Looking Back & Looking Ahead
By Danielle Wirick, Owner of Intelligent Fitness, LLC
On July 31, 2021 I officially retired from Training after 24 years, so that I could direct my focus to running and growing my business. Over the years I really thought I’d end up being the 80 year old Trainer training the 100 year old client!
I can remember back when I was just thinking of starting a business, I told my dad I wanted to go into business for myself. (with my 6 years & 2 degrees of expensive college education!) He looked at me over his glasses & said “What the hell do you want to do that for?” Then turned around & went back to running HIS business, a construction company. Regardless of his first words, he supported my choice & I’ve been full steam ahead ever since.
I officially opened for business on March 1, 1997, which ironically happens to be the birthdate of my newest Trainer, Scott, which is definitely another sign! Through these 24 years a lot has happened…. I have had numerous businesses which have been housed in 2 buildings including the current one we built from the ground up! I’ve had 37 employees, over 1200 clients, and I’ve run at least 800 events. Personally, I became engaged, got married, and my two children were practically born and raised in the gym, with my oldest now helping run one of my companies while my daughter finishes high school. Even with all that, there really are two defining moments that brought me to retiring from training.
First was building our new facility and all the craziness that happened with it. Luckily I have a family in construction & a brother that kept everything rolling along, but there were still issues that always seemed to pop up. The land we were building on was right beside our original building. Once that land was purchased, we had 16 months of staring at an empty lot because of utility poles. Yep that's right - the utility poles needed moved & it took a looong time. I’d stare out the window & try to will the utility trucks to pull in. Didn’t work. Then when construction finally began, when something or someone needed an answer I would literally run over as random trucks appeared (even leaving one of my faithful clients, Richard, in the middle of a session with no explanation - he just kept chugging along though:). We had retreats on the vision of our company and how we wanted to serve our clients. Almost every employee then spent every extra second they had hanging from scaffolding to paint all 8000 square feet, helping me plan, purchase and put together something we had only talked about. So many of my colleagues spent weekends, nights and more building equipment, shelves, chairs, desks… literally the entire facility. We became a company that allowed it’s employees to do most of its work from home BC - or Before COVID - made that a necessity and not realizing the great implication that would have 3 years later. So this is my time to thank Anna, Hannah, Tyler, Dria and Ilsa for all they did for me during that time.
The second defining moment was the disruption of COVID -19. My original plan to retire was after returning from a conference in early March of 2020 but a week later we shut down for 10 weeks. COVID was an “all hands on deck” time and definitely not a time to stop training clients. Although I barely remember the day to day now, I do remember what everyone did and the feeling behind it all. I could not have had a better group to work with. Everyone stepped up to train virtually, video tape classes, clean everything in the gym to an inch of its life. We came together almost every day just to have a place to go that was safe & felt like home that let us all feel as if the world wasn’t coming to an end. When they couldn’t be present, they zoomed. I’m also happy to say that IF was able to pay the team at least a little during this time, but only because of the wonderful generosity of our clients. Clients and team members alike helped us find Grants to help us stay afloat, they “donated” their stimulus checks to IF to use as needed, they stayed on their memberships & joined us on our Zoom classes while we struggled to figure out how it all worked! Clients trained over Zoom in their homes with whatever equipment they had on hand to use. Creativity was king! I honestly don’t know if I ever worked so hard & so little at one time! Though they were all paid very, very little - they came every day with a smile. They laughed, they kept my spirits up & they rarely complained, when we all had much to complain about! They all stayed for me & our clients & I stayed for them.
I’m still in awe that we came out of COVID as strong as we have. It’s now 18 months later & it’s time to step back & build the business even more. To give my Trainers & clients the facilities, the services & the environment they all deserve after years of being there for me.
As I write this, sitting on my desk is a basket full of cards that clients have written to me for my retirement - that Anna covertly collected! I've been opening one or two cards a day because each is filled with good wishes, gratitude & love & I want to make it all last!
Lastly, I just want to say Thank You! Thank you to everyone who trusted me over the last 24 years with their health and training, thank you to my family, my employees, and everyone who has been a part of our journey this far. We are excited for big things to come at Intelligent Fitness!