Coffs Coast Health Club has been paving the way in fitness and health on the Coffs Coast for over a decade. FOCUS had a chat with owners Duncan and Carla Marchant, to find out more …
When did your business open?
We moved back to the Coffs Coast in 2008 and bought what was then the Link Gym in Toormina. Our goal was to rebrand and totally redevelop it to become a comfortable, community based fitness facility called Coffs Coast Health Club. Duncan was originally from Coffs, but had been in the fitness industry owning, managing and investing in clubs in Canberra since he left school in 1996. When we moved home to Coffs, we still owned another Health Club down in Canberra, we had a one year old son, I was pregnant with our daughter, and the global financial crisis had just hit. People thought we were crazy, but I think we seem to operate better under a bit of pressure. We opened our Moonee Beach club to service the beautiful northern beaches in 2016.
What have been some of the changes in your business?
When we first took over the Link Gym, we had a lot of cleaning up to do. We had members smashing weights, meatheads, a poor reputation, poor layout, poor equipment, and a lack of service. The first thing we did was put a wall between the weight room and the group exercise studio, to give the predominantly female group exercise participants some privacy, we upgraded equipment, removed the meatheads, changed the layout to make it more open, and introduced a number of new services.
We completely changed the brand, environment and culture of the club. We focused on member service, starting with the connection that people had with us in the community, right through to our friendly front desk and on to the gym floor, kids’ club and classes.
How have you adapted as time/ technology changes?
The fitness market is always changing and we need to innovate along with it, to stay ahead of the curve. In the last ten years we have introduced 24/7 access, new member management software, a successful weight loss program, become a registered training organisation, licensed exclusive health supplements, introduced new class types, new equipment, run numerous challenges and even opened another club to cater for demand in our local market.
The changes generally take place through a combination of our very open feedback loop and industry trends. We’ve got some pretty big plans for our next ten years too, as we’ve just signed another long term lease at our Toormina site.
What have been some of your challenges and rewards?
The biggest challenge for both of us is just the blood, sweat, tears and sheer hard work it takes to run a successful small business. However, we both love what we do and when that’s the case, you just seem to find a way to overcome any challenges within your business. Traditional rewards have come in the way of Sunny Business Awards, Fitness Australia Awards and even Telstra Business Awards, but there is no better reward than being a trusted part of the community you live in and sharing in the success of your team and clients.
What is the secret to your success?
We always focus on the long game. We’ve been running businesses and serving communities in this industry for over 20 years. The short term, quick buck mentality of some competitors and products always seem to eventually fall over.
Patience and dedication to our philosophy of living in the service of others has held us in good stead, and I don’t ever see that changing.
And you have a family … How do you juggle it all?
The juggling can get quite tricky at times, and there are moments when you feel like you are going to drop all of the balls; however, we have a great support base. Loki, our son, started high school this year and is heavily involved in a number of sports, and Olivia, our daughter, is in Year 5 and heavily involved in dance and drama. We have two businesses that employ over 60 locals, we run a small farm full of animals, play sport, coach sport, love to socialise and volunteer our time and resources. We couldn’t do all of these things if we didn’t have our family, friends and a fantastic team around us. We are very grateful to have them all in our busy lives.
Tell us about your community involvement.
Where do we start? We’ve always been very community focused with every business we’ve ever owned. Both Duncan and I, as well as many members of our team, volunteer on boards, chambers of commerce, at local events, in online forums, sponsor local sports teams, schools and individuals. We have a percentage of total income dedicated solely to community involvement, and that’s definitely a positive legacy we wish to leave here on the Coffs Coast.
What advice do you have for other business owners on the Coffs Coast?
Get involved and prove your value to the Coffs Coast. This can be done through many different avenues. Sponsor events, help people in need, coach a sports team, or connect with your community for everyone’s benefit. There’s more to business than just making money. Put people first and realise that some of the happiest people in the world don’t rely on possessions to make them happy. We realised that when our home burned down in the 2003 Canberra bushfires, when we lost all of ours. People don’t remember you for what you have; they remember you for how you make them feel.
What do you enjoy most about living on the Coffs Coast?
The people. We have an amazingly eclectic collection of humans in our little piece of paradise. There are so many supremely talented and beautiful residents that make up our community, and we plan on spending the rest of our lives here for that very reason.
Thanks Duncan and Carla.