“I believe there’s a real synergy of your mind, your body and your spirit. When you’re working on your body, you’re training your mind and your spirit.”
I run two Step Into Life fitness franchises in Bayside.
Growing up, I moved around a lot, eventually finishing school in Victoria. Yet all through school I had a part-time job at McDonald’s – kind of ironic, with my current career in health and fitness! But it gave me good grounding and work ethic; I learned a lot about systems and processes.
After school I was offered a place at university, but it was a long way away from home and I wasn’t ready to move out. I decided not to go and continued working at McDonald’s as a manager. I was doing that for over a year.
After a while though, I didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, so when the police force were doing a recruiting drive, I thought I had nothing to lose by applying.
Something in it just appealed to me; mainly the idea of helping people. The recruitment process was surprisingly quick: they did a background check, an aptitude test, an interview with 3-4 different police members and a physical fitness check. Despite eating McDonald’s food every day, I passed that one well, probably thanks to my youth and time at the gym!
After I got accepted into the academy, I had 20 weeks of training. I enjoyed that a lot. We studied law, had communication sessions, fitness training. I liked living in the academy; it was a new experience for me, being only 19 at the time.
Later I was assigned to a station in Footscray, where I worked for 3 years, and that was probably the most fun I’ve ever had!
Everything was new; there was a lot of learning. It was a really busy area, as you can imagine. Being a general duty police officer, you’d head out in a van and then jobs would come through over the radio for us to respond to.
It could be anything: from arresting and interviewing a shoplifter, attending a burglary site or typing reports, right up to following a sighted stolen car or investigating drug dealing in the mall. We had a great crew that worked really well together.
For a while, I thought I would be in the police force forever. My goal was to become a detective. There is an internal hiring process in the police, where you apply for open jobs. As someone transferring from a general duties job, you have to put yourself out there, doing other temporary duties. I was looking at available jobs, so I could further my investigative career, and that’s how I ended up in SOCAU – Sex Offender and Child Abuse unit.
The work was challenging and stressful, but I learned a lot.
I also got to do temporary duties in other places, like the Criminal Investigation Unit in Sunshine and Melbourne, and the Regional Armed Robbery task force.
I had been in SOCAU for over 2 years and was promoted to Senior Constable during that time. Still wishing to pursue a detective career, I applied for a position, and managed to get into Crime Department in Melbourne.
I finally reached my goal at the Drug Task Force. That involved investigating reports or information about drug dealing or dealers. During my time in Drug Task Force, I completed my official detective training and received a qualification in investigation.
Still, it felt like the work in Drug Force, though very important, was not as rewarding as dealing with crimes against people. Besides, the environment in the Crime Department wasn’t fantastic; there was a lot of negativity around. I didn’t quite feel it at the time, but in retrospect being a female probably didn’t help it.
I’ve often wondered whether it was my imagination, but after experiencing work outside the police force, it’s evident to me that it was quite a boys’ club.
So when working in Drug Task Force, something else sparked my interest as a way to feel satisfaction that I wasn’t feeling at work. Back when I was working at SOCAU unit, I did my first Run for the Kids fun run. A group of us had trained for it, and the running bug bit me.
At the time we made up our own training program, which, I realize now, wasn’t the best. But I still made it! Running became a great way to release stress for me.
I became involved with athletics, and built up a peer group of friends who were runners as well. One of my friends was doing a Personal Training and Fitness course, and I had other friends involved in training, too. I saw that it may be a professional possibility for me as well. So I enrolled in a part-time course, while still being in the police.
Just after the course started, I found out I was pregnant. Everything worked out quite well: I completed the course, went on my maternity leave and recreation leave after that. It gave me a big chunk of time to spend with my daughter, as well as to think about what to do next.
I was having serious doubts about going back to the police force. My partner at that time was also in policing, and it would have been hard when both of us had to work long hours and be on call.
I had also reached my negativity threshold with regard to the work and environment. Again, running really got me through some stressful and tough times.
So I started looking for ways to use my new PT qualification. I came across Step into Life, went to an information session and met Cathy who was the state franchisee for Victoria. She really got me on board with the idea of the business, and since then, she’s had a massive impact on my life in terms of personal responsibility and empowerment.
I decided to buy a franchise. It wasn’t overly expensive, so I managed to get a loan from the bank.
That covered training, equipment and launch. When my daughter turned one, we went out to Gold Coast, where I did the initial franchise training. A month later I launched my business, and haven’t looked back since.
The head office supported me with a launch campaign – lots of flyer dropping, and advertising, marketing through newsletters. I also had to do some weekly calls, business visits. I started on Day One with one lady joining up, and we built it from there.
The first year I didn’t have any clue about what I was doing.
I think I wasn’t taking it too seriously because I had a fallback, still not having resigned from the police force. But my leave was coming to an end, so I had to make a decision. I couldn’t see myself going back, having tasted a bit of freedom. So I resigned from the force and really committed to my business.
The first step was to get business coaching and work on my own personal development, through courses and reading. Thanks to that, my business tripled in 12 months! Through the business coaching, I learned the deficiencies in my business. I learned to focus on the numbers, enhanced my sales and marketing skills.
In terms of personal development I worked with my leadership skills. I looked into my past and saw that I had needed to deal with areas of trust in my life, and gaining completion in this area was profound.
After one course that went for a weekend, my sales conversions literally doubled in a weekend – that was amazing. I was able to bring on other trainers on board as the business expanded, which further boosted my confidence.
I’ve been in the business for over 4 years now. Last year I bought a neighbouring franchise. Again, it has been a massive learning curve. The business has gone up and down: now it’s stable, and above what it was, but still not where I want it to be. However, I think that now I have a much clearer picture of how to get there – I just need some more strategic thinking and action!
As a business owner, I do much more than train. 70% of my work is preparation, set-up, administrative work, bookkeeping, marketing, strategy, planning and communication.
On a typical day, if I’m training, I get up around 4:30am, so I can come and set up for the 6.00am session.
I usually also run a 7.30am or an 8.00am session and then sometimes a 9:30 one as well. Then I do admin work, making calls, doing follow-up with clients.
I plan training packages or extra training outside the core business; I look at marketing opportunities. I manage my other trainers. I also train myself, go for a run or do strength work. Then I’ll pick up my daughter around 3pm and spend time with her. Then there are the evening sessions and more admin work to finish the day.
I’m much better at generating ideas and talking to people, than at sitting down and crunching numbers. This is my least favourite part – the bookkeeping, doing taxes. But it’s necessary in running a business, of course.
My favourite part is the sessions, seeing people’s lives change. I’ve had clients that hated exercise. They end up training 4 to 5 times a week and they end up just loving it, getting the healthy body and the healthy mind that they wanted all along. They enjoy being outside, the supportive and inclusive atmosphere that we create.
I try to make every session fun, engaging and challenging.
I focus on building a rapport with people, making sure that they’re okay, paying attention to how they are during the session, listening to the words they’re using, watching their body language, and correcting technique.
It’s about building a connection, making all of my interactions fun and educational. Say, we are doing squats – I try to get people to not just do them, but to understand why we’re doing them, how the squat helps their body – I think with that understanding comes better motivation.
If I could change anything in my career, I think I’d have more confidence in myself. I would probably work a bit more diligently knowing that I had the capability of doing whatever I wanted to.
So now I’m more open to exploring different avenues. I hope to get the businesses to the point where I can sell them. I’d like to further my education in health and fitness or well-being.
I also like speaking and writing. I contribute to some small publications. I’m a Master Trainer with Step into Life, and I help run courses for other trainers. I’m continually developing my speaking and communication skills.
Maybe I will go on to do some sort of teaching, perhaps more in the motivational side of things. Whatever it is, I’d like to be able to expand my results to be even bigger than they are now.
I would like to be able to help as many people as possible. I believe there’s a real synergy of your mind, your body and your spirit. When you’re working on your body, you’re training your mind and your spirit. So I think that I want to expand into something that’s a bit more holistic, so much more than just exercise.