26 Jan One Entrepreneur’s Journey from IRL to Online
I asked one my customers, Lonnie Tkach, to write me a letter describing his journey from a bricks and mortar business (the IRL in the title of this post means In Real Life) to an online business in the same industry. I’ve watched him go through the process and it’s a story worth sharing:
My Fitness Business Evolution Turned Revolution
12 years ago I became one of those success stories that you read about – a nearly bankrupt college graduate who became a successful entrepreneur. Together with my wife we founded our first fitness club, which eventually grew to a chain of fitness clubs in the Greater Vancouver area.
It was 10 years ago when we teamed up with my best friend, Derryl, and his wife to form an organization called Great West Fitness. We quickly became known as a #1 fitness club in our market areas.
Our journey was based on a passion for providing a more friendly and welcoming approach to providing fitness to our members. This grew into a slogan – Great Atmosphere, Great Results … Great West Fitness.
The fitness industry is very competitive, and as much as we liked to think that we were differentiating from our competition, it still seemed like the lines were blurred sometimes. We found ourselves questioning how we could do business differently to clearly make a greater impact in our industry.
About two years ago I bought out my friend Derryl, as we both knew that we needed a change – something new. At the time there was a lot of uncertainty about a new direction for our future in business, and even our long term friendship seemed to be challenged.
During our time apart, I had a lot of opportunity to reflect on my life, on business, and on the industry that I was a part of. I realized that if I wanted to really make an impact, I had to think of a completely different way of looking at my industry. It happened! I can’t completely explain how all of the realizations came to me and in what order, but it was revolutionary!
It was something that a business colleague said to me that triggered a whole series of realizations. He said that the future is in service. At first I almost gagged, because I was feeling swamped with the responsibility of thousands and thousands of fitness club members and well over 100 employees to take care of. I really didn’t want to hear that. I took time to digest what he had said because I have always made it a point to learn from other successful people.
This is the transition from traditional bricks and mortar to an online revolutionary business idea for the fitness industry …
About a month later, a light bulb went off inside of me and it became very clear. Something that was not working for me, and most other fitness club operators who are willing to admit it, is that personal trainers don’t really like working for a wage, and they are frustrated about the revenue split between them and the club. Most certified personal trainers are not able to build a full time professional career out of doing what they love, and many have to transition to a different career. If they could just focus on what they love, helping clients to get results, and make enough money doing that, they would be in their glory. Most personal trainers, who would like to work for themselves, do not gravitate towards some of the necessary business responsibilities, like marketing, sales, and business administration. Conversely, there are a lot of people out there who really don’t have time (or desire) to make it out to a fitness club, but would like to have the personal training or coaching if it was delivered to them at a convenient time and place.
So, what I realized, after doing some research, is that there are no real agencies out there that are set up to attract fitness clients, and match them up with the right personal trainer. It all came together quite quickly. This concept delivers an end product to clients for the same price, but with a far greater advantage and value to both the personal trainer and the fitness client. The personal trainers don’t have to do the stuff that they are not good at and don’t like doing, which is really inefficient and costly to them. The public now has a way of finding a personal trainer that is in their area, who is qualified, and who is the best match for their needs. They also have the peace of mind that they are getting a professional who is qualified and screened, not to mention properly insured.
Remember my friend Derryl … as I was developing the idea and sharing my concept with Derryl, he couldn’t stop thinking about it … I needed a lot of help to make it happen … neither of us could resist the idea of working together to create another successful business, so that’s what we are now doing!
[bloggers note: this is where his pitch begins - I love entrepreneurs!] Fit2Go Trainers is now available throughout the Greater Vancouver area. It is a flexible and convenient service. A personal trainer will meet you at your home, your workplace, outdoors, or pretty much anywhere. You will be set up with the right personal trainer for you, according to your schedule, your goals, and where you want to meet.Lonnie Tkach
Founder & President