Thanks for sitting down with us to talk about your business! So, tell us about your career to date…
The majority of my career has been in marketing, mainly in the sport industry. I got amazing opportunities to meet famous footballers and go to different events and have some great memories from that time. I’m a big believer in the positive impact that sport has on your health, both physical and mental. And also how it brings people together and encourages enjoyment of life. That’s what tennis is for me. It’s how I met my wife, my best friends and it’s why I wanted to get people to love it as much as possible.
I started a podcast called My Tennis Journey, which brings a different tennis story to life in every episode. We’re about 70 episodes in now, and it’s been really fun to do.
How did the coaching start?
We live on a farm, and there’s an old milking parlour that’s not in use anymore. Outside there is a bit of concrete that wasn’t being used, so I set up a small tennis court on it. Near us is a small village, so I went on a bit of a mission there to encourage people to learn to play tennis. None of them had really played before, so I knew getting them to join the tennis club where I worked might be tricky.
This is why the tennis court I set up worked – it was a safe space for these guys to practice. Now lots and lots of them have joined Church Broughton Tennis Club and there’s people who started out outside this milking parlour who are now competing at a high level. It’s had a really amazing impact on the local community.
And what about finances? How did you discover Mettle?
I was in the park one day and it suddenly dawned on me that if I was to become a tennis coach and self employed I’d need a bank account. I thought, ‘how does that even work?’. That’s when I did a bit of research and came across Mettle. I applied and set it up in no time. It’s been great for creating invoices, especially as it automatically matches transactions to those invoices.
I also use Pots to keep track of my upcoming tax bill. So with every payment I just put some money into a Pot ready for when that bill comes. And having FreeAgent on top of all this is such a great bonus. It helps me do all my accounting, from working out my expenses to helping me with my tax return.
'I applied and set it up in no time. It’s been great for creating invoices, especially as it automatically matches transactions to those invoices.'
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with your finances?
I don’t always know what my revenue is going to be month on month, so challenges come with that. But being able to use FreeAgent with Mettle is helping me to create some stability. I'm just really happy that I've managed to get this chapter of my life. I enjoy tennis and seeing other people enjoy it too so it’s worth the risk for me.
What was it like setting up a business during a lockdown?
Deciding to set up your own business takes bravery. All of that security you get with a corporate job just goes, and you’re left on your own to work out things like pensions and holidays. I had a really bad time during lockdown when I had a terrible toothache and I didn’t have any dental cover - I was so relieved when I finally got to see a dentist and had the tooth removed!
Not being able to work and realising you’re responsible for your income was tough. But I really believe that if you put your mind to it, you can make stuff happen. Lockdown wasn’t easy on the kids I coached either, not being able to run around like they used to, so this helps them to live happy, healthy lives. When the lockdowns ended, I had so much motivation.
'Deciding to set up your own business takes bravery.'
What is it about being self-employed that brings you a sense of achievement?
I’ll give you an example - I use lots of traffic cones in my lessons, and get my pupils to hit a tennis ball off them. And recently one of them formed the Traffic Cone Appreciation Society and made certificates for me and other people who appreciate the value of traffic cones! I just thought that was amazing. Nothing in my previous jobs would have led to that happening. These magical moments and seeing lots of happy faces on the tennis court are my biggest achievements.
It’s just you running your business at the moment, so what are your plans for the future?
For me, my mission is about getting as many people as I can to play tennis. So when it's just me, there's only a finite amount of people you can reach. But I also don't want to compromise on quality.
One ambition would be trying to get more coaches into schools, because I can't physically do any more. So I’m looking into ways of developing a network of coaches who can go into schools.
I’m also really enjoying doing product development work with a great company called TopspinPro who have a fantastic training aid that helps you learn topspin.
You can find out more about tennis coaching and listen to Rob’s podcast, My Tennis Journey, at https://www.serveandvolley.net/my-tennis-journey-podcast