The right fit
If you could apply the Sliding Door theory to Simone Minett's life, you'd see two very different pictures of a successful woman.
In one life, she's a member of the hectic corporate world, working as a marketing manager for an international liquor company, drawing a weekly wage and easing away the stress of a long and busy week on a Saturday and Sunday.
Switch to the other life and you'll meet the Simone who is a mother of one with another on the way, a wife and a director of Fitnessworx, a national company providing fitness programs for children across Australia. She is wholly content with her decision to leave the corporate world in search of personal and professional satisfaction.
Fortunately for Simone and her young family, the latter version became a reality when she made the life-changing decision to quit the marketing role and explore her potential as a small business owner.
"Making the shift from marketing manager to working on children's fitness was a big change, but I had always wanted to develop my own business and I was prepared to put in the work to make it happen," she said.
"When I quit my marketing role, I took a full year out of the workforce to research my business idea and put together a plan. I was introduced to the NEIS government program for people interested in establishing a small business and Fitnessworx opened for business in mid-2005."
Simone's business started out as a small operation, delivering after-school fitness programs to Melbourne schools. The programs are based around non-sports content developed to engage children who otherwise wouldn't take part in physical exercise, like the popular circus games, cheerleading or funk'n'groovy dance sessions.
The NEIS program, which she studied through Kangan Institute, was an opportunity for Simone to hone her business skills - like accounting, business planning, legal issues and sorting out BAS and GST payments.
"There's plenty of evidence and research which indicates that our children are living more sedentary lifestyles than in the past, so I knew there was definitely a market out there for the Fitnessworx service," Simone said.
"Throughout my research, I had discovered that while a lot of companies ran sporting clinics for children, there were very options available to children who feared or didn't enjoy competitive team sport. The point of difference for Fitnessworx is that our programs focus on being active and having fun. It removes the competitiveness often associated with team sports and allows children to be involved in programs that centre on enjoyment and inclusiveness."
The Fitnessworx grand-opening fortuitously coincided with the introduction of the Australian government's Active After-school Communities program - a national initiative that provides primary school-aged children with access to free, physical activity programs, aligning perfectly with what Simone hoped to achieve in her business.
After securing several contracts with local schools to deliver the program, the Fitnessworx reputation grew creating the need for expansion.
"In the beginning, it was really important that I did a year's worth of research and took the time out to get some formal qualifications. There's definitely more credibility to a business when your clients can see what planning has gone into your business plan and the way you deliver your service," Simone said.
"We started out in mid-2005 with 12 part-time staff members in the Melbourne area and with the growth we've experienced, the business is now represented in four states, with three full-time staff members based in the head office and 80 part-time employees delivering 180 programs in schools each week."
As the business has grown, so too has the need to manage that growth effectively. The fitness industry typically has quite a high turnover of staff, so to counteract that problem Simone developed a number of strategies to attract and retain skilled workers, including paying the highest wage rates and offering flexible work options. After an initial training induction program, all staff members also have access to on-going professional development.
"So many people seem to go into business without a solid idea of what's required and what can be expected, and so many of these businesses fail within the first few years," Simone said.
"It's hard to gauge where the business would be without the Active After-school Communities program, it has definitely accelerated our growth, but as with all government programs, there's no guarantee it will run forever, so we're looking at ways to diversify and build the business outside of this program. Our newest initiative "Partyworx by Fitnessworx" (children's birthday parties) is already proving to be very popular."
Aside from the business success she's achieved, Fitnessworx has also allowed Simone to develop other areas of her lifestyle. Since the business was established she has given birth to a son, married her partner - who she met through the business - moved office, renovated a home and is preparing to give birth to a second child in early 2009.
"I definitely wouldn't have been able to achieve these things in my personal life if I hadn't made the move from a corporate position to running my own business. Now I have the flexibility to work from home when needed and have established a solid structure so the business can operate smoothly."