Categories: Tag

Turning Business Failure Around Into Success

Failure can bring success but it is a painful process. The business dream I had with Lift Life Results became a nightmare quickly as I lost close to $10K/month and ended up filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy after I couldn't pay the lease anymore and was forced to shut my doors. The pain was deep but I learned a few key lessons that have enabled me to move forward with a new promising vision that fueled the flame for the non-profit I run today.

1) The business I purchased was based on the personality and relationships of the previous owner and so the staff and members were more loyal to him than a general brand which caused immediate volatility in business turnover with about 50% of the original clients leaving within the first few months. I never caught up with this.

2) I was not familiar with the demographic of the business. About 70% of the clients were women with a good amount of the rest of the male clients primarily looking to lose weight. I didn't understand their problems uniquely from a fitness perspective and thus did not understand a solution that I could offer to them.

3) I had a passion and deep understanding of the military world and also the CrossFit world where the athletes were generally in very good shape and being pushed hard in a competitive environment was the norm. Here people were looking for real-world performance gains, not just losing weight, and were open to demanding workouts. Trying to fit this culture into the business I was now in was doomed for disaster because the cultures collided too much.

4) I got distracted by contractors and network marketers who quickly saw that I was in trouble and offered their marketing solutions and promises of getting money quickly. Given I was in hot water so fast, I was desperate to try anything and only wasted time and money which hurt vs. helped. I struggled with maintaining focus on what was important vs. what was urgent.

5) The liabilities of the lease were not sustainable. I thought that based on the revenues of the previous year I would have a solid running business to cover the lease for the next few years. I was thus not concerned about having this liability because I was too hopeful. I should have been more pessimistic and besides the lease was over my head in debt that should the revenues fall, I had no way out. In the end, Chapter 7 bankruptcy was my only way out.

6) I was an active military member with a mobile lifestyle where I relocated to various locations every few years and also need to be able to deploy at a moment's notice. I had initially calculated I could mitigate this by having a solid team, especially a general manager involved in running the business. However, I did not take into account how much the owner needs to be involved and if the manager is inexperienced, lazy, or is just not otherwise cutting it, I could not sustain this business model that was tied to a facility that would always keep me up at night. What seemed to be freedom at first termed to be financial and time slavery.

7) I did not understand the emotional and human side to marketing and sales and thus could not get myself or my team to ever really have a consistent process.

8) There were people who had taken advantage of me by concealing key facts or deliberately screwing things up. I was too naive in trusting people off the bat and set myself up to be taken advantage of. I have forgiven those people but have learned to be more discerning upfront.

Ok, while I learned a lot of hard lessons, I have decided to reframe my experiences as a $60K MBA (the personal fortune I lost) which gained me much practical experience of what goes wrong in order to move on the path of what happens right. I learned that the most successful people in all areas of life generally failed very hard early on. What made them a success was the desire to learn from their failures and persevere until they achieved their goals. Also, having been through bankruptcy, I learned that famous leaders in America such as Walt Disney and Abraham Lincoln had been through this for various reasons with similar stories to mine but ended up being wildly successful in the end.

While Lift Life Results died, my dream grew bigger and I decided to launch Freedom Fitness America taking from the hard lessons learned to move forward. I'll share them now:

1) I had to build an organization starting with who I was in terms of talent, passion, and background expertise. In this case, I am a military professional with a desire for fitness and life mastery and now have found traction with both the military and tactical athlete world to include a budding demographic of garage gym enthusiasts who relate to who I am. This makes it much easier to understand their problems, relate to them, and ultimately create solutions to their problems that will turn into a business and non-profit success!

2) I started learning more about the marketing and sales side including digital outreach and while I have so much more to learn, I am not where I was in 2016. In particular, I have found much success in connecting with like-minded military professionals, especially on LinkedIn, and have learned how to start growing a YouTube following, conduct Facebook Lives, and use Zoom effectively in meetings with people all across the United States. I have never met the majority of the team that now comprises Freedom Fitness America in person in fact and only 2 of the team members were met through in-person networking opportunities.

3) I have learned that revenues mean nothing...profits are what count and the easiest way to do this is to manage the expenses. I know that I have a fixed amount I can invest every month from my personal expenditures into Freedom Fitness America along with what others donate. I don't get ahead of my skis and take out loans anymore and do not spend what I don't have in the bank. This keeps me and the organization safe from downtrends in the market.

4) In terms of time management, I am focusing on building a team and a franchisable model to multiply the efforts of time I have. In other words, I work "on the business" and try not to work "in it". I realize I will never have more time than I do and I am lucky to get between 10-15 hours of work in every week based on my military career and the demands of my family obligations. Freedom Fitness America is my prime-time investment that ties in future goals of developing a potential job for myself in the future that pays but even if it doesn't, I am dialing my career, personal fitness, and operating around my family and work calendar. I run the business, not let the business run me.

5) I am learning the lean business start-up processes of fail fast, fail cheap; learning to understand problems of the market that I can then offer solutions to that people want to buy vs. putting too much stock in building a product that I then have to sell with no idea of its marketability.

6) I am learning the importance of building a relationship and emotional connection of attraction when my team and I put out digital marketing, especially in social media content. It is more important to make deep connections than just putting out "look at me" in a sense over the long haul.

That being said, I hope that if you have read this and are considering your own entrepreneurial initiative you will learn from my hard-earned lessons so you don't have to make them yourself. If you have made similar mistakes, know you can rise above them.

If you are interested in seeing the new brand of fitness Freedom Fitness America brings, then you will want to participate in our Tactical Garage Gym virtual Murph Hero Workout of the Day event this Memorial Day Weekend 2022.

Fit for the Fight and Life,

Chris Reardon

Major, USMC

Founder/Executive Director

Freedom Fitness America