My name is Sukh Sidhu, I'm one of the founders of Stridist.com an online platform that trainers and coaches can use to work with clients and OnlineFitnessBusiness.com an educational platform enabling trainers and coaches to market, sell and deliver their services to clients online.
What's your backstory and how did you end up in your current position?
I started my life in business selling ladies shoes online, I made a lot of money very young but I hated what I was doing. I loved training, loved nutrition and like a lot of personal trainers decided that was enough for me to become a personal trainer I started by working with clients in my spare time around running my ecommerce business around 2007, before eventually going full time as a mobile personal trainer in 2012.
In a short time after that I opened my first gym and a second one quickly followed. Opening the second facility made me hyper aware of what I wanted in life and it turned out, for me, it was definitely not working in a brick and mortar business. Luckily I'd started testing online coaching and online challenges around 2013 and by 2015 my online coaching business was generating more revenue than my gyms without requiring as much time, or requiring me to be in a fixed location at a fixed time. So on 17/6/2016 I finalised the sale of my gyms, the very next day I got married and then went to Singapore and Bali, and enjoyed the benefits of working online.
In 2016 I'd also started mentoring other trainers and coaches, helping them to market, sell and deliver their service to clients online until in 2017 this turned into a business in it's own right called Online Fitness Business. Over the past 5 years we've helped nearly 3,000 personal trainers, nutrition professionals and more... take their business online.
During that entire time there has been a question that we've never been able to answer... "What's the best app to use with clients" Our answer at OFB has always been... "just try a few and pick the one you most like" Simply because we didn't like any enough to give a full recommendation to Which leads us to why we're building Stridist.
If I'm honest it's something I should have done 3 or 4 years ago but I assumed one of the other platforms would figure it out... they never did. With more coming into the market just to make a quick buck from personal trainers and the more established platforms all being sold to private equity firms who will likely strip support and stop improving, we figured we had better start looking at building our own platform. That led us to acquire Stridist from its original founder. Those talks started in June 2021 and completed in the following November and we've just been heads down, focusing on improving it ever since.
What were your first few months like in the fitness industry?
Weird.... I was maybe 19, still living at home, and my dad (typical Indian Dad) would never approve of his son being a personal trainer.
My dad would come to my warehouse occasionally to check in on me (as if it was his business and he was my boss). During the 4 week course I had to sneak around and make sure he didn't realise I was spending Mon-Fri 9-5 doing my PT qualification when I probably should have been in the warehouse running my business.
When he found out I'd done the course I told him it was free so he didn't know I'd spent money to become a personal trainer.
After my web of lies... it was all good, I was in the lucky position of having a full time business that provided me with income. So when I started working with clients I didn't have the pressure of needing the money that I think so many new trainers have. I just got to train people. Most of the time I'd train clients in the warehouse I had for my ecommerce business.
What have been the key moments in your career so far what was the impact of those moments?
Doing my personal training course at the risk of my damaging my relationship with my dad definitely changed my life, I wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't do that.
Opening my first gym was also life changing, it felt like I finally had my own thing that I really wanted to grow. The community we built in the gym was amazing and I met some fantastic people in that time. Opening the second gym was life changing in a different way, it made me realise what I didn't want, and that I was on the wrong path. It's what led me to go all in online and focus on that.
A key decision I made in 2015 was to start speaking out against shady practices that I saw from the business mentors of the time. Today, some business mentors may not be great, but back then most were completely scamming and misleading people, practically stealing from them. By being someone who spoke out about that, and who was seeing genuine success as an online trainer, telling the reality of what it takes to grow a successful online coaching business, trainers and coaches began to approach me for mentoring. Which led to the launch and success of OFB.
What’s been the hardest moment/biggest challenge of your career so far?
The last few months of gym ownership were rough.
I'd lost interest and my heart just wasn't in it anymore, so business performance suffered and if I'm honest my coaching did too.
My relationships with my team suffered. And it was all happening in the run up to my wedding.
What about the biggest win / Proudest moment?
Funnily enough, opening the first gym. After spending a lot of my life earning a living doing things I didn't want to do, or that made me unhappy It felt amazing to open a gym, what a dream come true (I thought at the time). I was pretty broke because I'd effectively burnt my previous business to the ground and then put all my money into opening the gym, but it never bothered me at all.
I finally had something to go all in on that at the time, I absolutely loved. The gym was fully booked within a week of opening which helped, and we ended up taking the unit next door and doubling in size within 6 months.
How and what are you doing today and what does the future look like?
All my focus from a career perspective is on Stridist.
1. Making it the best platform possible.
2. Building out its partner programme and our own resource and education element. Our success is dependent on the success of the coaches and trainers who use Stridist. We're lucky to be in a position that no other platform has had, and that's that we know how to help trainers and coaches get online clients and build online businesses because that's what we've been doing for the last 5 years.
We don't want to just provide the platform, we want to help our users to be successful and empower them to help as many clients as possible.
3. Growing the Stridist user base. We've got aggressive targets, and I have high expectations of myself. We know that we can build a great platform and we know we can help Stridist coaches build great businesses. So it's our duty to make sure we help as many trainers and coaches as we can.
Stridist is owned and ran by people who have been working in the fitness industry for decades. Not people coming into the industry because they see an opportunity to make money. And while we have an amazing team of developers, they're guided by us, trainers and coaches. Who know what is needed. From a life perspective, I'm a very simple man and don't really want much to change. We're incredibly happy living in Dubai as a family and as long as my career supports being able to continue living here the way we do then I'm good.
What does a day in the life of you look like?
6.30-7am - I'm usually woke up by my daughter Ivy, I'll go downstairs with her, make her breakfast and get her ready for school and then I'll train.
Unless I'm playing golf, which I'll do 1-2x per week.
I live in Dubai, which means I'm either 3-4 hours ahead of the UK and a lot of hours ahead of the US where my team and most of our customers are, so I get most mornings to myself.
If I train I'm at my laptop by 9.30am if I play golf it'll be more like 11.
Right now all my work is focusing on managing the developers and preparing for the launch of Stridist. Also a lot of calls with partners or industry peers to get feedback on Stridist or what they want to see being built.
Lastly, any advice for people who are considering or have just started in the industry?
Health and fitness professionals have the best job in the world.
You have full control over how you work, who you work with, where you work, when you work. Everything. And the results of your work can be life changing and sometimes even lifesaving for your clients. And you get to wear comfy clothes and hang around like minded people every day, either in person or online.
So remember to enjoy it!
In terms of practical advice, as well as focusing on getting good at getting clients results.
Get good at marketing and selling ready to grow your business.