By Deanna Burks, Public Relations and Marketing for Dane Fitness
Tell me how this company got its start.
Deanna: The company got started out of a need for good service in the industry. Great products were available but service was lacking. Treadmills were down, service would take weeks and customers were unhappy. Dane, who was working for the YMCA at the time, left his job and started out working on Star Trac equipment. Then a week into it, he had a bike wreck and broke his arm.
He needed help since he couldn't work on equipment with a broken arm. At the time, Dane's brother-in-law, Garrett Bumbalough, was in college in East Tennessee and needed a job. Dane asked him if he wanted to come help him out and make a little extra money.
They started taking on more manufacturers and within a year they were servicing all the equipment in the YMCAs and around Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and Georgia. Within two years, the pair were bringing in over $400K annually in service income, building a great service business and reputation for quality work.
By the third year in business, the company considered adding sales on but still making service the primary focus. That model took a few years to develop and by 2009, Dane brought the business up in revenues to over $2 million and the company continues to grow each year.
Dane: It was really by accident in my opinion. I worked for the Y for 8 years in Wellness. My last job was at the Sumner county Y as the Wellness Director. We had just opened and the usage was high. One of my many responsibilities was to keep the equipment clean and running. It was one of the first Y's to lease all of its equipment so everything was covered under warranty for 3 years. 6 months into the Y being open, the service provider for our area got let go from his duties. The manufacturers struggled to find someone consistent for another 6 months so my boss basically told me to get it fixed or find another job. Needless to say, I went down to Lowes and bought my own tools to start fixing the equipment. It was not a fun learning curve but I managed. The word got out and I starting getting offers to do contract service work. I turned it all down for a year but then decided to go back to school to pursue my PH.D. So I resigned my position, prepped for school, got certified for service work, and started my business. The first month did not go as expected but what in life does. I broke my arm and 2 ribs in a cycling accident but started work anyway. My wife had to come out and help because the work load was more then I had been led to believe. At the same time my brother-in-law was looking for a job and I suckered him into to coming on board. We soon saw the potential and decided to incorporate the business with all of us being partners.
Sales came later down the road. We actually got into sales because we would show up to do installs and customers would just give us old equipment if we would just take it. We stored it in my garage until we could not even walk into it any more. We started fixing it up and selling it here and there. The rest is history.
What about the tagline, Wellness for All. Tell me what that means.
Deanna: Wellness For All is really about making sure everyone has a means for achieving good health through physical activity. Not just athletes, not just the wealthy, but everyone. It's about making it accessible, desirable, fun. It's about overcoming obstacles. We provide the tools. We offer motivation. We provide support. We don't just sell a treadmill and leave it at that.
Dane: We want to provide a means for everyone to have access to some form of wellness but not just exercise. We want people to realize that being healthy is a spirit, mind and body connection. We sell fitness equipment but we think of it as an out reach to bring people together that have common interests or have the ability to mentor or inspire others. Wellness has been a great healer for me over the years and I just want to pass it on.
I understand you two are doing something called Fifty First Dates with Gym. What is that about?
Deanna: The reason we are doing it is to remove barriers that keep people from trying something new. One of the obstacles when people consider a group fitness class is not knowing what to expect the first time. Someone might be interested in a class and really want to try it, but then concerns might come up like, "Will I be able to keep up?" We try to include as much information as we can about the class, like the music, what to wear, how hard or easy the class was, was the instructor friendly or helpful. We post the reviews on our website, tweet about them and post them on our Facebook page.
You do fitness centers for corporations. Are more companies doing that sort of thing? Why?
Deanna: Corporate wellness has been a developing trend for some time now. Employers recognize the parallel between healthy, productive employees and sustainability. Having a corporate wellness center is a great perk for employees too. It makes the choice to be fit a little easier when it's more convenient. And, it is proven to have a positive return on investment. We have some examples of this type of fitness center on our website at danefit.com/workfit and some supportive research from Harvard studies and the CDC.
Dane: Yes, we do help set up corporate wellness centers. We have had more requests for help in the last year then we have in 10 years. The state of the nation is horrible and seems to be getting worse. Companies are losing billions on health cares cost and lost productivity. There have been a lot of studies released that have proven that wellness and good programming can increase a company's productivity and reduce their health care costs at the same time. It also shows employees that their employers care about their well being. I think we are going to see more and more companies offer these programs.
So what can you tell our audience that they can do to get their company to put in a fitness center. What do they need to do?
Deanna: The first thing I'd suggest speaking with us about your company and what you want to accomplish. Not all companies will need the same thing and we tailor our approach based on your needs. For example, we just completed an employee wellness center for our client, ServPro, at their Gallatin headquarters. We worked with their team to provide equipment, videos, training and more. They committed to getting this right and the end result is a really nice, well thought out wellness center. We worked with them on every detail and this was a ground-up project that started with new construction. We were right beside them through the whole process: working with construction managers on little details like power requirements, ventilation, space requirements, ADA requirements. We selected equipment for them based on their budget, which in this case involved a lot of refurbished equipment instead of new. We offered our services and expertise down to the smallest details like fitness posters, accessory storage, and a weight scale. We worked with them on safety videos, trained their staff in maintenance and equipment usage. It was nice to see how serious they took the whole project and their dedication to creating something great for their employees.
Dane: Hopefully they have determined that there is a need or desire to have this program. I would then call us or a similar company that has experience in wellness or program development like this. The first thing is usually a meet and greet where we might discuss some of the following questions because there are a lot of things to consider: What is the company's goal? What space can they provide? Do they have a budget in mind? What programming will be offered? Who will be responsible for the programming, internal/external? What is the company's typical demographic? Can incentives be a part of the programming? How will they maintain the program and equipment? Will the wellness program be used as a marketing draw to attract more qualified employees? There are many questions to ask and answer but these are good starting point.
You personally--what does wellness mean to you?
Deanna: For me, wellness is about the physical, the mental and the spiritual. It's a balance of all of these things. I've experienced the reward that comes from living a disciplined lifestyle of good eating habits and a commitment to be physically active. I have the support I need from family and friends to continue that lifestyle. And, I've made it a habit to do these things daily. It wasn't always been the case for me. At one point in my life, I gave in to an unhealthy diet, no exercise, and the result was really bad. I gained weight and I was unhappy and felt bad all the time. I'm in a good place now and see the benefits of the way I live now. I don't even consider going back. It's just not worth it.
Dane: Wellness was my salvation at a dark point in my life. It helped me get through some tough times so I felt that I could share that experience and help others. I have always loved being outside doing certain activities such as running and mountain biking. I really have gotten into mountain biking over the past 2 years. The whole experience has been very rewarding to me. I never thought at my age a bike could bring me such joy. I love the whole experience from being on the bike, the serenity of the woods, the extreme physical intensity, the skill set needed to perform, and the over all feeling of well being. These are things that everyone can experience given the right opportunity, access, education, encouragement, and motivation.
Where can I look at this equipment?
Deanna: We have some of our equipment online. We get new stuff in all of the time and our inventory is constantly changing. We update our website, keep posts going on Twitter, Facebook, eBay, and of course, we love talking directly to our customers about their needs.
Dane: We have a shop in Hendersonville. It is like a store front but not all at the same time. We are constantly moving equipment in and out to be sold, refurbished, assembled, or inspected. Used commercial and refurbished commercial equipment is very popular so the shop is our garage for the equipment that is being prepared to be moved to its new home. You can also view it on our website or company's social media postings. I still think the best way to learn about something is face to face to some see us.
You've helped a couple of schools set up fitness centers. That's so the football team can gain an edge or what?
Deanna: We have a passion for helping young people develop healthy habits early on when they can make it a lifelong habit, versus the pains of having to correct this later on in adult years. We support youth sports, but it's not at all the focus of our work with these schools. It's all about leading people to be Fit For Life. Our goal is to provide a fitness center for one school each year. We work closely with the YMCA of Middle TN on this project, taking a recommendation from them on schools with the most need. This type of thing requires a lot of coordinating with school officials, our team, and the YMCA. We need more community support as well. We are currently looking for more ways to obtain donors for future projects so that we can continue to do this each year. You can give directly through the YMCA for this project, or give on our website at danefit.com/giveback.
Dane: We recognize that athletics is important but usually on a small portion of a student body will participant in sports or can. We want to make sure that all students have access to some form of wellness program or activity and not just the students but the faculty as well. Obesity is now considered a disease and the only way to fight a disease is through prevention and education. The best time to start both is at a young age with the parents and faculty leading by example. It is hard to educated without the means or the program so we are trying to do what we can to help increase the awareness of these programs. We are not in the school systems so we rely heavily on our community partner, The YMCA of Middle Tennessee to help guide us to the schools with the greatest needs. We hope that awareness will grow so that other people will become interested in donating or helping procure grants so that we can help more then just one school a year.