When a couple of local running buddies approached John DeDoncker about a loan 15 years ago, the executive vice president for TBK Bank's Midwest Division used a derogatory basketball term to describe their far-flung business idea.
"He came back from his loan committee and said, 'You're what we call an air-ball,'" remembers Tim McKinnon, a 1988 Moline High School graduate.
"In banking terms, he said, you've got nothing. You don't have hard assets, it's conceptual, and it's digital. But he believed in us enough to get us going with a line of credit. Without John taking the risk, none of this happens."
These days, the online registration website, GetMeRegistered.com, is what hoops fans call a slam dunk.
Along with The End Result Company and OnlineRaceResults.com, the Bettendorf-based business has added branch offices in Seattle and Carmel, Indiana, while becoming a leading provider nationally of behind-the-scenes event support for running and endurance events.
The registration, timing and scoring companies now work with thousands of events from coast-to-coast, including well-recognized runs such as California's Bay to Breakers, Colorado's BolderBoulder, Ohio's Flying Pig Marathon and the Air Force Marathon.
GMR has set records for registrants using the site for 14 years running.
The latest chapter in the local success story was penned last month when McKinnon and his fellow founding partners, 1984 Bettendorf grad Kevin Jandt and Indiana native Josh Drew, signed off on an acquisition deal with Stack Sports.
Formerly known as Blue Star, Stack is part of the sports empire of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and among the other big-time backers is 32 Equity, the NFL's investment arm.
"We already have a national presence, but it's fun to be part of something even larger and farther reaching," McKinnon said about a deal more than a year in the making.
Looking to cash in on a growing, $15.3 billion youth sports market, Stack was formed in April 2016 and since has acquired 26 market-leading sports technology companies.
Already considered the global leader, Stack claims nearly 50 million users in 35 countries, with customers ranging from national governing bodies to youth sports leagues, as well as individual coaches, parents and participants.
"Nothing changes on our end, except adding the tag line, 'powered by Stack Sports,'" McKinnon said.
"Our three offices are staying in place to be fully operational, with the same people dealing with clients, and that's one of the things we were most excited about is they wanted all of us to keep doing what we're doing."
Instead, the changes include shifting the "three pop shop" into the corporate world.
"It's not easy being a small-business owner. Guess who cleans the toilets?" McKinnon said with a laugh.
"It's hard work worrying about everything. But that's one of the reasons we're so excited, because we're joining a powerhouse that has a human resources department and has infrastructure."
The possibilities are endless, McKinnon said, noting Stack has acquired some other timing companies in the last two years.
"So they have some employees and equipment in some markets we didn't have a foothold in," the 48-year-old added. "So now, all of those entities can work together to help each other as one unit."
"My dad always says, 'Don't confuse activity with accomplishment.' So we don't necessarily want to be busier, but this helps us work smarter and more efficiently. There's only so many Saturdays and Sundays available, but this allows us greater flexibility to work with great events."
That's a far cry from 15 years ago before the group acquired office space, much less something other than personal vehicles to transport gear to events.
"Not to sound like we walked to school in three feet of snow, but I can remember stuffing envelopes downstairs in Kevin's basement to get ready for races," McKinnon said.
"Way back when, while signing up for races, we just looked at each other and said, 'There's got to be a better way.' And then we went about it to make that happen.
"But you're a fool if you think it's all you. We're just so fortunate and blessed to have had great associates and great clients help us build this thing, and we're so grateful to everyone who helped make this possible."
Included: Long-time local race director Joe Moreno, whose signature event is the Quad Cities Marathon.
"Joe switched from the provider he was using to GetMeRegistered," McKinnon recalled. "A month later, I'm telling someone else we're working with the Q-C Marathon and it's instant credibility."
Ditto for the group's first client, Cincinnati-based Don Connolly, who is nicknamed the Godfather of race directors.
"It's humbling to note, Don's still with us today," McKinnon said. "The timing company existed before GMR, and was working with Don, so we let him know what we were doing, and said, `Just give us a chance.' He did and that opened so many other doors for us.
"Every step of the way, somebody helped us get to this point. Otherwise, there's no story to tell."