His plan was to be a psychologist. But plans can change. Twenty-four years later, Rick Sikorski is now the founder and President of the largest personal training organization in the world — Fitness Together Franchise Corporation.
It wasn't until working on his Master's degree in Counseling Psychology at Arizona State that Rick Sikorski ever envisioned doing anything else. He had always had a love of fitness and was very involved in weight training, college football and hockey. But it was when he arrived in Arizona that he realized the public gym model wasn't working for a lot of people. He felt it only worked for people who were already in shape or who were using working out as a socializing agent. "While studying psychology and being interested in human behavior, I decided to try to put together a better model," recalls Sikorski. Thus began the Fitness Together model.
A Vision Becomes Reality
We live in a world where people believe that bigger is better. But Sikorski sought out to change this way of thinking, at least where personal training was concerned. Based on his personal experiences, he believed that one of the main factors that kept people from achieving a higher level of fitness was the intimidation factor. "My idea was to open a small studio and private suites within the studio where clients could work in a setting that was comfortable. So that's really what I built the program around," he explains.
"At the beginning, I didn't have a vision of it being all over the country," Sikorski recalls. "I wanted to see how incorporating the study of human behavior would work, and it turned out to work very well." From age 22 to 36, Sikorski worked on growing the first four locations. It was around the 12th year when he actually felt like he could have these kinds of facilities all over the country. There are currently 520 locations in five different countries — the United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland and Israel. "It's been a very exciting last several years," he admits. And with the tremendous growth, the concept of smallness and privacy has never changed.
Bumps Along the Road
Looking back, Sikorski admits that his path to success wasn't an easy one. "The first obstacle I had to overcome was not knowing what to do. Unfortunately, there was no one to follow back then," he shares. So Sikorski had no choice but to create his own path and become a pioneer, in a sense, paving the way for others to follow.
The second obstacle he faced was money — or lack thereof. With no funding available, he did what any other determined entrepreneur would do. He sold his car. With $9,000 in his pocket, there was no turning back.
It didn't get any easier from there. Because then came the hard part — figuring out how to make the business work. With no footsteps to follow, he was on his own. Sikorski attributes four key components to his personal success:
The first and "least effective" was trial and error.
The second was reading business books, such as Good to Great, See You at the Top and The Ultimate Sales Letter, and absorbing as much information as he could. "I tried to read one book every quarter."
The third was hiring consultants. "I realized in order for me to take it to the level of a national company, I needed to have input from people over and above reading books. One consultant worked with me 10 hours a week for one year."
The fourth was being careful to listen to franchisees as he was adding owners. "Now we have over 500 of them. I would look to what they were doing, and if something was working exceptionally well, we would share it."
Realizing the Dream
Rick Sikorski's determination to be a successful business owner has paid off in a big way. With just one location in Scottsdale, Arizona back in 1983, two decades later, there are now over 500 locations worldwide, with more springing up every day. Sikorski has opened up the door for hundreds of others to become as successful as he. To personal trainers aspiring to open up a studio, Sikorski advises, "The thing that holds people back is themselves. I've seen people break through barriers," including, of course, Sikorski himself.