9 Lessons From My First 6 Months In The Fitness Industry

The worst decision I made in 2014. 

The worst decision I made in 2014. 

2014 was a massive year for both Integrated Fitness & Nutrition and myself.  To celebrate the end of year and sign off for 2014, here are some of the cool experiences I had in conjunction with IFN.

There is no real theme or goal of this article, just a collection of things I did, observations and learnings from 2014.

Be warned:

  • this article is long - I learnt a fair bit this year!
  • no pictures - I'm taking some time out from taking time out to write this article, so won't be adding any extra editing or prettiness. Hopefully everyone makes some form of sense...


1. Why start your own business?

If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me this over the past few months, I would have about $45. It’s a valid question, but since I don’t want to run through the same old conversation, here is a summary.


  • Finished uni in December 2013.
  • Looked for jobs relevant to my study, but couldn’t find any jobs I wanted to do.
  • Thought about starting my own business so I could do what I wanted to do.
  • Researched and planned my business, seemed like a feasible idea (cool business term.
  • Did it.
  • Went pretty well.

Maybe that is a bit simplified, but it is accurate. If I had found my perfect job, I would have taken it, but I didn’t, so I’ve tried to create it. There is no ‘change the world’ idea or concept behind Integrated Fitness & Nutrition, and I don’t have some cure for gaining muscle or losing fat that is dramatically faster than anyone else.

My talent lies within integrating fitness and nutrition into people’s life, not forcing it upon them. Sometimes I won’t use the ‘fastest approach’ for a client, because I don’t see it as a good fit for their experience or lifestyle. It costs more for this personalisation, because I can’t just dish out the same program to everyone and tell them to make it work it out themselves. However, the system works, so if you want to stop cycling around fad diets, give IFN a crack.  


2. Running your own business can be awesome.

You can do anything you want! I’m not talking about using you business funds to hire Calvin Harris to DJ while you write nutrition programs (accountants shut that one down) but I do have some freedom to make choices about how I work with clients and business moving forward.

This is emphasised to me when I hear other people talk about their frustrations at work, especially when they don’t have their idea heard or an obvious change needs to be made, but it takes three months to be completed.

That sucks, but I guess that's part of the deal!


3. Running your own business can suck.

Responsibility is all yours, so you there’s no point ignoring a problem and hoping someone else will deal with it. Oh yeah and there are also tonnes of things you are responsible for... clients, social media, scheduling meetings and appointments, cancellations, emails, newsletters, accounts, professional development, invoicing and other little jobs. I can’t send them off to another department to do, it’s all my problem. 

In 2015 I am planning on outsourcing more of these tasks as I can, allowing me to free more time to work with clients and more importantly, chill!

Inconsistent income also sucks. One week I might take on four new clients and do some consulting work, then next week nothing new comes on board. But the cool thing is that the more work you put in, managing clients, writing blogs and everything else, the more new clients come on board. It’s pretty cool to see a result from the work you do!

Overall, the good outweighs the bad (in my perspective), but I can certainly see how your own business might not be for everyone!


4. First business-to-business operation.

In October, things got real. Up until then, the business was going well, and I had already exceeded my client goal for the rest of the year. Then I was approached by another business to run the nutrition component of corporate health checks.  I jumped at the opportunity.

After accepting the offer, I realised this was my first real test. 50 nutrition consultations with corporate clients, who just happened to be in the health field. What if they didn’t like me? What if I didn’t know anything? Should I wear a tie or not?

I skipped the tie and crushed the consultation. My lowest feedback score was 4/5, I received some awesome feedback of my performance and areas to improve, and now the business wants to set this up as an ongoing venture. Sweet, maybe this was a good idea!


5. Find a balance.

This one is yet to be actioned, but it is something I definitely learned in 2014. It’s so easy to get caught up in your business and responsibilities, that taking a break completely goes out the window.

From July-December 2014, I only took two consecutive days off work on three different occasions. Don’t confuse this with dedication or something else that should be applauded, it’s just dumb. Admittedly, I was working a second job outside of IFN to save some cash for end of year travelling, but for someone who works in the area of health, I know better!

This pretty cuts down your time to hang out with friends and family, and life can get pretty boring. I’m extremely lucky to have girlfriend, family and friends who understand I had misplaced my priorities at times, instead of not wanting to enjoy their company!

This will be the first thing I implement when I’m back working full time in February!

Anyone for golf?


6. Pull the trigger.

Whether it’s writing a blog post, sometimes you just need to pull the trigger and publish it. So easily I can get bogged down in trying to make something perfect, but in reality, just get it online and then you can make any changes later. It’s rare that anything is hugely wrong.

I used to write 500 words pretty quickly and have a decent structure. Then I would spend 2 hours trying to refine everything and make it perfect, as if I was submitting it for academic approval. In reality, it’s just an article to give my perspective on a topic, maybe help a few people out and build my online portfolio.

Same deal for every page of my website. I didn’t want to release something that was underdone or that would reflect poorly on my business. It got to the stage where I would look over everything, be happy with it, but then want to review and change something the next day. In the end, I just set a launch date and that made me get it done. It probably isn't perfect, but it has done the job.

If you never pull the trigger, you can’t hit the target #marketing


7. Create a business that isn’t about you.

When your last name is Fitzgerald, you highly value a pun, and are beginning a business in the fitness and nutrition industry, there is some serious temptation to use your own name or a punny variation for your business. In the fitness and nutrition industry, it is very common to see businesses named after the owner.

I decided against this for a few reasons.

  • I didn’t invent the protocols I use to achieve my clients results. Sure, no one else would be using the exact same approach, but I have learned so much from other people in the industry, whether the be experts, researchers or anyone else.
  • I want to grow. If I hire someone else to work at ‘Tom’s Fitzness + Nutrition’, and they have fictional Andrew assigned to work with them, they might not be too happy (although fictional Andrew is probably better than me).
  • I want to employ other people in this business and help them build there own brand in fitness and/or nutrition, I think this is better done under a business name, instead of mine. 

#gymtipwithfitz is an exception to this rule, but that is funny, so whatever.


8. Get confident.

Confidence is about valuing yourself.

At some stage, you’re going to be pushed out of your comfort zone. Now this is good, because you making is all about doing something you haven’t done before, but it ‘s also scary as anything. Most common is a new business venture or new client that you need to present to.

You feel like you’re on display.

Now there are two approaches you can take during this process. You can freak yourself out about saying something wrong , and maybe ruining the venture or opportunity. But seriously, how many times in your life have you said something catastrophic or really messed up, especially in an area you know a lot about??..

Not many, if any? #scribe

On the other hand, you can walk in there and feel confident about what you are brining to the table. Remember, they wouldn’t take or arrange the meeting with you if there wasn’t something that YOU could contribute to their benefit, which makes you an asset. In some cases, the person you are meeting will be just as nervous as you! I always make sure I make I try to make them feel comfortable straight away. Having people get nervous in your presence might make you feel powerful, but it won’t be too beneficial in the long run… for anyone.

Early on I was on the timid side, scared of mucking up and sinking the business I had spent so much time working on. This might have cost me an opportunity or two. Now that I have seen I bring value to meetings and other situations, I have developed more confidence and approach this situations with excitement, not fear.


9. Cut the crap.

In the world of social media and interaction, I only get to talk face-to-face to a small percentage of people who follow the page or my business. This makes is very easy to give the perception online that the business is 'killing it' (many people say this to me).  I try my best not to give a false perception! Things are good, but I’m not sure I am ‘killing it’ (other people’s words) just yet!

 Here are the facts.

  • My business is ahead of the expectations/goals I set for 2014.
  • I’m not a millionaire or anything like that. In fact, so so far from it!
  • Most of my clients come from referrals, so something must be going ok.
  • My business still has so many areas that can be improved.
  • I’m excited to make these improvements in 2015!
  • I will have t-shirts available in the near future, and they will be sweet!

 My LinkedIn profile also doesn’t list me as a CEO, because I’m not!



So that’s it! 2014 has been a great year and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved. Enjoy your holidays, and come back in the new year ready to dominate!

Tom Fitzgerald.