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A Better Model of Fitness

This entrepreneur changed the way fitness centers operate.

Trying to improve the way people exercise was no walk on the treadmill for Rick Sikorski. The Canada native initially moved to the U.S. to pursue his master's in counseling psychology. But when the fitness enthusiast began noticing the flaws in public gyms--the impersonality, the crowds, the high turnover--he dropped out of his program. "The business opportunity I saw was this displaced group of people who were frustrated with the public gym model and weren't getting results," says Sikorski, 48.

In 1983, Sikorski opened a small training studio in Phoenix called Fitness For Life. He wanted to create a nonthreatening gym where customers could be comfortable and have trainers focused on them at all times. People were keen on the new approach, and the business grew to four locations. But 12 years after launch, work still hadn't slowed down for Sikorski. With few other businesses like his, he relied on trial and error and worked long hours, making it difficult to balance business and family. After considering several options, Sikorski decided to start franchising in 1996 and renamed the company Fitness Together.

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