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The Evolution of Austin Fitness Rentals 

 

evolution of exerciseI've been asked more than a few times how I came up with the idea for Austin Fitness Rentals. While its a relatively long story that happened over the course of many years, perhaps I can briefly relate the salient points. I initially retired from the world of health sciences government contracting in 2006 to cofound an Internet business called CoKnown. While that was interesting from a technical perspective, it didn't allow me to fully utilize my passion for health and fitness. As a health sciences expert I wanted to find something that really spoke to me and allowed me to directly help people. After a final brief stint once again in the government contracting arena in 2010, I resolved to never again return to that profession and decided to buy or start a new business that met my goals. 

I spent a month or so outlining all of the criteria I would like in a new business and refining that to the 10 must-haves I required in my new business. The #1 criteria was the following: Must be in an industry that provides some benefit to customers and/or society at large without causing harm or undue distress to others. E.g. health care, exercise, education, other professional services, etc… Cannot be in business just to turn a profit even if it does no harm to others. E.g. no; towing/impound, repo, day trading, dangerous products (tobacco, alcohol) adults only oriented businesses, etc…  Upon completion of my criteria I began contacting business brokers in Austin and closely looked at perhaps 20 different businesses. Now if you've never dealt with a business broker, consider yourself fortunate. While there may be some fantastic brokers, I was not lucky enough to find one in Austin. After many frustrating experiences of trying to buy a business and actually getting very close to purchasing 2 different businesses, I threw in the towel and decided that the only way to do it right would be to do it myself. 

During the process of attempting to buy a rental equipment business in Austin (name withheld per NDA) my wife told a friend about it as we finalized due diligence. The friend asked if we would consider adding exercise equipment rentals to the inventory as she wanted a high-quality treadmill but didn't want to spend $8,000 or more to get it. When that business purchase fell through, I decided to investigate the idea of renting exercise equipment as a stand-alone business concept. It seemed to be a perfect idea in that it met all of my must-have criteria. It also allowed me to have an immediate and tangible impact on the health and wellness of Austinites and our visitors by providing a service that allows them to easily incorporate an exercise program into their ever-increasingly busy lives. 

Starting a brand new business concept in a market is always challenging. Nothing existed in Austin that was similar to fitness equipment rentals. Other individual and franchise companies existed around the country and indeed, around the world. However, none in the central Texas area. Consequently, I had to do market research and analysis to see if this business would be of interest to central Texans. Two marketing companies, Complete Creative Services and Thresher Marketing helped me execute the due diligence plan over a number of months to figure out how this concept would be accepted in Austin. Based on the invaluable advice, feedback and results provided by the owners of these marketing companies, Eric May and Tune Outhavong respectively, I forged ahead with completing the business plan for Austin Fitness Rentals. 

After many revisions of the business plan and consulting with financial & legal advisors, exercise equipment industry experts, rent-to-own experts, my own advisory board members, and a host of other business experts, it was time to pitch the idea to the banks. It takes about a month to get through the pitch process to banks (and can be longer). 5 banks and 1 Venture Capital firm in Austin turned me down. There were a variety of reasons but at the end of the day it came down to the fact that this was a new concept, had never been done in Austin so the underwriters said no.  One bank said yes - Horizon Bank of Texas.  Mark Hodges, the Vice President at Horizon spent a great deal of time working with me to get a solid understanding of the business and present the concept to his team. Fortunately, Horizon Bank believed in me and the business plan and agreed to provide our start-up loan. In addition, I was able to bring in an Angel investor to further bolster our ability to purchase and subsequently offer the health-club-quality exercise equipment that our future customers would demand.   

So in summary, here are the events that led to the founding of Austin Fitness Rentals: retired from former careers - created must-have criteria for new career - investigated buying an existing business/franchise - serendipitous inquiry from a friend - conducted proper amount of due diligence on business concept (avoiding analysis paralysis) - developed & refined formal business plan - pitched the idea for funding (much patience is required during this phase) - launched Austin Fitness Rentals.  Reading back over that, it seems like a fair amount of work. It was. In retrospect however, that was the easy part. 


So what's the hard part? Its ensuring that every day we live our core values: 

·      Embrace human health and fitness,

·      Be ever-vigilant about providing a professional demeanor and presence, &

·      Take personal responsibility for ensuring exceptional service 

please-rate-your-experienceWe are not a lowest-cost provider and consequently do not offer our customers low-quality equipment or average service. Our equipment consists of high-end units and our service is unparalleled. 

Our motto is, "We Deliver Results". And we do. Anytime, For Anyone - Every-time. Give us a call and let us know how we can help you. 

DrKPMay Jan 23, 2014