VOL. 126 | NO. 70 | Monday, April 11, 2011
Memphis Small Business Spotlight
Meeting Customers’ Needs Is Goal No. 1 at TSI
By Allison Buckley
Trigon Sports International Inc. is truly a family business. The company’s founder and president, Cary Bawcum, serves as both father and boss to employees Chris Bawcum and Jonathan Bawcum.
The staff of family-owned Trigon Sports International Inc. includes Cassie Pence, from left, Chris Bawcum, Cary Bawcum, Neal Halvorson and Jonathan Bawcum.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
That’s not to say working with family members is always easy.
“I have to say, it is very rewarding but it’s also very challenging. These are the people that you spend away-from-work time with,” Cary Bawcum said. “At the office, how much time do you talk about family and when you’re away from the office, how much time do you spend talking about work?”
Bawcum said he of course is always a father to his children and also serves as a father figure of sorts to TSI’s two unrelated employees, Neal Halvorson and Cassie Pence, but the roles change when the workday begins.
“When we’re here, that role is reversed. I’m their boss,” Bawcum said. “That’s the mentality that we’ve all tried to adopt.”
Bawcum took a gamble – as all small-business owners do – in 2007 when he created TSI, a sports distributing and manufacturing company.
But the onset of the recession didn’t stop him from launching the business, which operates at 488 Cumberland St., near its intersection with Broad Avenue.
Four years and zero regrets later, TSI is experiencing record sales each month. The company also has added new products such as strength and agility equipment into its vast inventory.
With products sold through a network of sporting goods dealers and nationwide distributors, including Athletic Dealers of America, Sports Inc. and Nations Best Sports, TSI is in mom-and-pop stores as well as big-box retailers like Sports Authority across the U.S. and Canada.
And although it has many distributors to compete with, TSI has devised what it considers a foolproof plan to keep its growth rate at 25 percent each month: “Respect the customer.”
“I think customer service is what sets us apart from the majority of our competitors,” said Halvorson, the company’s national sales manager. “The ability to be problem solvers and be everything to a customer in a timely manner is one thing that’s lost in our industry. We’re one of the rare ones that have that level of customer service.”
Jonathan Bawcum, TSI’s vice president of operations, said programs like booster clubs and first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative – which is dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation – have helped promote team and individual sports.
With this renewed focus on the health benefits that athletics has for children, it is no surprise that TSI strives to give back to its community.
Along with a dedicated charities tab on its website, tsi-sports.com, where customers can make a donation, a portion of proceeds generated from TSI’s catalog sales are sent to the company’s featured charities, which include Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Memphis and the Hydrocephalus Association.
One charity, however, stands out to TSI more than the others: Memphis Oral School for the Deaf, which works to empower deaf children to listen, learn and talk.
One of those children is Jonathan’s daughter, Nola Gracyn Bawcum.
This year, TSI will extend its gratitude to the school by sponsoring a second annual golf benefit Sept. 22. As TSI employees eagerly anticipate that event, the business will finish up baseball season and move into football season.
But no matter the sport or type of equipment it is selling, TSI strives to maintain a goal of 100 percent customer satisfaction.
Chris Bawcum, vice president of sales and distribution, said the company achieves this by understanding all facets of the business.
“We each took our turns with the marketing side of the business,” Bawcum said. “We all know shipping inside and out. We all know how to put a catalog together. Each of us can work autonomously with each other and if one department is busy and can’t take a (customer) call, there’s always somebody here that can answer their question on the spot.”
Apparently, the system in place at TSI is working.
With the experience Cary Bawcum has been able to gain and the core values that have been passed down to his sons, TSI is remaining strong in an economy where many are closing their doors.
The business is even growing amid the continued sluggish economy, as evidenced by the recent hiring of administrative assistant, Pence.
“(We) are very abreast to everything that’s going on in this market and I think Cary likes that aspect. He doesn’t have to look over our shoulders,” Jonathan Bawcum said. “We know what our job is. We know what we have to do. We just come in here and get the job done.”