of those screens, I use them constantly. I check them several times every hour honestly, just to manage where we are.”
As the business has grown and hit the one year mark, these reporting capabilities have only become more valuable to his business. Tom is now able to track his YoY growth, which affirms the hard work he and his wife have invested in the facility.
“For the first time, we’re now having duplicate months. For example, I’m now able to compare this January’s number to last January’s number to see what the differences are, and we’ve been so grateful to see that information. When people ask how we are doing and how we’re always packed, it’s an incredible testimony to the whole experience…the systems, the people, the community…my wife and I are just so fortunate to be a part of all of this.”
Not only has Upper Hand helped Tom from a business management perspective, but it also facilitates the positive client experiences he aims to create. Directly within the software, Tom is able to send targeted marketing messages to all his clients or to specific sub-groups about upcoming events.
“Some of the marketing is amazing – being able to market and send invitations for our events in such a large quantity and so quickly is really great and efficient.”
Tom also appreciates being able to take his business on the go with the Upper Hand mobile app. This helps him both run the business as well as stay connected with his clients.
“I love the fact that I can use Upper Hand on my phone. I mean, it’s a double edged sword: I’m constantly working because it’s on my phone, but if something were to happen where the two kiosks are overwhelmed, I can always grab my phone and check people in or help them out from there.”
At the annual D-BAT Owner’s Meeting, General Managers and Owners from every D-BAT franchise location come together to recap the past year and plan for the year ahead. At the end of the convention, they host an awards ceremony where they recognize the top performing D-BAT franchise locations.
Tom was surprised to have even been nominated for the Fast Start Award, so to hear his name called as the winner was an emotional experience.
“When our name was even recognized as one of the finalists, we were kind of surprised. And then when we won, it was even more shocking. I thought we were doing okay, but I didn’t know how we stacked up. We’re only 13,700 square feet and only have seven cages and three machine pitching cages. We’re so small compared to these other big facilities – we hear about facilities having advertising firms and marketing crews and accounting firms and things like that. And we don’t really have any of that. It’s just the grind. We just come in, work as hard as we can, and try to do what is right for our customers and for our employees.”
Aside from the strong revenue and membership numbers, Tom believes this win is a result of the community that D-BAT Newark has built, from the systems they have in place to the people that come through their doors. He is grateful for all of the partnerships and systems that have helped him build this dream: from D-BAT corporate to Upper Hand, from local businesses to the coaches and athletes that come to train.
“I think very highly of Danielle and the Upper Hand team. I can say first hand that I have some other vendors that I work with on a daily basis that aren’t there for me as much. And that causes a lot of stress when you’re trying to manage a lot of things. So, to take that burden off of me about having an issue that could be resolved with just a quick phone call is so appreciated.”
Tom’s advice to other aspiring business owners and D-BAT franchise owners is simple:
“Stay the course, follow the plan, and believe in the people that you bought into. You’ve invested a lot of your time and money into folks that have done it for a long time. They’re good people and want you to succeed. You don’t need to do all this fancy extra stuff; all you have to do is get really good at the basics. If you do this, you’ll be successful.”
As Tom looks ahead to the future of D-BAT Newark, he looks forward to continuing to provide positive experiences for young baseball and softball athletes, their families, and the Newark community.
106% revenue growth
271% membership growth
24 new members per month
D-BAT Newark is a state-of-the-art baseball and softball training facility that specializes in various aspects of learning the game.
In any given week, D-BAT Newark hosts athletes ages 8-18 for private lessons, camps, clinics, and cage rentals. Owner Tom Emig relies on Upper Hand to manage his facility and resources, track finances and membership performance, and provide all-star experiences for the athletes of the Newark, Delaware area.