Paintball Corp is leading the way for small business structure
Before reading this read our business biography so you can see how we got to where we are now.
1. Leadership, People Management, Development and Planning
A. Organisation, training and education
At the bare minimum, each full crew member at Paintball Corp is expected to be able to set up equipment and run a booking from start to finish. More senior employees also engage in maintenance work and the business side of things, helping run the company. The structure of training is designed to give new crew members the most streamlined experience, where modular equipment and redundancies allow for specific gear maintenance to be completed at a later time. Parts, upgrades and different products can be utilised across platforms allowing our team to focus on taking their booking rather than fixing problems.
New trainees are introduced to the job through a progression of observation shifts, supervised shifts, a first aid course, crossover shifts, and supervised depot shifts, before becoming a full member of the crew. The trainee begins by observing crew members in their role, slowly taking on more and more responsibility. Once proficient in the basic requirements of the job, they are allowed to take their own bookings under supervision. After completing a first aid course, they may take bookings on their own. This slow, thorough progression allows the trainee to observe multiple crew members in the same role, culminating in them hosting paintball games in a way that feels most natural (and most effective) to them.
From there, additional responsibilities are bestowed at the request of the trainee. Paintball Corp is a flexible employer, working around the schedule of students, but also providing them with opportunities to expand their skill set in other areas, such as marketing, business strategy, human resources, website development and charitable outreach. Paintball Corp is also committed to helping employees grow outside the workplace, especially with regards to health and wellbeing, and career focus. Through this commitment we have seen increased physical strength, increased confidence and decreased mental health issues in our employees across the board. We have also provided a starting point for students on their way to becoming instructors, teachers and caretakers in other disciplines, as working with children proves invaluable experience for these roles.
We rely heavily on crew input. Major changes are always proposed in staff meetings before being enacted, as our crew know what works for the business, and what does not. We also collectively set goals and targets, to be approved by our CEO, in order to grow the business - for example, our most recent renovations, marketing initiatives, and cultural outreach projects are all the result of input at staff meetings.
We measure our work environment primarily through staff feedback, which works well for us as a small business. All our crew members are honest, reliable and trustworthy, and take criticism constructively, meaning that everyone feels comfortable discussing issues and problems. If uncomfortable, a crew member is able to report to a member’s representative, who can take the issue further, but this system is rarely used due to little need.
Our Google and Facebook reviews are also helpful in measuring work environment - they allow us insight into staff interactions with customers, and help us identify weaknesses in customer service and interactions that need to be fixed.
B. Business direction and performance expectations
A good leader encourages everyone to lead themselves. Our work culture is one of independent self motivation. Our CEO may have 12 years experience running paintball, but sometimes our crew have better ideas and Implementation strategies, our workplace facilitates growing these individual strengths whilst guidance and assistance comes from our leadership.
Business direction is discussed openly in our team meetings, based on the experiences of our collective employees, and then finalised with management. Performance for us is most easily measured through customer reviews, return bookings, and financial statistics, each of which helps us identify potential areas of growth. Our statistics are broken down by both type of booking and demographic, allowing us to track changes in the market, and analyse the effectiveness of each crew member. Discrepancies indicate training needs, and areas to be worked on, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.
C. Strategies and plans
Our business plan runs 12 months into the future, looking at key events and special periods such as New Zealand sign language week, school holidays, public holidays and weather conditions.
We evaluate how our performance is tracking over a 12 month period and measure it against the same month from the previous year, looking at that month’s marketing strategies to shape new strategies for implementation. We utilise a business mentor and crew member meetings to plan our direction. This includes current marketing, new marketing products, site maintenance and development. We try to invest in permanent improvements that will help shape our business over an extended period of time whilst delivering special events and products that will bring new customers in to experience those improvements.
Our business plan is tailored around the needs of each period, and some periods require more planning than others. We offer similar discounts each winter, as well as more unique experiences like our Blackout Games, to keep interest strong across slower months. Difficult conditions force us to become more creative with our marketing, making us stronger and stronger each year.
2. Marketing Focus and Branding
Paintball Corp is a trend setter within the paintball market. We were the first company to introduce “Reduced Impact Paintball” for kids, opening up our demographic from 12+years old to 8+years old. Not long after, our competitors followed suit. However, while other companies in Wellington still use pump-action reduced impact guns, we switched to gas-powered guns as soon as they became available, as we noticed that children find pump-action guns difficult to use. As children shoot more rapidly than adults, we also made our reduced impact paintball package time bound, rather than restricting reloads, to create a better experience:
As well as drawing in new customers, we have recently been strategizing our marketing towards our two biggest markets: kids birthday parties and corporate functions. Our ready room was recently renovated to create an area for birthday cake, presents, and general mayhem after kids games. However our biggest push is with our corporate events: in the past, we simply took work groups through a normal booking, trusting that the game itself would foster communication skills. With future groups, we aim to marry leadership training and team building exercises with the games we play, to optimise the team building experience.
B. Branding, marketing and design.
Paintball Corp’s core message is that “paintball is for everyone”. While our marketing is centred around traditional paintball imagery that captures the essence of the sport - masks, guns etc - the language of our website, flyers, promotional material and crew are all designed to be as inclusive as possible. We use photos taken from average groups on the field to market to similar demographics - for example, photos of a school group are used for flyers made for schools - as well as growing an online presence and community through Facebook and Instagram.
We also aim to go above and beyond in supporting the community. To celebrate Maori Language week, our staff have added a brief mihi to our safety briefings. Creative concepts for the future include creating a video series highlighting our more unlikely demographics - for example, a group of players with poor mental health to show the benefits of the sport, a group of women playing in their wedding dresses to dispel the myth that paintball is not for girls, and bringing in families from the women’s shelter for a day of bonding away from their difficult circumstances.
3. Process, Systems, Quality Management, Workplace Health and Safety.
A. Key information and data
Most of our information is held online, utilising decentralised applications such as Google Docs, Acuity Scheduling, and SquareSpace amongst others. This lets staff access almost everything remotely, allowing them to create new bookings on their phones right there in front of their friends or guests which simplifies the rebooking process. Our streamlined system allowed our CEO to leave for a month-long holiday with confidence, only needing to access the online accounting and payroll to do the bare minimum.
Our online scheduling system allows customers to easily book into available slots without needing to contact the company directly, freeing up more time for our crew to work on field.
Post game emails actively prompt multiple facets for reviews, as online reviews play a huge role in how we run our business. This is normally offered through a cloud-based online mailing system, which is how we distribute our free photos taken of each group.
Our online systems couple nicely with the static data sheets on offer from the government, like the schools directory which we use for our outreach during Gala seasons.
Finally, our booking software allows us to see past customers and autofills information, leading to great customer service when we can say things like “oh it’s great to have you back, you played on the same day last year”. Our booking system automatically sends out a confirmation email with an information pack, a reminder email and a postgame email for reviewing.
Having great digital pools allows us to call customers who we haven’t seen in a while, and talk about coming back and their overall experience.
B. Workplace safety, education and training
Every staff meeting starts with a “what’s on top” exercise (right after our karakia), where each crew shares what’s been working well, what’s not, or their ideas around the business. It’s our most effective tool for changing our business and proactively fixing faults. After a point has been brought up, we make a plan there and then for when and how to fix it. For example, it was suggested at a recent staff meeting that chicken wire should be added to a field bridge to reduce the risk of slipping in winter. It was installed before the next group played.
Risk mitigation is ingrained into our work culture, and our crew members. We aim to always take more time, and be careful to reduce injuries so we can work and play tomorrow. We have new hazard identification forms to directly inform the CEO of hazards, for prompt risk mitigation.
Unfortunately not every risk can be mitigated as we work outdoors, and cannot vigilantly watch and caution all our players 100% of the time. Some injuries simply cannot be avoided - for example, one player gave themselves a concussion by standing up into a tree, which the referee could not have stopped had they tried. For these rare incidents, we use our incident report sheets, to try to minimise as many dangers as possible.
Briefing our clients on what to expect is also a huge element of risk mitigation. Before they arrive on our fields, they receive an equipment list detailing appropriate footwear and clothing, and recommending basic items such as drink bottles and sunblock. Once they have arrived onsite, we ask them to sign an agreement which states they will listen to our rules and cautions, to keep them safe. This sign-in sheet doubles as a roll in the case of an emergency. Our safety briefings before play have also been designed using rhetoric and visual cues, so they are as simple and easy to remember as possible.
As a working team, we all take care of each other and our work environment. If a hazard is identified, we all work together to solve it. Safety is of the utmost importance in our line of work (as we say 50 times a day “keep your masks on at all times”).
4. Business Financial Performance
We have noticed over the years that winter is the worst time for outdoor paintball, as groups try to avoid the cold and wet weather. This last winter was the worst winter we have ever had financially as the weather was unusually harsh, bringing us 30% below target. We compensated by aggressively marketing different paintball options (such as our blackout games, played at night) and discounting packages to ensure our crew members had enough work to sustain them. This setback came after 12 months of continuous growth, so while it was a shock, it did not worry us as much as it could have. Had we not observed the trend and adapted accordingly, our business and staff might have been in an entirely different situation now. This August was our best August on record, making up for the deficit in June and July, with space to spare. The marketing we put in place in June and July has us set for a further 30-50% growth this summer!
Xero helps a lot with keeping active financial details. It’s quick to reconcile and easy to see information immediately. We couple financial information with booking statistics, a working knowledge of how many groups should be booking in during a given week, and how many bookings we should have in a month to get expected workloads and measure our success.
5. Community and Industry Participation and Customer Service.
A. Community focus
Paintball Corp is not separate from the community. We are part of it, and as such must do our bit for the greater good.
We actively work throughout all of Te Whanganui-a-Tara with education groups, schools and charities. These interactions help shape the cornerstones of our customer service.
Our portable shooting range is one of our best examples of how we are a part of the community. We utilise it for social development and charitable fundraising. Every year, we contact schools and take our shooting range to their school galas. This is to help them fundraise and makes us visible in many suburbs.
Bunnings, Mitre 10 and Place Makers have all used our shooting range for fundraising events, such as a father-and-son night, Blue September (for prostate cancer) and a women’s empowerment night.
We are committed to integrating Te Reo Maori and New Zealand Sign Language into our workplace as much as possible to be as inclusive as we can. This has been seen in action during games with deaf participants. Our staff were able to sign greetings and some basic rules which meant everyone could enjoy their experience.
Community fundraising events are another example of playing our part for the community. We give discounted rates for all charitable paintball games which also allows for these events to be something different, creative, and fun. These often generate excellent revenue for the charity and give Paintball Corp a stream of new and loyal customers.
Being a part of a community means that you play your part in the community and the community will give back to you.
We do a lot of work with schools who help us with advertising with our shooting range and handing out flyers for our holiday programmes.
The most recent example of playing a part in our community is starting our work start programme with Hutt Valley High School in which we can give young people work experience.
B. Customer service
We use multiple review processes to get an idea of how our customers feel their bookings went. One of our biggest measures is the huge quantity of our customers that are repeat customers - 70% of our customer base. It’s a well known fact within our company that if a kid plays paintball for the first time with us, they will be back three times that year to play again!
We stay away from the old maxim, “the customer is always right”, and instead steer towards keeping our customers as happy as possible, while still running a smooth and efficient business. As health and safety is of the utmost importance in our line of work, we sometimes need to contradict customers, and insist they follow our rules for their own safety against their better judgement. But as paintball professionals, we understand that not everyone understands the risks of paintball like we do. So we treat all customers with respect and understanding, and hope they meet us halfway. We have learnt how to spot people who may breach health and safety rules for whatever reason, and discretely chat to them to emphasise the importance of adhering to the rules. Instead of stressing their disobedience, we put the onus on their responsibility, as we have found changing the phrasing of a statement helps tremendously in making our customers feel more comfortable.
Our crew member training goes leaps and bounds to how our customers feel on the field. Each crew member is taught their briefing in a manner that they can repeat confidently, allowed to query anything that they don’t already know. They then go on to deliver effective briefings, helping our customers feel confident on field.
Our work culture aligns with our core values: “Safety, Experience and Improvement”.
Collectively, we all work to get repeat customers, and make paintball experiences better and better.