13 Reflections On 13 Years Of RevFit

I posted most of this on Facebook last week on my personal wall. I’ve had some time to think about it and add some more to my original post.

I got certified as a trainer at the tail end of 2007 when I was 32 years old after being in retail and retail management since I was 16 years of age.

My degree is in business management not exercise science so I’ve always felt like I was behind the ball when it came to knowledge of the human body, nutrition, psychology of change, etc.

However, I had a some things I felt were working in my favor when I had the opportunity to open RevFit in the spring of 2009. I’ve tried my best to compile 13 of my random thoughts into things that helped us reach the ”Lucky 13” year anniversary.

-16 years of retail experience taught me a great deal about customer service, something I believe is not covered well in Exercise Science programs. We try our best to keep that in mind at RevFit. I don’t wag my finger at my coaches and say: “You should do this, you should do that.” Instead, I just try and mirror what I hope are mostly good practices of taking care of people who are investing their hard earned money into themselves and our establishment.

-13 of those 16 years were spent in management where I was responsible for hiring, training and (when needed) terminating staff. You learn a great deal about the importance of your team when you go through this process over and over again. I hear a lot about the problems other industries go through with staffing and I have been genuinely fortunate to have coaches who are punctual, considerate and respectful of myself and others.

-10 years of my personal life was spent with a very costly and very damaging addiction to drugs. Much of this could have been avoided if I had better coping mechanisms for my stress and emotional challenges at the time. As a result of getting clean of my own accord, I had a better grasp of “lifestyle change” than most “wet behind the ears” trainers who come into the industry (that’s not a knock, just an observation). Where I didn’t have the experience of being the coach who experienced change due to weight loss efforts I understood what self-destructive tendencies look like and I try to keep in mind that everyone’s battle is uniquely they’re own. We’re here to help them fight it.

-I do not “love” exercise but exercise is a non-negotiable in my life. That includes strength training, a high step count, and low intensity cardio. If you are a trainer who loves to exercise and you are trying to cheerlead your way into your client’s hearts that they should love exercise as much as you, you’re going to struggle.

-I have more “competition” now than I ever have but, to be honest, I have no competition. That is not my ego speaking. All of the other fitness options in this area are different from RevFit. I cannot replicate what they do, they cannot replicate what I do. Even if one of my coaches left my business, stole training plans out of our binder, and tried to run a carbon copy of this business around the corner, they would not succeed. That has less to do with me and more to do with the community here. It is virtually impossible to replicate a community. You have to build something that resonates with you, who you are and your core beliefs. The community that forms around us complements all of that. I could not have built a better community if I had tried and, much of it was out of my control. I just had to open my doors, open my arms, and do the best job that I could to give people a welcome space to thrive. I believe that I owe this sentiment to Alwyn Cosgrove.

-If you want to get into this industry and be successful (financially or otherwise) be prepared to work. Seriously. I am away from home/family 60-70 hours a week every week, nearly 40+ hours of which are directly on the training floor. It is not an easy schedule and it is physically very demanding PLUS I have to prioritize my own training. Having a great staff with me helps tremendously but they can’t shoulder all of the load. I am busier now than I have ever been and while I know that busy-ness isn’t everything it does make me feel like I’m doing enough of the right things for the right people. Some might read this and say: Well, it sounds like you need to work smarter, not harder. I believe it’s important to work smarter and harder. It’s challenging and I have to constantly tweak the way I operate to do the work I need to. I make mistakes, I am not perfect but I am improving. I never wanted, nor would I have appreciated, an easy life. I have a purposeful life. That is invaluable.

-I have very little social life. This is a conscious choice. It’s not that I don’t want to see friends and enjoy time away from work, it’s that I am in bed early so that I can wake up early. It does not lend itself to a party lifestyle (and to be frank, I got most of that out of my system in my 20s). Now, it’s about building a business that pays my staff well, that supports the lives and goals of my clients and allows my wife and my sons to have the things they need in life.

-Turnover in the personal training industry is extremely high because I think those who want to get into the industry don’t understand how long they have to struggle and grind before they start to see the light and the profits. I have been watching the evolution of my coach, Mike Roder, and it almost makes me emotional. My.guy.is.grinding. He is working 30+ hrs a week at a hospital in cardiac rehab and 3 nights a week he comes here and gets his ass kicked with his youth athletes. These kids love him and they should, Mike exudes passion in his work and if I have someone looking for sport-specific training, that’s where I send them. But Mike will be the first to say, the schedule is not for the weak. He’s young now…he won’t be young forever 😉

-I have been very blessed by the fact that year after year since 2009, this business has grown. I know what kind of an achievement that is and I don’t take it for granted. I have made, what I believe were some very sound and wise decisions for this business and I have made catastrophically poor decisions. Thankfully, I’ve learned from both but poor decisions can certainly turn your head on a dime and make you change your behavior.

-Like our clients, it’s easy to get lost in comparison traps: How does my body look compared to other coaches? How does my business perform against comparable studios? None of this stuff really matters. All that matters is that I focus on the experience my clients get and that I do the very best I can at prioritizing my health. The rest will sort itself out.

-If you’re going to make it work in this industry consider that you will need to hire these people and in roughly this order: a business banking specialist who you can call/email at a moment’s notice about your accounts and lending opportunities, an excellent accountant with expertise in small businesses, a therapist to help you cope with demands on your time and your mental health, a coach who can design your training so that you can understand what it feels like to be in the client’s shoes.

-Traditional marketing methods likely suck. You’re going to have to embrace the old fashioned way of meeting people and making a good impression on them, delivering a great service that people want to return to and understanding enough about social media that you know which platform to be on and how to target your ideal demographic.

-I said this on a podcast recently and I’ll reiterate it here. Obviously, the lifeblood of RevFit is our clients. We do not exist without them. Outside of our clients, having a great staff is paramount to success. I have had to rely on my family heavily (especially in my early years) to help me start and maintain this business. It is the hardest thing I have ever done and it was completely worth it. All of this aside, the person who has paid the greatest price for the work I do and the time I commit here is my wife (and by extension, my sons.) When the day is done, it’s to come home to them and have something left to be grateful for. I work for all of you (my clients) but ultimately it’s for Marissa, Jackson and Sebastian. My wife has been my rock and I could not do what I do without her commitment to how we navigate our marriage and responsibilities.

Thank YOU to everyone who has made this a possibility. And thank you for helping us acknowledge 13 years of business.

(Your Coaches, L to R: David, Jason, Mike, Nick)