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Pete Swatkins

Pete Swatkins

TFT Diaries: Lockdown Life

One of the greatest challenges you face when starting your own business is dealing with the sacrifices you have to make to simply break even.

The early starts and late finishes, invoicing at 10pm, client messages over dinner, social media scheduling, and even the phone calls at bath time. They all eventually take their toll, and have a massive impact on everyday life (even when you try your hardest to resist them). And this is no different here at The Fitness Truck. (If you want to see just how busy it can get for us at The Fitness Truck, check out our “Day in the Life” highlight on our Instagram.)

A few years ago, I remember asking a regular client of ours, and now a close friend of mine, what his biggest regret was when he started his own multi-million pound business. His response? “I missed out on the important years seeing my children grow up. I’m now trying to claw back some of that precious time with my grandchild instead.”

That really resonated with me at the time, but the hustle and bustle of our everyday life still didn’t make me change my ways. Don’t get me wrong; my family are the most important thing in my life. They are every reason I work hard to make The Fitness Truck succeed, but recently I’ve found myself submerged beneath the surface. Before lockdown, I was unable to take a breath for them.

I would take for granted my partner’s patience and support for our daughter, and believe that she could manage everything our daughter threw at her on her own. I’d constantly focus on what I had to do for my career, rather than what she had to do in her established role as a Primary School teacher.

Whilst I was right, she could (and does) cope, what I didn’t realise was the effort that raising children takes.

Entering lockdown

Entering lockdown at the start of this month due to coronavirus could have proved challenging for us here at The Fitness Truck. Fortunately, the personal relationships we’ve worked hard to establish over our business’ lifetime have served us well.

We’ve transitioned many of our clients from ‘in-person’ to ‘online’. This was not a step any of our directors wanted for our business portfolio, nor was it a decision we even considered prior to lockdown. We strongly believe that Personal Training should be exactly that: personal.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a market out there for the online PTs, but it just isn’t our style. We’re actually big advocates for James Smith, and other established online PTs. (If you haven’t checked out James, I highly recommend it. He isn’t an ‘influencer’, and he doesn’t advocate or endorse free shit. He does what he does and he does it bloody well).

With this in mind, there’s a market out there who still struggle to get started with fitness and their own health and wellbeing. Whether they struggle through a lack of confidence or anxiety to get started, or simply a lack of willpower. Upon realising this, I felt we could design and deliver a service that brings the gym to this markets, rather than asking them to come to us. Hence, The Fitness Truck was born.

How we’ve adapted

Taking half of our client sessions online means we are able to continue to deliver personal training sessions that tick our 3 key values; to educate, to enthuse and to entertain.

On top of this, we’ve kept 58% of revenue, due to us supporting a number of corporate businesses who still wanted to invest in their employee health and wellbeing throughout this challenging time.

What has lockdown taught me?

Most important of all, it’s given me a new lease of life with family. Spending every morning having breakfast with my fiancé and 2-year old daughter is invaluable. We enjoy things we haven’t before; having time in the garden exploring, baking new things (mainly unhealthy options 🤷‍♂️), having daily walks as a family searching for rainbows and flowers to pick, and eating dinner around the table as a family to share story time before bed.

It’s time like this that makes you stop and think about what’s most important to you. Is it worth scrolling through your social media feed when your child is looking for your attention? Or posting a photo of your dinner to social media when you are already around the table? What about shopping online when you’re sat with your partner who you’ve not seen all day?

Don’t get me wrong, I still display a few, if not all, of these traits on occasion (much to my frustration). It’s certainly highlighted what’s important to me from a family perspective, and whilst I’ll continue to work hard on growing a successful business in this challenging time, I’m taking the opportunity to make memories with my family, and ultimately change my behaviours. We’ll never in our lifetime get the opportunity to press the reset button again, like we’ve done of late.

Taking the chance to grow

Listening to an interesting sermon from our local church last week highlighted to me that this isn’t an ‘unprecedented time’ time, but a time of opportunity. With regards to TFT, this time will actually allow us to plan for the future (we like the phrase ‘thriving’ not ‘surviving’).

The world has seen a few pandemics across the years, yet we, as individuals, have not. So, instead of referring to this as ‘unprecedented times’ (as I may have done on an Instagram story a few weeks ago), I now refer to it as an ‘opportunistic time’. Personally, it’s given me the opportunity to spend time with my girls, to develop a wider business model, to spend time reading, cooking, baking. It’s given me time to laugh, play and dance like a fairy with my daughter. It’s time to press the relax button, and plan for the future.

How will lockdown impact our core principles at The Fitness Truck?

Every day, we aim to educate, enthuse and entertain our personal, exclusive and corporate clients by bringing them at-home, or at-work, personal training sessions. Whilst this won’t change post COVID-19, it will have allowed us to consider how our future franchisees support each other digitally when it comes to holiday, illness or session cover.

It’s allowed us the potential to dial-in with people who may wish to continue their training when away from home, on holiday, or on business trips. It’s also given us the opportunity to develop a plethora of activities and exercises for our exercise library on our future app (more coming soon!).

COVID-19 will be seen by The Fitness Truck as a time to thrive, not simply a time to survive.

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