How a ski delivery service grows for a decade and a half.
Ski Butlers began in a one-car garage in Park City, Utah. Fifteen years later, it has expanded into 37 ski resorts in North America and 10 resorts in Europe.
Chief Operating Officer, Jake Hardy came aboard in 2009 and has seen Ski Butlers grow from a small startup with an fervent commitment to service into an industry leader that delivers skis to families across the globe.
With Ski Butlers celebrating 15 years, he shared some thoughts about how the business has grown and where it’s headed.
How has the business had to change to keep with the evolving ski industry?
Even when I came into the business in 2009, we had this relentless focus on customer service. It was very entrepreneurial — we did whatever we had to do to create a good experience for our customers. And it might have looked different from one customer to the next, requiring a huge individual effort on our end. We didn’t have a built out process.
So in expanding, that’s one thing we needed to focus on. How can we create consistency in this process? It’s easy to manage one location, but as soon as you’re spread across the country, you can’t really operate that way.
We have developed based on making our customer service great, and making the Ski Butlers process something we can train to. The model needed to be reliant on process, not individuals.
That makes it easier to expand to locations, yes?
Yeah, exactly. We can go into a new market and we know all the steps it will take to be successful there. We’re not having to invent this each time we expand. When we expand, we try to get a really solid manager who has preexisting relationships in the community. Then we can get them trained within Ski Butlers, and things go from there.
Is there as much demand for this service now as there was when the business started?
The demand has only increased. A lot of brick and mortar ski shops are offering a ski delivery service because they’re seeing their market share diminish as more businesses like ours pop up. It’s almost becoming the norm because it’s what people are expecting. This is good for us. You know, just being a delivery service differentiated us early on. Now, we need to continue to invent ourselves to stay ahead of the pack.
How do you do that?
One of the cool things about our business is that we don’t think of ourselves as a ski shop. I think that ski shops can get stuck in a mindset of doing things the same way they always have. We think of ourselves more as a customer service business that happens to deliver ski rentals. We ask how we can make the customer experience and gear delivery process more seamless.
For example, we’re overhauling our backend systems and redoing our website, and we have plans to do more with technology so we can communicate better with our customers. As their habits change, we’re trying to accommodate that.
What’s the immediate outlook for Ski Butlers?
From an operations perspective, bringing technology into the process is going to be a big focus of ours. We want everything to be super easy for customers. If they don’t want to call us, they can text us, for example. Big picture, we are also trying to expand to new locations.
We’re in pretty much every major ski destination, and we’re exploring places we aren’t. But our US expansion is based more on improving where we already are.