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15 May 2023

Business Love Stories – Heroes Fitness

Londoners, Chris, and his wife, were in search of a new home that would not only meet their personal needs but also open doors to new job opportunities. This led them to not only finding their new home but also the chance for Chris to pursue one of his greatest passions, sport, which ultimately led to the creation of Heroes Fitness.

With over two decades of industry experience, serving the needs of fitness enthusiasts and health-conscious individuals, Heroes Fitness Stores has become a trusted provider of high-quality nutritional supplements. Whether you are a seasoned athlete or a beginner, the team of knowledgeable and qualified professionals are on hand to help you achieve your desired results in a safe, effective, and sustainable manner.

Chris spares time to share how his love of sport has turned into a successful business spanning 25 years.

What made you set up on your own?

“My wife and I grew up in London and at that time, as it is now, house prices were high, and a decision was made to relocate to Norfolk where properties were more affordable. Moving was a bit of a catch 22, as there were more potential homes to choose from but fewer job openings, however this got us thinking and led to a new business opportunity.

I've always been involved in sport, and for us an important part of setting up a potential business was aligning the activity with something I have passion for and that I knew intrinsically inside and out. It’s like stacking the odds in your favour, rather than starting a business that you don’t have knowledge of or a connection with.

As someone who has been involved in sport from a young age, I have a real understanding that cannot be learned from books helping me connect with customers and staff. Even now, when I visit our stores, I know who our customers are, identify their body type and understand what they are aiming to achieve. This goes for my staff as well, many have worked with me for 20 plus years and have been involved in high level sport at some point, making them intuitive to our customer’s needs.”

Can you remember the moment you decided?

“Initially we started a wholesale sports supplement business and one of our customers, who owned a health food shop, was looking to sell.  At the same time, we were looking for additional storage space for our wholesale stock and saw this as an opportunity to expand, that was the beginning of our journey. Since then, our business has grown, evolving from a wholesale supplier to Heroes Fitness Stores, offering a wide range of products.”

How would you describe your relationship with your business right now?

“When you work for yourself, there is no such thing as a consistently good work life balance. Sometimes it's intense, working long hours while at other times its more relaxed. There is no status quo, your either moving forward or backward, intensively busy, or relatively quiet, in my experience there’s very little time for a perfect work life balance, it just doesn't really exist.

You need to be flexible, moving with the moment, underpinned by your determination to succeed by listening to customers, staying in tune with their needs, supplying products and services that they want, rather than what you think they want.”

When was it at its worst? What was happening for you then?

“Over the past 25 years we have faced many difficult periods caused by all sorts of different things, all of which have been out of our control, such as the crippling energy costs, it’s like being a ship on the ocean without a rudder, you know you'll be thrown whichever way the tide takes you.  When we came out of lockdown 2 years ago, we had to work hard to rebuild our business it didn’t just pick up where we left off. It’s taken a lot of effort, determination, and true grit, not just from me but from everyone in the business, we are doing everything we can to succeed in this current climate, but one thing I have learned is there is absolutely no guarantees, you have to deal with what is thrown at you.”

What advice would you give to another owner who’s feeling disillusioned?

“Keep fighting, you must keep punching, you might win, you might lose, but if you keep fighting whatever happens, you'll be proud of yourself. You cannot control what happens, as with Covid or energy costs but what we can do is control how we respond. In retail every day is a new war, and you must be up for it. Don't be dogmatic be ready to change, prepared to reinvent your business and to keep learning. Also be honest with yourself, have the courage to say when you have made a mistake, I know I have not been in business for 25 years without thinking I could have done that better or handled something in a different way. Be determined not stubborn, confident not arrogant, treat people as you wish to be treated, whether they're your suppliers, your customers, your staff, treat everyone as you would like to be treated.”

What keeps you connected to why you started your business in the first place?

“It becomes part of your life, not just the business but the team that work within it. I have strong relationships with my staff, who’s knowledge and expertise are transferred into the service they provide to our customers. I am the type of person who enjoys what I do, selling products that I would buy and believe would be beneficial for others, I enjoy this process.”

Would you say you love your business?

“I think it can be very satisfying, just before covid hit, we made the decision to become more environmentally friendly by reducing our use of plastics. An example of this is with our own developed and branded supplements, originally sold in plastic tubs and have now been replaced with eco Bio Bags.

Our environmental ethos is continued by offering local customers an instore click and collect service or local deliveries made on push bikes, for deliveries outside the local area we have to use more traditional means but where possible we continue to reduce our carbon footprint. This is our story, woven into the business, not just lip service or an environmentally friendly mission statement, we've actually done it and are extremely proud that we have been able to do something different that makes a positive impact on the environment our business and has value to society.”

Who or what keeps you going in tough times?

“There is no single answer to that question, it's different things at different times and a combination of all. Like most things in life, it's much more complex than you think when you drill down into it.”

What do you love about working for yourself?

“Making my own decisions that have a positive effect and lead to something better for our staff, family, our suppliers and everybody we deal with.”

How seasonal is our business?

“We don’t tend to be seasonal; supplements are a repeat purchase with happy customers buying our products time and time again.”

We’re living in interesting times, what steps are you taking to ensure your future?

“Reinvention, continuously evolving ourselves and our business. There's no magic wand, I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but you must be prepared, be optimistic, be brave, be prepared to invest in everything, including people and keep going on, keep fighting.”

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