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Interview with Adam Shuty, Founder of Atomic Total Fitness

TAGS: business leaders, businesses, Fitness
Adam Shuty - Founder of Atomic total fitness

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This time around, we spoke with Adam Shuty, Founder of ATOMIC Total Fitness, which leverages technology, fitness best-practice, and excellent customer service to keep its clients fit and motivated.


ATOMIC offers its members individualized training programs, even going as far as providing bespoke consultations for those who want to custom-build home gyms in this time of COVID-19.   


With a background in engineering, it shouldn’t be surprising that Adam is a problem solver. He applies his scientific mindset to helping his clients achieve their fitness goals. His unique perspective ensures that ATOMIC is always innovating and evolving, whether it is online, on the training floor, or in the back office.


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 Read on as Adam touches on his motivations, his attitude toward crisis, and his thoughts on how to remain competitive in the face of international franchises and deep-pocketed mega-gyms.    


A Problem-Solving Mindset


How did you make your way from studying industrial engineering to founding and operating a health and fitness business?


Like most 18-year-olds in high school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was good at math, and my parents had always drilled into me that if I got an engineering degree I could do anything.


I listened to them, but I was in over my head. I persisted and made it to graduation.


Once the degree was done, I had very little interest in going into a traditional engineering job, so I followed my passion for martial arts. That led me to New York, which led me to personal training. As my business grew, the next logical step was to open my own training facility. 


In hindsight, one of the most important life skills you can acquire is a problem-solving mindset, and engineering teaches you that.


Overcoming Challenges and Creating Opportunities


What caused you to pull the trigger and turn your vision of a personal training and health coaching business into a reality? 


I have come to view major, cataclysmic economic downturns as tremendous opportunities. The financial crisis of 2008-2009 decimated my personal training business. Despite my situation, I realized I had a unique opportunity so I took advantage of discounted rents and started, from scratch, to build a “real” business as opposed to a sole proprietorship. 


I realized I had a unique opportunity so I took advantage of discounted rents and started, from scratch, to build a “real” business as opposed to a sole proprietorship. 


What was your biggest operational challenge in 2020?


Loss of revenue was by far the biggest hit. The third quarter, historically our slowest time of the year, was down by over 75%. 


It was obvious that we needed not only to pivot but to upgrade our service offerings and stay relevant in a world where people could no longer train in person. We had to adapt and learn how to train people online. More importantly, we had to market this new service as something real and viable. 


As part of that, we invested hundreds of hours into app development and research. We tried multiple app services before landing on a platform that would allow us to customize our user experience. 


Leveraging Technology and Strategic Planning


What technologies do you use to improve efficiency in your financial and operational workflows, and what technological functionalities do you wish they had to make your process even more efficient?


There are a wealth of tools out there to aid productivity and streamline processes. We use Slack, Canva, Asana, and Trello as well as the entire Google suite of software. For the day-to-day business, and to help us to pivot online, we turned to Mindbody


Overall, I’d say our tech needs have been fully serviced and realized. The only thing we are missing is a custom personal training app that allows us to provide functionality similar to an in-person experience, and we are currently developing that in-house. 


What was a moment when you needed to make a decision about the trajectory of your business, and what steps did you take to make that decision?


I’d say the trajectory of the business fluctuates on a weekly or even monthly basis. We don’t encounter situations that require major adjustments — it’s more about making constant, incremental improvements rather than throwing everything out and starting again. 


While the pandemic completely changed the landscape of the fitness industry, in-person, real interactions are something you can never fully duplicate using technology. That belief is the cornerstone of our operating principle. It informs our strategy and tells us which gaps need to be bridged. 


It’s more about making constant, incremental improvements rather than throwing everything out and starting again. 


Keys to Operational and Business Success


Over the past decade that you’ve been with ATOMIC, how have you improved both your financial and operational processes? What worked, and what didn’t work? 


I founded ATOMIC in 2009 with very little capital and a small book of clients. From my experience, the first key component in scaling up from a sole proprietorship is finding a great assistant, someone who can become your understudy.


Finding someone to work with who is like-minded, looking to learn, and willing to invest their time lets you leverage your experience and start to scale up. Once you have one person working with you it becomes easier to find the next. 


It’s also important to show some restraint moving forward. You don’t need to go crazy chasing technology and implement all the latest bells and whistles. In the beginning, find a service that allows you to schedule, handles your point of sale needs, and gives you basic customer relationship management functionality. You can grow from there.


As a business leader in the fitness space, what advice do you have for someone who is interested in opening their own fitness or health business? 


In business, you need to start with the end goal in mind. It sounds easy, but, in practice, it’s very difficult. 


You need to decide from the outset how much income, recognition or impact you want to have. For example, a boutique fitness studio is very different from a global franchise. Decide what you want to achieve, write down your vision, purpose and mission, and follow through accordingly.


In business, you need to start with the end goal in mind. It sounds easy, but, in practice, it’s very difficult. 


If you had all the resources you could ask for, what is one strategy or solution that you wish you could implement to better grow your business? 


I would build an app entirely from scratch that would allow me to create what I believe is the ideal virtual personal training experience. 


Because my outlook on the industry and because personal training sessions should be catered to the client and unique every time, there are no white label apps out there that will allow you to curate the perfect, individualized workout. 


As a result my company, like other small successful companies out there, have to cobble together a Frankenstein’s monster of various technologies to provide an experience comparable to the larger more well-funded companies out there.




What are your hobbies? 


I love the outdoors — fishing, hunting, snowboarding and golf are my go-to’s when I need to disconnect.


What are your favorite operations/business-related and fitness-related books? 


All would-be entrepreneurs out there should read The E Myth series by Michael Gerber and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Think and Grow Rich was written in 1937, it’s a classic that’s still relevant today. Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim Grover is inspirational from both the business and fitness perspectives. 


Do you have a personal motto you live by?


There are a lot of personal values and creeds that I live by but if I had to sum it up I’d say “As long as I keep a smile on my face and persist towards my goals, I cannot fail.”

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