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People of the North: Nathaniel Birkett, Founder & MD of The Swim Specialist

Nathaniel Birkett, Founder & MD of The Swim Specialist
Nathaniel Birkett, Founder & MD of The Swim Specialist

Leeds-based, The Swim Specialist was founded in June 2016 by sports coach, Nathaniel Birkett.

Prior to setting up his business, Nathaniel worked as a swim instructor in Majorca where had a ‘light bulb’ moment when teaching a young Swedish boy to swim. Despite the language barrier, he was able to transform the child’s water confidence through an imaginative approach to teaching. He wanted to share these skills with the rest of the world.

With eleven years’ worth of experience in coaching, a huge passion for sports and a real appetite for learning, setting up his own business seemed like a natural progression after completing several years coaching sports teams abroad.

The Swim Specialist has developed strong local reputation for delivering entertaining, engaging and exciting swimming lessons to babies, toddlers, children and adults across West-Yorkshire.

Tell us – what’s special about what The Swim Specialist?

We deliver fun and engaging swimming lessons to children and adults across West Yorkshire.

We’ve enjoyed rapid growth in the last 12 months, having increased membership numbers by 67%.

Our lessons take place in a nurturing and entertaining environment. Unlike other swim schools, we’re passionate about improving swim techniques through the use of innovative games, themes and challenges.

Our creative teaching methods, combined with new technologies, allows us to cater for all ages and abilities and focus on water confidence through intensive stroke development.

Our sessions are strategically planned, monitored and evaluated to ensure the best possible outcome for each swimmer. This has resulted in exceptional outcomes for our customers. To date we’ve taught 1,324 people to swim. I personally have taught an estimate of 12,000 people. We have ambitious plans to become West Yorkshire’s leading swim school.

Is there one piece of advice you wish you’d been given before you started your business?

I cannot stress enough how important networking and building relationships is in the early days of setting up a business.

I now regularly meet with a business mentor who has excelled in the sports industry for many years. I find that setting goals and checking in with him helps to keep me on track. We frequently conduct mastermind sessions, whereby my mentor will assist me with any problems I am struggling with or any targets I feel I need to achieve.

I’ve also learnt that time management is so important; I now use an online tool that helps me to track and analyse where my time is being spent.

What is the one most important thing you’ve learned during the experience of running The Swim Specialist?

Always take up opportunities to learn. The best thing about running my own business is that I am no longer tied down by company policies. If there is something I want to do or achieve I am able to do it without feeling restricted.

Since setting up my own business I’ve also learnt a lot about my strengths and weaknesses. Every week I evaluate these by carrying out a SWOT analysis. I identified that my passion and experience is going to be the biggest strength in leading others into my long-term vision.

This has allowed me to build a business culture and brand identity around my own personal beliefs and values.

The areas in which I continue to evolve include people management, finance, admin processes and procedures. The one thing I am focused on developing this year is people and internal processes to enhance performance and productivity.

The Swim Specialist

What do you see as your future business challenges?

I see future challenges including the hiring of new employees and ensuring they share my passion for learning to swim. Being able to trust others with your business’s vision is difficult but something that is important for growth.

I am currently working towards another digital project; I will reveal more later this year. I am also working on our YouTube channel to increase the reach of our content and swimming resources. influencer. We currently have views from across the world.

In order for me to execute these areas effectively, I need to be in a position whereby the daily operations of the business are managed efficiently and effectively by other members of staff. Finding training and monitoring tools that will help me to do this is going to be an additional challenge.

What would you like to leave as your business legacy?

My mission is to teach over 1 million people how to swim using my influence by 2025.
I would love to be recognised as the go-to-guy for all your swimming needs.

Through the use of instructional videos, YouTube, online courses, resources, and the in-house swimming lessons themselves, this will be made possible.

We will have something for everyone including adults, parents, children, and teachers.

Your biggest business achievement / success so far?

I am delighted by how far The Swim Specialist has come in the last two years. It’s been an incredibly exciting journey and we have some really interesting plans in the pipeline.

I am most proud of the fact the business taught more than 1324 people to swim since opening its doors in June 2016.

When you are not running your business, what do you do to relax?

I enjoy visiting the Lake District with my family. Sitting in front of a cosy fire with a ginger beer and chilling out.

Since having my little girl, I don’t have much time for hobbies but when I get chance, I also love watching and playing sports.

Finishing up at the end of a long day and tucking the baby up in bed at 8pm is my favourite time of day. I can finally relax; watch a bit of television and prepare for the next day.

What would you consider to be your biggest achievement outside of business?

I am lucky to have achieved a lot in my 29 years. Most notably, I have completed a sports coaching degree, despite not being very academic.

I have also completed a ski season working and living independently in Austria in 2011. I then became a football coach in America in 2012.

When I went on to become a team leader of football and swimming in 2015 with TUI PLC, I was awarded the Dream Team Award in 2014 for exceptional revenue targets and customer service scores. One of thirty reps made the cut out of 600 on the island.

My greatest achievement so far has been building a loving family and living in a beautiful home.

What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t running The Swim Specialist?

I always thought I might enjoy being a car salesman; I love cars and I work best when I have set targets to achieve.

Truthfully though, I think I was always destined to run my own business. I am incredibly enthusiastic about sharing my passion for sport with others and I’m equally excited about being able to encourage young people to partake in physical activity and learn lots of new and transferable skills.

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