I pull, slide, heave and groan on some weird contraption called the “rower.” Sweat is dripping from every pour, slicking hair to my beet red face. It’s just another punishing day at the gym for me, but for Simon Lombardi, it’s his passion and his business.
His members all groan and whinge in protest, cursing him under their breaths, but they can’t help but smile between their grimaces. He’s a man on a mission: getting his members to be the best versions of themselves and he does it in such a caring way, making you feel like you’re the only person in the gym, the only one that matters, that you’re his best friend.
It’s a love-hate relationship, on one hand you have a man who makes you groan with disapproval, sweat your arse off and can get you walking funny for all the right or wrong reasons (depending on how you look at it) but his members can’t help but adore him.
I not only have this young whipper snapper to help get me into shape, but I had the absolute pleasure of chatting to him about his journey into making his business what it is today.
In the beginning
After slogging away at the books for thirteen years in school, Simon finished year twelve with above average marks and could have gone to uni to study further, however he’d had enough of life between the pages and decided to explore his options.
Simon was a keen Soccer player in and out of school and his ultimate dream was to play professionally. Unfortunately, the cruel world played a few tricks on him and he was forced to learn a few life lessons. In the end, he had to put his dream aside and move on.
Having been knocked down and facing the reality of his situation, Simon bounced back better than ever, kicking his once cocky persona aside and truly growing up to see the new path which lay before him.
His Father had always been a business owner and operator and Simon liked the idea of incorporating his love of personal training and fitness into something which could make him a good living.
Having a savvy entrepreneur as a father and role model, Simon had all the support he needed to go into business for himself and with his father’s guiding hand, he had the essential tools to make that leap.
After his final year in school, Simon did an eight week course which would allow him to be a personal trainer. He then made a very smart decision to wait a few more years before he went forward with his EFM business; deciding to gain experience in personal training and fitness by working for another gym first. He did this for approximately four years and after saving every penny on his own with no help from the bank, he was able to purchase an EFM franchise.
Choosing EFM was not a decision they made lightly. He and his father tirelessly researched different personal training businesses before settling on EFM as the right fit for him.
He was just 23 years old when he purchased his gym. What an achievement!
How he succeeds
You only have to see him in action to see why Simon’s business is so successful. His passion for fitness with a personal touch is one of a kind and hard to find. Trust me; I’ve been to many gyms.
Forget huge hulking trainers with tribal tats bulging out of their way too tight singlets, yelling at you like an army sergeant to do fifty more push ups. Simon is a normal guy, with, I admit, a very cheeky grin that has all the ladies in a flutter, but I’m fairly sure he has no idea.
Instead, he is immersed with how his members are doing on their tenth rep or if the weight is heavy enough. His happy, full of life attitude is part of the reason people love coming to the gym, sometimes twice in one day. So infected by his work out routines and enthusiasm, they can’t stay away.
He tells me with such conviction in his eyes, that his professionalism is his number one priority and for him, that means giving every member his full attention so they have the best possible experience at his gym and continue coming back for more.
As Simon’s EFM is located at my workplace, along with approximately 600 more potential customers, he is always on the prowl for new clients; dishing pamphlets out to every desk/work station he can get to, making sure to hit up new employees in the building.
For his paying members, he keeps us informed with a weekly email, always adding in those annoyingly inspiring quotes about being the best you can be and blah, blah, blah. He is always in the know with upcoming fitness related events, such as marathons, triathlons or other events ending in “ons.”
Simon won the 2015 EFM Rookie of the Year Finalist award.
When I asked Simon what challenges he faced in owning his business, he looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression and I got the distinct feeling that Simon didn’t look at challenges the same way I did.
He shrugged the question off, telling me that getting out of bed at five in the morning was a bit sucky and the fact that he didn’t get benefits was a drag.
I couldn’t help but be a little surprised that his challenges were not of a more serious nature. Here I was thinking owning a business could be fraught with issues like the dreaded tax time or the potential to lose clients and lose his business, but in all honesty he did not seem too fussed by these topics. He is relaxed and positive about the future and knows that if he continues to work hard, he can’t fail.
I asked him what he thought about his competitors, was he worried about them? He told me he didn’t care.
In response, I asked him how he knew he was doing so well?
“As long as I keep getting new clients and making sure members continue to come to my gym, I know I’m doing the right thing. Making sure I get new clients through referrals is important too, as word of mouth is a great indicator I’m on the right track. A measure of success for me is having the confidence to ask for testimonials from every member, this tells me how well I’m delivering results,” he says.
Having come across to me as such a relaxed guy, I wanted to know what Simon’s secret was. How did he stay so energised in his gym sessions even when he worked from Monday to Friday, 5am to sometimes 7 at night, racking up a massive 20,000 steps on his fit bit each day? (That’s two whole days for me)
He explained that winding down and being healthy was important to him. Time with friends to chat about non work related topics is a must, as well as having time to himself to read auto biographies, mainly about soccer.
At the beginning of 2016, Simon employed one other trainer to work his Monday morning session and Friday sessions so that he could have some time to catch up on other work related jobs or, let’s admit it, so he could have a sleep in from time to time. He’s only human after all.
Something which I thought was interesting for a young business owner was that Simon uses a paper… yes, a paper diary to stay organised. He said that using pen on paper helped his mind to un-jumble things better than continuously looking at a computer screen. It seems the pen is mightier after all.
To Sum up
As a 32-year-old, I can’t help but feel slightly small in the shadow of Simon’s success. I have no idea what I was doing at 25, probably killing a few more brain cells, chugging 20 beers and contemplating life, but definitely not starting my own business.
So when I met this 25-year-old business owner, I wanted to know more, why and how he is the man he is. One little interview and six beers later, I’m still in awe of how he has achieved so much and if this is what he has done with his life so far, imagine what’s in store for him in the future.
I see big things. He sees more businesses, more challenges to conquer, time off to travel and loving life as his own boss. Before he even started out on this venture, he was thinking about his life in years to come, asking himself what life he wanted for himself. A big priority for his future was making sure he could live comfortably and support his family well.
This baffled me – he’s single after all and so young, but he is already thinking of how to support a family. Perhaps because of his strong family ties and values, but it’s still impressive to hear and I know he will succeed.
Simon wanted to have one big challenge in his life, one which would determine whether he would sink or swim. If you ask me, he is a strong swimmer.
I can’t finish this article without doing my mate and coach Simon a favour or two, so don’t take my word for it, if you live in Adelaide or you’re visiting the city on business, come and see Simon and let him work your body into submission. He’ll have you looking like a stunner, or at least a slightly less average version of yourself and you’ll be laughing along with the rest of us… I promise.
Where to find him
EFM Health Club @ SAHMRI North Terrace, Adelaide (located on level 2)
Phone: 0452 580 804
Facebook: Efm health clubs north tce sahmri