Physique Business: Truths & Lies Of The Gym Business With Andrew Kersten

Physique Business Podcast | Truths & Lies of the gym business with andrew kersten | Truth Gym Gallery | Victoria BC

Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Physique Business podcast, making money in the fitness industry. You spent hours in the gym, sweating buckets, crushing parts and lifting a ton of weights. Now it’s time to turn that passion into a highly profitable business. Here’s stories that tips a proven methods the starting and scaling your business in the fitness industry and now your host Corey Swiergosz.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:00:25] Hey, everyone, we are here with the Physique Business podcast and we have a special episode called Truths and Lies with Andrew Kirsten, my co-partner in Truth Gym Gallery. Welcome. I appreciate you coming on, and let’s get into the truth and the lies about what’s happening in the gym business right now. How’s everything going, Andrew?

Andrew Kersten: [00:00:47] It’s going really good, man. Thanks for having me on. I’m glad we finally had time to sit down and do this. We’ve been talking about doing a podcast together for a little bit, so it’s good to finally hammer some time out and get into it. I’m pretty excited to talk about the industry right now because there’s a lot of things going on with it. The conversation and it’s pretty. I mean, if you’re in Ontario or B.C., in Canada right now, it’s pretty intense. We’re seeing a lot of different things people defying orders, people hearing orders, et cetera, et cetera. And then we’re seeing crazy stuff happening in the supplement industry as well. You know, if I can create scenes liquid gold right now, as you know, you touched on that the other day. So just a lot of things going on, you know, we’re moving forward with the Vancouver Island showdown. A new pro aspect on that. So I think there’s just a ton of things to talk about right now and we can even talk about, you know, just some of the things that you think you see going on in the industry to kind of the back door stuff and you’ve got to kind of to open eyes to a lot of things in the scene that I don’t think a lot of people actually see what’s going on.

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Corey Swiergosz: [00:01:53] So for sure. Like you said, we’ve got a ton of different projects going on, obviously launching the gym approximately six months ago and coming into what is seemingly like, you know, a kick in the teeth every time we turn around and when the peak seasons with the gym industry comes. So for people that don’t know, the three big peaks in the gym business come typically January with New Year’s resolutions march. And then you have September. We opened our gym on July 15 20. Twenty one September rolls around and all of a sudden the B.C. government says vaccine passports. So we are on a really good run and trajectory. The first part of September, we’re signing people up, people who are getting back into the routine, and all of a sudden we’re hit with double digit membership cancellations due to the passport that the government insisted. Obviously, you know, we were able to get through that things were able to kind of move forward that still stayed in place throughout the entire time January rolls around the Christmas season. You know, Andrew, maybe speak to a little bit about now that the trials and tribulations that we’re going through at this moment.

Andrew Kersten: [00:03:10] Well, I mean, yeah, you just pretty much nailed the nail on the head, man, I mean, you’re looking at the slowest part of the industry, which is November, December. So you’re already in there hemorrhaging. You know, you’re rubbing your hands together, thinking, OK, now’s the time for us to really thrive. We’re going to sign up some new members, New Year’s resolutions, et cetera, et cetera. And then the government calls and pulls the rug from under you. So the one thing that that you know in talking about that too, and we won’t talk about it for crazy long. But I mean, just that whole conversation is just wild to me. I know it’s been said a million times before, but I guess I’ll say it here, like, how can you have people in pools, et cetera, et cetera? You know, places of business schools are opening today and B.C. like, but working out in the gym is just not a go man. And it just we did everything they asked, you know, the people went and got vaccinated. They, you know, all the above and the frustration is very high. And you can feel it. You can feel it from the community. I know my inbox has just been blown up over the last couple of weeks and a lot of my clients and stuff that just they’re getting ready for prep. But in the back of their head, it just can’t help but not feel like things aren’t right. And it’s it’s been a tough time for sure.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:04:28] Well, I think the worst part is that we have done everything that the government has asked the entire time we open with reduced capacity. We implemented above standard cleaning policies. You know, we implemented the passport, everything that they have asked for us to do. We have done it, whereas they have businesses such as fast food, restaurants, malls, pools, et cetera, as you said, that have not had to adhere to the same standards and they can remain in business. And I think that’s the biggest issue that I have. And I know it’s not only us, obviously, there’s a ton of other gym members, both independent and franchised as well that are expressing the same concern. And we don’t need to be negative and beat it, beat it to death. But we’re definitely not getting a fair shake of the stick at this. And I mean, ultimately, at the end of the day, I think the moral of this story is that the government is eating fitness to be non-essential without any proof or facts or science. They’ve closed us down across the country, also in Quebec, Ontario, and I know Manitoba’s coming as well in regards to closing their gym facilities. And then here in B.C., so hopefully the 18th rolls around. Hopefully this is put behind us. You know, I have some reservations as to that. But I mean, in regards to business and looking at what you have in front of you, there’s really two ways you can go about it. You can one, let the government do what they do and sit there with your hands on your pocket and bitch. Or secondly, you can go out there and find the creases, find the opportunities to make revenue and make business happen for yourself.

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Corey Swiergosz: [00:06:17] And that’s certainly things that we have done. We found that we had the opportunity to be able to open up for youth aged 13 to 18. We don’t need to debate the merits of those individuals being allowed in the gym, and if you’re over the 18, you’re not. But you know, regardless, we’re able to obviously sign up some new members within that age range. We’re able to get some drop ins happening. We were able to introduce a course for young adults to safely lift. Obviously, Josh has done a big role with that and stepping up and helping make that happen. So it’s really good that he’s been able to offer that course to the young individuals. And then obviously plus we have a pro shop and we have an art gallery. So we’re just utilizing the tools that we have to stay open, continually promote, continually market and be able to push whatever we can to drive revenue in during these times. And you know, obviously, if you look at decreases, you know, we’re moving forward with a ticketed event this Saturday, the iPad Pro Morgan McDonald seminar here in B.C. within the health regulations, you’re allowed to have ticketed events up to 50 people. So we are going to utilize our space. We’re going to take advantage of the space that we have within our gym and we’re going to run a ticketed event, which we are legally allowed to do so. So why don’t you kind of add a little bit to that, Andrew, and just talk about some of the more creative things in the business?

Andrew Kersten: [00:07:45] I think I think with all of it to like, it strikes that back down to just being able to pivot. I’ve been telling a lot of people lately with COVID of coming back around and restrictions this and that. I said, you have to quit living the narrative and just start living for yourself again and start living in general. You know, don’t be afraid to open the business. Don’t be afraid to try and promote something. Get something going. Don’t be afraid to. Are an event there’s going to be roadblocks in the way, you know, when COVID actually first happened, the pandemic hit, that was why Truth. was able to even happen. You know, we were able to negotiate a fair proper lease, be able to get the building to it, etc., etc. It opened some doors, you know? Yeah, you had to take some risks and this and that. But I have definitely been striking that home to everyone. Just continue to live. And this comes back to that event that we’re doing on Saturday. We found those creases and yeah, we’re going to have a closing seminar with Morgan McDonald, you know, 16 weeks out to the Vancouver Island showdown. These are these are things that we got to continue to push forward and continue to do within the community. I don’t think it’s time for everyone to just sit back on their hands and say, Hey, government said, shut it down. Let’s not plan anything. Let’s not do anything. That, to me doesn’t speak to anyone’s mental health. I mean, Christ, I’m unable to go into the gym, as is right now. We’ve been cleaning it up, installing new equipment for our members. This and that. And sure, I get a lift in here and there and like this does not the same. It doesn’t feel the same. It misses that culture, misses the people breathing life into it. So it’s an important part for everyone, right?

Corey Swiergosz: [00:09:24] Totally, and I mean, I’m in the same boat, like I’m lifting weights outside in subzero weather out of a storage unit, so I’m definitely in the same boat as everybody else and as the members of Truth Gym Gallery, you know, I think right now, I think one of the things that galvanizes the industry is the ability to overcome these types of things. You know, from what I know of competitors and competitors that compete and shows is that they’re willing to go above and beyond with the resources that they have to get into the best shape possible to put their best foot forward. And so I think if anybody, I mean, our community and our member as far as competitors are some of the most strong willed people out there. Obviously, we have high requirements in regards to physical activity, diet, nutrition. But I think if anybody is apt to get through this, it’s really the members of the gym and people that step on stage. So I’m optimistic about that. And I mean, if any other gym owners are listening to this, just realize that you do have other opportunities that you should be maximizing the opportunities that you have of the gym space of being a credible resource in the industry. You can sell products, you can’t sell services, you can do things online, you can start generating content. I mean, all things that will help you at the end of the day, bring revenue into your business and allow you to stay afloat until we’re able to return to some sort of normalcy.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:10:49] Because I think that is important because I don’t think we’re going back to the days of twenty eighteen twenty nineteen. Those are now the good old days in the past and we are going to have a new normal coming out of this. And really, that new normal will be shaped by what you do right now, the foundation that you lay and how are you going to play the game within the rules that are set out because they’re not going to go back to the same? And my personal belief is it’s going to take at least five to seven years for gyms to get back to the membership numbers they had pre-COVID. And that’s if they even do what if they get back there whatsoever in the time being because there has been those changes? You also take in mind that there’s a number of people that have set up home gyms, and they’ve discovered that they can have good workouts at home. So I think for your average fitness score, the actual implementation of how they work out, it hasn’t changed and has evolved. And I mean, you’re even seeing companies like Nike and Lululemon coming out with workout programs, subscription based models like Peloton that are allowing you to have the gym experience at home. And so I think it’s important for gym owners like us, but also other gym owners to also take that into consideration and be able to offer services that can benefit from that change in the actual gym scene overall.

Andrew Kersten: [00:12:12] Yeah, for sure. And you know, one thing I can say about that, I think in gym owners need to be careful with it is like, you know, we went ahead and offer premium equipment and a premium lifting experience. You need to have some space and some heavy duty space to be able to accommodate that. You know, you’re not going to be able to recreate that workout that you’re getting in touch and gallery that you’re going to get at home. That doesn’t mean doesn’t need to mean to say that those workouts at home aren’t good. But you know, there’s definitely again, you want to talk about selling services. That’s one of our calling cards to selling services. We’re offering you a hardcore heavy workout that you’re just not going to be able to outfit at your house, you know? And I think that coming from myself anyways, I noticed that from local gyms around here on the island for four years, just no one wanting to really dedicate that time to getting the best equipment or sourcing out different pieces that are really going to maximize your workout or even actually setting up the gym in an efficient way to have a workout. You know, that’s one of the things that I’ve actually been complimented on. The most is people can say can walk into our gym that are traveling and they’ll say, Yeah, you know, like, I wouldn’t trained and and I had a really good workout. It was really heavy. I felt really hard. And that’s something that you can kind of hang your hat on if your gym can host a travel workout for someone that’s not in their element. I think that’s always a really good sign. You know?

Corey Swiergosz: [00:13:47] Now, completely, completely. You know, when I travel, I mean, I have subpar workouts wherever I go, whether it’s just to travel the water and take the food intake, timing, et cetera. So I mean, if you can have individuals that step in day one, their first workout, the only robot they have and have a good, productive lift, but definitely a sign that a gym is doing something right for sure. But let’s talk a little bit about community and how much you know the word community and the members that partake in your gym, how important that is. And as being a gym owner and being a leader, how important is it to you, Andrew? The word community?

Andrew Kersten: [00:14:28] Well, it’s it’s everything to the gym, it’s actually like, like I was saying before, it’s what breathes life into the space anyway. I mean, walking in there right now, it feels dull and dead, and no amount of music is going to change that. You just miss the energy that people bring into it, right? And and and the thing that we have going for us is when we have an issue in our gym and we’ve had issues to come up in our gym, the community is actually so strong that that thing gets dealt with there. And then right away, they’ll get talked to either by the managers or someone’s going to come talk to me. But everyone feels close enough with each other that, Hey, man, you know what? You and me can have a bad day and sometimes bad days happen, and that gym community can actually come around and lift those people up. And I’ve seen it happen before. And that’s, you know, it’s a really strong showing. And I just I know that we’re we’re doing something right in there because everyone’s very supportive of the competitors that have hit the stage lately.

Andrew Kersten: [00:15:22] We’ve had a we’ve had a string of athletes now comes to the gym over the last six months that have hit the stage all across the nation. And the support you’re seeing online for all of these people is huge. Everyone’s really, really supportive. And even watching people, you know, you’ve got big, big lifting guys. You got young kids coming in there now. Everybody wants to help each other out. I mean, I’ve just I haven’t seen that kind of like nasty attitude or that that, oh, I don’t want to talk to anyone place we’re just not really like that, you know, and it’s a big portion of it. I always think back to the old pumping iron movie, you know, and the old sixties, the golden era. No one had headphones on back then. Man, they were all in there, you know, chalking it up in the mirrors, looking at each other’s physiques. Complementary. I want to see you lift more. And it actually bred a ton of success for a reason, right? And I think that’s something that we’re on to.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:16:12] I completely agree, and I think even more for me, I think as an owner of the gym, you’re also seen as being a leader and you need to be able to provide an environment that is inviting, that is welcoming, but also that brings opportunity for your members to be able to be successful in whatever focus or niche that you’re in. You know, for us, we really push the competitive atmosphere. We want people to come in and have a serious workout. So that sets the tone from the music that you play to the type of members that you have, the equipment that you have. Everything has to be collective. Collectively, together, that promotes the mission that you’re trying to accomplish. And even for that, further, like we, you know, we promote fitness shows, we promote events, we’re doing seminars, we’re trying to give people the education, the knowledge and the learning experience so that they could progress in their career. We’re trying to put people that are in the position that they want to be in in front of them now to be able to capitalize. And I think that’s one of the most important things politically. We’re not just taking your money, we’re not just taking your membership fees, wiping our hands off and walking away and say, have fun with it.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:17:19] We’re trying to provide you with the knowledge to be able to go and make this a career, to be able to make money in industry or take it however far you want to go. We want to be able to help you get there, and I think it’s important to, you know, to be able to give that community the opportunities and whether people see it or not. They may just see all of these guys are putting on an event, they’re selling tickets to it or, oh, they brought so-and-so in for the grand opening and they’re just doing it for the promotion. And really, you know, that’s part of it. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to build something bigger than ourselves, and we’re trying to give people the opportunity to grow and learn. And first and foremost, to me, that’s the most important part in whatever we can do and every opportunity that we get to be able to help make the people around us successful. You know, me as a business owner will go ahead and take that shot at one hundred percent of the time.

Andrew Kersten: [00:18:14] Totally, man. I mean, I just look at the island as a whole where we’re located. And, you know, I’ve been in the industry now for actually a long time. I watched my first bodybuilding show when I was like 10 years old anyways. But actually, I’ve been working in the industry for over a decade and we didn’t have any of these outlets for bodybuilding when I started, you know, I started part time in a supplement store and it just didn’t exist. There was no help. There was no coaching, there was no shows. There was no, you know, there wasn’t even a cool gym, like there was some cool gyms, but they weren’t really that cool like, you know, and we had maybe one or two underground pros. Maybe, you know, shout out to Lisa Giesbrecht. She went to Miss Olympia twice, but then social media and whatnot just didn’t really exist in her time. So it wasn’t that big, you know, and it it’s just I have seen athletes now who have been in the scene much shorter time than I ever have been, and the notoriety you can get by getting involved is huge. You know, I’ve seen people come and turn pro very quickly, given they had the genetics and dedication, but also propel their their careers forward with the platforms. They’re right because they’re offering premium things. You know, when you look at the show we’re offering, Vancity Showdown,  Vancouver Island showed on stuff we were able to bring out Muscle Insider to get you those those magazine shoots and the exposure this and that, like, we’re offering all the same things that you’re getting at these high tier shows, you know, and we’ve always been that way. We’ve always been wanting to offer the best of the best to give you the best experience you could get.

Andrew Kersten: [00:19:50] I promise you, you travel across the nation, you’re not going to see it any different. In fact, you know, I finally competed in our first show, one that we put on with influential sports in Van City this past past year, and I’ve competed in other shows, man, I’m not to one or anything we put on a damn good show. You know, it’s organized, right? It’s it’s ran properly. I was in and out Bang Bang one show format and it’s fun. You know, the crew is fun working in the back with Raheem, Ray, Ray, Christine, all those guys like. It’s it’s a good time. We’ve got a really good crew working the shows now. We’ve got a good system. We’ve been doing it a while and, you know, a testament to us. That’s why we’ve got the pro show now with the women’s body building and the women’s physique. And I promise we’re going to nail that this year and we’ll continue to grow that and we’re just going to see more and more outlets you. You know, we had another athlete turned pro this year who actually started to come into our workshops two years ago. I think Danny, Danielle, Goulet and she turned pro and women’s physique at the natural. I mean, there’s an athlete right there, local Brad, who lives up island. She’s going to come probably down and compete this this, this this spring and May. And there you go. You’re seeing someone take it from step one all the way through it. And now you get to compete at a local show on your at home pro show to.

Corey Swiergosz: [00:21:06] Totally. I mean, there’s been a number of B.C. athletes that have turned pro here in the recent year, which is great to see. You know, the island, as you said, went from one or two IFB pros to I think having six or eight pro is now on the island in a very short period of time, so it’s great to see the industry move forward. And I mean, I don’t think we do anything special, honestly. But what we do is take risks. We take opera, know we look at the opportunities in front of us and we just go for it and we put on things. We take those chances. And I think that’s really the only thing that separates is not that we have any competitive advantage or any differentiation, but we’re just willing to risk it and willing to move forward and make things happen. And I think that’s a really good testament to be able to see some of the results coming. And I mean, athletes are working incredibly hard and obviously there’s some really good physiques on the island and I think it’s going to continue to grow in the in the years to come. With facilities like ours that allow people to have better workouts and to have the opportunity to compete and learn, I think it’s only going to benefit the island as a whole. But man, it was awesome to have you on. I appreciate it. We’re going to get back again to doing this more frequent. I want to get into having more real time up to date in the moment discussions. And, you know, I appreciate everything that you do. I’m sure we’ll talk later today, but have a great rest of your day and we’ll have you back on Real soon.

Andrew Kersten: [00:22:34] I appreciate it, man. Thanks for having me. And yeah, I’ll see you real soon. Cheers.

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