The success story behind the excellent growth in a very competitive industry

Interview with
Allan & Fiona Ross of Rampage Fitness
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The success story behind the excellent growth in a very competitive industry

 

In today’s episode, Craig talks to Allan & Fiona Ross of Rampage Fitness.  A husband and wife team, they have grown their business into a mini empire and have made their mark in the fitness industry in New Plymouth. 

 

Allan and Fiona moved to New Zealand from Scotland.  At that time, Allan was working in the Oil and Gas industry while Fiona was a midwife.  Fiona kept developing herself as a midwife and eventually decided to branch out into the fitness industry.  She started teaching aerobics but trained to become a personal trainer.  During that time, she did Post Graduate courses in Sports medicine, so she was able to combine the medicine side of things with fitness.  Fiona has embarked on a journey of self-development. 

 

Eight years ago, they ventured out into the fitness business.  At that time, the business was bleeding and the previous owners decided to offer it to existing shareholders and employees.  Fiona was already training clients there.  It was a massive undertaking for husband and wife.  They had to do some major revamping from Day 1.  Initially, they worked on the gym at night and Allan got by on a few hours’ sleep.  Little by little, he then scaled back his hours at the oil and gas company he worked for.

 

Working together has been a breeze for Fiona and Allan.  One thing that’s obvious is the respect they have for each other.  They also enjoy working with people and have different roles.  Allan does the work Fiona is not interested in.  He works on sales, maintaining the computer systems, and management of their people.

 

To get a better feel of how it is to run a gym, Fiona and Allan have travelled all over New Zealand and worked out in different gyms.  They were then able to get different concepts and integrated those with their current model.  They constantly see what improvements they can make to their current business model.  It was setting up their first gym where they had to do most of the hard work.  They made sure their systems were in place.  Once they ventured into their second and third gyms, things were much easier for them.  Part of their strategy was to partner with somebody who can run their business and have ownership.  This has also helped take off the pressure from them.

 

Being in the industry, there is a focus on making a lifestyle choice.  People need to integrate working out into their daily or weekly routine.  The approach must be more holistic and targeted towards the mind and the body.  Rampage Fitness also offers medication and other classes such as Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi.  Going to the gym helps their clients feel good mentally and emotionally. 

 

Fiona was nominated to be among the Top 10 fitness trainers in the world.  Although she didn’t win it, she was still at the 1op 1%.  She was chosen among 1,800 candidates.  When asked what the opportunities are in the industry, Fiona mentions the importance of focusing on self-education and learning because she believes that if you understand yourself, you can help other people better.

Fiona also stressed the importance of knowing your industry, your client, and your staff.  She also emphasized Allan’s role in the business.  She mentioned that she could never have done this on her own.  She and Allan have different skill sets and Allan has filled in the gaps to ensure that their businesses are successful.

 

For Allan, it’s about being able to focus on growing your business and making sure that the business is something he enjoys. 

 

To contact Allan or Fiona, you can jump into their website at www.rampagefitness.co.nz.

 

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS:

 

Best Marketing Tip:

 

Fiona:  Putting your business on your car for advertising.

Allan:  Give the best service with a smile on your face.

 

Best Operational Tip:

 

Allan:  Understand your business and your accounts.

Fiona:  To turn up everyday and give it your best shot.

 

Best Staff Management Tip:

Allan:  Making sure you have capabilities in your staff that will allow you to take a step back and reflect on what you’re trying to do with your business.

Fiona:  Knowing what’s going on with them so she can support them.  She works with them.

 

Business Growth Tip:

Allan:  You have to want to do it.  Know what your goals are for your business.  When it becomes too stressful, you have to rethink it and figure out what you want to do.

Fiona:  Know what’s happening in the world and identify opportunities to see what people need.

 

LEVERAGING THEIR TEAM: THE ALLAN AND FIONA ROSS SUCCESS STORY

 

 

Today’s interview is with Allan and Fiona Ross, joint partners of Rampage Fitness.  Their team has proven to be formidable as they have successfully grown their business in just 8 years using some great business modeling.

 

So first, tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and how you started your business for yourselves?

 

Allen:  My background has nothing to do with fitness.  My background is in the Oil and Gas industry.  That’s why we moved here from Scotland.  I have been an electrical engineer for 18 years.  Fiona has been a trainer and was previously employed as a midwife.  The two of us have separate skill sets and didn’t really come together until about 8 years ago when our first gym started.

 

Fiona:  I came as a midwife and a general nurse.  Around about the time before our son was born, I started teaching aerobics and enjoyed that aspect of fitness and helping people in a different way from being in the hospital.  When we first came to New Zealand, I still worked as a midwife and I kept developing myself and branched off in the business world.  I first taught aerobics and trained to be a personal trainer.  Then, I did a Post Graduate course in Sports Medicine.  I combined the medicine side of things with fitness.  At the end of the day, you’re working with different people.  So I got challenged when I came across something I didn’t know anything about.  I’m continually self-developing.  So I was learning and growing with the industry.

 

What motivated you to just buy the gym?

 

Allen:  When we decided to buy the gym called Club Health, the shareholders made the decision that they could no longer keep pumping money into it because it was basically bleeding heavily.  They couldn’t shut the door because they had a long list of clients.  They offered the business to existing shareholders or the people who worked. There.  It was a giant step for us because I had an idea and nobody ever is ready.  We spoke to the accountants and that was it.  Fiona was already training clients there, so we know the nuts and bolts of running the gym.  It was a massive undertaking for us.  We had to do some major revamping from Day 1.  It was pretty strenuous for a couple of years, as most businesses are.  We continued on because we needed the income.  We could have stopped and borrowed massive amounts of money but we tried to battle it from a different angle.

 

During that stage, were you involved at all?  Did you quit your day job?

 

Allen:  I worked through the night doing renovations to try and cover things the next day for the staff in the gym.  Those days, it wasn’t open for 24 hours, which it is now.  We did try and do renovations through the night.  I was existing on a few hours’ sleep, which I’m pretty good with but after a long time, it took its toll.

 

 

How many years did it take for you to quit your day job and work in your business full-time?

 

Allen:  It was only about three years ago.  Five years, I continued on but I was contracting, so I lessened my hours a little bit.  Then, I was working half days and eventually, the Oil and Gas Industry disappeared.

 

You both had different roles in the business.  How did you define those? 

 

Fiona:  It was quite easy, in some respects, with the staff and my clients.  Allan is basically in the background doing roles I don’t want to do.  Truthfully, there was never, ever a point where I stepped on his toes or vice versa because we knew what we needed to do and what’s best for the business.  That’s what’s helped massively.  At the end of the day, we enjoy working with people but we have different roles and it’s very easy because there’s things I don’t like doing.

 

Allan:  Probably the idea that Fiona won’t do sales or bother with the nitty gritty or anything that has to do with computer.  I like to know everything that goes on and how people think in their little environments.  I make sure I know the nitty gritty and appreciate what they can and can’t do and figure out how they can help.

 

Who keeps the other one accountable?  Is there an overrule boss to make those hard decisions?  Is it a joint effort?  Or do you have a third independent director?

 

Fiona:  I think it’s pretty much joint.  We talk about anything and everything and there’s never been a point where we’ve disagreed.

 

Allan:  It’s always been a natural progression.  We’ve had staff issues, which we discuss about, ultimately.  I get the great job of sorting it, which, to be honest, in 8 years, has been minimal.  We’ve inherited a lot of it and we have a lot of people but we don’t have a lot of those issues.

 

You’ve gone in business now and have three separate gyms under the same brand.  You have a unique business model, from my understanding. 

 

Allan:  It definitely has its uniqueness.  We’ve probably grabbed concepts from different gyms and in the end, put one up.  We’ve done a lot of travelling in New Zealand and we work out in the gyms in the places we’ve visited.  We look at ideas and picked out things we can improve in our gyms.  These are not massive changes but trying to work it out so all three are working together but are slightly different.  They’re all unique.  We purchased the World Gym which was going to be shut down.  We were going to buy it and saw it as a stepping stone and to integrate it with the second gym was a good idea.  That was a natural progression as well because it was our competition.

 

 

Was it a long-term strategy for you?

 

Allan:  It was for me but it wasn’t for Fiona.  I was always thinking because of our experience with the first one at the start.  We put all the systems in place and worked on areas which were challenging.  The second one was not as hard.  The third one was a lot easier because we are always tweaking and we had staff that helped us.  It was a brand new building and a brand new facility.  That was a new opportunity but that’s become the model we want to use.

 

You JV modeled it, right?

 

Allan:  The second one is a fifty-fifty partnership with someone.  We actually phoned him first before we decided to buy the gym because that was a critical thing, finding the right person.  We needed him on board from Day 1.  It was pretty much different from the West Gym.  Kurt is managing the gym there.  It’s an opportunity for us and him because he will look after it.  He has ownership.

 

Using that model, what has worked and what has been challenging around that model?

 

Allan:  I suppose you’re always trying to help out or you use some ideas that you still have to discuss because two or three heads are better than one.  So more often than not, you don’t regret your decisions.  It takes a lot of pressure off trying to run three facilities with the managers and staff.  Other people may not think that with their business but this is something we follow.

 

What are the challenges you’re faced with in your day-to-day running of the business?

 

Allan:  The fitness industry is a massive industry and it’s growing in a fast pace because people are going to use them.  There are more gym fitness outlets these days than there was when we first opened but it’s helped grow our business and our ideas. 

 

We grew so much our first year of business because they did so much sales and marketing.  They made people aware of going to the gym and then they shopped around and they got some deals.  You can’t saturate obviously, but it’s still a growing industry.  It’s in the top 3 fastest growth. 

 

 

 

 

Where do you think the industry is going in the next 5 to 10 years? 

 

Fiona:  It’s more a lifestyle choice.  When people realize that it’s going to have to be part of their daily and weekly or even once a week, whatever works for them, that will be maybe more holistic and that approach of the mind and body.  We’ve got meditation in the gym and classes that are pretty popular this year.  We’ve got Yoga, Pilates, Taichi and people are realising life need balance.  They need the exciting the sweating and the pumping and the quietness as well.  People use the gym for different reasons and I just think the bigger growth with the gyms and that it makes them feel good mentally and emotionally as well.  I think that’s what mind body connection sort of tangent sort of expand a little bit.  Since I started teaching, we did step and slide, the spin class, the rpm classes have become popular.  The crossfit thing but pilates and yoga have been in the background.  So there’s always something new that comes in.

 

Allan:  There are fads but there’s an integration of mind, body, and soul.  The age group we’ve got from the time we opened to now, we’ve got teenagers to 80+ which is great.  It’s fantastic.  I think it’s about making your general community and making it a fun place to be.

 

In hindsight, what would you do differently?

 

Allan: You use experiences, good and bad to your own benefit.  Until you’ve done it, you learn by your mistakes. 

 

Fiona, you’ve won some industry awards.  What has it meant to you personally and as a business?

 

Fiona:  So, a couple of years ago, our gym equipment was bought from life fitness and the rep a couple years ago suggested that we go for the personal fitness trainer of the year.  Life fitness is an international competition.  Unbeknownst to me, he put my name forward. To cut a long story short, there were 1800 applicants over 43 countries in the world.  There were 10 people nominated, I was one of them.  Life fitness put us up for the day in New York.

 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect because this is an interesting industry where people have egos.  I sometimes we don’t think enough where we come from and what we’ve achieved.  There were 10 of us and the Brazilian guy won it.  It was a big process.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

You were in the top 1%.  What’s they key to the success thing?

 

Allan: Fiona’s success?  She’s a great achiever, she’s always learning.  She leads by example, especially the staff.  She’s very humble about it but she never stops learning.  She’s always learning and she passes on that knowledge to others. 

 

What are the opportunities in your industry?

 

Fiona:  Personally, you’ve got to start with your self and that’s why I do self-education and learning so that if I understand myself, then I can help other people.  That’s the only place you can start, in a sense.  There’ll always be people with different agendas and the industry has people with different intentions and egos and so I just think we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got and the staff we’ve got and it is about being leaders but not creating followers.  It’s about the creating more leaders.  So within our umbrellas, we’re one of a few gyms, we’re seeing our staff, one of our trainers is about healthy food.  One of our trainers has gone to football academy and cricket academy.  We supported one of our trainers to open a cross fit aspect of our gym. 

 

You’re constantly learning, constantly engaging with your clients so that you can add more value to what you’re offering and get back to your tribe of trainers instead of contractors.

 

Allan: I think what people think.  Personal trainers in New Plymouth, it’s about getting them into the gym.  We should call it a life extender because that what it does. 

 

Fiona:  You know, the real estate agents get in a buzz and go down to the new houses and see which ones are up for sale, well, we kinda need a bus to take people who have never been to the gym and just tour them around the facilities and different things and say, “you know what, we’re not that scary.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What advice can you would you give a startup or an established operator?

 

Fiona:  Know your industry and know your client.  Know your staff.  Allan does all the different things that I don’t like doing and I could never have done this on my own because I’ve got a skill set that I can really work with.  Allan really pushed me to do things I’m capable of doing, so Allan fills that role really well. 

 

Allan: I think that’s a longstanding thing.  You get help and get involved and try to run the business.

 

QUICK FIRE QUESTIONS:

 

Best Marketing Tip:

 

Fiona:  Putting your business on your car for advertising.

Allan:  Give the best service with a smile on your face.

 

Best Operational Tip:

 

Allan:  Understand your business and your accounts.

Fiona:  To turn up everyday and give it your best shot.

 

Best Staff Management Tip:

Allan:  Making sure you have capabilities in your staff that will allow you to take a step back and reflect on what you’re trying to do with your business.

Fiona:  Knowing what’s going on with them so she can support them.  She works with them.

 

Business Growth Tip:

Allan:  You have to want to do it.  Know what your goals are for your business.  When it becomes too stressful, you have to rethink it and figure out what you want to do.

Fiona:  Know what’s happening in the world and identify opportunities to see what people need.

 

 

To contact Allan or Fiona, you can jump into their website at www.rampagefitness.co.nz.

 

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