At My Small Business Pro, we’re all about getting your business in better financial shape. For our client All Strength Training, their focus on fitness is physical.
Led by owners and head coaches Zach and Christine Trowbridge, the company is well known in the city for helping people maximize their health. Here, Zach shares the company’s philosophy, and how MSBP has helped them in their mission.
Please tell us a little bit about All Strength Training—how you got started, the facility, the services you provide and the talented people that make up the staff.
AST first started in 2009 as a blog and a place for me to put content, programs and videos for my personal training clients all in one place. After moving to Chicago in 2010 we had the opportunity to purchase the training studio we were working at from the owner, and it seemed like a logical step to take the brand that had already begun getting some credibility online and spin it off into a physical location.
Our primary clientele are people who haven’t been able to figure out how to balance their health and wellness wants and needs with their professional goals and career trajectory. Almost nobody works a real 9-5 job anymore. Even the people who work 9-5 jobs don’t stop working at 5pm anymore. Time is usually at a premium for them. We use an all-inclusive model that handles their in-house personal training or small-group training as well as everything that impacts their health and wellness once they walk out our doors – nutrition, sleep habits, flexibility and injury prevention, social situations and pretty much anything else that can create a roadblock on the way.
In 2019, we’ve even begun to extend that model into the online community, allowing us to continue working with clients who move outside of our local area as well as taking on new clients from other states and even other countries. We’ve worked with people in a dozen other states as well as places like Hong Kong, Australia and Kuwait and provide the same comprehensive services with people that don’t have the same option to sit down face-to-face with us.
On top of our own involvement as both owners and in-house coaches and trainers, we have a phenomenal staff of three full-time coaches that handle the majority of the day-to-day client interaction and coaching so we can manage the back end of AST as well as concentrate on business growth (as well as managing an incredibly dynamic family with three boys between 6-12 years old and an incredible amount of after-school activities).
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
We get to see lots of those moments that extend beyond the “check out my ripped abs” before and after Instagram-worthy pictures (although we do that too). Being able to move pain-free again after a major surgery, running a first 5k, fitting into a pair of pants that have been in the closet since high school, and being taken off of blood pressure medication are just a few of the milestones we get to witness.
In short, we get to turn “I can’t” into “I just did.”
What sets you apart from other businesses doing (or trying to do) the same thing? What makes AST different?
First and foremost is the community we’ve been able to build. We have clients who come in for a 30-minute workout on a Saturday morning and stay for two or more hours so they can catch up with old workout partners, neighbors and friends. We’ve been able to create a very welcoming culture with zero judgment that we’re incredibly proud to be a part of.
Second is the continuous evolution of our methods and skillset. We’ve never been particularly dogmatic when it comes to our approaches – the systems we use continually expand and evolve based on our results the ever-growing pool of research that comes out on all topic related to health, performance and wellness and take pride in staying on top of the industry.
What were some of your biggest obstacles in getting your company off the ground?
The first was finding a balance as co-owners – the first year was very difficult with both of us trying to stick our hands in all areas of the business at the same time and not having clear boundaries laid down. By the end of the first year we had created a clear division of responsibility between the front-of-house training services and the operations department, and we have never regretted that.
The second was countering bad publicity – we bought out the lease, equipment and client base from the personal training studio that we were working at when the owner decided to sell off his business. Unfortunately for us, he had developed a very poor reputation in the neighborhood and was in significant debt when he dissolved his LLC, and when a new training studio opened up in the same location almost immediately afterwards, we had his disgruntled clients writing us negative online reviews under the belief that he had simply changed the business name, unaware that it was a completely new entity with no relationship to the previous company.
Even Google connected our reviews on Yelp, Google and Facebook with his in Google searches for close to two years, so we were constantly trying to overcome that association until we had been established for long enough that the perceived connection just sort of faded away.
Let’s talk about life before MSBP—how did you get connected?
We were referred by our business adviser – we needed the ability to concentrate more on business development and growth and that required taking some of the day to day work off Christine’s plate
How has MSBP helped you along the way?
Frequent communication has allowed us to stay nicely organized with our bookkeeping – we’ve had issues with automated systems mis-categorizing various things which ends up creating a huge headache at the end of the year. By having somebody responsible for maintaining our books it also requires us to stay on schedule and not get behind, so the accountability part has been super helpful
What challenges have you faced since you first started the business? Is there anything that MSBP is doing to help you meet those challenges?
We’ve always tried to create as many systems as possible so that it’s never just one person who knows how to do something and so responsibilities can be delegated when appropriate. By doing some upfront maintenance of our books it helped eliminate cases of “that’s not what it looks like, it’s actually supposed to be X” situations
What are your business’s goals for the future (both short- and long-term)?
On our short list we have a facility expansion or relocation to a larger space. We’ve got some financial targets that we want to hit before we pull the trigger to maintain financial stability and minimize risk, but it’s still on our 12- to 18-month radar at the moment. Long term we want to be able to take our brand and create a platform that would allow us to work with new business owners in the personal training industry, using a proven model to allow them to bypass many of the growing pains we experienced in our first decade in business.
What would you say to a small business professional who hasn’t yet engaged with a financial services outfit like MSBP?
Whenever possible, outsource the things that take up time but don’t directly grow your business, so you can focus on the big picture, management/ownership level duties. It’s easy to burn yourself out on the repetitive stuff and decrease your productivity when it comes time to impact the bottom line.
Interested in getting your small business into better financial shape? Reach out to me at Daliah@MySmallBusinessPro.com and we’ll talk.