Seven years ago today I sat in a freezing 1930’s warehouse building by myself.
Seven years ago today I opened Spurling Fitness, what was then called Spurling Training Systems.
I had the heat set at 55 because I had no clue how I was going to pay for heat, let alone the rent the following month.
On that freezing January day, I had a couple new members sign-up, and things were good.
Every time I walk through our doors now I try to remember back to those cold days of shivering in the office by myself because I only had 2-3 sessions per day, each filled with 1-2 people.
To say it’s been a heck of a ride is an understatement…
2012 was the year of survival.
Try to figure out how I can get enough money in to keep the lights on.
I did all the coaching myself, with a little help from my college friend, Shawn, who I’m sure some of you remember.
He would do some of the early morning sessions so I could sleep in a little in prep for the 16 hour days ahead.
I survived it, had about 50 clients at year end, some of which are still with us today, and was able to survive living off of a tray of Hannaford Sushi and some protein shakes.
2013 was a breakthrough year.
Two things really changed the trajectory of our “business” in 2013.
I actually ran it like a business.
One thing I never compromised on from day one is coaching.
From day one, every person that walked through the doors was under the supervision of a coach.
However, that was a completely new business model to the fitness industry, let alone Maine.
In 2013 I met two people who had been in the industry for decades and I was humble enough to ask for help.
One of them, Pat, is still my coach today.
Today, the team knows him well, and he is pretty much a father figure to me at this point.
We talk almost weekly, I run everything I do by him, and he coaches me along the way both in business and in life.
However, in 2013 it was just a desperate call for help.
“How the heck do I do this?”
I also attended a 2-day workshop in Baltimore, Maryland in October of 2013 where I met another long-time fitness business mentor who gave me the framework to actually run a gym like a business.
I remember driving home in the pouring rain from Baltimore (I couldn’t afford a flight) and calling Josh, who was a volunteer intern at the time, saying…
“Dude, here’s what we’re going to do. This is going to change everything.”
And it did.
We honed in our coaching model, our delivery system, I figured out appropriate pricing that would actually be sustainable, and I got clear on who we wanted to help.
Which leads me to my second thing that drastically changed the business in 2013.
Josh was an “intern” before we even had an internship.
He contacted me to see if he could start early and after the “internship” was over he asked how he could stay on.
I know he’s a quiet guy, but please let it be known that we would not be where we are today without Josh.
He and I often reminisce at the humble beginnings of volunteering his time and working two other jobs because I couldn’t pay him more than minimum wage.
Now, Josh is our Operations Manager and does all the “behind the scenes” of facility operations and coaching.
The schedule, the equipment maintenance, the coach’s development plans, the programming, everything.
He runs that side of our business, and I couldn’t be more proud, quite a different story to tell compared to the days in 2013.
In 2014 we continue to grow, more than doubling from 2013, and changing more and more lives.
One thing stayed true, which was the coaching.
We’ve evolved in how we’ve coached our clients (as we always will), but all our clients have always had a coach.
2014 was a big growth year and it was time to bring on another coach.
I remember seeing this kids name pop up on social media all the time, he was constantly posting industry articles, sharing his opinion on nutrition stuff, etc.
His name was Trent.
I messaged him on Facebook asking what he’s up to and wanted to see if he would be interested in a position.
Fortunately for all of us, he had just finished up living out in Indiana completing an internship at one of the top fitness facilities in the country.
I’ve watched Trent grow a lot, from his growth as a coach to becoming a dad, to recently buying a house.
He’s been a steady rock on our team for going on 5 years, and he’s been an integral part of our success.
2015 was a very interesting year.
We continued to grow, and just like every year in business so far, we needed another coach.
You see, as you know, we’re not like any other gym.
Not just on the fitness and experience side, but on the staffing side.
It’s common for fitness professionals to either do this as a sidegig, or just be an independent contractor and train their own clients at another gym.
In great circumstances, they’re paid hourly or per session.
I’ve always tried to be better than great.
I wanted a full-time team of coaches, salaried, benefits, a team that was not motivated just for the money, and it didn’t matter if there was one person on the floor or ten people on the floor, they’re going to change someone’s life.
That certainly came with it’s own challenge, but that is what makes our team so unique today, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I get comments everyday about how awesome our team is, I never take them for granted, and part of that is treating them well so they can ultimately retire as a team member of Spurling.
Back in 2015 we hired Chris.
Chris was just about to get married to Sarah and was looking to get out of a situation I talked about above (health club personal trainer) and we were lucky enough to scoop him up.
He’s been a integral part to our coaching team, and it’s been so fun to watch him grow as a coach, grow as a husband to Sarah, and see him do some incredible things both as a coach (he founded our 5k for example), and as a friend, like buying a house with Sarah.
In 2015 we also moved to our current location.
That was a big move for us, physically, mentally, emotionally, financially.
I thought all our clients were going to leave.
I was buying a piece of commercial real estate at 26 years old.
I was going crazy.
But as you know if you’ve been with me since that transition, it was probably one of the best moves we made.
It allowed us to have a more professional look, it allowed us to be closer and more convenient for our clients, and it really planted our seed for the future.
I can easily say it was one of the best moves we made to make a bigger impact on our community.
2016 was another year of growth and it was time for another coach.
At this point my business responsibilities were growing and I needed to play more of a leadership role and not coach clients anymore.
Back in 2015 a someone met me at our pub table, the same black one we still have in the gym, and I could tell she was special.
She wasn’t your “normal” female fitness trainer that was all about fitting into a bikini, I could tell she “got it.”
She was going to help us get closer to our mission.
Fortunate for her, she took an internship down in Massachusetts at one of the best facilities in the country.
Lucky for us, after her internship was done, and fast forward to 2016, we had the ability to grab her and take her “off the market.”
That’s Kim if you couldn’t tell.
To say she has made a positive change in our business would be an understatement.
She took a gym that was being run by a “bunch of boys” and helped us turn it into one of the most respected training gyms in the country.
She taught us empathy and coached us in developing the “soft skills” of this industry.
She’s a staple on our team know and I can’t imagine our business without her.
2017 was a very transitional year.
We made some major mistakes and major commitments.
The biggest commitment was committing to our vision of 2020, a vision we’re now in the final year of completing before we set Vision 2025 in place.
In that vision we agreed we would cap our membership with our Tribe of 400.
We didn’t like the volume game the industry was playing, and we’re all introverts so we don’t like big crowds :)
We got really clear that in our facility we’re only going to serve 400 clients, allowing the experience to be superb.
We also got really clear that we’re not going to expand to more gyms, but instead, expand to other services in our local community.
So, instead of going wide in the fitness industry like is common, we have chosen to go deep within our community, building other brands that compliment our fitness offerings, a lot of which you’ll finally be able to “see” in 2019 and 2020.
We also went through two coaches that were awesome people, just not good fits for our Spurling Team.
I’m happy to say that I’m still in touch with both of them and they are doing awesome :)
With the hiccups of that, came the awesomeness of Mel and Judy.
Mel comes to us with a hospitality background.
So it’s no surprise to me when I hear (almost daily) how friendly she is and how much she genuinely cares for our clients.
What most people don’t realize is she is not our “front desk” person.
She’s a part of the leadership team with Josh and I, and while Josh takes care of the coaching operations, Mel runs everything to do with the customer experience.
That’s no small task in our business, as it’s ALL about the customer experience.
She drives the smiles and solutions to our business, and she’s the perfect fit for it.
I admire her detail oriented work, yet the ability to put that aside and be super friendly to every person that walks though the door, all while balancing two incredible kids at home.
And then Judy came along.
At this point, we didn’t need another full-time coach, but needed someone to coach some additional session during “peak” times.
Judy was a client who became a coach.
She has been awesome because she brings a ton of experience from the industry, and fills a nice role in our team.
I’m confident you’ll be seeing more of Judy in 2019 ;)
And finally, this past year, 2018.
We brought on a former intern who has become our little brother.
Jeremy is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic coaches I have ever met.
At first, I was very nervous, but he has demonstrated that his authenticity balances so nicely with the rest of our team who is a bit more “mellow” and he brings the energy, which is so important in our space.
Now we just need to work on his singing ;)
In all seriousness, I have the great fortune of talking to a lot of business owners, and gym owners specifically.
When I tell them that Jeremy is only 22 years old, they always remind about how special that is.
The bulk of this was focused on our team, and I am confident we would not be here today without them.
They are what make Spurling so much better than just a gym.
However, I never forget that none of us would be here today, none of us would have the roof over our head, the food on our plates, or the experiences in our back pocket without our clients.
Asking for help takes guts, and trusting someone is hard.
But that’s what a client does.
They ask for help, and then put their trust in us that we’re going to inspire positive change in them.
I’m proud to say we’ve been able to do that with thousand of people at this point.
That’s our mission.
To inspire positive change and cultivate relationships.
Jeff, I still remember you walking in on day one and paying for a whole year.
Anne, I remember our 1:1 sessions back in the day.
Lynette, I still love that you come at 8am and those mornings at the old spot with Shawn and the “Wells” ladies were some of my best.
Kortney, thank you for being our “mayor” and knowing everyone, and spreading the love to so many people.
Stephanie, I showed your video to our team at our annual meeting and we all held back tears. We love working with you and your positive messages are what help us get through the long days.
I’d be here til next January, but I could go one by one through every single client.
Whether you joined in 2012, or you’re joining this afternoon, you helped shape who we are today, and for that, I am forever grateful.
None of what you see is possible without your support, and I know I can speak for our entire team and just say…
Thank you for an incredible 7 years, thank you for making it so fun, so challenging, and so emotional that I’m fighting back tears as I type this.
I couldn’t not end this without thanking my wife, Megan.
She sees my “daily grind” the most, she puts up with my ambitions, and is the one I vent to when things are not going right.
In 2012 we lived together, then we dated (a story for another day), in 2016 we got married, and in 2017 we had Kaden.
She’s been with me every step of the way, and her love and support is how I get through the tough days.
As for me, I’m happy.
I have crappy days like all of you, but I’m in the love with the climb, I’m in the love with the journey.
I feel bad for anyone that doesn’t’ wake up with purpose.
Every time I hear someone say “I’m bored” I cringe.
Because of what we’ve created, happily, I’ll never be bored for the rest of my life.
Everyday I wake up inspired to tackle another project, to make our business better, to make the people in it better, and to inspire positive change in the world.
That is a mission that will never be over, and it’s why I’m so passionate about what I get to do.
I’ll leave you with one wish…
Please don’t think of me as Doug the gym owner.
The gym is just the first of many spaces I’ve created that inspires positive change in people.
I love our gym, I think about it more than anything, but it’s a vehicle that allows us to build a community, to build relationships, and to inspire positive change in people.
It’s, as the team knows it, “one branch” on our tree that is the Spurling Community.
My vision is to build other spaces that inspire positive change in other areas of your life, and compliment the great fitness service that we deliver.
I want to leave a legacy of changing the world, changing our community, and inspiring positive change in every person that steps foot in our door.
That is why I’ll never be bored, and that is why I have to stop it here for today.
I could go on and on, but there is work to be done, there is still negativity in our world, there are still people who need help in our community, and someone reading this needs us, they need you, and I see it as my duty to do anything I can to help.
Thank you, again, for seven awesome years.
I’m looking forward to the next seven of every day getting….
Dedicated to Your Success,