2023 was an amazing year for Approach.
It’s been our vision from the beginning to create a leading climbing business platform in the industry by offering enterprise-level business solutions for the average small business owner. Approach’s platform is designed to help business owners scale and expand by leveraging business analytics, state of the art features (like weekly memberships), and an exceptional customer experience on mobile devices—an experience, we promise, which is only going to get better in 2024.
We know we’ve at least partially fulfilled this vision, because we’ve:
1) Helped seven Approach owners and operators expand into new locations in 2023.
2) Doubled the amount of locations we serve in a year to over 150.
3) Onboarded our biggest multi-location clients to date.
We feel honored and a very appropriate sense of fear and trembling to serve some of the biggest gyms in the U.S., and it is our goal to work with all of them. Obviously, doing so would improve Approach’s financial future, but you have to understand that, for us, we still view ourselves as a young company, and what we are desperate for more of is getting beaten up by better and bigger businesses. In 2023, our larger partnerships were marked by a mutual striving for excellence that has been so beneficial to Approach. We won’t speak for those clients, but to say that we’ve been sharpened would be an understatement, and that sharpening has and will continue to positively create change in the industry.
2023 was also not an amazing year for Approach.
In many ways this year, our team over promised and under delivered. Maybe some would argue that that’s just the nature of a software startup, but we think that’s a dumb excuse. It’s not to say we didn’t work our faces off (many times late into the night!), but in all sorts of ways we’ve been stretched as a team with the growing responsibilities of success and didn’t always have the foresight to catch an issue before it happened. We are happy to say that when we did fail, we did everything in our power, every time, to correct those issues and make things right. (More on our failures at the end…)
2024 will be Approach’s best year yet.
So, why will 2024 be our best year yet? What gives us confidence?
Three things: 1) our team growth, 2) our product lineup, 3) our refined process.
One of the brilliant things about what we’ve done as a company is build our software on modern technology, and what’s amazing to us is that we’ve been recognized for it and are receiving a tremendous amount of attention and financial backing by our investors. We believe in ourselves (a good thing), but they believe in us too (a better thing!).
In our opinion, we already are the most development heavy team in the industry—excluding the software companies that look at us like a little roach, an image we perversely like—with ten full-time developers on the team, and we are excitedly finishing the process of hiring three new developers right now. (Read: more firepower!)
Also, on January 1st, we hired our first-ever Customer Success Manager at Approach, who is an absolute gift to us, contributing skills in process refinement and strategy as well as his love of the climbing world. You will meet him. You will love him. He is not taking job offers. We believe that as we get some more things in place in the next month or so, we’ll also be able to continue to beef up our support team to serve Approach users better. That is a lift everyone needs!
In 2023, we shipped nine major multi-month projects and also over thirty major features, enhancements, or “quality of life” asks that you requested! From our perspective, nobody is building at the pace we are building, because what we are doing and how we are doing it is different, and “different is better than better”—a quote we love from Jay Kuhlman, a visionary for our company.
That being said, there are still many things to finish and create. In Quarter 1 this year, you can expect the following:
1) Marketing by location, which allows for location-based settings around marketing and branding related to an unsubscribe workflow. (Phase 1: COMPLETE. Phase 2: IN TESTING)
2) Product by location: a massive inventory management facelift—it’s gorgeous. (IN TESTING)
3) Points Rewards by location, enabling you to incentivize loyalty for your business and offer customers the ability to redeem points for items you determine. (IN TESTING as of Feb. 2)
4) Routesetting management phase 1—we’ll tell you about it on CBJ in our next story. It’s spectacular and going to create waves. (IN TESTING).
Other enhancements to expect: quality of life enhancements related to all things calendaring (bookings list functionality, re-configuring portal view for multi-day events and easier navigation, etc.).
The most crucial thing we learned in 2023, and it is a reality, ironically, born out of our successes, is that nothing matters more to our product than the team behind it. Most of our failures as a team were self-inflicted. It’s apparently a well-known fact, which we really just learned at the end of last fall, that once a business crests the 15-employee mark (which we did last May), all hell can break loose if you don’t have the processes in place. And while it’s certainly not been hell—there is too much laughter and tomfoolery at Approach to use that idiom—we have yet to really dial in our processes.
That being said, the reason why you should bet on us in 2024 is because we’re delivering, in terms of our process, Approach 2.0 in Quarter 1. 90 days. The changes should be palpable.
What does this mean? It means that we are overhauling all our processes to ensure that the Approach team is equipped to manage our success and not squander it.
How will this happen? It already is happening, and our team couldn’t be happier. We’ve additionally hired two senior-level positions to streamline our processes and are all working together to organize our future. These new hires include:
1) A world-class Director of Development, who is refining our agile development process, so that we can better predict timelines, fulfill our promises to customers, and give our talented developers more space to crank out much-needed improvements.
2) A skilled Director of Customer Success, who is helping the customer success team establish processes across all customer interactions, which will allow Approach to do a better job of listening, problem solving and, ultimately, serving our awesome owners.
As a team in 2023, we succeeded ten times more than we failed, but we still failed too much. We are so excited for what lies before us in 2024, and we are so thankful for all we’ve learned as a team.
Never have we had the infrastructure that is now being put in place, and we’ve been encouraged that if we can streamline our processes, then we can keep expanding our team. That means good things for you and good things for us!
If you’ve never met us, you should.
We build software, and we love to party! Cheers to 2024!
About the Author
Bennett Potter is currently the Lead Product Owner and UX Designer for Approach. He is a decently loving husband and father to five children. He looks forward to welcoming a sixth “child” into the world soon: Approach’s Routesetting Management. In his free time, he enjoys one thing: trolling his older (but smaller) brother.
This story was paid for by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.
Approach is a fully integrated, customizable gym management platform that helps you manage all elements of your climbing and fitness offerings. From membership management and comprehensive calendaring to your point-of-sale system, our unified platform streamlines your operations and helps you grow your business. From the onset, we have focused on capturing data that would scale and give business owners visibility critical to growth. We are dedicated to constantly adding features and maintaining a product that is evolving with the industry. Request a demo today.