Rick Stern has some stories to tell. As a guy who was around when popsicle sticks were used as the race timing system, he’s seen a few things in this industry and has a lot of experience to share. His company, Split Second Timing, is celebrating its 39th year of event management and pioneered the use of RFID timing. Since we unfortunately can’t download all the knowledge in his brain Matrix-style, we interviewed him instead.
Name: Rick Stern
Company: Split Second Timing, Inc.
Role: President and CEO
Can you tell us a little bit about your company?
Split Second Timing provides complete race management for endurance events. Ninety-five percent of our events are not-for-profit races and passionate about raising money for their charity!
We offer every piece of equipment a race director would or could possibly need for their event. We also have two Sprinter vans, one which is converted into an office. It contains a 48-inch monitor and laser printer, and desk with cabinets for race timing and tabulation.
How did you personally get started in the industry?
I started over 38 years ago when I was teaching at Coral Gables Senior High School. I helped the PTSA create the Cavalier 10K and had to rent equipment to time the race. I decided to purchase my own clock and Chronomix 707 timer, and Split Second Timing (SST) born the following year!
What’s your favorite thing about what you do?
I have been doing this for so long it’s almost impossible to tell you everything I like about what I do, so let me just mention a few things.
First off, I love working with the best minds and talent in the business. The relationships I have created over these 38 years transcend by wildest expectations. I don’t have friends, I have family.
I also enjoy being trusted by organizations to provide the BEST race event management experience for their event! Each event weekend, I take a moment to appreciate the positive feelings I see others are experiencing and know I had a small part in making so many people happy.
The next thing I’d say is I love a challenge. I thrive when I’m told it will be a difficult event to manage, because I work even harder to make it a success.
Now, the best for last. The thing I love most about what I do is waking up every weekend knowing I am going to work with the most talented, most experienced, and most caring group of people I know…the SST Team!
What’s your least favorite thing about what you do?
If you would have asked me this 8 years ago, I would have said nothing, because I totally enjoyed every aspect of owning SST.
But I’m older now and my body is not the same anymore, so I would have to say loading of the Sprinters each and every weekend is my least favorite. Eventually, I am going to have to stop! It’s great exercise though.
How long have you been working with ChronoTrack?
I have been on board since Chronotrack started. Once I knew this system existed, I gave up the chip and went to what I consider the best technology around!
What are the 3 things you like best about ChronoTrack?
What, you only want to know 3 things?! I’d say:
1. Service. I cannot thank the entire ChronoTrack support team enough! They have saved my life many times over. All I do is make a call, and they are there. I cannot say enough about how wonderful each and every person is.
2. Technology. When ChronoTrack came out, it was such a relief to know that I collected chips for the very last time. I stopped scanning chips and most importantly, stopped calling people and asking for chips back!
3. Innovation. You are only as good as your very last event. So are the systems you use. ChronoTrack is always trying to be the leader in this industry. They strive to constantly improve through innovation.
What is one trick you’ve learned in the ChronoTrack system that has helped you save time or do something better?
I think learning to navigate the set-up process has helped. It’s so simple and quick to get the systems set up, online, and on the course that it allows us to concentrate on other matters during race morning.
What is the most practical race management advice you would give a newbie?
Geez…this is really hard because technology and management are so different from 38 years ago. When I started, there were few (if any) permits and police were just a phone call away. Race timing was done with popsicle sticks, then 3×5 index cards, and eventually pull tags and the computer.
Today, you have so many more obstacles to navigate, plus the added pressure of the registration and timing processes. So my advice would be to have patience when working with clients and help them through all of this—and then provide them with flawless timing!
What’s your favorite race and why?
Honestly, I don’t have one race that is my all-time favorite. However, two races do stand out for me as ones with great meaning.
The first is the Key Biscayne Lighthouse Run. It was the VERY first race we ever did with RFID timing. SST was the first company to introduce RFID race timing, besides Burns Computer Services, who was the distributor of the system. SST took a leap of faith and the rest is history! The Key Biscayne Lighthouse Run became the trailblazer for all other events.
The second event is the Twilight Run. I used to run in it before I actually started SST. It’s a wonderful race, and I look forward to it every year!
What are your goals for 2015 and onward?
That’s hard to say. I am looking forward to making SST bigger and better and a leader in timing technology. At the same time, I know I’m getting older, and younger people need to start taking the reins and infusing new blood into what was started over 38 years ago!
To learn more about Split Second Timing, click here.
To learn more about ChronoTrack, click here.