Founder’s Corner – Choosing Consistency

Part of Bob’s continued ramblings.

One of the things that a lot of companies do is “chase the deal”. They close on sales tactics and quite often “special” pricing. I’ve been at lots of companies like this, and one of my goals at RunSignup was to avoid this spiral. Create a good product for a good price and if customers adopted it, then just keep things fair and consistent. It has worked amazingly well for us. Our pricing is public, and our volume pricing is also public in our Partner agreement for revenue share when there are more than 5,000 registrations and tickets. We have non-exclusive contracts so customers can leave us at any time because we did not want unhappy customers.

We also chose to invest a lot in infrastructure. Both AWS servers and service, as well as the processes around them to try to provide our customers with maximum uptime and lower our chances of something bad happening. Way back when we only did 80,000 registrations a year, we built and tested our infrastructure to be able to handle 50,000 registrations (actually transactions) in 7 minutes. We do things like monthly server updates to stay up to date on the latest security patches. And we’ve built a lot of automation into things like failover, processing money and payments to customers. We designed our software development process so that every line of code is reviewed by another developer, and we can deploy code quickly – allowing us to do over 2,000 releases per year.

Here is a diagram of our infrastructure. I won’t go into it in detail here, but everything is spread across multiple data centers, everything is backed up in real time, we use lots of queuing and caching to optimize performance and reliability.

We did all of this for two reasons. First, so we could treat our customers fairly and provide a solid service to them. And second, so we could sleep soundly not worrying that we took short cuts.

So, why am I talking about this. Two triggers recently – a compliment and Race Roster:

Customer Advisory Board Best Compliment Ever

The day before Symposium starts we hold a 5 hour Customer Advisory Board meeting with a rotation of 10 customers. We ask them to tell us 3 things they like about working with us and what they wish we would do better. This year Eric Arndt of It’s Race Time started it off and his first two were: 1. The system just works and is always available. 2. He works with over 200 races and they all get paid accurately and on time and he never has to worry about that.

To say we spend a lot of time, talent, and money on making sure we are as available as possible (4 minutes of downtime since 2015), and never missing payments is an understatement. And most customers do not seem to acknowledge or understand it. It was really nice to hear that.

Race Roster “Special Pricing” and Availability Issues

As we have mentioned, Race Roster seems to be very aggressive these days. While we continue to win some customers from them based on features, we have lost a couple of customers to them recently based on price (the wins and losses to them balance out).

First, for pricing, they have chosen the “special” model. Their pricing page even says that you need to call sales to get pricing. I have no idea how they keep track of this with thousands of customers and how they keep a level playing field. Since our pricing is so public, they know what they need to do to undercut our price – and of course some customers will jump on that. So if you are a Race Roster customer, just tell them you are looking at RunSignup – I bet you will get some additional “special” pricing.

Second, it seems Race Roster is on a bad streak in terms of availability. First, it looks like their system went down for the Pittsburgh Marathon (I got this email August 4):

And a month before apparently they somehow lost all the custom question responses in their database from several days:

Choosing How to Run a Company

Why am I beating up on Race Roster? Well, if we go back to the original title of this blog about deciding to run our business on the basis of consistency, they provide a very useful contrast. I’m not saying they are a bad company, or that they have a bad service – obviously many races use them and are satisfied.

I continue to be happy with how we are progressing as a company. That quote from Eric Arndt meant a lot to me. And the positive vibes from the Symposium still feel good almost two weeks later. We might lose some customers to special pricing, but that is OK. We think over the long term our approach will serve us well.

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