Brothers and co-owners Ken and Norm Hayner started a summer baseball camp business in 1992, with the idea that they someday wanted to own their own facility and run a full-time baseball academy. So, for six years, they ran the summer camps and worked other full-time jobs—Ken as head baseball coach at Hartwick College and Norm as a Saratoga County deputy sheriff—to save money. In 1998, they decided to give it a go as a full-time business and opened their indoor facility, The Sports Barn, in April 1999.
“Norm and I enjoy teaching and watching kids get better,” Hayner says. “That’s really one of our prime motivations for doing this.”
The Sports Barn’s key focus is teaching kids baseball and softball with private lessons, camps and clinics. They also offer facility rentals to groups, teams or families (such as for birthday parties) and a travel baseball program. The Hayners employ 30 part-time employees over the course of a year, including the professional coaching staff and the teenage workers that man the counter to schedule lessons, answer the phone and sell refreshments. The coaching staff is made up mostly of high school or college coaches, and some are ex-professional players that come back in the offseason. Ken’s wife, Sharon, is the bookkeeper, and Norm’s wife, Deana, manages the teenage workers who handle customer service.
Hayner says their biggest challenge is adapting to a changing landscape, including increased competition from other businesses and technological advancements that impacted marketing strategies. They also started with more diverse service options, including recreational volleyball and basketball courts, and later realized their customers were really looking for baseball/softball teaching and training. So, in 2012, the Hayners renovated the building to reflect their business niche.
“I always joke that I’m more of a coach than a businessman,” Hayner says. “We got into this because we are passionate about baseball and coaching, and the business was just kind of secondary….There were a couple years that were pretty tough, but loving what we’re doing really helped sustain us.”
NFIB has also helped sustain them with informative and advocacy efforts.
“As a small business owner, I know the issues, but I don’t have the time, the resources, or the energy to try to stay on top of them all and to go to our state and federal government to politick to try to fight for things,” Hayner says. “NFIB helps keep us up on the issues. I just trust that NFIB is working for us in regards to bringing small business issues before our government. It’s nice having a voice and knowing that there are other people that have similar concerns…without working together and having a voice, we would be totally squashed, I’m sure.”