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VALUED MERRIMACK VALLEY NH SCORE CLIENT
Jim Olson, owner of Individual Fitness locations in Concord and Manchester, NH
Can-do Attitude is Olson's Strength - "Action Cures Fear"
By Sarah Easley For SCORE
Some of the most successful business ideas with the greatest capacity to endure come not just from a dream, but personal experience. For Jim Olson, the idea for a business focused on helping people achieve their fitness goals grew out of a life spent telling people who routinely said they couldn’t do better, couldn’t lose that weight, couldn’t beat the pain, “yes, you CAN.”
It all started with Jim’s grandmother. While some young men may look to pro wrestlers or football stars for inspiration, Jim found a mentor much closer to home. As he grew up, she taught him to take care of his body, how to eat well, what kind of exercise would work for him and even the benefits of multivitamins and protein shakes. She modeled the principles she taught, not only teaching, but proving that they worked.
Years later, her teachings would be put to the test. At 24, Jim’s brother, John, had a health scare. As John puts it, “I had a sneak peak at death and saw the light!” Recovery depended on a commitment to healthier living and putting in the time to work on his physical condition. Jim faced his brother’s crisis head-on, armed with everything his grandmother had taught him and principles of fitness he’d learned since. John became his first client and success.
Building a System: Helping his brother overcome his health scare showed Jim just what he could accomplish. Developing a program to work around John’s limitations allowed him to experiment with how a healthy physical state could be achieved no matter the circumstances, provided the regimen itself was based on the individual. A year later, John went from an overweight, out of shape, two-pack-a-day smoker weighing in at 315lbs to a 185lbs non-smoker, leading a healthy lifestyle.
The Individual Fitness (IF) system was born.
With a philosophy that results are only part of the equation, Jim turns the focus of his fitness technique onto not just how fit his client is at the beginning, but where they are inside their head throughout. To start them on the road to success, he helps them confront some tough questions about what got them into a physical condition that they feel is unacceptable and what’s been holding them back from improvement.
Once tackled, Jim finds that his clients manage to free themselves of the false “constraints” that had held them back. From there, he builds the system around them. Age and physical disability are not obstacles as far as Jim is concerned. The only roadblock a client can have that prevents the IF system from getting them anywhere is the fear to let it.
“Action Cures Fear” ......... Jim’s philosophy is the core of his enterprise. When our bodies are hurt, sick or lack stamina, our inclination tends to be to avoid exertion and strain. It’s a natural protection instinct, but one that can lead to stagnation. Ultimately, we can wrap ourselves in the “safety” of avoidance and allow exercise to become something to fear. We think, “what if I hurt myself, again,” or “but I’m too tired to go to the gym today.” So, we put it off until we just don’t do it.
That’s where Jim draws the line. Injuries persist and worsen when the body is allowed to weaken, the weight will never go away without working it off and fear will forever hold you trapped in place unless you make up your mind to take that step forward. Jim believes in this so strongly that you’ll find the words, “Action Cures Fear” tattooed on the inside of his left forearm.
Launching the Dream: With his system worked out and a commitment to help people overcome the obstacles that keep them from achieving physical wellness driving him forward, Jim decided to make it all official and establish a facility to welcome and train his clients, with John coming onboard in 2004. The road to entrepreneurship can be tricky, however, and Jim knew that he’d need some help figuring out what he didn’t know he needed to know. In the spring of 2017 with a recommendation from banker Joe Kenney, Jim was advised to reach out to SCORE for mentorship. It was then when he met and teamed up with now mentor Roman Geletkanycz. “He was exactly what I needed: my best friend and worst nightmare,” Jim said. Together, they drew up a business plan for IF’s second location, tackled questions about funding, worked out the logistics and plotted out the path to success.
For Jim, the stumbling blocks that can get in the way of progress toward his business goals were frustrating. “I don’t believe in no,” he said. His tenacity and determination paid off, however. In 2001, Jim opened the doors of his first Individual Fitness location in Concord, NH. Since, Jim and John have opened their second location in Manchester this past November, and are laying out plans for more in the upcoming years. The two are still sticking to the business plan drawn up years ago.
“Do It”: With more than two decades of entrepreneurial experience and success under his belt, Jim isn’t through with the process of building his business. It’s something he’s put his whole life into, literally, working on piece by piece – and he always will. His aim is to have 4-5 locations in New Hampshire in the next several years with growth spreading beyond to the rest of New England. He believes in his system and that anyone can find success with it if they embrace and commit to it. He’s going to make sure IF is there for them. When asked what advice he would offer to other individuals with the dream of becoming a business owner, Jim looked around his office in the second IF gym he’s opened and smiled.
“You’re gonna stumble, you’re gonna fall. Just get back up. Do it and stay with it. I can guarantee it isn’t going to work if you don’t do it,” he said. “Reach out for help and be open to it. Nobody has gotten to where they are alone.”
Sarah Easley provides content writing and proofreading services through Itinerant Muse ( http://itinerantmuse.com ). She is a client of the Merrimack Valley Chapter of SCORE.