10 Years in Business…A Few Lessons We’ve Learned Along the Way
Start a business...we thought. It can't be that hard...we thought. It's been 10 years of trial and error. We've laughed, and we've cried. We've succeeded, and we've failed. Despite the sweat and the tears, we wouldn't change a thing. It's been a ride for sure. Here is a little of our story and a few things we have learned along this adventure of business ownership.
In the Beginning....
January 7, 2008...It was a cold and dark morning at Bayview Park. It was the very first day of FOF Boot Camp. However, this thing, this baby we called Operation Fitness at the time, was being worked on, poured into, and tailored for months before that cold January morning. See, this was a learning curve and experiment from the very beginning.
Flash back to months and months before...we were sitting in a friend's living room discussing what in the world Josh's career would be when he discharged from the Navy a few months later. We discussed his strengths, what he enjoyed, and his experience. Our friend, Meredith, casually suggested starting a fitness boot camp. At the time, there were no boot camps or even organized fitness programs in our area, other than typical gym classes. Certainly, there were no groups meeting outside to bear crawl, lift weights, or sprint in a park. Josh immediately said "no way," and we moved on. The image in his head was more of step aerobics or some generic group fitness class.
Flash forward a week or two. We began researching and looking into the whole boot camp idea that our friend had suggested. What we saw was not step aerobics or jazzercise (not to discredit either of these), but an opportunity to bring a structured fitness program, built around a strong community, to our hometown. Josh was still serving in the Navy as a Search and Rescue Swimmer Instructor Trainer and finishing his Health Education degree from the University of West Florida. After much discussion, and a lot of prayer, we decided to give the fitness boot camp idea a try.
Let's be honest...we had zero experience in business, and Google wasn't exactly what it is today. What we did have was passion, determination, and willingness to learn. Josh began the certification process to become a Certified Personal Trainer, and I began researching the back end to get this business officially registered. On September 17th, 2007, Operation Fitness, Inc. was born, and we began to prepare for our first class.
For months, you could find Josh and I at Bayview Park trying workouts, experimenting with run distances, and going through the flow of each idea we had. We probably looked like crazy people running around at 5:45 am dragging tires through the parking lot. Keep in mind...at this point, NO ONE was ever working out outside, unless they were running. We had a logo made by a friend, I created a very basic website on our Mac, we sold Josh's truck to buy some equipment, and we started recruiting our friends and family to join our first camp. Josh walked door to door with some homemade flyers (remember, this is 2007...there's really no Facebook advertising), and then we waited and waited. I remember clearly on New Year's Eve (just a few days before that first camp was supposed to start), we finally had someone SIGN UP! It was like Christmas morning. We finally had a (paying) client.
And so, here we were, nervous as can be on that cold morning in January with no idea where the next 10 years would take us.
We are Really Doing This....
The first class was a success! People were enjoying the workouts, and the community within the classes was building. We had a 90% return rate, and we realized that this might actually work. We rode on cloud nine for a while, but we soon learned that with every success comes failure, and failure is an incredible opportunity to learn. In 2009, we were forced to go through a name change, and Fixed on Fitness, Inc. was born.
We learned that this business venture was a constant experiment. We quickly saw that our view of business owners...you know, flexible, making lots of money, a lot of time off...was very flawed. Instead, we realized that as a business owner, you work A LOT. The business wheels must be constantly turning. You hold the role of the trainer, accountant, advertiser, administrative assistant, creator, and anything else that comes up. We came up with ideas that really worked and some that were really bad.
We kept learning and experimenting. We had two babies (Blaise in 2009 and Paisley in 2010). We began navigating the new road of business owner, employee (Kenzie was still in the pharmaceutical industry), and new parents. I'm pretty sure we made so many mistakes, but with each mistake, we took something away and used it as a learning opportunity.
Speaking of learning...it must never stop. We love to learn. We love to communicate what we have learned. We look back at where we started, especially when it comes to workout philosophy and nutrition. We spent years promoting the Standard American Diet. However, thanks to a hunger for knowledge and new things, we stumbled upon the Primal lifestyle in 2010. We tried a dogmatic approach to health and fitness...this was a bad idea. We tried workouts that were a bust. We tried pushing people too hard. We have been through multiple websites. We tried the intimidating, hard core look...not for us.
In the end, we grew from each of these "mess ups." We have changed and molded our program based around current research and the response of our clients. This process of transformation is probably the biggest benefit of owning a business. We aren't stuck (although many times, it has felt like we were). We are always growing, changing, listening, and learning.
Five Things We've Learned
After 10 years of trial and error, ups and downs, and successes and failures, here are a few things we have learned.
1. Don't get comfortable. A comfortable place is a dangerous place. When you get too comfortable, you stop learning, creating, and appreciating. The business world is a tough one. It requires constant innovation. Keep stepping out of your comfort zone. Keep trying new things.
2. Value your people. Our clients are amazing. One thing that hasn't changed from our first camp in 2008 to today is our love for our clients. Our clients are the backbone and driving force of our business. Be there for people. Pour into people. Be patient with people. Encourage and challenge people. Listen to people. Love people. Life without community is boring. The FOF community has been such an incredible one. We are more like a family than a workout group. We have been through births, deaths, sickness, trials, accomplishments, and so much more together. Fixed on Fitness Family - if we haven't told you lately, we love you and appreciate you.
3. Learn, learn, learn. Research is changing all the time. We can't keep relying on information from 10 years ago. Read, listen, and then experiment. Talk to people. Listen to the experts. Look at both sides of the research. If you stop learning, you can't help others. We are constantly striving to stay on top of health, nutrition, mobility, mindset, and wellness news. You are your best experiment. Try out what you are learning on yourself. Then, you can teach it to others.
4. Keep an open mind. Sometimes, ideas come from the strangest places. It might be a conversation during a run. Other times, you might be surfing the internet and see something that triggers an idea. You never know if an idea will work if you don't keep an open mind and just give it a try. Don't be scared of things that are different. Don't shy away from things that didn't work perfectly before...maybe you just need to make a few tweaks. Don't ever shut something down before you give it some real thought...you might miss something great.
5. Never give up! The business world is full of never ending challenges. Just when you think you are coasting along, something slaps you back into reality. Competition is always popping up. Work is always on the forefront of your mind. Sometimes, you don't think you are having an impact on the people around you. People challenge you. People might question you. Be confident in what you are doing. Have the tough gut checks, and make adjustments as necessary. But...don't throw in the towel. Take each set back, evaluate it, learn from it, and then grow from it.
Cheers to Another 10 Years
We can't wait to serve the community of Pensacola for another 10 years and beyond. We are excited to continue to pour into people and to impact our clients in a positive way. We promise to continue to learn daily and love our clients.
If you have never been part of the Fixed on Fitness family, we'd love for you to contact us today.