Alumnus Greg Dalgleish is the Co-Founder/Owner of “Think Fitness 4 Less” gym in Hawick, the Borders. Greg completed his HNC in Sports Coaching at Elmwood College (now SRUC Elmwood) in Fife in 1996. He set up Think Fitness 4 Less 15 years ago with his business partner Stuart Oliver. We caught up with Greg to find out about life as a student in Elmwood and get advice on setting up your own business.
Why did you choose Elmwood College? What attracted you to the course?
I left school early, I knew I wanted to get involved in sport but wasn’t sure how. I went to Borders College to study Leisure & Recreation. Following that, I applied to Elmwood College and the next thing I was enrolled and set up in student accommodation. I was only 17 at the time, so it was a big move for me to go there, but I never looked back. I loved it. Living on campus was great. A lot of people at the time were doing greenkeeping and golf and I am still in close contact with a few friends I made there.
The course was a good mixture of theory and practical. It had a great hands- on approach working with local schools. A lot of people just wanted to be outdoors the whole time, so they did well to keep us all motivated.
Tell us what inspired you to set up Think Fitness 4 Less
For two years I had been working in a physically demanding personal trainer role. There was a lot of travel to get to work, and I was becoming a bit drained. I needed something new. I was at the point where I had some good qualifications behind me and was ready to launch into a project.
At the time that I was thinking about doing something Hawick didn’t offer much. The gym in Hawick was literally one room with quite limited equipment, which was right next to a pool. The local lifeguard would come off the pool and show you how to use the weights! I felt with my experience I could start something that was bigger and better.
I said to Stuart: “I’ve been doing this job for two years and I am ready for a change, what do you think?” and it was as quick as that. A lot of people didn’t think it would even get off the ground, because Stuart was 22 and I was 24. We found an old building, cleared it out ourselves with the help of family and 20 skips. Then we managed to pull together the funding to get it up and running. And now here we are 15 years on.
What were some of the challenges in starting up Think Fitness 4 Less?
Looking back the building was too big. We now have three sub lets going on including yoga, freelance personal trainers and massage, which is great.
There were times when we could have shut the doors, because there was so much red tape at the start. I’ll be perfectly honest, if I had the chance to do it again, I’d probably say no! There needs to be more support for small business. 15 years on, we are still looking at rent rises, which are tough to meet.
Now that we’re successfully up and running, the hardest thing is keeping our eye on overheads and cashflow. Managing the staff wages, electricity, rent, cost of machinery, heating, lighting – it all adds up. Going forward, the most important element is growing our membership, and that takes considerable time. It seems to be going well though, with a 90% increase. We are charging less, but getting more members through the door.
How do you keep your business competitive?
Industry changes, machines change, classes change. It’s an industry where we have always had to keep trying new things to keep the foot traffic coming in the door.
Next month we are heading to Germany for one of the biggest fitness tradeshows around. It should help ignite ideas, as things are evolving all the time. Ten years ago it used to all be treadmills and bikes. There is now a move towards functional training, which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life. We are also seeing wearable technology becoming popular. Keeping up to date with the latest trends is important.
What advice would you give to SRUC students?
There are so many opportunities in the health, fitness and leisure industry.
Try and use social media to engage with future and potential employers. Try and get as many industry qualifications as possible. When I am hiring, I am looking for someone who has that bit extra on their CV, such as first aid, or child protection. Something that makes them stand out, so I know they will go the extra mile.
Have fun with social media for engagement and networking, but be sensible with it. All employers have to do is type your name into Google, and it’s amazing what will come up.
Interviewed Spring 2017