It takes a lot of courage for someone who is comfortable and familiar doing what they know and love, to pivot and launch their own business. Something which James Bramwell, owner of JB Fitness UK, is very familiar with. But what James also had that helped him launch a successful business right from the start was his own personal experience, fitness knowledge and training, knowing exactly what he wanted to offer his clients both in services and professionalism, mentoring from other professionals, and management software to keep his business organised. With all the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly together, James's business is thriving with more clients and staff than ever. Since launching six years ago not only has he seen it grow exponentially, but best of all, he is able to continue helping the men and women of Highbury and Islington to become fitter, toned, and more confident.
We sat down with James to ask about his successes in running JB Fitness UK, what his experience with software has been, and what it means to him to run a professional personal training business. Here's what he had to say:
Tell us about JB Fitness UK
I initially started in the industry in 2010 as a wide-eyed freelance personal trainer in a well-known gym called LA Fitness in North London. After establishing a good base of 30 clients, and regular hours of PT over two to three years, I co-founded a training provider, called Focus Fitness UK, and became qualified as a tutor and assessor for Level 3 personal training courses.
Whilst I enjoyed teaching new personal trainers, I missed running my own business and building my own dreams. In the meantime, I had kept my business going as a mobile personal trainer and was still doing this all over London. I made it fit around my role as an assessor and tutor. Eventually, in 2015, I committed to my own business full time and went full steam ahead with JB Fitness UK.
This was my transition from being a freelancer to being and thinking like a business owner. This grew from training clients in their homes and outdoors to taking on staff and growing the small group personal training side of the business.
What made you want to start a personal and small group training business?
The main reason I started in the industry was that I had an intense desire to help people and I loved coaching. I had a background in football and as many personal trainers, I had seen how sport had transformed my life so I was keen to pass this on to others. My desire for small group personal training came when I realised that 1:1 PT is great but that I was limited in how many people I can help and serve. Small-Group PT gave me the perfect opportunity to help and serve more customers at a price that was more affordable and that would allow me to grow a business where I could hire staff. This business model was great for leverage, growth and stability with the potential to increase my revenue and profits.
Where were you in your business when you decided you needed software?
As I started to think and act like a business owner at the start of 2015, I wanted to convert all of my existing 1:1 members to monthly direct debit payments to make my income more reliable and predictable.
I also needed software that would allow clients to book in for sessions online and save me some time on admin whilst allowing me to be more organised, professional whilst giving a great first impression to new clients. I had asked around about different software and platforms and checked out a few others when I found TeamUp and the integration with GoCardless.
I presented it to some of my existing clients and new clients and they loved it! It was an amazing way to make my payments automated, and when new clients were able to see how professional it was through the booking process it really made a massive difference! This gave them the great first impression of us that I wanted to achieve.
How has your business grown over the last six years?
Since I first started with TeamUp, my revenue has increased by three times and our profit is still great. We have more staff, serve more members, and TeamUp has supported the business at each & every stage. To put it simply, TeamUp is an integral part of my "team" and I couldn't imagine my business without it. It's second to none and I recommend it quite a lot to personal trainers and other business owners to whom I deliver business coaching too. I always say the feedback TeamUp gives is incredible, and when you ask a question even if they do not have the answer, they will find one for you and are always open to suggestions.
What benefits have you seen in using software to manage your business admin?
The best word to describe how this software has helped my business admin is control. I've been able to utilise TeamUp to track how many hours and sessions my staff deliver. I originally came to TeamUp for my scheduling and my payments, and those are still my primary role it plays in my business but have been able to set up so much more with it. Tracking and setting payments to utilising some of the CRM features where TeamUp can email members after particular actions and sending out regular pre-session emails have been great.
I also like the reporting tools such as seeing how many members have paid compared to previous months. I can see pending payments coming up and even birthdays. The financial reports are great as I use them alongside my own financial optics to ensure the numbers are correct. This is how I can check that I haven't missed any payments and I can see how my business is really performing.
Our customers love the ease of TeamUp and how they can easily book their sessions and see their schedule in advance. The features on TeamUp and the service are second to none.
"TeamUp has helped me to build and further enhance the trust between myself and our members."
What types of marketing have you done to help you grow?
Paid Facebook marketing has been massive for me over the last six years as a way of promoting my business to locals who fit my target audience and demographic. I’ve also spent time on having a good web presence via my website, SEO and Google listings. We rank highly for our chosen keywords so this always helps.
Lastly, referrals and email marketing also form part of our marketing strategy. These aren’t always as sexy to speak about but are important when you want to have an overall marketing strategy that has a mixture of fast and slow lane marketing channels.
Do you have a business mentor or coach who helped you navigate launching your own business?
I first started with some business coaching back in 2015 as I started my transition into becoming a business owner. This was great for me as I learned about sales, marketing, pricing and packaging for profit and more.
My business grew fairly quickly as I implemented what I learnt. I was able to nearly double my business when I first started business coaching and started to change my mindset into that of a business owner rather than a freelancer.
From there, I began working with Nicky Sehgal at FBDA. Nicky helped me to improve and grow my business, understand my numbers, hire my staff members and have faith to take holidays whilst my business ran without me.
My revenue has more than doubled again since starting with FBDA and even helped my wife and I to buy our new house a few years ago.
However, the most important thing that Nicky and FBDA have done for me is helping to believe in myself and showing that I CAN achieve the business of my dreams. I have since become a fitness business coach myself with Nicky Sehgal at FBDA and I coach and consult other fitness business owners whilst still running my own successful business, too.
What stage are your clients usually at when they sign up for PT or small group training?
Many of our clients come to us when they haven’t been training for some time, have tried traditional gyms and not liked them but know they are ready to change. We meet them at whichever stage of their journey they are at, help them to build confidence and self-belief in themselves whilst helping to achieve their goals and to feel better about themselves. I often say to our staff that our job is to make people feel better about themselves, we just happen to do this via fitness and personal training.
How have you been able to keep your community together and engaged over the past year?
The last year has been crazy for us all. It has forced us all to grow, adapt and embrace new ways of operating. We have been blessed that we have been able to keep 85-90% of our members since Lockdown 1.0 first hit whilst gaining new members along the way. The most important thing for us when it came to keeping our community together was to ensure that our online offerings were as close as possible to what we did in person. This meant we kept our session times the same, we kept the session sizes the same too and resisted the urge to see more people than usual. This allowed us to keep our services personal. Zoom has been amazing for us and the integration via TeamUp has been awesome.
Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, James!