Life’s all about choices. Being healthy is a choice. Moving out of your comfort zone or your home turf is a choice. Crossing over to unknown places is also a choice.
Four years ago, Florian Schneider made a choice to explore the UAE without so much of a detailed plan and zero connections but with one vision in mind: sharing his passion for healthy living and building a lifestyle brand that impacts people in Dubai, the UAE and ultimate the whole gulf region. Now he and his team are on their way the revolutionize the Middle East’s fitness industry.
Florian is the founder of YourGym. A Dubai based fitness company that offers in home private personal training to its clients. YourGym is one of the leading personal training provider in Dubai and consist of trainer from Australia, the UK and Germany.
What made you choose Dubai?
I studied for almost four years in the United States. After college, I planned to move to Los Angeles and work as a personal trainer. That was the master plan but for certain reasons, it didn’t work out. I didn’t really know what to do when I went back to Germany after leaving the US. After a tough summer in 2011, I then took on a job about two hours away from Munich, in southern Germany. I started all over again as a gym trainer- In the beginning I worked all day, everyday from nine in the morning to ten in the evening for seven days a week. I even slept there in a storage room because I had no money for rent. It was a low paying job – less than minimum wage and I made approximately 1100 AED per month. At the time the sole important thing was to study and learn and further my education, which this job gave me the opportunity to do that. It was quite an experience. After 2 and a half years, I got to the point where I wanted to go back to the [United] States to finally pursue my dream. But then I had a phone conversation with my dad where he said, “why not consider the Middle East? Go to Dubai. That’s where it’s happening.” I didn’t know anything about Dubai or the Middle East back then, but the idea really stuck to me. After looking it up and doing a bit of research, I found out that it was kind of like LA in terms of climate and environment.
You saw Dubai’s potential?
It was sunny, it had palm trees and the sea. It was a lot like California, at least the surroundings. I liked the idea of moving there but how do I get there? I can’t just step on a plane and fly there without any contacts. I looked into established hotels, since they would offer a great chance to get started – I thought. It’s a beginning and a foot in the door, right? After three months of Skype interviews, I finally got a job with Jumeirah as a personal trainer. I flew to Dubai with nothing but two suitcases and a dream. It was tough in the beginning. I left everything back home – as I have done many times in my life before, I didn’t know anyone here and I questioned myself a lot if I did the right move. When I worked in Jumeirah, I met a lot of people, which enabled me to fill up my schedule as a trainer pretty quick. Then I got an opportunity to work in Zaabeel Palace and I was offered a job there. It didn’t work out the way I thought it to be and I left after a few months.
Is training more of a passion than a job?
Fitness has always been my thing. It’s my passion because it enables me to shape and develop myself. I’ve always been into living healthy and exercising. After leaving the palace in Za’abeel, I thought, “what can I do?” That’s when I founded my first business, the YourGym company. I started hiring quality trainers, and today that’s our brand and thats what makes us different than others in the market. I wanted to really differentiate us from other personal trainers in the industry and unfortunately, there are a lot of unqualified, terrible trainers out here and I advice nobody to save a few dirham just to work with the cheapest trainer out there. Its gonna cost you more since you might get injured or actually never even reach your desired training goal.
What do you look for when hiring people?
I hire for personality. I don’t necessarily recruit only based on certifications trainers have, or how much experience they’ve had. I mean, that’s obviously important, but [personality is] the most important thing, because it’s a personal business. You hire a personal trainer and you want to feel comfortable around him our her – you build a relationship with that person. You don’t have a trainer because he’s got such amazing certifications and resume. Not primarily. You get a trainer to guide and motivate you, which only works well if the person is able to connect with you on a personal level.
How do you look for clients?
Most of our business comes through word-of-mouth, social media (@yourgymdubai) and our website: www.yourgym.ae. I’ve built quite a network here in Dubai, so I also get leads and referrals from friends and people that know what I do. However, our main focus is on the clients we already have instead of constantly trying to attract new ones. Having a great team is a must. Im blessed to have an amazing team around me and a huge part of our success is due to the guys and girls that work with our clients on a daily basis.
Can you describe the clients that often come to you?
In terms of training goals, we have people that just want to look good at the beach and be in shape, others that want to be pain-free and we also have the 60-year-old who wants to be healthy so they can play with their grandchildren. So all in all, very diverse. Most of our clients are expats, I’d say 80% of them and they understand the importance of having a knowledgeable and certified personal trainer.
How do you plan to grow the business?
We are trying to continue to help our clients reach their goals and impact more and more people as we grow. Also, we’re in the process of starting a second company. It’s an upscale health club. It’s going to be a brand new concept that’s going to launch hopefully next year. I don’t want to say much about it but it’s going to put fitness on a different level as a lifestyle club. It’s going to be different from YourGym. YourGym is a personal training, in-home training business. This is an entirely different one. For that we’ll have a base where clients can train.
When did you discover that you have what it takes to be a successful personal trainer?
Fitness has always been a part of me. It was a vehicle to move me forward, as it teaches you things such as discipline and being consistent and setting goals. I used to play professional basketball, that’s why I went to the States. It taught me a lot; the sport shaped my character. After I stopped playing basketball, I kept training in the gym. That, too, was another vehicle. I believe there’s not one single thing that will carry you throughout your whole life. You always go from one thing to another, and then you grow. And then you figure yourself out. All of a sudden you expand and jump to a different ship. There’s one end goal that you try to get to but there’s not one single way to get to it. There are many steps you have to take in order to reach that end destination, what ever it might be.
What do you like most about your work?
I love interacting with the guys on my team, and talking to them about the progress our clients make. We’re in the business of helping people. We help them feel good and be happy and the thing that makes me the happiest is when I see them reach the goal they set out when they started.
Where are you now with your new business?
Right now we’re talking to investors to raise the required capital. There’s more to do. I had to figure out how to do all this as I have never raised capital before, see what works and what doesn’t. Every meeting is different and you learn something new. Hopefully if everything goes right, we can start with the construction in Q1 2018.
What would you like to tell people who want to start working out and becoming more healthy?
Your body is your most important asset. Whatever your motivations in life are – money, family or career, you’re done once your body breaks down. Here in the UAE, it’s shocking. People spend so much time in cars or indoors, they work late, and their eating habits are messed up. Eventually you won’t be able to help your family or earn money if you just make excuses all the time. If you want to start, start today. Stop procrastinating and go to work. If you lack motivation, invest in hiring a good trainer. The return on that investment will be enormous.
Do you miss Germany?
Sometimes I do. It’s always difficult to leave people and places behind, that once were a big part of your life. I first moved away from home when I was 17, so I’m used to moving from one place to another and starting from scratch. I like being uncomfortable. It’s the only way you grow. In the gym, you add weight and increase the resistance so your body becomes stronger. In life, you look for challenges and you take them – you always have to challenge yourself and be a little bit uncomfortable. The higher your goals, the higher the price you have to pay and the more pain you have to go through.
Where do you see yourself after 5 or 10 years?
I never plan ahead and I’m never going to. Life is just to complex to really plan for anything long term. I never would have thought of going to Dubai. In fitness you have to have goals and set timelines, but life is less structured than that. I’d rather take it one day at a time and see where it leads me. I focus on the micro, and the macro will automatically fall in place.
But what are your present goals?
Right now I want to build the biggest fitness brand in the Middle East. I want to be the number one personal training provider in Dubai and build the health club brand to the biggest in the GCC and then expand to Europe and the US. 2018 is going to be all about ensuring that the first thing goes off the ground, and then the expansion.
Do you have any advice for the people who’ll be inspired by your story?
Make yourself your main priority. Learn everyday and cut out the people that drain your energy from your life. You have to be selfish. Sacrificing yourself for others will not work in the long run. And always persevere. If something’s not working for you, you’re not doing it right. Keep reflecting on yourself and always be true to who you are. But most importantly, execute things. No one ever reached a goal, just by talking about it. You must do it because at the end of the day, results are the only thing that matter.
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