Innovation in Business

Posted on 2019-10-20


Innovation in Business

Meet Curtis Christopherson, a partner of Innovative Fitness, and co-founder of the national charity, 60 Minute Kids’ Club. Christopherson has a personal interest in juvenile diabetes. His belief in ‘strong in body, strong in mind,’ is more than just a slogan. It’s how he runs his gym, his business and his personal life.

“I had a client that was training Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6am in the morning. And every morning that he came in, he was dragging his butt. I asked him, what’s going on? He goes, “my 11-year-old daughter. Every night I have to wake 2 or 3 times in the night to ensure that her sugar levels are at a certain level: She suffers from juvenile diabetes.”

“I said, ‘what’s your plan?’ And he said, ‘I made a promise to her that by the time she graduates high school, that I would do anything in my power to raise awareness and find a cure for juvenile diabetes.” I said, “what are we doing about it, then?” And he said, “What do you mean, what are we doing about it?”

“You made a promise to your daughter, so what does that promise look like?”

“And so, the Co-founder of Innovative Fitness, Matt Young, put a plan in place. We decided that since we’ve always wanted to see Canada and our client was an avid cyclist, why not cycle our bikes across Canada with the purpose of raising awareness and fulfilling his promise to his 11-year-old daughter. And that’s what we did.”

Promise-keeping started when Christopher started running his first gym, when he was just 22 years old. He was in school full time, and managing a staff of roughly 150 people. Christopherson saw an opportunity in exercise franchise and equipment when he looked at the needs of his clients, and asked what they needed.

His approach focuses on a more holistic philosophy: Ask the client where they want to be, and what they want out of their exercise regimen. Both the exerciser and the trainer must make a commitment to be present, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally.

“It’s definitely a growing industry. People will be more focused on their health and activity and wellness. Everything from what they consume all the way to how they behave everyday. I think any kind of service or product that will support people to live a healthier lifestyle will thrive, because we’re only getting more stressed and more busy. we’re working more hours than we ever have. It’s not 9 to 5 anymore.

“The most exciting aspect of it is that fitness is always changing; and it’s continually growing in terms of opportunity.”

Exercise and Business: Hire Slow and Fire Fast.

As stretching is crucial to the warm up prior to exercise, Christopherson believes that the corporate equivalent to slow, strengthening movements would be learning about the people who are working with you, and for you.

“I think the first thing is that your people are your biggest assets, managing people. I don’t care if it’s a service-based business or product-based business, I think inevitably as you grow it and run a business, people are integral in terms of your own success and the environment that you create. When it comes to that, I look at a couple things. “Hire slow, fire fast.” I’m a big advocate that take the time to find the right fit for what you need and culturally that it aligns with who you are.”

Christophers adds that like exercise, any movement made should grow your corporate body. Reaching out to your co-workers will be crucial to maintaining the strength of your business.

“Ensure that when you move people on when it’s not the right fit, do it faster. That’s number one. Number two, I’d say invest in them and when I say invest, a lot of people think “financially.” You have to invest in them, but it’s the time and energy and effort you put in to ensure that they grow personally and professionally within the environment that you create.

Creating Success Through Empathy

“millennials are coming from a world that uses terms like “cultural fit,” and provides support and has more mentorship than previous generations. I’d say treat them well. I think at the end of the day, if you  treat them with respect and support, they’re going to give back what you give them.”

Christopherson adds that networking is crucial to learning about people as well as learning about business trends. He mentions that he learns from not just from his mistakes, but from experiences and facts that his fellow entrepreneurs share with him.

“The more that you broaden your network and the more that you have people that not only support what you do but have resources at your fingertips, like a board of advisors, a mentorship program… if you can build your professional network, that’s going to directly impact the bottom line of your business. It also affects your happiness, success, your ability to execute business decisions and probably not make the same mistakes.

“I’ve been a part of Entrepreneur’s Organization, which has been a great avenue for not only networking but that professional support network and connectivity.”

Fear Prevents Us From Our Success

His advice for networking for new entrepreneurs is not about time or technique, but about conquering your fear. He feels that intimidation or worry could impede personal or professional development.

“Don’t be scared to have conversations. The reality is that I think as individuals and human beings, fear gets in the way of a lot of decisions. Whether it’s risk taking or having a conversation with someone, or picking the phone and cold calling someone that you might be intimidated by. That person could be an uber successful entrepreneur that might be a mentor, that might be a great support network, and I think the reality is that we put this fear in front and prevents us from our success.

“We’re all human beings and there’s a lot of people in this world that can support your dreams and your goals, so don’t be scared to pick up the phone or join an organization (I’m part of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization) or reach out and have a conversation because you never know what kind of conversation you have, what good it can bring.”

Christopherson’s motivation was found in his commitment: Affirmation of what he wanted, and re-affirmation that he was going to be confident about his choice.

“I didn’t have that fear. I just said to myself, I was going to provide a solution no matter what. If there was going to be a bump in the road, if I was going to fail at my first attempt, I was going to find a way to make up for it.”

At that point I knew, “okay wait a minute, I guess I have what it takes, because I’m going to work at this, no matter what. I’ll find a solution to any problem that I face.”

“I’d say I had reaffirmation when I actually paid off that initial loan. I did it in 2 and a half years… something like that. In 2 and a half to 3 years of initially starting your business, I think it’s reaffirmation when you think, ‘okay wait a minute, I did it, I have it.’ It almost gives you too much confidence at your life. “Okay I can do this again,” which obviously you have to be wary of and be careful that you’re not going out thinking you can do a bunch of other things at the same time.

Commitment to your goal and to your task can be two different things, but Christopherson knows that working with people means some flexibility.

“I always say that work-life balance isn’t a daily thing and might not be a weekly thing, monthly thing or yearly thing. I look at it as a life goal.”

“I think nowadays the term, ‘work-life balance’ has been a bit more publicized, and a lot of people believe it has to happen on a daily basis. The reality is entrepreneurship isn’t a 9-to-5 thing. You have to subscribe to a lifestyle.  If you want to be successful, you have to do what it takes to become and be successful. That means that you might have to get to the office before anyone else and be the last one to leave. You’re going to have some challenges and you’re going to have to book more time in to make things work.

Know When to Put Your Feet On The Gas, And When To Hit The Brakes

“My biggest suggestion that I give to both young entrepreneurs and even my staff  is to put in the time and energy in now and create balance in your lifetime.  Because the minute that you put parameters on what that looks like on a daily basis, I don’t think you’re going to be able to adapt and react to the things that are necessary to be successful.

“To expand on that a little bit further is I’m in a position right now where I can take 3 weeks or a month off. I just did it for the first time after 16 years in business. But people won’t see the 16 years of not being able to do that or putting in the 80 hours of work a week. So you’ve just got to know when to put your feet on the gas and to take the foot off and understand that it’s a long-term goal.

“You still need a professional level of execution. I think that comes with a learned skill like learning how to manage your time to effectively, to take goals and break them down to objectives and tasks and complete those tasks effectively.

“I’ve learned to focus on what you’re good at. When you can identify your strengths and put them into action, you’re going to be better at executing your ideas. At the end of the day, taking action is far more important than creating ideas.”

“I think when you focus on your strengths, you’re going to be good at what you do. So usually, when people are good at what they do, they get praise, they get their own personal affirmation, then it trickles down, it makes you happy and successful and that feels good.”

Part of the praise that Christopherson gets from clients and the community at large is his commitment to giving back to the community. Over the last 15 years, Innovative Fitness has raised of 5 million dollars for various charities. He’s especially proud of the one he co-founded, called the 60 Minute Kids’ Club.

“We work with elementary schools and teach kids about healthy eating and activity. we work directly with Sport for Life now. So, it’s not only as a nationwide charity but it’s also been in 5 other countries across the world.”

“We have a program that goes into elementary schools and teach young kids on the importance of healthy living and activity and it teaches them the fundamental movement skills that they feel confident in their ability to participate in sport and activity.”

Jump In With Both Feet and Ensure You Give It Your All Before You Bank Out

“Another thing that we did is we did a bike ride across Canada. In 2007, myself and 6 others along with 20 volunteers rode our bikes from Halifax to Vancouver to raise awareness and support JDRF, juvenile diabetes research foundation. We did that, we rode our bikes in 6 days non-stop pedal bikes and it was non-stop, it was 6000 km and we raised over a million dollars for juvenile diabetes.

“If I could give a piece of advice for anybody it would bet these three tips:

Take risks in life.

We have one life to live if you fall down, you’re going to get back up. Don’t fear the unknown. Jump in with both feet.

I don’t care if you’re employee in an organization, give it a fair chance by jumping in both feet and ensure you give it all before you bank out.”