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Veteran Owned Business Receives Recognition on the Inc500 List
Fitness Plus finds the path to growth through turbulent economic times and expects continued growth ahead.
O'Fallon, MO, August 31, 2010: The September, 2010 issue of Inc. Magazine features Fitness Plus (FitnessRepairParts.com) as #363 on their annual list of the 500 fastest growing private companies. When Fitness Plus was founded in 1995 by retired US Navy veteran John Jacobs, its modest goals were to provide customers with unmatched quality, value, and integrity. Rapid growth and national recognition were not the objective, yet tenacious adherence to the core values has delivered these unexpected rewards. Growth has been so fast that only 5 years ago the company was operating out of a garage, and expects to soon make its second move in as many years into a 15,000 square foot facility.
John's military background and training have guided him as he has built a lean, focused business with a tight-knit company culture. Self-discipline to focus on efficiency and eliminating waste is a key component that John strives to instill in every employee. This insistence on trimming the fat since the beginning has engrained itself into the Fitness Plus core culture. Every employee works to get as much done in as little time and effort as possible so they can move onto other tasks. This attitude has kept the company lean, debt free, and able to keep pace with the fast-paced growth it has experienced over the last few years.
Fitness Plus began as a St. Louis area independent service provider in the fitness industry, repairing exercise equipment at health clubs, hospitals, hotels, residential homes, and wherever else the equipment was located. With John at the helm, it quickly grew into one of the largest and most respected service providers in their area. With a laser focus on providing the highest quality service, Fitness Plus built a large inventory of parts so service technicians could arrive at a customer's location with parts in hand and be able to fix machines on the first service call, reducing customer down-time. Operating the business from his house at the time, it didn't take long for parts to fill John's garage first, and then his basement.
John's son Jeremy joined the business full-time in 1999, working as a service technician and spending time in the evenings doing subcontracted work for area web development companies. In 2003, the pair decided that with the growing business and parts inventory, and Jeremy's knowledge of web development, they should start an ecommerce site to sell parts to the consumer. After 6+ months of heavy development, the site was launched in 2004, and immediately started to show potential. It didn't take long for Fitness Plus to outgrow the garage and basement, and they moved into 5000 square feet in September of 2005. In August of 2009, they added another 3000 square feet temporarily while they looked for a permanent location to move to, and the next location has been identified. Fitness Plus expects to make the move into a 15,000 square foot facility in the next couple of months.
Through the addition of the ecommerce side of the business, Fitness Plus has continued to operate the local service side of the business, providing high quality service and repairs to equipment owners in the St. Louis area. Fitness Plus has grown because of the effective use of technology both internally and for the benefit of our customers. More importantly, they have been able to sustain the growth because of the strong work ethic embedded in the company culture and its focus on remaining debt free and highly efficient. "Good ideas initiated the growth, but without the commitment of our employees to see Fitness Plus become something special, we would have fallen on our face years ago," says Jeremy Jacobs. Employees are encouraged to operate at peak efficiency in every part of their work; tools such as healthy competition and a company profit sharing program based partly on the annual expense ratio help to accomplish this.
John Jacobs served in the US Navy from 1977-1995, receiving medical retirement for an injury received in service to his country. He retired as an E-7 Chief Petty Officer. The leadership training he received in the Navy has been a vital asset in leading Fitness Plus and his training as an electronics repair technician on complex equipment such as radar and sonar systems has provided a valuable background in dealing with the ever increasing complexity of today's fitness equipment.