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Business Spotlight: Advantage Fitness Products

By Kara Ohngren Prior

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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 hisindustry.

How do you market your business?
We are active in myriad trade associations tied directly to the targetmarkets we focus on the most. We spend little time in our marketingefforts, talking about fitness equipment specifically. It's a verylimiting perspective on our business, because we are so much more thanmerely suppliers. Our value resides in our full scope of expertise andthe ability to offer counsel and guidance across the full spectrum offitness considerations and strategies.

We are frequent speakers and editorial contributors within our keytrade associations and networks, discussing a range of topics such aseffective facility planning, design, risk management and the criticalend-user experience. We have also created an extensive library of casestudies to better demonstrate just how comprehensive our services canbe, and we are constantly creating content that can be found innumerous places online. As specialists in our industry, we focus ourmessage 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 areeither large manufactures or smaller distributors. The largemanufactures typically have a heavy consumer focus to their businessand therefore have suffered in a manner commensurate with the generalmarketplace. Commercial fitness equipment distributors, without theinfrastructure to directly service clients or the tools to insure theongoing success of the facilities they supply, have also facedconsiderable challenges.

We, on the other hand, have been fortunate to leverage our strongclient relationships and a legitimate value proposition in themarketplace that has helped us weather the worst of what we hope is thepassing recession.

You have a pretty impressive celebrity clientele list. How have you achieved that?
Executing flawlessly. A significant amount of our business is repeatand referral. Our high-profile residential clients can be even moredemanding than our core customers like Ritz Carlton Hotels or PrincessCruises. We have designed home gyms for celebrities and executivesalike that rival some of the best-known commercial facilities. Weprovide customization in the home fitness environment that the averageretailer 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 gainmore latitude when armed with capable staff that provide you theconfidence to distance yourself when it makes sense to do so. I have avery flexible schedule and although the hours still add up at the endof the day, I get to determine how to disperse them. I don't miss theimportant family events. My kids come first and I have been fortunateto surround myself with great teammates to hold down the fort if I haveto run to the soccer field.

Although I work hard every day, it doesn't feel like work to me becausethis is such a lifelong and personal passion. To earn a living doingsomething you love is truly a blessing, and I feel fortunate everydayto be in this business that I love. Every day is a thrill to advancethe business. However, over time I've realized that my passion forgrowing the company is being redirected toward a larger role infacilitating America's desperate need to stay active. It's no secretwe're in the midst of a national crisis of inactivity and obesity. It'san uphill battle that has provided me a whole new perspective and levelof 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 torealize up front that no one will ever be as passionate about yourvision as you are. In fact, you should expect that most will beuninspired by it. If you believe strongly enough in your pursuit, it'slikely you will find a way to succeed. Remain flexible. If you approachthe development of anything too rigidly, you will likely fail to adaptsufficiently to the market around you. All great products and solutionsare an evolution. Have fun.

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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