Member Spotlight: SwimJim, Inc.
Jim Spiers, SwimJim owner and founder, has been teaching swimming for over 30 years. Prior to teaching, Jim took his first swimming lesson at a local fitness club when he was three years old. By the time he was 17, he was a pool manager in charge of developing curriculum for swimming lessons.
After attending college, Jim met Phill Hansel, University of Houston head swim coach, U.S. Olympic coach and owner of Phill Hansel Swimming Academy. Jim worked with Phill to create and redevelop multiple learn-to-swim programs at the school.
By 1990, Jim moved to New York to develop curriculum for swim schools and to direct children’s theater. Over the years he gained a lot of experience in learn-to-swim teaching techniques. Finally, in 1998 he opened SwimJim in New York. At first the school was only open one day a week with 40 students and four employees. Today the New York SwimJim facility has anywhere form 1,000-2,000 students and 70 employees.
Going from 40 students to 2,000 wasn’t always easy though. Jim struggled with the business aspect of actually owning a business. He didn’t really have a business plan at first. “I went by the seat of my pants in the beginning. I wanted to teach people how to swim and wasn’t too worried about the business side of things,” said Jim.
SwimJim now has a great business plan and continues to gain more students every year. All teachers must train 120 hours before they begin instructing students in the water. The goal is to make sure every student is safe in the water, whether they’re learning to swim as a sport or for relaxation. One of SwimJim’s greatest success stories involves a student who started swimming lessons when she was seven years old. Jim recalls her as being one of his most fearful students. SwimJim was able to turn her fear into a passion. Now, 10 years later at age 17, this student is on the 4x100 Women’s Olympic relay team.
Jim learned a lot of his business strategies and teaching techniques from the United States Swim School Association. “I attended my first USSSA conference in 1997 and it was the most eye-opening experience I ever had. I walked away from that conference with so much information,” noted Jim. To this day, Jim leaves the conferences with a new business or teaching idea that he implements at SwimJim.
Jim not only learns, but he also saves time and money at the conferences. Many vendors, including equipment, management software and insurance, attend the conferences. It’s a one-stop shop for everything a swim school would need. Sometimes vendors even offer free shipping if products are purchased at the conference.
Along with all the information learned at the USSSA conferences, Jim also connects with association members for advice. Jim has picked up the phone numerous times to ask other members an important business or teaching question. Most of the members have dealt with the same business challenges and can give insight on how to overcome an obstacle. “It’s like having a whole bunch of psychologists at your beck and call,” said Jim.
Since Jim opened his swim school in 1998, he’s learned valuable information along the way. He’s not just a successful businessman, but also a passionate educator who gives students a life skill and a sense of accomplishment.