By Susane Pata
Independence is revered in the world of personal training. Personal trainers who begin working with corporate companies one day, may ultimately choose to run their own business privately later on. This helps increase their autonomy—and paycheck, but in a city like NYC, the question is:
Rick Richey, owner of the Independent Training Spot in mid-town Manhattan, provides a solution by renting space to personal trainers. He saw the need, understood the importance, and took action. But it wasn’t easy.
Richey started his career in 2002 as a personal trainer, and subsequently took on different fitness roles over the years: manager and educator for trainers at New York Sports Club (NYSC); NASM educator; massage therapist; and celebrity trainer. Just like almost every personal trainer, he traded his time for money. As a traveling personal trainer for a famous music mogul, he made even MORE money, but in exchange for ALL of his time.
The time away was hard on family life, and toward the end of a three-year stint on a music tour, the “what’s next” question began to wear him out. Richey knew “what’s next” could potentially mean working for someone else again. Or, he could do something different, and develop an idea into a business, thereby striving to earn a meaningful income without having to solely “eat what you kill,” (only get paid for services rendered).
Richey did some soul searching. He loved training clients, but he needed to go bigger and do something to help elevate the fitness industry which has evolved since its “Wild West” days of 30 years ago, but still has a long way to go. “Our industry needs to be regarded and held to a higher standard,” said Richey. He felt compelled to create opportunities beyond providing NASM education, to help raise those standards. But, how?
After some research, he found there was a shortage of independent studios for fitness professionals. His entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and the idea of opening a studio for independent training was born. Helping trainers was an ideal way to contribute toward raising the fitness bar. So he set out to find and design a space that would help improve a personal trainer’s work life, serve as a stomping ground for continuing fitness education, and the become the perfect launch pad for additional fitness business ideas.
Family, friends, colleagues, and clients encouraged him. But, despite it all, Richey began to have some reservations. He had never done anything like this before and felt like he had little knowledge in business matters, all of which fostered fear. Part of the fear was failure; the other part, ironically, was success. He didn’t know if he could manage becoming too successful too quickly.
One day, he came across a quote:
And the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom… ~ Elizabeth Appell
These words landed in front of him at the right time and something shifted for him. He thought to himself, “If I don’t do it, then who will?” He looked at his wife who was in the room, and with full conviction, said: “OK. Let’s go.”
As he stepped into action, things started to happen.
One of Richey’s clients offered to become an investor in the endeavor, but Richey respectfully declined, as he did not want to share ownership of the business. Instead, he applied for a loan, but was turned down. He turned to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Because his studio business would create more job opportunities and this aligned harmoniously with the SBA’s mission, they approved his bank loan. Within the first three months of starting the business, his studio began to break even.
He attracted high-caliber personal trainers, most of whom he already knew from the education network he developed which was an unforeseeable benefit of his transition to becoming an educator at NYSC and for NASM. He had a valuable network of strong trainers he could help once again. Michael Piercy who was once Richey’s student and now owns The LAB (Performance & Sports Science) in NJ, regards Richey with much respect: “Rick was always about trying to uplift the industry. How many people do you see out there trying to do the same? He didn’t want the studio to be about him, he wanted it to be about the trainers… a place where they could feel at home and run their own business.”
Richey also uses his studio to create additional fitness businesses (i.e. online streaming for consumer training, a resource database for fitness professionals, and a trainer concierge that would provide trainers with business opportunities) and he hosts a variety of fitness education forums and presentations—all of which are opportunities for fitness professionals to keep learning and stay relevant in the fitness field.
All of this occurred in a little over a year, and Richey is happy with the outcome thus far. Everything continues to steadily build as Richey keeps pace with learning the business and taking quick action to correct any oversights. But he claims there are still days when those fears come back to challenge him. Even so, he actively moves through those fears as they surface. As Eric Beard, former Director of Advanced Education for NASM says of Richey, “I think Rick’s desire to be the best is an important part of his success. It takes drive to achieve at a high level.”
Visit The Independent Training Spot and see if it's the right fit for your evolving practice.
To learn more about Body Local, read WHY we support practitioners like Rick Richey.