The Big Smoke sat down with Mel Tempest, independent health club owner and fitness business influencer, to learn about her life, her career, and why she thinks the fitness industry needs major disrupting.
Hi Mel! Can you tell us briefly about yourself and the businesses you run?
I started in the fitness industry in December 1999 as a circuit instructor and then opened my own club in Sept 2003 with zero members. Fifteen years later, I own a successful club, have taught overseas and now speak about fitness business success to corporate groups. I’m known as a disruptor and agitator who holds people accountable, irrespective of their role. I was the first Australian to open a men’s only facility and the first Australian to receive a global award from the IHRSA (the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association).
Were you always interested in health and fitness? How did you get started?
I actually started by accident. I tell the full story in my autobiography. Like most women, I wanted to be thin but definitely did not understand the true sense of what health and fitness was. I didn’t even know what a carb was until I studied fitness!
I’d been working in real estate for about a decade and just found out I was expecting my third child. A few weeks later my grandfather, who raised me, found out he had terminal lung cancer and had 16 weeks to live. He ended up surviving another two years, so he was able to see my youngest daughter born which was wonderful, but after spending the years since his diagnosis just being with him, I now had a lot of time on my hands. My other children were, by that stage, about 8 and 10. (I also had another child, my first, who sadly passed away shortly after birth.) My friend suggested I join a gym, which I did. A few months passed and my hubby said it was probably a good idea to get back into a social workplace with people but I just didn’t want to. So, I went off and became a fitness instructor! I got my first job as a circuit instructor at 35 and then after about 18 months in the industry, I wanted to teach a new dance class called BodyJam. My group fitness manager told me I couldn’t and never would. It made no sense to me that in an industry which is supposed to inspire people, there are those who could treat you so dismissively. It’s especially disappointing when you’re enthusiastic and motivated and looking to be inspired.
I came home and told my hubby I wanted to open a gym. I had no idea what I was doing, I hardly had any experience, but I had passion, empathy, a sales background and a belief that it could be done.
Two years later we opened our little gym. It is now four times the size!
You call yourself a disruptor of the status quo. Why? What is it about the fitness industry that you think needs disrupting?
The whole industry needs disruption. We are a self-regulated industry and we need to stop pretending we are any more than this. The way we educate trainers needs to change, independent club owners need more protection and assistance so they can succeed. The tall poppy syndrome and backslapping needs to stop, people need to be given opportunity. We need more choices to allow this.
Tell us about the Gym Owners Business Podcast. What is it and why did you create it?
The Gym Owners Business Podcast was an idea from fitness industry guru Thomas Plummer – he pretty much has said (paraphrasing) to me, “It’s going to be a tough gig for you to weave your way through the industry here but you have talent, you’re smart and you have a lot to offer,” hence the beginning of the podcast. But the podcast will not be where it stops and the industry won’t stop me.
You’re also a published author. Can you tell us about the books you’ve written?
I’ve written an eBook autobiography which takes about 45 minutes to read. I hope that it inspires those in life to jump the hurdles. I chat about having $3.60 in the bank for wages, being diagnosed with a brain tumour and my turbulent upbringing. I have also written eBooks on fitness business as well as a guide to success.
What is the main reason people quit when they’re trying to get healthy? Give us your top tips on how to get started and stay motivated.
It’s mindset. An unhealthy mind can create many obstacles. Hang around with people who have the same goals and don’t hang with those that give you excuses to stop bettering yourself. Keep moving everyday and give yourself the best possible chance in life. Don’t be that person that said “I wish I had”, be that person that said “I did”. If you can live with the worst possible scenario, why wouldn’t you give yourself the best possible chance?
Where do you see the fitness industry going in the next five to ten years? How is technology changing the way we get fit and stay healthy?
I see the industry becoming more competitive and I see big brands working in collaboration more with smaller brands who give better personalised service. I see suppliers and educators wanting to work more alongside those in the know of the fitness business industry. I see the “now” faces being the next generation of influencers, and the quicker the better! The industry is changing at a rapid rate and we need new, fresh exciting people out there influencing the next generation of business professionals. Technology such as Myzone is creating change already across thousands of clubs globally, members of gyms are learning how to train effectively and safely using a device that is affordable, comfortable and transparent in results. I’d like to also say that Myzone is being used in hospitals for chronic illness patients. (I’m not sponsored by Myzone, just passionate about it!)
Anything else you want us to know?
Yes, the Australian Fitness Business Industry is open to all, not just a small niche group. In order for opportunity to be given to all, we as an industry need to pull together and work together as one. Forget the niche, create the network you want to be a part of. Stand up, be counted, work in collaboration.
Original story by The Big Smoke