My goal for this blog post is to shed some light on what I did to get Smith's Fitness to where it is today. I'll attempt to not turn this into a life story.
Firstly, let's clear some things up.
As a business do I think I've got it sussed?
Are we a finished product?
Is it the perfect model to follow?
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHA. Fuck no.
Am I lucky? Well yeah, very.
I think it was early 2011 I cancelled my gym membership and bought a barbell, squat rack, plates and a kettlebell and started training in the garage by myself instead. It was heaps better! No more Katy Perry, heaps more RATM. The garage gym was born!
At the time I was working as an Exercise Physiologist and while I loved the crew I was working with, I wasn't too keen on the repetitive nature of doing pre-employment medical screenings and very infrequent injury rehab. It just wasn't why I studied Sports Science. I enrolled at Edith Cowan to complete my Masters Degree in Strength & Conditioning, putting what I was learning to practice in the garage gym. Towards the end of finishing the Masters finished I took up an opportunity to play Rugby in North East England. The gig was semi-professional so I still had to work. I got a job as a PT at a local commercial gym. This really opened my eyes to the reality of commercial gyms and made me think long and hard about how I would do it differently.
We returned to Perth and I had to start looking for a job. I took on some work for HBF which included running the free fitness in the park sessions. Alongside this I started advertising Personal Training services on Facebook, Gumtree etc as well as running a very cheap $5 bootcamp at my local park. It was slow going, I wasn't inundated with a hundred clients, but things slowly began to build.
I was training my PT clients in the single garage gym with a Barbell, Kettlebell and a few other pieces I picked up along the way. I scored a bargain Concept 2 Rower for $350 of an auction site. For bootcamp sessions I'd pack things into the car and cruise down to the park, everything was very simplistic, I liked it that way.
At this time I had all these grand plans! Move out of the garage, open a huge gym! Everyone will flock to it!
It makes me laugh now.
Because they definitely won't.
One of the best bits of advice I got during this time came from my mate Lloyd who runs Aspire PT. He suggested I try and find a facility with little to no overheads, at a local park or something similar. It was a great piece of advice and exactly what I needed.
And well, it kind of just fell in my lap. I was still playing Rugby at the time and the Rugby Club approached me to see if I'd like to clean out the Rugby club storeroom and use it as a gym. It was an odd space, kind of like a hallway with a room attached, but it was all we needed. We also had full use of the surrounding playing fields. This was exactly what I needed. I bought a few more bits of equipment; 3 new squat racks, competition bench, dumbbells, our machines and our first Air Bike. Things swung into action and I slowly gained a small member base, bootcamp was going great and PT was ticking over.
Fast forward about 15 months and we had outgrown the store room, It was time to put on my big boy pants and get a "real" (read as: leased) gym.
I was one signature away from stuffing it all up with a space that just wouldn't have worked. I'm glad I trusted my gut instinct on that one. I was scared to sign a lease but committed to our space on Bakewell drive for 2 years. It was far from perfect, another weird shape. 200sqm but 7 metres wide and 25 metres long. We made it work and we loved it. Again, I accumulated some more equipment, nothing in excess, just the stuff we needed; a heap more weight plates, a couple of second hand treadmills, another bike, rower and a gang of kettlebells.
Those 2 years were awesome, the group sessions stayed solid, PT was steady, the swimming club came on board and things grew, slowly but still in the right direction.
After 2 and a bit years, it was time to upgrade. The membership had grown and at times the gym was way too busy. I'll make note to mention, there is always heaps of down time, dead time, where it's just you and an empty gym. Those are the times you; blog, make videos, post on social media, write programs, brainstorm ideas and everything else you can think of.
We outgrew Bakewell Drive and moved to Helmshore Way nearly a year ago now. The process was the same; fit the gym out, buy some new pieces (just the stuff we need of course) and hit the ground running. I've since made probably the best two decisions since starting the business; adding 24/7 access and bringing Troy aboard. Things will continue to evolve and I'll continue to do things my way, because that's the only way I know how.
A few tips:
Start with the essentials - people don't care/need/know fancy equipment with all the bells and whistles. What they need is help, guidance and a good experience.
Accumulate gear over time - don't get a ridiculous loan and put yourself in huge amounts of debt from the get go.
Coach everyone - I know you'd love to coach athletes only, but guess what? You'll be coaching a lot more beginners. Athletes are stubborn, many of them think they know better. Try to educate them on how you can help but ultimately train everyone, it will make you a better coach.
Build the biggest building in town, by building the biggest building, not tearing others down - I heard this quote from Gary Vaynerchuk. It has always stuck with me. To me it means, focus on your own shit, focus on what you do well, not where others don't. People will always tell you about said gym offering this, doing this promotion, got this sort of equipment etc etc. One thing I will continue to do it worry about what I can control. My shit.