Meet Maurice Buchanan – originally from Louisville, Kentucky. BS in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota and defensive lineman for the gopher football team. 2006 Minnesota Vikings operations intern. 16 years of experience as a personal fitness trainer. Founder and owner of UGO1 Fitness (2014) and Wurk (2019).
Maurice has worked with professional and collegiate athletes, cancer survivors, expecting mothers, children, recovering substance abuse addicts, and adults with mental and physical disabilities. Maurice is passionate about physical and emotional health and motivating people in the simplistic understanding of taking care of themselves to achieve overall optimal wellness.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Maurice Buchanan: Trying to find a job right out of college in the fitness industry was very difficult. My expectations were high because I had a BS in Kinesiology from a credible university, was a scholarship football player, and just finished my internship with the Minnesota Vikings. Everywhere I looked for employment wanted 2 years minimum experience. Through my school, I was connected to a company that was looking for new kinesiology graduates and had a not-so-traditional and some would view controversial approach to strength training that I didn’t learn while I was getting my degree. They were the only ones hiring at that time that didn’t require experience and I was interested in learning something new and I needed a job. I stayed at this company for 6 years, but through expressing my differences of opinion professionally and personally with the owner, I was fired.
I was already considering going out on my own before I was terminated but was too afraid of the unknown and didn’t have the confidence to make the leap. But to this day, I am so thankful that I was let go because it was the best professional moment of my career and forced me to figure things out. I had very little money and was paying for a new car I couldn’t afford along with a one-bedroom apartment so I needed to find employment fast. I only had experience in a not-so-popular way of training in an environment and small population that recognized it so presenting to the rest of the fitness world wasn’t exactly welcomed. I had to learn a new way of training in a different environment sometimes making only $6 an hour. I had made the decision that even though I was getting very little pay this was going to be a great experience for potentially running my own business so I embraced that concept and ended working at 3 different gyms to gain more knowledge about the industry.
Did that for 2 years and landed a great job at a chiropractic physical therapy rehab facility that dealt with motor vehicle accidents that has a weight room at the top that I was recruited to run as if it was my own business but the owner of the facility would handle all the bills and I was responsible for recruiting new clientele. This did not go over well with the current clientele and with the exception of 3 members everyone left along with the part-time employees who were let go leaving just me to run the business.
This was a pretty difficult way to start a new job and it didn’t get much better after that. I was working 6 days a week sometimes 6 am-8 pm with a break in the middle to eat and sleep for an hour. I wasn’t making enough money to cover my expenses the and that was painfully realized one November night after work trying to put gas in my car and finding out I had -$25 and having to borrow money from my parents to get home. I contemplated quitting but didn’t have any other employment options so it wasn’t passionate it was a necessity that kept me going.
I stuck it out for one more month because during the hiring process the owner and I came to an agreement that if I hit certain financial milestones I would get a bonus. It was tiered and each tier if I hit that amount I would receive a bigger bonus. I came up with a Black Friday sale and it did very well, so well that I skipped all the way to the top of the tier to get the most bonus. This gave me a level of confidence to finally go off on my own because my only other choice at that time was to stay but barely make enough money to cover my expenses. I took my bonus and a handful of clients and started UGO1 Fitness as an independent fitness trainer renting space out of a gym.
The business was going well for a couple of years but the gym had to close up because the landlord had sold to a group that wanted to build condos. The owner of the gym had to find another spot for myself and other trainers to run our businesses on short notice and we found one, set up shop, and started again. Less than a year later we had to close again because the gym didn’t meet certain operating zones and codes. Found another gym to set up once again and this is where I met my business partner Daleco James. We worked next to each other running our own businesses for a couple of years, chatting about opening our own spots separately, until we got the bright idea to do it together because we had similar mindsets towards health and fitness.
We found a place, announced it on social media, and the gym owner we were currently renting space from didn’t like that very much so he kicked us out the very next day. Luckily one of my clients I was training owned the gym across the parking lot, so we were able to build our gym and have a place to train our clients while that process took place because we were doing it with our own money. No loans or investors so we needed to keep working while we funded and built our new gym. Our new gym was called Wurk. Our first year started in august of 2019 right before the pandemic hit. We got through it and we’re doing better than ever today.
Was there somebody in your life that inspired you to take that specific journey with your business?
Maurice Buchanan: My father. He was an entrepreneur. He worked for Humana for as long as I can remember when we lived in Louisville, Kentucky. When I was 8-9 years old in the early 90’s he started a company called PERT that focused on getting employment for mid-level management. He helped them with their resumes, the interview process, and using programs like Microsoft word and excel. I didn’t realize it at the time but watching him be in control of his professional career and being the decision-maker of his growth in his business had a long-lasting effect on me when it was time for me to be employed. At that age, all I knew was he was the boss of something he created and what he was passionate about. He was honest and upfront about what his company was trying to do.
I know he had some tough professional battles with people and organizations who wanted him to do things differently and he wouldn’t budge on anything that compromised his vision and purpose and I always admired that about him. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to be like my father in being in charge of a company that I was passionate about, believed in, and stayed true to my purpose and vision even if it wasn’t popular or what people agreed with.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Maurice Buchanan: Ask for too much advice. I sometimes feel people ask for advice because they fear failure, missteps, or finding out they’re not really that passionate about what they want to do and may have to find a different career path. For an entrepreneur, those failures, missteps, and potential reckoning is your education. It’s priceless because you learn and develop your own perspective that you can’t learn from any book. Your feelings in specific moments are invaluable and are a necessity for your growth in being an entrepreneur and you can miss out on that privilege if you have someone’s advice already shaping your mindset and response.
It can be terrifying but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing you’ll soon realize making those unadvised leaps are way less scary than not making the leap at all. If you care enough you’ll find the answer to your next step and that answer might be on the other side of a minor setback. You get more comfortable in taking temporary losses or hearing ‘No’ because it’s an experience that gives you an opportunity to either push ahead or change direction and that’s such a fortunate space to be in your entrepreneurship because most people never get the chance to decide something of such magnitude.
Most people live their professional careers with someone telling them what to do. We’re the lucky ones. Win or lose we get to decide and if you’re a real entrepreneur you embrace and look forward to that unknown. It’s a gift that you should never give up. We signed a lease to a warehouse that used to be a welding business with greasy walls and a 20-foot high ceiling to build a gym with zero knowledge in construction or planning. I never felt more alive. Every decision we made mattered and mattered a lot. We had a timeline, money, and pressure. I would’ve never given up that feeling by ruining it with someone’s advice. My advice to entrepreneurs is don’t you dare give up the rare euphoric feeling of having the chance to write your own story and develop your own perspective that you’re passionate about.
Has the pandemic and transitioning into mostly online shopping affected your company positively or negatively?
Maurice Buchanan: Positively. As technology and online shopping has advanced and become more accessible, it still isn’t a replacement for human to human contact in our field. We saw many fitness businesses switch their services online for obvious reasons but we never did. We kept getting requests to open our doors from people because they missed talking and interacting with a person and speaking to a screen wasn’t genuine or intimate enough. We never did until we were allowed to but those requests gave us the affirmation that engaging with another person face to face will never be substituted for online in our industry.
We did free workout videos on social media during the shutdown but we knew that was temporary and as soon as we were able to get back to in-person, the response and excitement from current members and new ones from other gyms were huge. Being a smaller gym you get the luxury of being able to build those meaningful relationships with people that mean so much. The gym was a stress reliever for many and a number of our members met each other here and built personal connections and accountability for one another.
Everyone was so ecstatic to see each other, read each other’s body language, see facial expressions, and workout side by side again or 6 feet from each other. You can not replace working out next to someone and the camaraderie that is built through community and taking on a task together in person with online. I confidently can say no matter how popular online shopping becomes it’ll never replace what you get and can build working out next to someone in a gym setting.
What is most important to your organization—mission, vision or values?
Maurice Buchanan: Values for sure. The fitness industry has done a poor job of focusing more on the body image aspect of people’s health and not their actual health. It’s easy to manipulate customers in this field because they’re living in something they can’t ever take off or replace. When your body starts to not operate, function, or look the way you would like from short and long-term unhealthy decisions it can create a sense of desperation that many in this industry prey on.
The majority of the fitness ads that are being marketed glorify and showcase a body type that a very small percentage of the population can achieve and healthily maintain but is presented as the norm because it’s more profitable. We prioritize the mental and emotional aspect of health that plays a significant role in the physical result. Our value is teaching everyone that you know everything there is to be healthy excluding something that may be a medical condition. It’s not workout plans to shape a specific body part, diet plans to achieve a level of leanness that may be hard to hold or lack of intelligence from making health more complicated than it should be. It’s behavioral and gives people the confidence that they can change that. We don’t need to paint or label ourselves as experts in this field because the expertise to be healthy isn’t necessary.
That’s our main value. Educating people in believing that they have the intellect and ability to take care of themselves. When you encourage that mindset your overall society will function better. When you present health as a complicated mystery or as a rare physique that requires an unrealistic regimented lifestyle your purpose is financial at the expense of people’s well-being. We value everyone from anywhere from any circumstance and know they can achieve their specific optimal level of health at any time if they’re willing to work and be consistent at it.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Maurice Buchanan: Patience, humbleness, and confidence. Patience has been the toughest one. You have to have some level of competitiveness about yourself when you’re an entrepreneur but sometimes you can get hasty with how fast you want things to happen and that can lead to poor decision making, expectations, or results. Being humbled by those things has forced me to redirect my focus, learn more, listen more, take more time to strategize, and take the proper steps for the task at hand. That process for me helps instill confidence and execute that confidence because I did my very best at seeing the majority of moves that can be taken and the pros and cons that may be associated with my next step, weighing those out, and committing confidently to a decision.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Maurice Buchanan: You don’t need to appeal to everyone. Better to focus on the people that identify with your brand or understand what you’re trying to do and say. Trying to convince people who don’t agree with your message and vision is a waste of energy. If people arrive at that understanding on their own that’s great but trying to get everyone to like you, your message, and your brand isn’t an efficient use of your time and energy.
What’s your favorite leadership style and why?
Maurice Buchanan: Be the physical, mental, and emotional representation of what you’re trying to achieve. Be the example. Set the tone, expectation and minimize excuses. I’m not going to ask or expect anyone to do what I wouldn’t do.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Maurice Buchanan: Don’t look for advice. Instead, follow these 3 steps:
- Be truly honest with yourself in what you’re trying to do by getting your hands dirty in that profession.
- Aggressively find opportunities to gain experience in your passion to get your reps in.
- Be open-minded to other professions that may not have a direct connection to your path but certain aspects of that profession could be utilized proficiently in yours.
In this time, information and people are the most accessible to us. You can reach out to CEOs, send them messages, and have conversations with them if you’re willing to go after it. Get base levels jobs in your industry so you know how it truly functions. Talk to the warehouse and maintenance people because they usually know how the ship is run. One of the most influential people I’ve ever met was a self-taught maintenance man from Greece. He knew everything. What made the most money, how the building functioned, who were the important decision-makers at the company. Be proactive in your development. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility except yours and you’ll get that by experience. I hated public speaking.
But I knew I would have to learn how to do it in some shape or form. I would sign up to go to free networking meetings that had nothing to do with health or fitness. I went to a networking get-together about flowers, just so I could stand up for 5 seconds and introduce myself and say what I did. I did it all the time and it only cost me insecurity. Always be on the lookout to educate yourself in unexpected situations to develop your tools. When I was in my early 20’s after a night of bar-hopping, drinking, and flexing too much in the bathroom mirror, we would go to this diner. When the bars let out, this place was insanity. Everyone was drunk, loud, obnoxious, and ordering food that wasn’t on the menu. The wait staff was never phased.
Always poised, conducted themselves professionally, and could control the room amidst the anarchy. It was madness at times in there and they were a well-oiled machine that functioned smoothly. I was always impressed while inhaling a meat lovers omelet the size of a football with too many hash browns with how they communicated in the chaos, their attention to detail and memory was superb, they would take a table of 8 belligerent nightmares order with no writing utensil or paper and have it perfect with the most unbelievable patience. I learned so much from that wait staff during those times that I use today.
A lot of people couldn’t do that job and they did it with such precision, patience, speed, and control. I’ll always admire and be thankful for that very unexpected not ideal learning opportunity.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Maurice Buchanan: “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable than risk being happy.” Robert Anthony
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Maurice Buchanan 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 Maurice Buchanan or his company, you can do it through his – Instagram
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