Like many other entrepreneurs, I sold my home in order to invest into my business. In my case, it was to create our first Fitness Playground in Surry Hills which we literally built with our bare hands. It was a 600m2 site, housed within a 100-year-old building. When we took over, downstairs was an old furniture store and upstairs was a drug rehab clinic. Certainly not what dreams are made of, but what was important was it was ours.

We practically begged the landlord to lease us the space, and then build it on a shoestring while trying to sell enough memberships to pay our staff, and our rent. We negotiated with every supplier and some were crazy enough to support us (thank you Darren Elkin and Aaron Oman).

We were lucky enough to grow our business, and use the profits from the first gym to grow another 4. Today we have 5 gyms, 15,000 (or so) members and 200 staff.

I personally continue to work in the business 7 days a week, and have no intention of selling, retiring or slowing down. Independent owners don’t do this for money, we do this for the love of our industry, our members and our staff.

While I have been fortunate to build a successful business, we continue to have growing pains, website issues, cash flow issues, tech issues (the worst!), struggle to recruit good people and I still take phone calls at 4am when something breaks.

Being an independent gym owner is hard, really hard. But, I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, we need support – the right kind of support. The type that solves our problems so we can make our people and business successful.

Independent gym owners must have a representative on the Fitness Australia Board.

I am sure there are other nominees who run bigger companies than I do, who are more experienced than me and probably a hell of a lot smarter. However, independent gym owners need someone who has their interests in mind. Someone who goes through what they go through each day, and someone who knows what it is like to put everything on the line to pursue their passion.

Fundamentally, our industry needs to do a better job. There are more gyms than ever, yet obesity continues to rise. Many of us accept that 1 in 3 members will not show up and half will cancel each year. Switching to staff, 51% of our Personal Trainers leave the industry within 2 years. This means our people have a greater chance of failure than success.

But why me? I believe the Fitness Australia board and the industry at large will benefit from an unconventional thinker who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo. A person who has built a business and brand from scratch in today’s climate, who understands social media, content creation, digital marketing, PR, and how to lead a Gen Y workforce. And most importantly who still works with our front line staff and members day in and day out, as that is where the magic happens – in our gyms.

About Justin

Justin is an innovative CEO who is on a mission to “Inspire Change” through education, innovation, and advocacy.  He is a natural leader, who likes to challenge conventional thinking and inspires those around him to do the same.  Throughout his 17 years in the fitness industry, he was won numerous awards and successfully founded 3 industry start-ups. Today he is the CEO of award-winning brand Fitness Playground.

Voting is now officially open for board elections.

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