Garth Hendricks, Owner, Explosive Functional Fitness
The first 3 years, or 1001 days, are the hardest for any business, with the majority never reaching their third business anniversary. Whilst studying for a BSc degree in biokinetics, Garth Hendricks dabbled in personal training to pay for his study expenses. In his third year, when his twins were born, he was forced to find full time work. He worked for many years at a leading fitness chain until he started running outdoor boot camps. We talked to Garth about his journey from being a personal trainer to owning a booming indoor boot camp business, which he dreams of franchising in the next few years.
The idea is born
As a personal trainer franchisee, Garth was working 15-hour days and seeing very little of his children. He realised that by doing three hours of boot camp training per day, he was earning more money than working a full day. Inspired by the book, The Monk who sold his Ferrari, Garth decided to take control of his life. "It tells you how to set goals. I started writing down what I wanted to do. This started to improve my mindset. Before that I thought I would be a personal trainer forever." Soon afterwards, he resigned and started his boot camp business.
"Ideas come all the time but if you can't implement an idea, if you put yourself down, you won't succeed. If something happens to you, instead of asking 'why me', use the opportunity to say 'why not'."
Day 1: Facing his first challenges
After resigning, Garth had a booming boot camp business during the busy summer months using outdoor spaces such as public parks. In the winter, attendance dropped to an all-time low. "I went from making over R20K a month to R5000 and just making ends meet. I realised that outdoor boot camps were just not viable", Garth explains. He started to look for indoor venues while paying special attention to the few boot camp members he still had. "I knew that if I really focussed on them, that their results will be inspiring to others come next summer!"
Tip: "If your business is suffering, really think out of the box how you can do things differently. If customer numbers dwindle, pay special attention to the ones you still have. Treat them like royalty."
Day 545: First indoor locations
Garth signed a contract with a high school in Woodstock to use their school hall. "Having an indoor space meant that I could better control the environment and plot my fitness systems, which mostly work on resistance training." A contract with one venue helped Garth to secure three more: in N1 City, Claremont and Stellenbosch. During this time he employed another trainer and marketed his 4-week boot camps via a simple website. Customers would pay upfront which greatly boosted his cash flow. He used a referral marketing system and email marketing, sharing tips, results and testimonials.
Tip: "From branding my car to canvas banners and handing out flyers - when it comes to marketing, try everything. Any marketing helps. Find out what works for you and what doesn't."
Day 720: Scaled down and returned to his studies
After a few months, Garth realised that too many locations meant too much driving up and down and not enjoying much-wanted family time. In the locations where Garth used another trainer, client numbers didn't grow as expected so he closed two of the venues. He decided to go back to university full time to finish his degree. "I did struggle: I was a full-time student, full-time businessman, full-time father, but I hate unfinished business. If I take on more it means I can handle more."
Tip: "Be realistic when hiring your first staff. They might not share your vision or have the same drive which means your business will suffer - especially if you rely on sales or constantly recruiting new members."
Day 1001: Inspired by a summit in America
In 2014, it was time for Garth to take stock and refocus. He had been following 'trainer to the trainers', Bedros Keuilian, for many years and heard about a Fitness Summit in Los Angeles where he was one of the main speakers. "I closed my other two venues and booked my plane ticket". It was a trip that changed his life. "I experienced first-hand the stories and successes of trainers who have turned their systems into highly profitable businesses", says Garth. "I came back motivated to buy Bedros' Fit Body Bootcamp franchise."
He weighed up the pros and cons of buying a franchise versus continuing his existing boot camp business. On the one hand he would enjoy invaluable support and proven payment and tracking systems. On the other hand he would face expensive set-up costs and less freedom in how to run the business. "I realised that with my own business, it's my name and concept - I just have to go figure out my own systems." Garth decided to take the plunge and rent a permanent studio.
Tip: "Having a mentor is invaluable, whether it's a real person or in my case the blog of Bedros Keuilian. Jump at the opportunity to attend a summit where you get to network internationally and learn from proven success stories. It's a big expense but one week can truly change your life."
Day 1200: The first studio opens in the perfect location
The perfect location became available in a newly renovated office park with great visibility in Woodstock. The only catch - the rent was double his average salary. "I was really scared but I had a gut feeling that this was the right location. I tried to get a loan from the bank but being self-employed, I was turned down." In the end, Garth turned to his father and a former client, investing R200K in total, including a lot of his personal cash. He negotiated with the landlord to only pay rent after three months. "Don't be afraid to ask - you never know. A landlord might want to give your new business a chance."
The studio opened its doors in July 2014. "It was incredible to finally have my own space. No more carting equipment around in my trailer!" In 6 months, membership grew from 37 to 200+ members. Garth offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and is now encouraging clients to commit to 3, 6, 12 or 18-month contracts. "This hugely helps with forecasting and cash flow, and members pay by direct debit so no more chasing people for money."
Tip: "If a bank loan isn't an option, get creative with investments. Don't be afraid to approach people to invest, even clients. If it suits your business, try to get people on a monthly payment system."
The next 1001 days
To learn more about how to turn his business into a chain of franchises, Garth visited another summit in California in March 2015. He is passionate about helping other trainers to also build businesses and find the systems that work for them. "Successful entrepreneurs are always about helping people. My coach also had a coach. I want to help my industry because if we all help each other, it will make the whole industry stronger." Garth hopes to open another facility very soon, planning 10 locations in Cape Town and one in every province.
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