Being able to mix your passion with your work is one of the things that drives people into working for themselves. For Luke Hughes, it was his passion for fitness mixed with his want to do something better than the competition that spurred him on to launching his business.
We spoke to him about how he's found launching his own business, working for himself and how he's dealt with any adversity.
So far, what has been your career highlight?
Choosing a career highlight is tough; I would say launching my first business, Origym Centre of Excellence is a highlight in itself. I felt very proud the day that I got the company house forms!
A more specific highlight would be securing a contract with Queen Margaret University to run their personal training courses for their undergraduates. Working with universities was a part of my original business plan, so to have had my company recommended by a lecturer there was a real highlight.
How have you dealt with any adversity you’ve faced as a consequence of starting your company (if any)?
Yes there has been adversity, quite a bit I think! Firstly there is the financial one, I had to sell my car and invest my life savings into the business to get it off the ground. I then lived on a shoestring for about eight months and did not pay myself even one penny in salary. I am from Birmingham originally, where I had a house and a mortgage, but my business partner is from Liverpool, so I moved up to Liverpool where I have no ties or connections, which made life difficult at first being away from my family and friends. Whilst trying to cope with this transition my former employers were trying to inhibit me starting a company that was in the same sector to which I worked previously. So yes I think that there has been some adversity, but thankfully everything has worked out well thus far.
What are you aspirations for the future?
The market we are in is growing and we have just set-up a holdings company for our gym chains; we spent a mini fortune hiring out facilities last year and we want to start owning our own facility. This way Origym will be the only training provider that can fully determine their own schedule, not have to huge venue hire prices and even make a profit off the facility itself. This process has already started and we have just launched our first site in Liverpool, with the aim of setting up in nine other locations throughout the UK, which we are very excited about.
We also like to constantly evaluate our product and we have a brand new e-learning platform launching for students in the coming months, with videos, webinars and podcasts to add to our other resources. This is all to maintain my long-term goal of running the most trusted and largest fitness education course provider within the private sector in the UK.
In terms of my own personal ambitions, I have not really set a goal beyond the goals I have for this business, as I know there is still a lot of hard work and objectives that we want to hit, both short and long-term. In addition, I feel opportunities often present themselves as you establish new business relations or as you grow and having spontaneity about goals is what keeps things fresh and exciting.
Did you choose to work for yourself straight from university or did you work somewhere else first? If you worked somewhere else first, what influenced your decision to start your business?
In truth, my priorities in life have changed massively over the past few years. When completing university I still had no idea what I wanted to do as a career and there was not anything that really inspired me or that I thought I would genuinely enjoy. I was still in university mode, spending all the money that I had on going out and enjoying life.
I started working for a gym in sales and then as a personal trainer as I loved the gym so at the time this felt like a natural stepping stone. After this, I moved to a fitness education course provider as a sales manager and as I felt undervalued, with no room to progress. At was at this time things started to change and I wanted to start making something of my life. I wanted to start something with unlimited earning potential, not a business that is restricted by time or an hourly rate.
After receiving multiple complaints about the course provider that I was working for I thought “I can do this better.” I couldn’t understand why certain business basics were being ignored when only minor changes would need to be made to prevent such complaints, but the company were simply not interested in change. This is when I knew exactly what to do and the market to target so after some research I jumped straight in. After that, I haven’t looked back!
Did you always want to work for yourself whilst you were at University?
Honestly, no - whilst at university I was more focused on getting my degree under my belt successfully and then was hoping to know what I wanted to do after completion. I have always had an innate passion for business related topics and I wished that I studied business at university, as I find it fascinating. I always knew that I wanted to be well off, I just did not know how to get there or whether starting a business would be the route I would go down.
Is your current career sector in line with what you studied at University?
I studied a sports science degree and completed my masters in the globalisation of sport so it is indirectly related as such. My degree has given me the foundations for what my business needs, but ultimately is not critical to the output. Although my degree was not fundamental to my business, it certainly has come in very handy when writing blog posts, articles and understanding my target market, which has been key to our growth and development so I would defiantly say it has contributed in a very positive way.
Would you encourage others to start a business? If so, why?
I would definitely urge people to start their own business. It gives you a sense of independence and freedom that working for somebody else simply can’t provide and this is a very undervalued commodity. To be in control of your own timetable and lifestyle is what starting your own business gives you, for example I never set my alarm clock as I simply do not need to. I still work 80 hours per week, 7 days per week, but this is because I enjoy it, not because of deadlines that are enforced upon me by somebody else.
I would say to someone looking to start a company is to ensure that you are mentally ready to do so, business is relentless and I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a day off, so you need to be prepared for this.
Is there anything you would change about your journey/career so far?
I used to think that the answer to this was yes and wonder why I didn’t start my business earlier. I’ve recently come to the conclusion that if I had started it earlier, I would have given up due to not having the drive and mental strength that I now posses to make the business a success.
At the time, finishing work on time and going home without stress or thinking of work was right for me. I am a firm believe that you deserve to be where you are and if somebody is getting promoted or hired in front of you, its because of something that you could do differently or better. At that time when I went for a few higher management positions and narrowly missed out more than once, it was not because I was hard done by, but I simply did not do enough to warrant it and I think this rejection has benefited me in the long run.
What are your opinions on graduate schemes, if any?
One of our major USPs is that we only use degree qualified tutors, but as a consequence of this we need a nice steady flow of tutors whom have sports related degrees. Because of this, we have a gradate scheme which gives us as an employer the option to identify talented individuals who we want to invest our time and money in.
This means that the graduate gets to understand how the world of business works and the option to gain industry specific fitness qualifications that they can use irrespective of if they decide to stay with us long-term or go in a different direction. I also think it gives students the assurance of both the ethos of the company that they are applying for and that their degree has a direct employment output.