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Gyms and salons turn to MindBody for big data


Big Data Business

Fast-growing health clubs, yoga studios and hair salons share something in common other than a bustling clientele that cares about health and beauty the miseries of scheduling clients.

A last-minute cancellation can leave a scheduling void. If someone signs up for classes but drops out, remaining fees may go unpaid. Both cost small businesses money.

A San Luis Obispo, Calif., technology company, Mindbody, believes that it has solved these problems. Mindbody’s cloud-based scheduling and accounting software product is already in use at about 32,000 health clubs and other providers of health and beauty services. The company has opened offices in London and Sydney.

Mindbody gives staff and management daily, weekly and monthly summaries of scheduling, billing and payments via desktop or app. Mindbody’s app also allows customers to track class schedules and promotions, and make and cancel appointments. The net effect is better coordination between service providers and consumers.

Mindbody’s product comes as the number of health clubs in the U.S. is surging. According to the International Health, Racket and Sportclub Association (IHRSA), a trade group, the number of health clubs in the U.S. increased from 26,830 to 30,500 from 2005 to 2012 a roughly 20 percent gain. Over the same period, memberships rose from 41 million to 50 million. Industry observers say that these numbers are likely to continue rising as the Affordable Care Act spurs greater health consciousness.

Solving an ongoing problem

Small, boutique clubs in particular often lack the resources to create their own online scheduling system. Many still rely on old-fashioned, hand-written schedules. Over the years, several companies have created automated processes but these attempts were frequently difficult to use and maintain.

“The first wave of technology tools were old-style DOS formats requiring a rocket scientist to understand and use,” said Jonathan Antin, co-owner and CEO of Jonathan and George Salon, a top Beverly Hills hair salon.

Another problem was that servers were on-premises but small organizations couldn’t afford full-time IT staff. A computer crash could mean disaster. “Since we no longer wrote down the appointments and relied on the schedules in the system, we’d be at the beck and call of some computer geek to come out and get us back up running,” Antin says. “We’d have two or three days where we didn’t know who was coming in.”

Linking data for small businesses

Mindbody Inc. relies on the collection and organization of huge volumes of data. Founder Rick Stollmeyer, a Naval Academy graduate, says that understanding how to manage this information more efficiently was the key to Mindbody’s success. “This is revolutionary software that can manage scheduling, retail point-of-sale, payment processing and accounting management, all in one place,” says Stollmeyer.

Antin says that the Mindbody Express app on his iPhone allows him to “look at not only who I have on my book today, but who I’ve had over the last five months, who I have scheduled in the next five months, and I can even look at my 24 hairdressers’ books to see who they’ve scheduled.” He says that his hairdressers “can individually see and calculate their total number of customers on their apps and compare it to their paychecks.”

“Altogether, this has simplified the business, cutting down man-hours by 75 percent,” he says.

Since customers book their appointments online, this also pares the need for front desk staff. A bookkeeper on retainer for 15 hours of work in the past, may now be needed for only two to three hours of service per week. When Antin wants to peruse the salon’s profit-and-loss statement to examine retail sales, hair services sales and product sales by hairdresser or in the aggregate it is available to him in a single click, updated in real time.

“I run the business from this phone,” he says. “I can see if Derek’s numbers are down this month from a year ago and then ask him why this is the case. Since I still cut hair (he charges as much as $500 a head), I’m at the salon eight hours a day. Now I’m not spending my nights running the financial side of the business.” (Derek is a fictional employee.)

Trevor Tice, founder and CEO of CorePower Yoga, a Denver-based chain of 90 high-end yoga studios in 12 states, touts the software for its back-office capabilities. “The feature that really revolutionized the business is the auto-pay tool,” Tice says. “Much like membership at a health club, we have people sign up who are then billed monthly. As opposed to having to collect mailed checks, the monthly amount is billed out of their checking accounts, providing recurring revenue to us.”

With 30,000 members, CorePower generates $3 million in monthly revenue. “All the reporting then flows from Mindbody into our financial accounting system in the background,” Tice notes. “The time and effort saved is substantial.”

Mindbody includes filters for different categories of data in its software. “We can help clients track lead generation, client referrals and retention rates, rewards programs and search optimization efforts,” Stollmeyer says.

Next up is a geo-tag affixed to users membership cards on their key chains. “Customers just walk in the door, grab a towel and have a great experience,” says Stollmeyer. “The system then records the rest.”

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