Tell us about your background and how you came to be in Coffs Harbour?
I actually spent five years in Coffs from age two ‘til seven, before moving to Canberra. I returned again about 15 years ago but only spent two years here, as the opportunity to manage my first business dragged me away again, but it never left my thoughts for too long. I think once Coffs gets in your blood, you always want to return; so, back in 2008 my wife and I made a great decision to raise our little family back here, and we have no intention of leaving ever again – we’re hooked for life!
Coffs Coast Health Club has become quite a force in the fitness industry in this area. How are you achieving your goals with your business?
After observing the region’s fitness industry for many years, we decided to get involved and raise the bar. Our goals are very different to those of our competitors, as we focus on making a genuine positive difference in our community. We don’t have scary sales people, we focus heavily on personalised service, and we enjoy providing plenty of variety for our members to help achieve their fitness and health goals. We also take pride in the career opportunities we offer locals, from traineeships to Indigenous and Non-indigenous school-based leavers.
You mentioned that Coffs Coast Health Club is different to your competitors. What makes you stand out?
Our focus is very much on people and helping them at every step of their journey to achieve their goals, which means we listen to their needs. In doing so, we have introduced: classes for prostate cancer exercise; heart moves rehabilitation; baby boomers and seniors groups, catering to our member’s needs. Also, the atmosphere of our club is very welcoming, and our staff really enjoy giving back to the community by helping members to become the best they can be in terms of their health and fitness – and they have fun doing it!
Being locally owned and community oriented means we play an active role in our community sports groups and schools, with every local high school in the area attending the health club for school sports, which gives us a great amount of joy. We are also a registered training organisation for personal trainers, and we take immense pride in employing locals, school-based or otherwise, to become a part of our dynamic team.
What inspires you about the fitness and health industry?
Seeing the evolution of the people we touch and the goals they achieve is inspiring. The physical and psychological benefits of exercise are undisputed, and helping people in your local community evolve to a better quality of life is what we are all about.
What changes have you seen in the industry over the past few decades?
I got into the industry 16 years ago, back when most gyms were local family businesses. Now as one of those local family businesses, we have to compete with multinational franchised companies.
These big companies have certainly brought more investment to our industry, but will never be able to replace the personal touch and care for our community that we provide – in the end, people still need people. I think the other big thing that has changed in the industry is the level of variety now afforded to people in the types of exercise one can choose.
There have also been increases to the professional care standards and regulations, which has also benefited consumers.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in business in Coffs Harbour?
I love being in business here in Coffs. The networks are great, the people are down to earth, and the employees truly care about the business they work for, as well as the customers that they serve. The only challenges we face come from people that don’t stand for those same ideals.
Being a successful business owner, are there any tips to success that you can share?
I believe that discipline, communication and resilience are the three most important attributes to have in your business life. You must always put people before profit, to succeed over the long term.
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about him/her and how they have helped you in your career/life?
I don’t really have a single mentor as such. I like to analyse everyone and copy their good lessons, while leaving behind the bad ones. I am very lucky to have the most supportive wife, kids, family, friends, business partners and colleagues on the planet around me and without them, I would not have been able to achieve a thing.
Success does not come without its challenges. What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
I started managing and owning businesses at a very young age and it was hard to get people to believe in me, until I could show them what I could do. That just made me more determined to succeed and was great for my personal development. My wife and I also lost our very first house and everything we owned in the 2003 Canberra bushfires. We had everything physical taken away from us, and we were forced to rebuild our lives from scratch.
That event reinforced the needs of discipline, communication and resilience and helped us to achieve what we have today.
You recently were a finalist in the prestigious Telstra Small Business Awards – congratulations! What did this accolade mean to your business?
It was a great experience for the team and gave our Coffs Coast Health Club family a lot of confidence in the work that we do. We were in the top 0.5% of over 5,000 nominations for those awards, and it has certainly helped to raise the profile of business in Coffs. We love having a club that our members and the local community can be proud of.
We all know how important achieving a good work life balance is. What are your interests that help you to achieve this balance?
My main interest outside of work is my family and friends. I coach my son’s soccer team, I also read with his class at school, I take my daughter to dance each week, and I watch them play tennis. This is very important to me – having this time with the ones that are most important to me. I also love playing all sports, but especially cricket with the bandits, golf with the goats and soccer with the mighty lions!
We heard you are now involved in the Australia Personal Training Institute. How did this come about, and what does it entail?
We provide real time training, in a real gym environment for anyone looking to become a personal trainer. Successful students gain the ‘Certificate IV in Fitness’ qualification, which allows them to practice as a personal trainer. We also provide mentoring services for anyone completing the personal trainer qualification through our course, any online courses or at our local TAFE. Our goal is to see more qualified and more experienced trainers out in our community to help get the region happier and healthier!
If you could give one piece of advice to any business owner or aspirational professional, what would it be?
‘Put people before profit‘.
This story was published in issue 24 of the Coffs Coast Focus