Did you ever have a dream when you were growing up?
Ask someone that question and you will quickly learn you will rarely meet a person that didn’t dream of either having or doing something bigger. At some point, I am sure you too have also had a desire to have something “more.”
When I ask the attendees at my seminars to imagine his or her “big dream,” they usually grow a “big smile” on their face. But when I ask if whether that dream has been or can be achieved, that smile turns to a frown and they usually say, “no.”
The reason you may not have reached your ultimate dream probably isn’t because you didn’t finish, but because you probably didn’t start. But the biggest mistake a dreamer can make is to let the start stop them. Starting involves risk. It is a time when you feel vulnerable, less skilled and stand in the face of risk. All of those feelings can cause fear. But as you will learn in today’s story, without risk there is no reward.
Of all professions, teachers are perhaps the most expected to always have the “right” answer. In fact, knowing information is actually part of the job. Today you will learn what it was like for two teachers from New York that had a big dream destination, but no answers how to get there. John Praino and Bill Felice’s story will remind you there are no overnight successes in business and the real secret behind a big dream is not what you get, but what you get to give back.
Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher.
When I look back on my life, many of the best lessons I learned were from my teachers. These people taught me more than just English, Math or Science. I was also lucky to learn skills like discipline, punctuality, patience and respect. Since my teachers played such an important role in my life, I went to college to become a teacher. When I graduated and began working, I realized teaching is a really good profession. Beside the fact you are helping kids and contributing to society in a positive way, you can also make good money, get full benefits and a pension. More important than that, when I became a teacher, I enjoyed knowing I was making an impact.
After a year, I struggled with wanting more.
As a teacher it can be easy to get comfortable and stuck in a rhythm of mediocrity. Although I was enjoying my work, I wanted more. Not only did I want to make more money, but I also wanted to help more people. Since I had the summer off and got out of work at 2:30pm each day I had time to make more happen. After some soul searching I decided to pursue my passion; fitness. My goal was to become a certified personal trainer, work a few nights a week after school and have more. And that’s what I did.
I found personal training wasn’t what I thought.
I loved training people, but I really didn’t like working in a big box gym. It was hard work trying to get members to train with me. Even though I worked the gym floor, it was tough only having a few nights a week to make things happen. I managed to get some clients, but even when I finally did, I only took home 30% of what they paid the gym (and that’s before taxes!)
I decided the “smart” thing was to go into business for myself.
Going out on my own and opening up a training business was a challenge. I had no business experience and no money to start up. I tried to find a place to rent, but lucky for me there weren’t any building owners interested in giving me space to rent when I had no money and (as they let me sadly know) limited background. And if hearing from the landlords wasn’t bad enough, the banks let me know I wasn’t exactly solid loan material too.
I was really thinking of giving up.
Then I met Bill Felice. He was also a first year teacher trying to do the same thing: get a training business off the ground in the evenings, weekends and during the summer. We started to work out together and continually talked about great plans of someday having businesses. After months of “talk” we agreed to drop the idea of individual businesses and partner up. We didn’t have a name so we called ourselves “Maxed Out.” We were ready to rock. We were going to take over Westchester County! Then we started to learn a whole lot more goes into a business than thinking up a flashy name and having dreams.
We were only worth 10 bucks.
In the summer of 2009, we started our Maxed Out Bootcamp. We got a few adults to join and they payed us $10 each cash. We did the training all summer and continued training them for 2 years in various club houses, parks and YMCA’s. After all the added work we came away with just a few extra bucks. Maxed Out certainly wasn’t a business, although we thought it was. We didn’t have a system to train these people, just had a few pieces of beat up equipment and figured out the day’s workout a few minutes before class. Not exactly “professional.”
We were making no money and going nowhere.
We both still had this vision of having our own place helping a lot of people. We were both hungry as hell, we just didn’t know what we were doing. To add more pressure, Bill was married and had three small kids at that time, and because he was spending a lot of time away from the family, we had to do something or this dream wasn’t going to last. We wanted our own space. We were tired of traveling from spot to feeling like an unwanted guest. We wanted to be real and started investigating programs that could help. That is when we found Training For Warriors.
We found what we had to do.
Bill came to work one day in December 2011 and said Martin Rooney started a program called Training For Warriors and, “WE HAVE TO DO THIS!” This was basically our last shot since we were going nowhere with Maxed Out. We attended a certification with Martin in January and that day changed our lives and business forever. After the introduction I was so fired up I needed a seatbelt to keep me in my chair! This was it! We found what we were missing. There was the training systems and programming, but there would also be a real brand and a network behind us. By the time the car ride home was over, Maxed Out was no more! We joined Training For Warriors, became TFW Mahopac.
First we had to start small.
A friend of mine had some available space in his local MMA studio. They gave us our first shot at “gym ownership.” We leased 1,000 square feet and opened TFW Mahopac with 1 person, a few med balls, a rack of dumbbells and one bench. With the TFW training program and guidance from the team we started solely running the system. In less than 11 months later, we increased from 1 to 46 monthly paying members and the town of Mahopac was starting to buzz about Training For Warriors. The dream was starting to come true.
After growing successfully, we needed more space.
It was difficult leasing space from another business. Although we were TFW Mahopac, people in the community were confused and thought we were a program within the MMA facility. We also couldn’t paint the walls, hang our signs or set up the gym the way we wanted. We had to do something bigger. Now we felt confident we could deliver a professional program if we just had the space.
Then we took the biggest risk of our lives.
I don’t know about you, but 100,000 dollars is a lot on the line for a couple of teachers. Even with all the pressure, Bill and I signed our names to a $100K lease to rent a 5,000 square foot warehouse for a year. Things just got real, but we were still not a real business. We had about 55 students at that time, and this space would need more equipment turf and flooring. We had no choice but to hope for a bank loan so we could out fit the “airplane hangar” we just rented.
We got rejected again.
We went to four local banks for a business loan and were rejected by all of them because we weren’t doing business long enough. The banks simply weren’t confident enough to give us money. When we gave up on getting a loan, we opened up a credit card with 30K of equipment and flooring. Funny, but the only thing our old “Maxed Out” name was good to describe was our credit card!
With ownership came a lot of stress, anxiety and long nights.
TFW Mahopac had a home, but keep in mind Bill and I were still teachers. We had to figure out how we were going to fill this place with warriors, pay off that loan and finally turn a profit. Two months after we opened our doors we were just barely getting by. Rent was $5,500 we were brining in between 7K and 9k total revenue and still had a credit card balance of 30K. Talk about digging a hole for yourself.
Everything changed in late August.
Over the time we were involved with TFW, it was always evolving to offer the affiliates more value and chance to succeed. While we were at the 3rd Annual TFW Affiliate Summit in Charlotte, Martin outlined new strategies and approaches to help our grow membership and the program. We left the event on fire and had even more direction beyond the training. Now we had the tools to actually be a real business. That September we doubled our previous revenue, hired a bookkeeper and never looked back! By years end we grew our membership to almost 90 students, and by the spring of 2015 we were debt free. In 2016 we finished with 171 students and profited over six figures!
We got what we wanted and more.
When I was getting bored teaching, I knew I wanted more. I thought I wanted to do something outside of teaching, but I found even more fulfillment by staying in the field. Now I am teaching people how to get their health back and the rewards of the efforts are amazing. Yes, there are the financial rewards I mentioned, but the bigger return is we get the opportunity to help hundreds of people and contribute a life changing service to our community. I didn’t anticipate how hard it is to run a fitness business, but now having helped hundreds of people become healthier, raised thousands a year for charities, locals teams and families has made the hard work worth it. When we started, we had a lot of questions. Training For Warriors was the answer. It has forever changed the lives of two “gym” teachers that started out just wanted to make a couple of extra bucks.
Do you want to add more meaning to your career? Do you have some extra time on your hands and want more? You should have just learned the difference between you reaching or missing your goals is not that you do or don’t really desire them, but if you do or don’t have the tools to achieve them.
You can do more. Find the tools then use them. And start off believing you won’t give up.
If you are in any profession that you want more from, or you are a teacher like John & Billy, a martial arts dojo owner, personal trainer or fit pro fed up with trading an hourly wage for valuable time, you have the ability to compliment your current programs with TFW and grow your career. If you are interested in hearing how Training For Warriors can help your fitness business, contact us today.
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