When it comes to running a fitness business, Sam Beagle, owner of uFit, is no stranger to the obstacles and challenges that will try and get in your way. From having to relocate and temporarily close his business to navigating permits and leases, to finally being able to re-open a new space thanks to a change in laws due to COVID, someone with less patience and less tenacity might have called it quits, but not Sam. Not only is he a fantastic example of a coach who will do whatever it takes (no matter how long) to be able to deliver the experience and service his clients deserve, but he and his team are also setting the standard for what it means to be a fitness business and be a leader for your clients and in the industry.
It’s been five years since running his business out of his original unit, and now Sam and the uFit team are gearing up to relaunch and re-open their group and semi-private training sessions in a brand new studio in Windsor. We got a chance to sit down with Sam and learn about his journey, the role software plays in being able to run his business, and how his perseverance, determination and care for his clients have resulted in over 100 people racing to purchase new memberships with Sam in time for uFit’s re-opening.
Follow along with our interview to see what he had to say and the tips he has for other coaches getting ready to relaunch their group fitness classes and as well as those looking into PT software.
My name is Sam Beagle and I am the owner of uFit in Windsor, England. From 2013 to 2016 I ran my business out of a space in East Slough and it was a really great place and environment. We had four or five staff members and we grew to 140 members. We offered group training and semi-private training, but in 2016 we had to close down the business because the lease ended and we were unable to renew.
What challenges and obstacles forced you to temporarily close down uFit?
Damage in the previous unit
When you leave a unit you have to leave it in as good of a condition as it was left to you. Over the course of the three years, we experienced several massive floods that forced us to close several times. Unfortunately, when we left the studio the landlord wanted us to pay for the damage although they were due to bad pipes and drainage and I spent 2 1/2 years in court with their legal team. I was on my own and I won and we moved on, all the while during that time I was still trying to find a new place to move into.
Monopoly over the location
I then ran into the issue that another fitness business that had moved into the area had paid so that no other fitness businesses could come and run their businesses in that location. This lasted for three years.
Licensing and permits
By then it was 2019 and I started applying for more units and licenses in the area. To open and run a fitness business out of a facility in the UK you need to have a D2 license, which even still some landlords will reject your license. I had gone to about 300 different units and landlords and we went through the whole process and applied for the license only for the council to pre-approve our license and then reject it because it was not detailed enough. The document we provided them was 26 pages and they still rejected it. We kept applying and finally I had found a lease and signed it, but I ended up leaving the area because I was never going to get the license I needed.
Balancing multiple workloads
At this time I was managing my dad's business as he had an accident and I had my own clients that needed me to go on business as usual and it was mental. When we left the unit, we rented a space in a local hall centre and ran two sessions a day as well as my one on ones. When the council rejected the license, I knew I couldn't balance it all between my business, my private sessions, group training, and my dad's business so I needed to figure something else out.
Change of license requirements due to COVID
I stopped uFit as I was no longer going to be able to run my business in Slough and moved to Harefield and got a smaller studio here that fits enough people for one-on-one sessions. I didn't have to apply for a license because it was a smaller place and just off the High Street in West London. But then COVID began and the UK changed the rules on licensing to have a gym, so I started searching again around Windsor and found a studio which was 3,000 sq ft and they approved my lease and said I could move in without any problem on April 1st. There weren't any barriers or need to involve the council so it made moving in much easier.
Relaunching uFit in the new studio
In July last year when we came out of lockdown it was remarkable how many people inquired about coming back to train with me. I told them all about the new studio and had 100 people instantly say they wanted to come back and that they'd pay me to open it today, but I still couldn't because of the lockdown.
People are really excited and have messaged me saying that our reopening is the best news they have heard all year and that has been amazing. Everyone is looking forward to getting back together and the camaraderie. We are also in the process of getting the equipment, kit, our set up including a smoothie bar and relaxing area so it's ready by May 17th when we can welcome back clients for group classes.
I have already launched my memberships with two options for group and semi-private training and pre-sold 40 memberships. Between those 40 and the other members who have paid in advance, we will have around 75 clients coming back within the first month. So many clients have already said they want to bring their friends back too.
Incentivising clients to sign up in advance
For my launch, I wanted to offer "Founders Memberships" to celebrate our new facility. This way, it would pay for the deposit for space, a small deposit on the equipment, the kit out of the reception area and give us extra left over for the following month. I was able to set up four different discount codes and offered a different level of discount for each one.
Our annual group training membership is £1900, so we sold 40 memberships on a first-come, first-serve basis to those that want to help get uFit off the ground and in doing so would get an incredible discount as a result.
Here's how it worked:
FOUNDERS10 = £750/year
FOUNDERS20 = £850/year
FOUNDERS30 = £950/year
FOUNDERS40 = £999/year
Considering our unlimited Team Training price is £199/month for those 40 that sign up early, they get an incredible discount. I’ve already sold out the first 10, and I haven’t publicised it that much. I did the same for semi-private as well, which is £2990 for the year. Although there are only 3 memberships available for each tier.
FOUNDERS10 = £1849/year
FOUNDERS20 = £1949/year
FOUNDERS30 = £2049/year
FOUNDERS40 = £2099/year
I’ve sold out the first 3 and as I mentioned, I haven’t really publicised it yet except reaching out to previous members via WhatsApp. On a month to month basis this membership is £299/month so there’s considerable saving there.
I told those people when it would begin so that they could purchase them at a specific time. This created demand and made those people buy quickly as they had a time limit and a deadline. I told them if the first code didn’t work, they’d have to use the next code and so forth to get the best discount.
How has community played a role in reviving your business?
A few weeks ago I shared a Facebook memory of the old unit and about 100 people responded saying how much they missed that place and began sharing their memories. Some of those people I hadn't trained with since 2016 when we were still uFit. The clients I still had and trained would often compare what we had now to then and it wasn't the same. We had such a special community. Some people had gotten married and had kids from meeting in the studio. Others live together or vacation together and I still chat with some of them from time to time.
I was chatting to someone the other day and he asked how I got 100 people back seeing as I haven't even been open for close to five years like before and I think the biggest thing, I don't expect anything out of a relationship. If I chat to someone, I genuinely am interested in them and there are some people I just speak to and I legitimately care. When you talk to clients or potential clients that way it breaks down the barriers and you're less inclined to do something because they don't feel like you want something from them. We're just chatting and I am quite open about my personal life and people relate to that quite well.
I think the biggest thing too, is that we actually do care and we care about making that clear to our clients. We want to give them that same feeling no matter when they come back or we haven't seen them in a while. That feeling is so important and there is no awkwardness. We're just always interested in them as people.
What sets uFit apart from other fitness businesses?
The goal of the studio isn't to replicate the old one but to take that foundation and build upon it. The nuts and bolts are still there of what we had and how we're going to do it but just a different style, it's coaching done right. Group training is popular but people forget the coaching part of it. It's great to go to class and leave, but that's not what we're about.
Knowing our service and clientele
We're a different type of service, and coach groups of 16 people but make it personal and differentiate ourselves. There is planning and progress involved with our program. This is more progressive about coaching. We take them through nutrition plans, and respiration, and movement training and we go over why all of this is important. But we do it in a way that makes people want to know about this stuff. It's not just in and out. We show them why it's important and their reasons for being there.
Our approach to coaching and our clients
The orientation and approach we take our coaches through are all about progression and coaching in that format. We have weight training programs but then we also offer strength and conditioning and learn about body composition. People see a squat rack and they get intimidated and before they come in they might be intimidated by lifting stuff but how can you coach them in an environment that makes them feel more comfortable. It's almost like making them feel in charge but encouraging them and you know you're making them feel that way. It's the accountability factor.
Clients and other coaches watch and follow me, and it's nice being able to chat with other coaches and help them with their own coaching techniques and staff. They see the motivation and inspiration I bring to my clients. Most coaches have had to shut down their businesses due to COVID and there is a major disconnect in the community at home. Providing people with a safe space where they can chat and feel supported and not judged makes them feel like part of our family.
In your journey to finding a new space to revive uFit, what made you keep going? While others might have thrown in the towel, you persevered and kept searching. How?
Self-belief and confidence have definitely kept me going when it was easier to quit. I fully trust in my previous fitness facility and have the experience to back it up. If I didn’t have the experience then I would struggle right now as I would have nothing to fall back on. The previous unit showed me what's possible with hard work, the right environment and atmosphere, and I know if I can repeat these in the new studio, I’ll be ok. The great thing about those three variables is that they’re all under my control and something I can influence on a day to day basis.
A strong network and community
I’ve also kept a pretty close circle of friends, ones that promote growth and a positive mindset in life. I remove distractions and negativity from my life so I control what I see and hear on a day-to-day basis. It makes a huge difference in my daily life and my own energy.
Accountability to follow through
Naval Ravikant wrote in his book, The Almanack, that he used to tell everyone what he was going to do before he actually did it. Almost as a way to publicly embarrass himself if he didn’t follow through with the action. There’s some truth in there somewhere. I think telling other people your plans and then having to follow through is incredibly powerful. Public embarrassment is a big driver and if I say I am going to do something, I will do it. I’ll follow up on my word. It may take me a while but I’ll get there.
Pressure turned into motivation and control
I like the pressure. I can’t stand still and I think that by giving up I’m showing my clients and the world it’s ok to accept defeat and lay down when it gets tough. As the Buddha said ‘life is suffering’ and honestly adopting a mindset of 'whatever happens, happens,' it’s how you control the controllable that counts.
I couldn’t control whether the council would reject my proposal several times, or previous landlords would take me to court, or whether previous coaches would want to pursue something new. But I could control what I said, how I acted, and what I accomplished so I shifted my focus to that and let everything else happen.
Trust yourself to make the right decisions
As Eric Greitens wrote “Don’t expect a time in your life when you’ll be free from change, free from struggle, free from worry. To be resilient, you must understand that your objective is not to come to rest, because there is no rest. Your objective is to use what hits you to change your trajectory in a positive direction.”
And so, as you can tell, reading books that focus on your mind, what you’re telling it and the language they use has given me many powerful lessons to which I know that it’s down to me to make it work. And thankfully, I trust myself.
How has TeamUp's software helped you relaunch?
I think the reason I am using TeamUp over any other software is that it is incredibly easy to set up and you pretty much get 24/7 support from them. If I need to set something up and I'm a little unsure how to do it, I'll reach out and have an answer incredibly quickly.
What benefits have you experienced from having personal training software?
Most people will say ‘saving time’, which of course is important but it’s what getting that time back gives you. TeamUp makes it easy to see where your business is going before it’s too late. It gives you insight and data that you can use and the data doesn’t lie. It’s not biased nor does it exaggerate the truth. It removes your ego which can often overcloud your judgement and blind you from what is actually happening in your business.
Detailed performance insight and ability to improve
I find often as leaders we blind ourselves from the truth and let our ego take over, instead of reality. TeamUp shows me how we’re performing. I can see how our member retention is going, the signup rates, and churn rates. It’s all there and it’s valuable feedback we need as leaders to tweak our plans and continue to progress our business.
TeamUp gives you data you can use to improve your offerings, tweak your programs if you need to and in doing so gives you time back. Without TeamUp, I’d be lost a couple of hours a week figuring out the weak links in our business and trying to find ways to improve on them.
Instead, I’ll be using them to improve our offerings, develop our coaches and bring more members on board to experience our smooth system that TeamUp has made look so professional. If you want to progress your business, you need to know where you are currently so you can manage where you need to get to. With the reports, it’s easy to do that.
Support of a family and ease of use
What you get with TeamUp seven years ago, when I first met the TeamUp team, is the same you get with them today. There is no difference in personality and I like the connection and that's the biggest thing. When we downsized and changed our spaces we started using TeamUp and it's amazing how many other coaches and businesses in the area had already been using TeamUp. So many of our members were already familiar or had been using TeamUp so it made it easy.
TeamUp is incredibly easy to use. When I was looking at the previous software we had to go through long complicated orientations and with TeamUp, I didn't have to go through any of that. The ease of it on the back and front ends as well, you don't need to be a tech person to figure it out and some of the biggest studios in London are using TeamUp because of how easy they find it too. Also, I know I can reach out to anyone on the TeamUp team via support or Facebook and get an immediate response, and where else can you get that family feeling.
What are your future plans once you re-open?
I want to be a place for both clients and coaches. I want coaches to come into the studio and be able to educate them and create my own coaches academy. They will not only learn how to create a program, but how to connect with clients and coach them through their personal needs, how to better communicate and be a leader. For me, if I am able to educate and coach my coaches to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and they can progress and develop to the point where other coaches from in and around Europe can come to our studio and see what we're doing, then I know my clients are going to get the best results. If the coaches are pushing themselves and they are on the right path then our clients will be, too as a result of the coaches doing the best job to motivate and lead them.
Thank you for sharing, Sam! Good luck with your re-opening.
To find more resources on re-opening your gym, studio, and indoor fitness classes, check out our blog on the steps you can take to successfully re-open and make your customers feel safe and confident.