Bryan Green doesn't blame you that you're horribly out of shape. He understands that our society makes it very difficult to get your butt out of that office chair and into a gym. Working from a lifelong passion for fitness, Green has built his business around the desire to get people active.
In 1996, after aiding in the development of the nation's then largest fitness equipment retail chain, Green launched Advantage Fitness Products. AFP now serves as a partner in the design, supply, service and ongoing support of fitness facilities for more than 15,000 clients around the world.
All of Green's hard work has definitely paid off. He has designed luxury home gyms for some of the hottest celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Alicia Keys, Halle Berry and Toby McGuire. He's also designed gyms for Lucas Films, Nike and tons of pro teams like the 49ers, Giants, Padres and Mets.
We recently caught up with Green to discuss surviving the recession, being his own boss and establishing himself as an authority in his industry.
How do you market your business?
We are active in myriad trade associations tied directly to the target markets we focus on the most. We spend little time in our marketing efforts, talking about fitness equipment specifically. It's a very limiting perspective on our business, because we are so much more than merely suppliers. Our value resides in our full scope of expertise and the ability to offer counsel and guidance across the full spectrum of fitness considerations and strategies.
We are frequent speakers and editorial contributors within our key trade associations and networks, discussing a range of topics such as effective facility planning, design, risk management and the critical end-user experience. We have also created an extensive library of case studies to better demonstrate just how comprehensive our services can be, and we are constantly creating content that can be found in numerous places online. As specialists in our industry, we focus our message towards the segments of our client base that need us the most. Typically this provides the best target to maximize our opportunities.
How has the recession affected your business?
It certainly has shaken the trees. The majority of our competitors are either large manufactures or smaller distributors. The large manufactures typically have a heavy consumer focus to their business and therefore have suffered in a manner commensurate with the general marketplace. Commercial fitness equipment distributors, without the infrastructure to directly service clients or the tools to insure the ongoing success of the facilities they supply, have also faced considerable challenges.
We, on the other hand, have been fortunate to leverage our strong client relationships and a legitimate value proposition in the marketplace that has helped us weather the worst of what we hope is the passing recession.
You have a pretty impressive celebrity clientele list. How have you achieved that?
Executing flawlessly. A significant amount of our business is repeat and referral. Our high-profile residential clients can be even more demanding than our core customers like Ritz Carlton Hotels or Princess Cruises. We have designed home gyms for celebrities and executives alike that rival some of the best-known commercial facilities. We provide customization in the home fitness environment that the average retailer simply does not offer.
What's the best part about owning your own business?
The best part is the freedom to be creative and create flexibility. While the level of responsibility continually increases, you also gain more latitude when armed with capable staff that provide you the confidence to distance yourself when it makes sense to do so. I have a very flexible schedule and although the hours still add up at the end of the day, I get to determine how to disperse them. I don't miss the important family events. My kids come first and I have been fortunate to surround myself with great teammates to hold down the fort if I have to run to the soccer field.
Although I work hard every day, it doesn't feel like work to me because this is such a lifelong and personal passion. To earn a living doing something you love is truly a blessing, and I feel fortunate everyday to be in this business that I love. Every day is a thrill to advance the business. However, over time I've realized that my passion for growing the company is being redirected toward a larger role in facilitating America's desperate need to stay active. It's no secret we're in the midst of a national crisis of inactivity and obesity. It's an uphill battle that has provided me a whole new perspective and level of inspiration to make it all happen.
What single piece of advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Make sure you know what you're in for. Seriously--it's important to realize up front that no one will ever be as passionate about your vision as you are. In fact, you should expect that most will be uninspired by it. If you believe strongly enough in your pursuit, it's likely you will find a way to succeed. Remain flexible. If you approach the development of anything too rigidly, you will likely fail to adapt sufficiently to the market around you. All great products and solutions are an evolution. Have fun.