Jun 20, 2024

Zipper Podcast Episode 6: Lessons from 30 Years as a Fitness Entrepreneur

Jason Busch, Owner of Body Balance Strength and Wellness in Boulder, CO shares his lessons from 30 years as a fitness entrepeneur.

Zipper Podcast Episode 6: Lessons from 30 Years as a Fitness Entrepreneur


  • Body Balance is an integrated strength and wellness facility that offers personal training, physical therapy, and myofascial release therapy.
  • Conducting movement assessments is important to understand clients' needs and provide personalized recommendations.
  • Gym ownership requires careful budgeting and understanding of commercial leases.
  • Financial risks and hard work are involved in gym ownership, but passion for the industry can drive perseverance. Partnerships in small gym environments can be challenging and often fail.
  • Having good contracts in place is crucial to manage personal relationships and protect yourself.
  • Manage cash flow and keep overhead low to ensure financial stability.
  • Treat people with respect and kindness, and create a positive environment.
  • Align yourself with people who share your values and don't be afraid to make changes if expectations are not met.
  • Perseverance and building strong relationships are key to success in the fitness industry.


Chris Alto (00:02.179)
All right. Hey there, this is Chris with the Zipper Podcast. Today we are lucky enough to have our guest, Jason Busch, who is the owner of Body Balance Strength and Wellness at a Boulder. Jason, thanks for coming on for the Podcast. Amazing. So you have, we're just talking about how you've been in the industry for almost 30 years now. So I'm sure you have a lot of nuggets for folks who are either currently fitness business owners or operators, as well as people who might be hoping to get into it. But first,

Jason Busch (00:13.006)
Welcome, thanks for having me.

Jason Busch (00:22.766)
Thank you.

Chris Alto (00:31.491)
Pass it off to you, tell us a bit about Body Balance, and then we'll dive in.

Jason Busch (00:35.437)
All right, sounds good. So Body Balance, the current version and the version that we're gonna run with for quite a while is an integrated strength and wellness facility. So we really bring athletes in or weekend warriors or the average individual who has a need or a want and a need. And so we have...

career personal trainers working for us, working out of our space. We have physical therapists working out of our space. We have myofascial release therapists working out of our space and then, and myself. And so generally, you know, kind of what we do is, you know, we work with everybody from, you know, somebody who just wants to hire a personal trainer and, and, you know, either once or twice or ongoing training.

And, whether it's once or twice or short -term, you know, the trainer meets with them, right? Per rights programs. And then, and then we encouraged them to do the programs here. We do, sell memberships and teach some fitness classes as well. to just kind of keep it multifaceted and keep a new stream of people coming in. And, and so.

So that's kind of what we do. We do a fitness assessment with everybody that comes in. Or really, I'm sorry, it's a movement assessment. There's fitness as a stretch on that one. I wanted an assessment that I could do on anybody and it'll tell me a lot about what I need to know. And I can do it in two minutes or less in street clothes. And so we do the selective functional movement analysis with every client that comes in. So the SFMA, it's part of the FMS education system.

and so we take them in and we evaluate what the results of the SFMA are. and then we make recommendations from there as to whether they need to, you know, they're really struggling with mobility. Then we like them to see the myofascial release therapists, who, you know, I'm biased cause she's my wife. but she's good at what she does. And so I like to see her, then see, Silvana.

Jason Busch (02:58.603)
And then when they're done with her, then usually they come and see me and we do a movement analysis, like an in -depth, you know, first session movement analysis. And we do, we learned to do self myofascial release. We learned to do movement analysis and movement drills to help with mostly, you know, it's always T -spine, shoulders, hips, so on and so forth, ankles. And then.

I either work with them or depending upon the level of the severity and the needs, or I send them to one of the other trainers that works out of the space. And everybody's got a decade or more of experience. And then the physical, if they need PT, we refer them to our PT's, if the PT's refer people back to us. And it's good. It's a good business plan. We're in a small space, about 3 ,600 square feet.

and very machine minimal, mostly sort of functional training, if you will, you know, kettlebells and weights and on cables and suspension training and medicine balls and a lot of floor space so that we can move around and do everything from, you know, traditional bodybuilding sort of to functional fitness training to movement work to core training to kind of everything. It's a good it's a really good.

on version Body Balance having had multiple versions over the years. So that's Body Balance.

Chris Alto (04:35.555)
Great. Yeah, I mean, it sounds like you, yeah, it sounds like you do a little bit of everything. So I have a bunch of questions off of that, but I guess, can you tell us a bit about like the founding of Body Balance, what that process was like, and maybe any tips you might have for other folks who are either beginning their journey to gym ownership or might be interested in owning a gym at some point?

Jason Busch (04:52.233)

Sure, sure, sure. Hey, don't do it. No, I'm kidding. Don't do it. Yeah. Not in Boulder. It's busy enough here. No, you know, I'm 53 years old, so I'm a 30 year veteran of this industry in Boulder. And, you know, for me, very traditional story. I'm very tall, 6 '6". I started as a

Chris Alto (04:57.827)
No competition.

Jason Busch (05:24.489)
You know, I grew up here in Boulder, graduated from high school here, had to move to Michigan to live with my father in order for him to satisfy some needs on his end before he was comfortable sending, launching me to college. So I finished up, moved back to Boulder after a couple of years in Michigan. And Michigan is really where I got my start as a, as a gym rat, if you will. I was a skinny kid.

I just didn't like my physique and didn't like the way I looked and decided, you know, just, I didn't know anybody when I moved to Michigan. So I decided, okay, now's the time, right? So that launched my fitness journey. so I was in Michigan for two years, just working out at a world gym there, just, you know, going from, you know, 150 pounds to 175, 85, you know, somewhere in that arena, you know, trying to put on some muscle mass and change my physique. So all of a sudden I had this realization I was.

moving back to Colorado, back to Boulder to go to CU. And I was like, man, I really love this fitness aspect of it. I'm going to go be a physical therapist. So I switched my major, went into the sciences, did the PT, you know, did the bachelor of science and kinesiology route, got out, had spent a little bit too much time in school because I was due to some scheduling issues and some major changes and, you know, so on and so forth. And,

So I started working as a personal trainer in 1995 in Boulder. And I think I lost, and I'm back. Okay. It looks like I lost you. So I started working as a personal trainer in 1995 in Boulder after graduating from CU. And I really loved the gym environment, right? I was working at a traditional gym in downtown Boulder, small, but a very traditional hours of operation, card, you know, locker rooms.

cardio area, aerobics area, strength training, you know, very traditional gym. And I really just kind of blossomed in that environment. I really liked it and it, you know, just really, I really enjoyed it. And so at that point, you know, I was what 90, so I was 25. And so when I got to be 28 years old, by the time I was, well, I guess 27,

Jason Busch (07:47.718)
I decided that I just really would like to own a gym because it just seemed like such a, you know, I knew I wasn't going to be a personal trainer forever, but I, but I didn't want to be out of the industry. And I knew financially, like at that time, you know, you got to understand it says 1995, right? Like the average personal training price was $30 a session. And so, you know, it was really hard to make it as a personal trainer to really make a living. You could make, you could exist. You could be an actor bartender.

you know, even if you were working 30, 35 hours a week, you know, most personal trainers, work just the right amount in order for them to support their lifestyle. Right. So they're, they're, they're, they like to play, you know, they're skiers, they're snowboarders, they're cyclists, they're runners, they're climbers, they're, you know, outdoor enthusiasts in some capacity or they're athletes, they're gym athletes. Right. And so they need to train. And so most.

Chris Alto (08:27.907)

Jason Busch (08:44.869)
personal trainers just had to work that whatever that minimum is so that they can support their lifestyle. And so I just even as a foot in the nineties, even as a full time trainer, it was very difficult to, you know, at 25 years old to like make enough money to live alone or not, you know, not not. Let me be clear about something. It's hard to make money in this industry period. Right. But.

At that point, I had this assumption, hey, I'm going to open a gym because then I'll have all this other different revenue sources and I'll be able to take that next step in life, which is what I really wanted to do. And I also, as a personal trainer, when you're not working, you're not, you know, you're not getting, you're not getting paid. Right. And so I'm like, okay, I love this industry. I really want to work. I really like working out. I mean, it really just, it's one of those things that just clicked with me. And, you know, especially in my twenties and thirties.

I was training hard and so I thought the pathway to open a gym would be just the next step in the evolution of Jason, if you will. And so it was complicated. It was hard. It was painful. Ultimately, it got me where I'm at today and I learned a lot, but boy, those early days of gym ownership, being young, were, thank God I was young.

I recognized early on that, you know, owning a gym and opening it on a shoestring budget, which is really what we did, is it's hard. It's a lot of work. It's a lot of work. I mean, it's long hours. When you think about a traditional gym, it's different now because everybody owns a boutique studio. and they're either a class based system, like, you know, CrossFit, if you will, the orange theory, you know, something along those lines, or they're a,

A boutique facility kind of like mine where they're catering to personal trainers and they're doing what I'm doing. But back in those days you were, it was a gym, you know, it was a bodybuilding gym. And so, you know, you opened at six in the morning, you closed at 10 o 'clock at night, you're open seven days a week. And, you know, it doesn't, on a shoestring budget, you don't really have the option to.

Chris Alto (10:49.251)

Jason Busch (11:08.323)
Financially just go out and hire a bunch of employees and train a bunch of staff and so on and so forth. So after spending a fortune on a build out, spending a fortune on equipment and, and then, and then what's left, very little at that point. So, you know, you have to sort of figure that out on your own. So I had a business partner in the very beginning, you know, we worked together as personal trainers out of the gym that we were working at. And so we just transitioned from that gym where we were working as personal trainers.

to the gym that we had owned, that we were opening. It wasn't that smooth. There were definitely some issues. The owner of the gym that we were working out was, is difficult. And I get it. I mean, he was protecting his abs that he's concerned about one of his busiest personal trainers or two of his busiest personal trainers, you know, moving 10 blocks away or 15 blocks away and opening their own facility.

and you know, to, revenue sources of trainers, plus the clients just walk out the door and walk into the other facility. So, I mean, I get it as an older individual, I understand how difficult that can be as a younger man. I was, I, I, I was, I just didn't, I thought that that was pretty lame on his part. he, me, how he did, how the whole thing happened and how he approached me and we'll circle back to that.

Chris Alto (12:15.491)

Jason Busch (12:35.327)
the story later because he comes back into it later. But, so at any event, after being kicked out of that gym, kind of floundered for a little bit working as a personal trainer, which was fine, I opened my gym. And that, we kind of sputtered along for a couple of years, we kind of broke even and allowed us to...

I mean, you know, we were able to make enough money to hire an employee or two. We had some good friends that were helping us out. Like it was very much community gym, small. I think it was, 4 ,000 square feet, 4 ,500 square feet, something like that. So it was small. The overhead was low. and, and then life happens and, you know, partnerships disintegrate and landlords do things that don't jive with me as a business owner.

And so an opportunity had come up to open or to buy. I'd worked out of a personal training gym, out of a gym downtown. And I'd left that and opened my own place and the opportunity for me to buy that place that I was working at came back up. And so at that time I broke the lease that we were in, bought out my business partner and bought the gym.

Chris Alto (13:43.427)

Jason Busch (13:55.134)
that I was working as a personal trainer, combine those facilities back under one roof. And so, go ahead.

Chris Alto (14:00.739)
Quick question on that. So how did you finance that? Was it just like bank loan, friends and family? How did that work?

Jason Busch (14:06.366)
Well, no, so...

The owner carry. It was an owner carry. So the guy that I bought the gym from carried the note. And, and so, you know, he got the interest and he carried the note and it was a hefty, I mean, you know, like we paid, you know, we overpaid way overpaid for that business, but I was young and I was, saw all I saw was here's an opportunity to get out of a business partnership that I have that's complicated and to get into, to take.

my business, which is Breakeven, and his business, which is Breakeven. And I'll tell you, Breakeven is the curse of a business. And because usually when you're breaking even as an owner, you're either as an owner when you're Breakeven, you're either taking your money and that, you know, because I'm working as a trainer inside of my own facility as well. So I'm taking that money and I'm putting it back into the business to keep the business afloat.

Which means, you know, personally, I mean, I still have bills to pay mortgages and, you know, car payments and everything else. Right. And, and, or you're losing your, you know, if you lose your, if you lose your ass, you can only lose your ass for so long. You know, pretty soon you can only hemorrhage money for so long. So you have to close door.

Jason Busch (15:35.387)
When it reconnects, are you, I have it reconnecting. Does it show up on your end?

Chris Alto (15:41.763)
Yeah, so it should be, this is all being recorded locally. So you can still, I think if you still like continue going, even if it says it's reconnecting, it should still be good. Yeah, so, yeah.

Jason Busch (15:46.234)

Jason Busch (15:52.507)
Gotcha. Okay. Okay. Perfect. All right. So, so when you're, if you're, if you're a break even business, it's a real struggle, right? Because next month's going to be different. Next month's going to be different. Next month's going to be different. It never really does, but you sort of in this for the passion and, and, and you just, I never saw myself doing anything else. I mean, that was part of the thing is, is the perseverance associated with just putting one foot in front of the other, getting up day after day and going to the gym and like finding solace in the weights.

You know, and like even when things were hard and things were hard, you know, you just focus, you know, just that one hour a day where I can get my workout in and just not have to stress about all the other shit, the lawsuits and all the other crap that's going on. But so this was an opportunity for me to take these two businesses and mold them together and get rid of a partnership that was really tough. Right. So the owner of the.

other business, he approached me and he's like, hey, I'll carry the note. So he carried the note. So we made hefty payments to him on a monthly basis. And then I bought my partner out over time as well. So he kind of carried the note, if you will. I didn't owe my partner very much, very little money in the grand scheme of things. So that was an easy one for me to sort of put to bed. But the buyout of the other businesses to combine those two was...

was complicated and expensive. And also we had this lease that we had to deal with, right? So we moved out of this commercial lease and we had a commercial lease and we ended up breaking the lease. We had some issues, the landlord was gonna do construction on the space. So it was a single story building and he was putting in a bunch of lofts above our space, which means.

roof penetrations and floor penetrations and columns coming down all over the place. Right. So we kind of use that as an opportunity to say constructive eviction and, and, you know, young youth has a way of, doing some wonderful things and also has a way of really getting you in a hot water. and so, you know, we ended up, he sued me and we sued him and there was a bunch of law.

Jason Busch (18:15.034)
mumbo jumbo going back and forth. And in the end, the only real winner was the attorneys and my landlord. So I ended up having to come up with a bunch more money. And that one, a client of mine stepped up and helped secure, I got a bank loan with her backing it. And so she was kind of my, my, my guardian angel in that capacity. And I had a really good relationship with her and.

Chris Alto (18:27.715)

Jason Busch (18:43.962)
just laid all the financials out and so she secured the bank loan for me and then I just paid that off over time. So in the end, between what we borrowed to open the gym in the first place, what it cost us to buy the gym in the second place, the second gym to combine the underneath one roof, and then what we ended up having to pay my previous landlord in a lawsuit, I had about a million dollars in debt.

Chris Alto (19:12.451)

Jason Busch (19:14.009)

That was a lot of debt. It was a lot of money. And, you know, in the end, it was just everything that I was doing to try and keep the gem afloat. You know, ultimately that was it. And then, then an opportunity had come. So we were at a particular location in downtown Boulder and they had just built this new, fancy location in downtown Boulder and a building.

Chris Alto (19:20.131)

Chris Alto (19:26.837)

Jason Busch (19:45.784)
And so the landlords from that building had courted us, if you will. And the landlords from our existing building were, had thought that our space was going to be better dedicated to a different use office space. So we were going to lose our leads on one end. And, but on the other end, we had this, you know, just right across the street, which is like the perfect move for a gym. Right. If I have to move somewhere, if I have to move a gym, I want to move across the street.

Or caddy corner. Yeah. I don't want it. Cause if you move too far, you lose your base, right? You lose your clients, you lose your trainers, you lose everybody because nobody wants to go. and, and then you have to work even harder to get it back. so we had an opportunity to move across the street. I did a bunch of negotiations with the ownership group to get my gym, to move my gym over to that location.

Chris Alto (20:16.291)
Lot of weights to carry.

Chris Alto (20:21.699)
damn, that's true.

Jason Busch (20:45.399)
And in commercial leases, what they don't tell you, initially, nobody tells you is you have to personally guarantee a commercial lease. So personal guarantee means that you sign a document that says if I can't professionally pay my lease, personally, I'm liable for it. So whatever assets, I mean, if you don't have any assets and the landlord is willing to let you sign a personal guarantee,

which is rare if you have no assets, because there's no teeth behind the personal guarantee, right? Then good for you. But most anybody who has an asset is that asset's gonna be in jeopardy should you not be able to pay the lease. Now, some landlords are totally reasonable and other landlords are not. And so that's something that you really need to pay attention to when you're getting yourself into a commercial lease. Like what do you have? What's it?

What's at stake personally, if this business fails? cause nobody thinks their business is going to fail. Everybody is really excited and, really, you know, gung ho to open a gym. but let's be real. I mean, I don't know the specific numbers, but it's greater than 50 % of gyms fail. I mean, it's probably 70, 80 % in fact, when I opened Body Balance for the first time, the average failure rate of, of, of mom and pop brick and mortar entrepreneurial businesses.

Chris Alto (21:45.411)

Jason Busch (22:11.829)
is 70%. So.

Chris Alto (22:17.379)
So what do you think has contributed to your ability to avoid that?

Jason Busch (22:23.605)
you know, honestly doing your homework, right? So paying attention to those things know that, you know, it's not just, it's, you know, being a meathead, which I am, right? You know, like being a meathead is great. You know, I mean, you just want to lift weights and be a meathead and you know, all that stuff is really great. but there's a whole business side of this industry, that needs to be a paid attention to.

And you know, and you have a lot to lose financially. You can if you have a landlord, if you're two years into a lease and you can't pay it and your landlord is, you know, and you have a five year deal or even a four year deal or hell, a three year deal that you signed. Right. And let's say your average rent dollars are 10 grand a month. So you're at one hundred and twenty thousand dollars annually just in rent payment that doesn't account utilities.

mechanical problems, the what if factor, COVID, right? Like all those gyms that went into COVID with 10 grand in the bank all failed, right? And so, you have to really understand that there's a lot behind the scenes. Things get really expensive, really fast. And there's,

you know, how much is your rent, right? You know, it's $10 plus $8 triple net. So it's really $18 a square foot. And then something else that they don't ever tell you is, is that every year, your landlord, if you're in a commercial lease, every year, your landlord doesn't audit on their triple net expenses, right? So triple net, it's taxes, insurance and maintenance. So all of that is passed through to the tenant.

And whatever their pro rata share is, if they're the whole building, then they pay the entire percent or the hundred percent. If they're 10%, they pay 10%. Right. And so what they don't tell you is that, sorry, my wife, my daughter, what they don't tell you is that, you, so, you know, that, that money is tacked on annually. And then every year at the first quarter,

Chris Alto (24:32.131)
It's all good.

Jason Busch (24:44.88)
your landlord does an assessment. And if your landlord's like, I, boy, I really screwed up and I got my triple net numbers wrong. you owe me 10 grand, 20 grand, 30 grand, five grand. here's your bill. How do you want to pay it? You know, check or installments and, and that's always a shock. I remember the first time I got one of those and I was like, Whoa, what is this? triple net. And then I'm like, what is this other number? And they're like, that's your new rent payment.

Chris Alto (25:02.019)

Jason Busch (25:14.641)
And I'm like, but the lease doesn't look in, in, they're like, well, but the lease allows us to adjust based upon our triple net estimates. And so, you know, that $10 ,000 a month more lease payment can now be 10, five. You know, even though the lease says it's 50 cents a square foot every year, you know, something along those lines, right? So it's the triple nets that kill you. So in the end.

Chris Alto (25:22.499)
Wow, that's crazy.

Jason Busch (25:44.144)
You know, I opened the gym. I bought merged, the two facilities together. And, you know, we did really well for a short period of time, but then this lawsuit with the landlord really kind of caught up to me. And then that sucked a whole bunch more money out of my world. And so we wanted to move. we tried to move into this place right across the street. now here's the other piece of advice. Don't trust anybody. I mean, I'm a very trusting individual and I'd rather be a trusting individual than a cynic.

Chris Alto (26:07.363)
Fair enough.

Jason Busch (26:14.351)
But when you're a trusting individual, you get burned. And so just pay attention, right? Don't let the excitement of the deal overshadow the sensibility of your decision -making process.

Partnerships are tough, right? Like, you know, when you have my wife and I are in a partnership in this business, but we're married, right? So there's no options and we do fine. Like I actually love being in business with my wife. But business partnerships are tough. You know, there's a honeymoon period and then there's the reality. And sometimes partners can navigate businesses really well and but most of the time partnerships fail.

If you have a partnership in a company that's very large and the partners have been distinctive roles, usually, you know, you can manage that. But when you're a small gym environment and you're just doing it with somebody else because you couldn't afford it, you needed the money, you know, you needed the help, the financial help, the emotional help, the physical help. Just be smart about who you pick. I've seen a lot of partnerships plus my own experience get ugly fast.

so make sure you have good contracts in place to manage the, the personal relationships, right? Cause if the personal relationship falls back, falls apart, then you have the contract to rely on. And so, you know, a lot of those things that's sort of where I kind of fell short on things was I let the excitement of the deal get in my way as it didn't back it up with hard contracts. so when we went to move into one Boulder,

the other facility that we were going to move into, the new facility, I had to bring in a partner because financially I didn't have a strong enough personal guarantee. So I had to bring in a partnership. And so I brought in an individual who I had purchased the gym from previously and I brought him in as a business partner. And unfortunately, I was so focused on getting the deal done that I didn't have him sign a non -disclosure agreement.

Jason Busch (28:26.282)
And that was my downfall. So I had everything done, but I needed a stronger personal guarantee. I had a lease and the equipment list and the finished levels and, and, and, and, and, and, and all I needed him to do was to come in and sign on the lease and provide his personal financial statement. And he did so and booted me out of the deal in less than 12 hours.

He had the personal guarantee, so he had the financial ability to guarantee the lease. I didn't. I had the business, but the personal guarantee was more important than the business. So I was out of the industry altogether, out of gym ownership and out. So those were the dark days. Right.

Chris Alto (29:05.091)

Chris Alto (29:12.675)
Wow, that's great. So just so I understand, so this was a partner who's going to come in and build a business with you. You didn't have him sign an NDA, so he took the information that you, a non -disclosure. And so he took the information that you gave him and used that to essentially win the deal and booted you out. Wow.

Jason Busch (29:21.61)
NDA. Yeah.

Jason Busch (29:29.577)
Exactly behind my back. I actually just even work I mean there's so much more to it but you know in the end though I was out and you know, so it was a real struggle at that point to sort of identify with kind of what I was going to do right because I was no longer a gym owner and at that point I'd been a gym owner for What 1998 to 2006 so almost 10 years, right? and

So I was just a personal trainer again and I really, I was, I'm like, okay, I don't know if I can make this work. I don't know. You know, I mean, just sort of, plus it was just the crushing emotional issues associated with what that went through. I mean, there was so much more. There was, there was, you know, there was a personal injury lawsuit that happened while the, the commercial lease lawsuit was going on. That former business partner of mine,

had a mental breakdown, because he was being sued for a personal injury, that, that happened while he was working with somebody. They sued me as well, cause I own the gym and had the master policy. He had a mental breakdown, dude, it's so much, it gets so deeper than that. You know, like we could talk for another 30 minutes just about that. so he had a mental breakdown, resorted to a life of crime. we had to.

Chris Alto (30:41.411)
It's crazy.

Jason Busch (30:55.173)
the insurance company settled on the lawsuit. He then went to jail for a year, got out, committed suicide. I was managing all of this stuff and trying to keep this gym afloat and then they're taking my business away and then I'm trying to move into a new facility and then that gets stolen from me and then on and on and on and on and on, right? And then I go, I walk away from it.

clothes on the deal, take some money, but it wasn't enough. I mean, it was still tens of thousands of dollars less than what I owed on it, you know, but I was able to take that money and then give it to the bank. And so it paid down the note considerably, but I still had a considerable amount of money that I owed the bank. and the one thing that I had was a condo in Boulder that my father and my stepmother had purchased for me when I was in college. and.

I lived there with roommates when I was in college and then so that was the only asset that I had and that one single asset got my ass out of trouble because as that asset rose in value, I was able to refinance it and pay off the last of the bank loan. And then I had to deal with credit card debt, right? Because I was putting all this stuff on credit cards, just trying to keep the gym afloat. And so then I had to deal with all this credit card debt. So.

so fast forward, I'm out of the gym industry. I'm working as a personal trainer. I get into a snowmobile accident and I break a bunch of ribs and lacerate my liver and partially collapse my lung and end up, what do I end up with that more debt? Because I, my health insurance wasn't good enough at that time to manage a catastrophic injury like that.

cause when you're self -employed, you don't always have the best health insurance because it costs so much. And, so, so at that point, you know, I'm healing from the injury. I go to back to work as a personal trainer. I work as a personal trainer out of a couple of different facilities or a period of time. what would that been? five, six.

Chris Alto (32:52.547)
Right, right. Wow.

Jason Busch (33:14.883)
I sold the business in 05 and 06. I was working as a personal trainer. And then, so I probably did that. Yeah. So then I started to get, it's hard to recall at this point, but, I met my wife. She was not a citizen, so we needed to get a citizenship for her. So we got married. I realized that I needed a

She needed a green card and I needed to meet minimum financial requirements. And again, I was just working. I was like, I'm just going to be a personal trainer. I'm just going to work the minimum amount necessary to meet my monthly expenses. And I need a break, right? I've been hammered for the last eight or nine years. I just need a break. And so then I was like, all right, now I need to get serious. I need to start working. I need to start making some money so I can sponsor my wife as a green card holder.

And so at that same time, a client of mine had ordered me this job listing for a company down in Denver who was hiring a operations director for a startup fitness franchise company. So I applied and they hired me. And so I worked for about a year and a half as an operations director for a fitness franchise company, which allowed me to get my wife the green card and so on and so forth.

I did realize very quickly that I'm unemployable. I can't work for anybody else. And it just, having done this for so long, I can't have anybody tell me what to do, when to do, how to do it, and whether I'm doing it right. And I work harder. I don't have paid vacation, but I don't have the answer to anybody other than myself either. So.

Chris Alto (34:54.467)

Chris Alto (35:02.691)
Mm -hmm.

Jason Busch (35:02.879)
So one of the recessions hit that business really hard since it was a startup fitness franchise. And again, like we talked about how many businesses close. And so they closed and they laid everybody off. And then I started working as a personal trainer again and was able to build my business back up just by word of mouth and by contacting previous clients and by letting people know that I was personal training again, by introducing myself, by being out in the community, meeting people.

and just self promote, self promote, self promote, ask, ask for clients from my existing clientele, work on referrals, you know, make relationships with, with chiropractors, physical therapists, doctors, you know, so on and so forth. And that was how I was able to build my personal training business back up again. And then I just realized I really wanted to be a gym owner again.

And, and, you know, even though I'm financially, I'm doing fine. And, but I just, I like my own gym. I don't, I have a struggle on other people's gyms. I like the way I set my gyms up. I like the way that I run my facilities. I it's just the entrepreneur in me. Right. So then I opened my own gym, in 2009 at, 28th and Iris here in Boulder. And we started in a real small,

You know, start 1250 square foot space. So my overhead was really low. Keep your overhead low, low overhead, low overhead, low overhead. If you can keep your overhead low, then you don't have, then if you're, you have some skinny months, it's okay. Cause you have an overhead that's very low, right? Versus going big. You know, if you want to go big, work your way into it. Most, you know, going big right away is tough. Or you better be financially backed significantly.

Chris Alto (36:55.075)
Mm -hmm.

Jason Busch (36:56.153)
So, so I opened my own gym and and then we grew we there were three other. So, you know, we took the 1250 square foot space. We took another 1250 square foot space. We took another 1250 square foot space and then we were kind of maxed out in that in that space and we were doing really well. Like everything was fine. We were making money. It was a return it into a 24 hour access facility. No employees, no hours of operation.

you know, sort of the boutique facility that we have right now, right? I wasn't paying anybody to do anything other than myself and my wife and the other personal trainers were contributing. I was the main contributor, my wife, myself and my wife were the two main contributors. And then we leave space to other practitioners and we leave space to independent contract personal trainers. And I taught some classes and we opened up the gym to memberships and we were kind of the only people in Boulder doing that at that time. I mean, maybe not the only, but maybe one of.

five facilities in Boulder that were doing that. Of course, now everybody's doing it, but we were doing fine. And then COVID hit.

And then, you know, that really, you know, just like every facility in the world, COVID hit hard. And, you know, I've been doing this, like I said, since I've been in the business since 1995 and never, ever, ever, ever has anybody just shown up and said, you're closed. And you're closed, right? And so, you know, if you're billing 10 ,015, 20, 100,

Chris Alto (38:25.187)

Jason Busch (38:33.242)
whatever in membership revenue, then you just keep billing your membership revenue, right? Landlords still wanted their money, but if your money's based on service work or your income's based on service work and now you're no longer able to do your service, nor is any of the other personal trainers allowed to able to do their services inside of your facility, it altered the industry forever. I mean, forever. We managed to stay open. We managed, well, I mean, we were closed, but we managed to reopen when we could and really,

Chris Alto (38:53.795)

Jason Busch (39:02.585)
You know, because I see 35 to 50 sessions a week, you know, my revenue, and then I was just doing it on Zoom like everybody was, you know, you know, I was able to keep my revenue up. Landlord and I were able to strike a deal that allowed us to defer some rent. And then, and then we started to get open again. I realized very quickly that I wasn't going to be able to maintain.

this high dollar personal or this high dollar retail lease. So we started looking for alternatives. And fortunately at that point, we had just been doing pretty good financially. And so we were able to really save a lot of money. And so an office condo came available for sale and we jumped on it. And when the interest rates were good and we jumped on it and bought an office condo. And so then here we go again, we're breaking a lease, we're moving, you know, so on and so forth.

But fortunately, I learned enough the first time to make the second time smooth and I had a lot more money. So basically we took all the money that we had and we used it as down payment on the office condo to buy out our own lease and to move over to this facility. And then we had to start all over again and that was in 2001 or 2021. So, but I'd rather start over as an owner than starting over as trying as a lease. It's, you know, everything is more controllable.

Chris Alto (40:27.683)
Mm -mm. Wow.

Jason Busch (40:28.504)
So now I'm here and I run a really solid business, a reputable name in the community, get lots of referrals from lots of people, Zipper included. And we have a really good reputation. I've been doing this long enough. Everybody else here has been 10 years plus. Some people with me for 10 years. And so in the end,

We persevered and I just kept my nose to the grindstone, if you will, and just, okay, tomorrow I'll be better, tomorrow I'll be better. And it did, right? And if it wasn't for all that stuff that happened in the past, I wouldn't be sitting right here right now. And this is a good place to be sitting. Still work hard, still long hours, still tired at the end of the day. But in the end, I get to work in a gym. And...

Chris Alto (41:15.955)

Jason Busch (41:26.871)
That's how I pay my mortgage and support our family and do all those things. So it's a pretty good way to make a living. But it was hell to get here.

Chris Alto (41:36.547)
So I think there was a lot of nuggets in there. So for someone, let's say who's in their mid 20s or maybe in their early 30s and maybe they're the first year of owning a gym or they want to their personal turn, they want to own a gym. What would be your number one piece of advice to them?

Jason Busch (41:52.694)
Well, I think manage your cash flow. Right? Like manage your cash flow. I think that's, you know, make good decisions. Don't...

Again, things are a little bit different in this gym age than they were when I was 30 years old. But manage your cash flow, treat people with the respect and the kindness that they deserve to be treated. Be fair to your personal trainers. Create an environment that people want to spend time at. Foster a group.

a cohesion, if you will. But yet don't force people to overcommit the time that they have. And then as far as growth, I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising over the years. And for the most part, very little of it has actually ever really paid off. Most of it has been just to get my name out there.

zipper plug zipper. I like zippers actually paying off zipper plug. I'm happy with their services. but really it's just like, create a fun environment, do a good job at what you do. Don't take yourself too seriously. Understand the limitations that clients go through on a daily basis, through injuries, through, the family.

Chris Alto (43:12.195)

Jason Busch (43:35.475)
commitments, professional commitments, personal commitments, and be empathetic to those things and just keep people pointed in a direction. And if you provide a good service and you treat people kindly and with respect and you're a fair businessman, then things over the long term, you'll do fine.

You know, you'll do fine. If you need short term cash, you know, if that's something that you're really trying to do is I need something fast, you know, then you got to hustle then it's you know, then you got to like things that we struggle with, you know, social media, everybody, you know, anybody in their 30s is has a solid grasp on social media and how to make that work. Right. But again, in my opinion, you know, I'm old, but in my opinion, it's it you

Working with seeing that person in person in your facility teaching those classes making that personal connection is no You cannot express I cannot stress how important that is To this longevity and future of your business versus trying to be the latest and greatest social media influencer or fitness person in this capacity or that capacity it's saturated it's

Maybe it works for you and awesome, better, you can do that from anywhere. If you want to be an online personal trainer and you can work from anywhere and you can make it work, awesome. But in my opinion, the one thing that you can't, people will never stop going to a gym, seeing a personal trainer, taking a fitness class, working out. That will never change, ever. AI will not take away our jobs.

Chris Alto (45:29.415)

Yeah. That's the interesting thing. It sounds like the fundamentals have really been what ultimately have worked very well for you. It's really just.

Jason Busch (45:38.801)
Yeah, it's just about perseverance. Creating a fostering a, an environment where people want to be at. Creating people with kindness and respect, understanding limitation, being empathetic and keeping people focused on the goal. Right. And life happens. I mean, it really does. I mean, you may have the best plan and the, you know, I wake up every morning. Hey, here's my plan for the day. And 50 % of those I have to throw away and improvise.

because of a client has, they woke up in knee pain, shoulder pain, back pain, they're tired, they didn't get as much sleep, they're undernourished, they're late, they're stressed, it happens, right? It happens with me. So being a husband and a father and a business owner has really allowed me to be empathetic to other individuals when they're struggling.

Chris Alto (46:27.779)

Jason Busch (46:38.127)
with their problems as well. And so the empathy ultimately allows me to identify and then we can work through it together.

Chris Alto (46:45.443)
Makes a lot of sense. Great. And then in terms of just, and let me talk.

Jason Busch (46:53.039)
No worries.

Chris Alto (47:03.427)
Great. And then in terms of hiring folks, so I know that you work with, sounds like physical therapists and personal trainers. Any advice you have for folks who might be thinking about hiring consultants or contractors?

Jason Busch (47:11.407)
Thank you.

Jason Busch (47:15.887)
Well, so for the most, generally I would tell people, yeah, I mean, align yourself with people that have your similar value system, right? Similar goals, similar vision. Not just the first person that walks in the door. Maybe it will be the first person that walks in the door. Maybe it's the first person that you seek out. Maybe it's a friend. Maybe it's a friend of a friend.

But in the end, make sure that they have the same value system and the same sort of goals that you have. And if you're gonna bring people into your facility, whether it's physical therapists, chiropractors, who have, you know, even if you, you know, you wanna align yourself with some sort of a technician, right? Like an aesthetician or, you know, whatever, right? You're just trying to help pay your bills and take some of the stress off you.

Just make sure that they understand what your expectations are and never forget it's your facility, right? So even if a personal trainer, you know, you're running a facility, you're working side by side with the trainers that are out there, you're teaching classes just like everybody else is teaching classes. And if you see something you don't like or, and you know, it doesn't sit with your, with what your goals are, your value systems or what your expectations are, don't be afraid to have a conversation about that.

And always remember that it's, you know, that it's your facility and you don't have to, you know, you get to decide if that's something that you want to put up with or not. Right. we've gone through a lot of practitioners. We've gone through a lot of, you know, we started with chiropractors. We did, we had three chiropractors and then we switched over to physical therapists, which in my opinion, our experience has just been a little bit better. I think it just PTs and fitness kind of just.

align themselves a little bit better than Cairo and PT's are in physical and fitness. we are looking to try and add space to bring in a chiropractor because there's an individual who I really like, who really likes us. And we sort of had a lot of conversations about what, what my expectations are. And he's fully aware of that. So I'm not saying don't do it. I'm just saying, make sure you align yourself with somebody who is clear on what your expectations are. And don't be afraid to. Yeah. And don't be afraid to make a change if that.

Chris Alto (49:34.115)
You have large value.

Jason Busch (49:39.085)
if the reality is different than the expectation initially.

Chris Alto (49:45.507)
Okay. So to recap, it sounds like some of the things that you recommend thinking about are making sure that you're, you know, be trustworthy, but also have your eyes wide open and also make sure you're not making too much of an emotional decision. Find the right partners, keep your overhead low and your cashflow in control. And then find people who align to the value system. Any other major, major piece of advice that you have for folks in the industry?

Jason Busch (50:00.361)

Jason Busch (50:13.385)
And you know what, man, like smile, make people laugh, have fun, don't take yourself too serious, and be empathetic, right? And the rest of it is do your own thing, man. Be your person. Be who you are. And when you're pissed off,

You're pissed off, right? And when you're happy, you're happy. And, you know, we all go, gym owners, we all go through the same thing. You know, it's like, crap, you know, 10 people walked out the door for over this month, right? Or half my clients are on vacation for the summer, right? Like, you know, just realize that if you've been, if you're in it for the long haul, you just can't stress about those things. You know, just keep focused on the end result, keep focused on the end goal. And, and in the end, you'll get what you want out of it, right?

It'll either, you know, if it's a lot of financial success, maybe you're not in the right business. You can make a good living in this industry with moderate stress levels and you can make some really wonderful relationships. I have some wonderful people in my life who I value and friendships that I never would have made had I not been for the gym. Life long.

relationships. So when you're 30 you're thinking about you know I just want to build this gym I need to be financially X you know successful and this is what that means to me you know but also realize like foster those relationships because that's gonna end up those relationships are ultimately gonna be what makes you successful not how much money sitting in your bank account.

Chris Alto (52:02.659)
Amazing. Well, Jason, thanks so much for sharing your story and sharing some advice. This is filled with a lot of nuggets of gold.

Jason Busch (52:10.727)
Yeah, you spent an hour, right? I was like, let's do it for 20 minutes. And here we are an hour later.

Chris Alto (52:14.787)
It's great. I love it. Well, thanks so much for taking some time and have a great long weekend. Enjoy Brazil. All right. See you later. Bye.

Jason Busch (52:20.743)

Thanks, man. Peace out. Thanks, guys. See you.

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