Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey everyone! I am Chris and in March 2011 I started Live Fit. Live Fit is a personal training company that was created to change the standards in the personal training industry. Early on I focused on building a company that is not only based on results, as most fitness companies are, but that is also focused very heavily on relationships. Relationships create trust, trust creates buy-in, and buy-in leads to the accountability and dedication it takes to get results.
“Our Mission is to help our clients make continual progress by designing an individualized program that provides safe and effective results while building a trusting relationship that lasts a lifetime.”
All of our programs are based on the trusting relationships we build, and we solely focus on personal training but we do offer a multitude of personal training services including Strength Training, Performance Training, Pilates Reformer, Yoga, Massage/Hypervolt sessions, Rehab/injury prevention, and Private Boxing.
The variety of offerings we have has created an ability for clients to pick and choose which methods are most appealing to them and which methods are the most fun! If fitness is not at least somewhat enjoyable it becomes difficult to stick with the program. It is nice for our clients that we have such a diverse skill set with our team of trainers as well as a variety of personalities. We collaborate all of this into a friendly, inviting team setting and atmosphere that staff and clients can “feel” the minute they walk in the door the first time. It is positive, encouraging, and comfortable which is incredibly important for clients looking to change their lifestyle.
I started Live Fit in 2011 and we brought in about $80,000 in total revenue and had 2 trainers (including myself as 1 of them) in a studio that was 800 sq ft. We completed around 1300 sessions that the first year.
We have grown steadily and consistently in the last 8 years and currently, we have 2 locations that occupy a total of 12,000 sq ft. We have a team of 12 trainers, a marketing manager, an internal financial administrator, a trusted accountant, and a lawyer we can call on for our tax and legal needs, as well as multiple business resources and consultants we can utilize.
Last year (2019) we brought in over $760K in total revenue and there are no signs of us slowing down. In 2019 we completed right around 15,000 sessions and consistently trained over 150 clients per month with an average new client sign up rate of about 10 per month. In addition, we rock the marketing in our area and consistently rank #1 on Google search, SEO, and display ads for personal training. It has been a great decade and the sky is the limit as we continue to grow this amazing company.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started Live Fit because I felt I was running out of options in the industry I loved so much. Personally, I felt the misses in the personal training industry and wanted to change that. Personal Training, as well as all types of fitness, can be very intimidating to most people. And honestly, the people that are most intimidated by fitness are often the people that need it the most. I set out to create a company that provided the same types of exercises, programming, and results as generally all fitness companies, but I wanted to make it a comfortable experience from the moment a potential client stepped through our doors.
All our processes, our studio layout, our team of trainers we have hired, and our entire mission are based on making clients feel comfortable, appreciated, and valued. We do things differently and over the past 10 years, I have seen other companies in our area follow our lead. Long gone are the days of slamming weights, extremely loud music, and uncomfortable gym environments. People want to go where they feel comfortable and respected.
I have always loved sports and started at a young age, with my dad as my coach. I continued athletics through high school and went on to run college track where I based my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees entirely on building my career in the fitness industry. The last thing I was willing to do was to throw it all away based on a lack of opportunity, so I created my own with Live Fit. I believe in spirituality and the law of attraction and base my life on those principles. So in early 2011 when I couldn’t focus on my spiritual study and spiritual growth because my mind was consumed with running numbers about opening my own company, I knew that was a sign from God it was time to create something great.
It was not easy to make the decision, but I jumped with a leap of faith. At the time I opened, I had a new house, a baby on the way, and little money in my bank account. It was a risk to leave my current, salaried position, in order to start my own company. There was no way I was getting a business loan or any type of loan from the bank, so I went back to my faith and an opportunity fell in my lap. A client I had been training, who I had built an extraordinarily strong relationship with, gave me the financial investment I needed to start Live Fit. I will be forever grateful to this family and they have been with me through this whole process. It was proof to me once again that if you just trust in the universe and live the law of attraction, everything will work out perfectly.
There is no substitute for a positive attitude in our business or in life. I would take a positive trainer with the right mindset over a hard worker who is negative and bringing down the good vibes of the company.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
As a service business, Live Fit has had success in large part due to the variety of services we can offer. That of course mixed with the positive culture we have created. I doubt there are many companies you can go to and do back to back Pilates and boxing sessions. We can cater to the clients’ wants and needs when they first sign up but what is great is when a client gets in better shape and more confident and ends up trying multiple services with us.
This also locks that client into multiple caring relationships as they connect to multiple trainers within our company. Being able to trust a company and not just your individual trainer is a big deal in any industry, but I think especially with fitness, in particular personal training, because the relationships are so strong and intimate.
When a trainer leaves a company or moves to another part of the country, it can be devastating to their client’s emotions and results. Live Fit has created a trusted company that can always provide a solid and caring trainer. With that in mind, Live Fit has an incredibly low attrition rate with our staff. Partially because we pay our trainers well, much higher than the industry standard, and we have multiple bonus opportunities. Secondly, we provide good clients for our trainers, so they stay busy and make money. Lastly and probably most important, we have an amazing work environment with positive vibes, trust, and loyalty throughout. There is no place at Live Fit for negativity. Positive vibes always.
This was not always easy and there were so many factors to figure out in transitioning from the smallest personal training company in the Kansas City area to the biggest. Bigger is not always better and we know that, so being able to keep up with the growth is near as demanding as starting the company. We have had multiple managers, marketing advisors, salespeople, and trainers, but what you figure out is that every seeming problem you face ends up being an opportunity for better future growth, which makes stressful situations a little easier to stomach. I just try to always think, positivity, and grow and get better. LOA all Day.
Below is a picture we used on social media after our 2nd major expansion in 2015. Looking back, I cannot believe we would allow pics like this to be seen by our customers… Check out our website now to see how much we have changed the last 5 years.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I opened my business checking account on my 29th birthday, March 1st, 2011. My plan was simple. Rent space at a local studio and build up my client base while I was getting all the details lined out to open my own space, including the buildout, equipment, marketing, financial planning, and everything else I could think of at the time. Luckily one of my buddies owned a nice fitness space in South Overland Park, where I was planning on building my studio.
I was upfront with him about my plan and he agreed to let me pay 1 month at a time until my space was ready. I was grateful for this because I didn’t know how long the buildout, buying the equipment and all the other details of opening my own spot would take. In addition, I knew I could not have any sort of lag in the transition from taking the client base I was working on building over to my new space.
The transition had to be seamless, not only for me financially but for my client’s workout consistency and results. During this entire process, I kept the law of attraction firmly in my mind and of course, everything timed out and worked out perfectly. I opened a brand-new space with my own office, a changing room, and a private shower, all with a fresh beautiful buildout and about $30,000 of brand-new equipment. We were set and ready to go so I moved my client base from my buddy’s gym over to my new spot and kept on growing.
I hired a marketing consultant and we were off to the races on creating a logo and building a website. In the fitness industry, it can be exceedingly difficult to compete online as far as marketing. There is just so much competition and it takes years of reputation, marketing work, photos, and strategic planning to build your brand to a point of impacting SEO. I was lucky to have a client who was an expert with Google Ads and that is where we started. He was a tremendous help in building our online presence and still is to this day.
From the day we opened most of our clients came from my own work as a sales guy and the rest came from Google search and referrals. I am still the sales guy at Live Fit and sign up 90% of the new clients but it has been years since I have had to make a cold call to get a sale. Most of our leads now come from Google, referrals, and the brand awareness we have created over the past 9 years. It is a nice spot to be in. People come to us and it is great. I still have to do my job and make them feel comfortable and get them signed up with our program and set with one of our trainers, but it is way easier than the cold calls I used to make when I first opened. I remember the first year I opened I signed up nearly everyone I met.
It was crazy. I signed up my home realtor, my mortgage broker, my banker, my commercial realtor that found my space, my marketing consultant, my accountant, and several of the employees that worked in the other spaces in my same building. I was tenacious in signing people up and I found a way to do it in a very non-threatening, comfortable way. One of the best compliments I was ever given came from one of the trainers. She said, “Chris, you are the most amazing person I’ve ever met at selling someone and not making them feel sold.” I think this was one of my biggest keys to success early on and probably still today. I can connect with people instantly and sell fitness in my sleep. Looking back, I would have to say the key to any service business is the service you are providing, mixed with the connection you create with people. Connection creates loyalty and trust, which is the key to any business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
With the number of resources, it took to continually grow the last 9 years and go from 800 sq ft to 12,000 sq ft, our profit margins have not been great. We have always dumped any money back into the company so we could continue to expand. I’ve always been able to pay myself a salary and cover my health insurance, retirement, etc. just as I would if I was a salaried employee for another company, but Live Fit outside of covering my cost of living has not really hit significant profit margins until the last couple of years. Our systems are solid, our team is amazing, and life is easy right now. So instead of letting it continue to run smoothly and just relax and make money, we have decided to launch a new model and stir things up!
A mentor once told me “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” I wonder if that applies to businesses. Is there a point I can just slow down and settle in or will the company start going backward? Either way, we are ready to grow again more so because if we do not, I’ll get bored. For 9 years we have been dedicated to personal training. Countless clients and trainers have asked us to do group classes, memberships, boot camps, etc. and we have always said no way. We focused on building the biggest and best personal training company in the city and we have accomplished that. So now it is finally time for a change.
We will keep our personal training program growing just like we always have but we are going to start offering gym memberships within the next 3-6 months. All the plans are in the works and some of the equipment has been purchased and implemented but we still have a lot to do, including a $50,000 buildout to add additional showers and bathrooms as well as 2 private infrared saunas.
We are also adding a sophisticated key fob system where members will have an app on their phone to get in the front door. And of course, this allows us to track their visits which will help us with retention, future planning and upselling our personal training services. We also need to add about $80,000 worth of new equipment to launch this model. It is going to be an interesting change, but I am confident it will be spectacular. Time to take the business to the next level. There is a lot to think about, but this change is for the best and is the next step to lead us to potential mass growth in the future. God’s plans, God’s hands.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Looking back at the growth, successes, and failures of this company, I am not sure I would change anything because it led us to the terrific spot we are in today. But if I had to list off keys to success at this point and the size we are now, I would say the top of the list is culture and environment. There is no place for negativity. We have had our share of negative, disgruntled staff through the years and they must go. The sooner the better. They can bring the entire team and culture down in a hurry.
There is no substitute for a positive attitude in our business or in life. In fact, I totally understand working hard, but I would take a positive trainer with the right mindset over a hard worker who is negative and bringing down the good vibes of the company. It again all comes back to the Law of Attraction. You get what you give and if the vibes you are sending out to the universe are positive then the universe will certainly provide positive vibes back to you.
In addition to the right mindset I would say you have to have a solid team of trainers, an internal financial person running your books, a solid accountant, an attorney you can call on, a great marketing team, either internally or consulted, and the image police. Okay, that last one is kind of a joke but our internal marketing manager (who is phenomenal), not only does an amazing job with our marketing, website, Google, Social media, and blog, but we jokingly call her the image police because there is no way she is going to allow anything in our facilities or out in the public eye to hinder our name and reputation. She is amazing.
The key is making your team feel a part of the growth. You want everyone on your team to have an “owner” mindset. It is tough to do, but anyone you have on your staff with an owner mindset will be your best and have the most potential for growth within your company. My image police/marketing manager has been crucial in helping to develop this new model and she knows it. In fact, a few weeks ago I told her she should be the one making the decisions and running the company from now on and her response was classic. She said, Let us be honest Chris, I’ve always run this company, you are just now realizing it. I loved it. She treats this business like she owns it and it shows every day with her actions and her efforts.
Making sure your team feels appreciated is especially important. There is a saying that “An employee who feels appreciated will always do more than expected.” That is so true. Our entire team is amazing and bought into our vision. If, as an owner, you don’t have the ability to get a staff member on board with the direction your company is heading, then they probably have to go. Buy-in is everything when it comes to your team and your customers. Without it, none of the logistics matter.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Spotify for music and often my fitness pal to help clients stay on track with their nutrition, but other than that it is pretty much face to face customer service.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I have tried to read so many business books throughout the years. Many of which have been suggested by my clients who own their own business and do well. I always try to read them, but my mind wanders and I always go back to books on spirituality and Law of Attraction. That is what resonates with me and if I stay spiritually connected, ideas flow to me at the times I need them.
I started out reading Wayne Dyer. The first book I read several years ago before I even opened Live Fit was a book by Dyer called The Power of Intention. It was life-changing and led me to read several other books by the same author. I have read Wishes Fulfilled, Everyday Wisdom for Success, Being in Balance, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, and There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, all written by Wayne Dyer.
Throughout his books, he speaks of the Law of Attraction consistently, but he calls it “Intention” or the “Power of Intention.” In one of his books, he completely analyzes the Tao, which is ancient writing on the same subject, and throughout my years of study, I realize it is all the same thing no matter what you call it.
I have read The Secret, The Magic, and The Power, all by Rhonda Byrne and now I am heavily into reading Neville Goddard who Dyer mentions often in his books. Neville was writing about this same power back in the 1950s.
It’s all the same teachings, just under different names and different wordings. The Law of Attraction, Intention, The Secret, The Tao, The Universe, Source, Source Energy, Source Code, God, Buddha, Christianity, Spirituality, The Bible and I could go on and on. It is all the same thing and is based on a supreme universal power that is a part of all of us. It is our decision to tap into that power, and if we do, the sky is the limit on our successes and accomplishments. In my mind, this is the key to success in all areas of life, including owning a business and raising a family.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking to hire positive, inspiring trainers.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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