We were lucky to catch up with Storm Kaufman recently and have shared our conversation below.
Storm, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Folks often look at a successful business and imagine it was an overnight success, but from what we’ve seen this is often far from the truth. We’d love to hear your scaling up story – walk us through how you grew over time – what were some of the big things you had to do to grow and what was that scaling up journey like?
No one ever told me when I was growing up, “you should be an entrepreneur,”. It’s something that just hit me and when that happened…I ran with it. I didn’t know what the word entrepreneur meant, until I was deep in the trenches. There are no classes in schools, workshops on financial analysis and projections that can prepare you for being an entrepreneur. You have to LIVE IT.
I couldn’t possibly cover all the details that scaled our business to it’s current success. I’ll keep it simple. I’ll review the most important bullet points of my personal journey as an entrepreneur scaling up a business from absolutely nothing to a million-dollar company.
“Perseverance and an unwavering drive to change the world for the better is the only way I knew how to live.” This is what drives me, even to this day. In the beginning, it sounded exciting and fun when I would see small private businesses “take off” and become a “popular brand name”. In my innocence, it seemed easy. However, “easy” is not any entrepreneur’s journey. I’m sure everyone has seen the meme of an iceberg sitting in water with only the tip of it exposed while 99% of its mass is underwater. This visual is exactly what 99.9% of businesses go through. Sadly, some of those icebergs go underwater never to come back up.
So, how did I keep my iceberg afloat with only a $5000 personal savings investment, and grow it to a $1,000,000 company? There’s only one phrase for it, “hard work and on the job training.” No books or general schooling will ever get you prepared to become your own boss and making decisions that affect the lively-hoods of everyone around you. I was fortunate, I had my own built in “mastermind group”. This group consisted of my two brother who are my business partners and my mother and father. You don’t need your family to be in your mastermind group, but you do need people with diverse knowledge and skills, to learn from.
There are many factors in place that scale and are continuing to scale up or our business. I’d like to talk about three very important attributes to a business that are vital to success.
FIRST, you must THINK BIG. If you only think of the next step, you’ve already limited your growth. You have to think YEARS into the future and create steps on how you will get there. Thinking BIG was actually one thing we did correct from the first day. Our goal is, and always has been, to be the largest functional fitness gym in the USA. We aren’t there yet, but each day we are moving closer and closer.
SECOND, you must truly care for the SUCCESS OF EMPLOYEES. You must always remember you are not above them, you are in the trenches with them. Yes, everyone has different jobs, skills, and financial compensation within the business, but each job supports and re-enforces the next. Without this synergy the business cannot thrive. However, here is the challenge. The nature of the functional fitness industry, facilitates owners and staff becoming close friends. They work out together, hang out with members together, and sometimes socialize together. This is great, but a clear distinction must be made between business time, and friendship time. These lines can get blurred in my industry and this can lead to poor decisions concerning employees, such as; not letting go of employees soon enough or blurred lines in the work space leading to destabilization of the gym. This can be fatal to a business. You must not allow this to happen. Keep work and friendships separate within the business structure. We’ve made our mistakes over the years and have learned great lessons moving forward. We currently have the BEST EMPLOYEE TEAM to date. We prioritize striving to improve the working conditions and benefits for our valued team of employees.
THIRD, MARKETING IS KING. You can have an organized business, quality product, and happy customers, however, if you don’t have a marketing plan and budget to educate the market on your product, you might as well have discovered free energy in the middle of the ocean on a deserted island, where no one even knows it exists. YES, this was another mistake we made in our early years. We thought, if we had the best gym layout, membership plans, prices, set up, and coaches, people would just show up and referrals would be our ticket to success. LOL, we were wrong. Referrals can keep your doors open but you cannot depend on them to grow the business. You must always expand your market base independent of referrals.
To sum this all up. THINK BIG, CARE for the PEOPLE AROUND YOU, and EXPAND your BUSINESS by EDUCATING the PUBLIC VIA MARKETING.
My name is Storm Kaufman, I am the CEO of Freakin Fitness, an expanding Functional Fitness Gym in South Florida. My two brothers and I established Freakin Fitness in 2009 on the family ranch, with the help of our parents. We have expanded to multiple facilities in Pembroke Pines and Weston. We consider ourselves a “new age” gym, a hybrid of a traditional gym and functional fitness/CrossFit style gym, AND we have multiple membership options. Our Weston location is built out to spec for this hybrid model. Freakin Fitness offers everything from group Functional Fitness classes, Physique Oriented classes, Personal Training, Traditional Gym Memberships, Nutrition Coaching, Organic Juicing Plans, Fitness Retail Products, along with athlete and kid’s programs. We are a highly diverse system. We provide fitness coaching for our members age 5 years to 70 years. Whatever the goal; weight loss, weight gain, healthy eating, general fitness for the general public, kids or athletes, we have the perfectly designed facility and superior staff. Everyone can workout in a style that best suits their needs, goals and desires.
Storm, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
First, let’s ask the question, is buying out a competitor or gym a great way to get started in the fitness industry? And the answer can be yes and no. I’ll provide you with a little history here. In 2019, my gym Freakin Fitness was looking to acquire a second location and foot hold into a city with a demographics to solidly support a functional fitness gym. Unfortunately, the local retail store owners did not want any additional CrossFit style gyms in their city/zoning. By coincidence, a friend of ours was looking to get out of the CrossFit gym market and approached us. After striking an amicable agreement, the actual acquisition was an easy process and we were very excited to dive in. He had the clientele base for basic revenue support which seemed like a good way to start. We did NOT take their company name, or registered business. By doing this, we kept our business safe and in the clear of any past legal, or otherwise, issues. We bought the assets and the membership system base. This allowed us to easily transfer all assets and memberships into our own system. The landlord was slow but easy to work with concerning changing the lease from the previous owner to Freakin Fitness. Only a deposit was required. The property usage was zoned, thus no issues with the city. This seems like an easy transition and acquisition, right? Revenue, space, equipment all in order. All we had to do was adjust it to our business model and everyone would be happy. RIGHT?!?!
Well, we were WRONG. There was something we had not considered. People don’t like change. We got immediate push back from the current membership population. Even though our coaching, safety practices, and new equipment were superior to the original set up and business model, people just don’t like change. This was a challenge we were not expecting but we managed through it.
In the end, provide the best product & service possible. People will either acknowledge the positive move or leave. Don’t stress!!! If you have a proven model, superior to what previously existed, it will work. We took a drastic dip in sales in the early months but ended off the year higher than the previous owner’s business model, all-time high. The members that stayed appreciated our efforts and solidified a solid member base.
To sum this up with “words of wisdom”, if you have a product or service that works, don’t adjust it for the few. Keep going for the many appreciating clients and many more will walk through your doors.
Have you ever had to pivot?
2020 was a huge pivot for us. The pandemic hit with our 2nd new gym only 9 months old and just getting into the black. Instead of closing our doors and just waiting it out, within 48 hours we changed into a virtual business model before the country quarantine was even issued. This allowed us to keep our business alive with a trickling revenue stream, as the world tried to figure out what to do next. We did not just stop. We immediately started planning for the future in spite of the quarantine. Upgrading cleaning, painting our gyms and revamping our financial sheets to cut as much unneeded expenses as possible. We re-vamped our back-end systems for coaches and financial plans moving forward. As soon as we were allowed to open our doors, we had a fully functional, safe, and efficient system. A system that was more efficient than before the pandemic. A system that could keep on exponentially growing. If your business hits a wall. Don’t sit there and keep banging your head into it thinking it will move. You must always adjust to the needs of the market.
- Website: www.freakinfitness.com
- Instagram: @freakinstorm
- Facebook: @freakinfitnessfl
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx_d0jcFMcICJQvxQ_wmWdw