Some of you have messaged for me to post the YouTube and story so here it is.
Thanks for asking. Enjoy!
I started out in the gym business in about 1985, I had been working at a fitness centre in my home town for a year or two and saw an opportunity to buy it. I thought I knew everything and I paid way too much for it. At the time there was two gyms in a town of 100,000 people. Within three years there were nine gyms and the market share had shrunk. I still thought I knew it all and pushed ahead, losing money every month. I had gone into it with my parents backing and after the first few years just about lost the lot, including the family home. Being a cocky ****er, I just didn't get it and continued to think I knew it all, as young men do.
By 1994 things had become really bad, the town was over saturated by gyms, two more had opened up in my street and the wolves were circling. By then I was becoming well established as a bodybuilding promoter in Melbourne and knew that I needed to move quickly or lose the lot. I just could not see a way out. Then it hit me. I went to see the guy that had opened across the road, I knew his lease was coming up and he wanted to grow. I offered him my lease, all of my members and some equipment. I would walk away and he would get a better building and double his membership overnight. My only condition was that he would honour the members that had paid upfront, after all my folks still had to live int he town and I had to walk away with some dignity.
My dad has always been a partner in the business and we have become very close over the years, he still does all the bookwork and accounts which allows me to forge ahead.
I opened up in Brunswick, Melbourne in a small warehouse (400m2) with a truckload of worn out equipment, zero members and a dream. I had learned a lot but still thought I knew it all, there would be some more hard medicine ahead, all I had going for me was that I was too driven, stubborn or stupid to quit. At that time all I wanted was somewhere to train, somewhere to live and a Harley Davison motorcycle (one day).
The first year I lost everything to keep the doors open, house, cars, furniture, you name it I lost it. The phone or power got cut every month for the first year, at least. I had no where to live and no car, all I had was a vertical grill and a rice cooker. I slept on the couch at the gym most nights for that first 9 months, I would get up in the morning and walk up to the main road to get a paper and a coffee. This way it looked like I had come from somewhere when I would walk to the gym to open up at 6AM. I would work through to 9PM, most days on my own until everyone had left, once again I would lock up and pretend to head home until everyone had gone, then sneak back and let myself back in.
I stayed with Sonny Schmidt's family a couple of nights a week and his brother Pale stated working at the gym. They were very kind to me and that Samoan food kept me going. When Sonny moved back to Australia we managed to get a little rental across from the gym, it was a dump but worked great at the time. I started training like crazy with Sonny for the Olympia's and the gym started to get a following. People would come to watch us train and I started to get a few clients.
I still had nothing to show, but the gym was starting to go better and I had paid back most of the bills that I had bought with me. Once I started to get on top, I would buy a piece of equipment every time that I had some money in the bank. It was 6 years before started to get a regular wage but I managed to hustle up enough to survive between contests, personal training and a bit of debt collecting.
It was about this time that I started to wise up and realise that I didn't know everything at all. By now I had met Amanda (my wife to be) and we were starting to live a bit better. I managed to put food on the table, but still no car or flash living. At least I had killed my ego and learned a lot about myself and people from all walks of life. Looking back, going hungry and losing just about everything was the best thing that happened to me, no easy ride and looking down the barrel every day was probably what I needed to wake me up.
By 1998 we had kind of out grown the small building and the landlord wanted to turn it into apartments. So after finally getting ahead, (still no wage) but I owned all my equipment and had started to get our name out there. It was then that I found our current building, it was three times the size and the rent was also three times the size. However I have always thought that you have to risk something that matters. So with that we moved into Weston Street and it was like starting all over again. We went 24:7 immediately and things got really bad again. It was a good gym but with the overheads going up so much, it was impossible to make a buck. For the next three years I fought every day, worked twelve hour days and did everything myself, cleaning, maintenance, graphics, mail-outs, contests and day to day management. Things slowly started to turn around. I kept my policy of buying equipment every time I could, I would scour the internet and auction sites to find the best stuff I could at the right price. I kept pushing myself and by the time my first child was born in 2002, I was earning wages every week and business was looking better than before.
In 2001 I held our first pro show and the brand started to get known worldwide. We started to attract all types of athletes form Olympians to AFL footballers and power athletes from everywhere. Around 2004 we launched Muscle TV and I had started to work as a strength and conditioning coach at the Carlton Football Club, which gave us more credibility and a bigger following. Over the next 5 years it started to work, I kept buying equipment and expanding the gym. To this day I own every piece in every gym and don't lease any equipment at all. It keeps your overheads down and takes away most of the stress.
Three years ago I had a opportunity to buy an old hardcore gym that was rundown and going broke, it was in a great location and just need some love. I had to risk everything all over again. With the encouragement of my wife and family I went for it. We fixed it up nice and it is now very busy day and night. A couple of years ago I had the same opportunity in the middle of the City, it was in worse shape and provided the biggest challenge of all. It is also flying now and to have Tiger Woods train there for the last two weeks was the icing on the cake. We have done the same again North of where we are and also in my original home town. The last two are still to break even but heading in the right direction and getting busier every week.
The expos and shows have taken over a lot of my time now but have huge potential. I now have 62 staff and 4 of the gyms run 24:7, every day of the year. We have four healthy kids and live pretty well. I have never forgotten where I have come from and love to see others reach their potential. I still spend every day in the gym and wouldn't change it for the world. I am still working on the gym to make it better and will never stop trying to improve the product and the brand.
"It's a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll"