Ashley Faithfull is the Director and Trainer at AF Training Studios. He trains some of Melbourne’s high-profile executives hailing from law firms and accounting firms to business owners. Ashley understands that this is a group that spend a lot of time in transit at airports and they are the most likely group whose health and fitness will suffer as they try to juggle their busy work and family life.
“Our clientele is a high performing group, and by getting them into the gym and improving their health and fitness, that can only benefit their mental performance,” says founder Ashley Faithfull.
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We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Ashley Faithfull: My name is Ashley Faithfull and I am a personal trainer from Melbourne. I have been a personal trainer for 13 years and work mostly with professionals and business leaders. I own a boutique high-end training studio “Ashley Faithfull Training Studios” that specializes in catering to those professionals who are trying to balance a busy work schedule and family life.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Ashley Faithfull: Covid was devastating for the fitness industry in Victoria, particularly with a lot of small studios collapsing and people leaving the industry.
I think businesses that really focus and invest in good personal services will hold strong. Over lockdown, people discovered quickly that you can pretty much get everything done online or over the phone, but we really missed those connections and interactions you get going into a physical business.
I think it’s important for businesses to reconnect again and tell their story, creating a reason for customers to come back in. For my studio, we have put a lot of work into not only creating a space people want to come and train in, but a sense of community you can’t get with online training.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Ashley Faithfull: People have certainly come back to the industry with a clearer sense of exactly what they want to get out of their training and what they do and don’t want. I really think boutique and niche studios will be the real winners with people wanting a more personal and catered session that suits their specific needs.
There will always be a place for big commercial gyms, but with such a big shift in people’s priority towards better health and fitness, people are really looking for a more personised journey.
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Ashley Faithfull: I think the pandemic really shook up the health and fitness industry, particularly the big gym franchises. Over the lockdowns, a lot of people took to online to look for fitness solutions and often were exposed to different training disciplines that they could try in the comfort of their own homes. For me, I started doing daily yoga online, something that I may have considered walking into a yoga studio and doing.
I spent day after day thinking and rethinking how to bring in business and at times I start questioning if I need to change the entire model, but with great support (and wisdom) from my business partner, we held firm to our vision and weathered the storm. My advice is to believe in your product and continue to back yourself!
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Ashley Faithfull: Patience… to be really honest lockdown was brutal! As a business owner, I had to fight every urge to start making reactional decisions to try and claw back business. Having a studio in the city we felt the full force of not only the lockdowns but the work-from-home orders.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Ashley Faithfull: I think online can work great for some businesses, but for most, I don’t think you can ever beat the human connection side of the business. The drawback of online is it can become very transactional, you miss the opportunity to tell your story and create client buy-in.
For a business like ours, building connections and trust with our members is paramount, and it’s what keeps them coming back and getting the results they want.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Ashley Faithfull: More than I would like at the moment. I try to break my screen time into 1-hour blocks, then get back out onto the studio floor with clients or to train.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Ashley Faithfull: I think effective communication is imperative, and it trickles down to our clients. Right from the start, I open the conversation with my staff about what drives them and what success looks like to them.
It’s important to understand that success looks different to everyone and taking the time to find those drivers can make the difference between keeping and losing great staff. This continues down to our clients, for a client that comes to us wanting to lose weight, we dive straight into what is it that has motivated them to make the change and what “successful weight loss” look like to them.
Being a boutique studio we have limited members so we can really get to know our clients’ stories and journeys to where they are, and where they want to get to, and every story is unique.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Ashley Faithfull: The big challenge for growth at the moment is the shift in working habits post-Covid, particularly in the CBD. We are finding that people still haven’t really settled into their new work-from-home and work-from-office routines and companies still haven’t really put in place clear expectations, so for a business like ours, the consistency isn’t there week to week.
With that we offer our members “hybrid training” solutions, so we often do zoom sessions or pre-recorded sessions with clients that are working from home or traveling overseas to help keep their training on track and we have had a great response and results with that.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Ashley Faithfull: I’m most interested at the moment to watch the AI space. I think AI is going to be the next big tech revolution and will be applicable in a lot of industries people won’t expect, including ours.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Ashley Faithfull: I think a lot of the issue was when the pressure came on through COVID, a lot of big companies protected their financial interests over their people and that left a very sour taste in people’s mouths.
In a lot of ways, I think Covid was the shakeup most people needed, it gave them the space to take stock of what was really important to them and re-prioritize a few things. Business leaders who realized there was this shift in thinking early reached out and engaged with their staff and weren’t afraid to look at the bigger picture and came out on top.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Ashley Faithfull: This is interesting, I think for most business owners seeing into the future would be the ultimate superpower! To be ahead of market changes and be able to predict the next big thing within your industry would be a huge help!
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Ashley Faithfull: For me, success will be continuing to work closely with my staff and giving them the tools and guidance to be industry-leading trainers and managers, and in turn, giving me the time to grow with more studios across Australia.
We are looking to have studios in most major capital cities over the next few years which was always my long-term vision. Personally, I want to continue to work with business leaders helping them bring better health and fitness routines into their life and continue to add value to people’s lives.
Jerome Knyszewski, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Ashley Faithfull for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Ashley Faithfull or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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