Timer Survey Findings

The timer survey findings are in! This was the industry’s first timer-focused market survey and provided some valuable insights. We received input from 213 industry timers. The survey was open to all timers. Though, we expect we had a higher concentration of timers that currently use RunSignup’s platform of products, the sample size was large enough to extract trends that can be applied to the timer industry as a whole.

Some Key Takeaways:

  • Timers are viewed as the technology expert for the race.
  • Most timer businesses are growing. Though, some don’t want the growth.
  • More than half of timers have another form of employment.
  • Top 3 timer challenges: Managing teams & training, not enough time, and not making enough money.
  • Races go to timers for comprehensive race management services not just timing and scoring a race.
  • Timers compete by building close relationships with their races, providing higher quality services, and by offering add-on services.

Timer Business Structure

The following are the responses to questions focused on the timer business structure and resources. Most respondents own or partially own their timing business, and more than half have some other form of employment. Most timing companies are small businesses with twenty or less employees. The majority of time between 11 and 100 events with the highest concentration being between 11 and 50 events.

Most of the respondents time between 11 and 100 events.
Most (83%) have some form of ownership in their timer business
More than half (54%) have some form of other employment.

How many employees work at your timing company? Include full-time, part-time and contractors.

Most timing companies are small business with 20 or less employees.

Business Growth and Competition

Most timers are experiencing growth while not all welcome the growth. The majority of respondents shared they focus on building strong relationships with their races and strive to deliver higher quality and expanded services. Many are turning to other types of races and producing their own events. Some timers reported a symbiotic relationship with competiting timers in their area where they refer races to one another.

82% of Timers Reported their Business is Growing
68% Want their Business to Grow (14% less than the above response)
Building close relationships with races is key for timers.

Some of the comments around ways timers compete included:

“Just be better. Keep the runners happy.”

“Tangible, higher quality services and equipment.”

“We look at what our competition does and try to do it better (better website, better video results, better marketing).”

“Start my own events.”

“We all get along and support each other. Regularly send referrals to each other.”

Timers’ Biggest Challenges

Staff management and training is the number one challenge for timers followed by not having enough time and not making enough money. Given that most timers have another form of employment and that races are requiring more services from timers, it is not surprising to find limited time to be one of the most significant challenges.

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Timers also reported finding qualified staff is a continuing challenge. Some are experiencing declining participants at the races they time and this affects the timer’s business. As respondents shared:

"Working a full-time job makes getting to the site and set up and ready to time difficult. Minutes Matter."

"I can't clone myself."

"Races want more services but don't have enough and/or qualified staff or volunteers to support those services. And they are unwilling to pay for us to have our staff handle them."

Areas That Need to Improve?

Timers provided comments on areas of technology and processes that need improving. One of the consistent most challenging aspects timers face is expediting the race day registration, check-in, and participant changes that happen on race weekend. Timers shared that many race organizers are reluctant to change the existing processes to incorporate new technology that would improve the efficiency of packet pickup and race day administration.

"We time a lot of small events and introduced them to chip timing years ago, but they seem to be stuck in an old school packet pickup and race day check-in mentality." 

"Race day registration is the major pre-race bottleneck at our end. At the customer end, bib pickup is the bottleneck."

"I want to find ways to make this process go smoother and have less data entry on race morning. Also, by using dynamic bib assignment, we can cut our costs for unused bibs/chips."

Timers’ Role

The following covers the role timers play for races. Timers provide many services beyond timing and scoring an event. Many races rely on their timers for comprehensive event management and look to them to guide them on ways to improve the overall event experience.

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Timers are viewed as the technology expert for races.
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86% of Timers Provide Services Outside of Timing

What Are Races Requesting from Timers?

Most races look to their timers to provide the foundational technology needed for the race along with other event management services. Many timers have small or newer races that require more guidance and advice around putting on a race. What do races request from their timers beyond timing the race? The consistent thread was:


“Everything. Absolutely Everything.”

“Just about everything with regard to hosting a race. Registration, event planning and logistics, expo planning, supplies planning, expo/packet pickup planning, course design and measurement, race day logistics and timeline, website design, results posting etc.”

“They ask all sorts of questions from registration to creating a website to scoring and providing results. I usually work with race directors who come to me for advice.”

Some of the more frequent specific requests races are asking of their timers beyond timing and scoring include:

What Services are Timers Currently Providing?

We asked timers what services they currently provide to their races. Here are the top six services:

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Participant Tracking

Participant tracking includes bib/chip tracking as participants cross timing points on the course and GPS continuous tracking. Timers were asked if and what type of tracking they provide:

We found that the larger event timers tend to offer tracking for their races and are more inclined to offer choices for participants with both bib/chip tracking and GPS tracking. However, this is changing where timers are bringing tracking to a wider range of events and are adding GPS tracking to their mix of services.

Timing Hardware

Below is the breakdown of the respondents use of timing hardware for timing their events.

* This was intended to refer to ChampionChip. However, this may have been confusing to some, and may include timers who use other types of chip timing hardware.

In Closing

The survey respondents provided valuable information that we can use to help support the needs of timers.

Timers are the foundation of the race industry and race organizers depend on timers for many aspects of the event’s success and experiences. The traditional phrase of “timer” does not fully communicate the value and services they provide to races. Timers are expected to be the technology expert for the race and to provide comprehensive services – all while having limited time and resources.

We will be responding to these findings and sharing ways timers can optimize their time and resources while providing valuable services and increasing profitability. So, stay tuned!

Survey Approach

This survey was open for all timers to participate and was available during November and December of 2019. It was sent to timers in RunSignup’s database and posted on public social media forums such as Timer’s Talk forum on Facebook, Race Director’s Hub, and RunSignup’s and RaceJoy’s Facebook pages. Of the 213 responses, 94% completed every question in the survey.

Thank you!

Special shout out to those timers that took the time to participate. We appreciate your time (pun intended 😉 and look forward to putting your insights to good use!


If you have any questions regarding this survey, please contact shelly@runsignup.com.

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