The Union Recorder

May 15, 2013

Bodyplex Milledgeville grows while giving back

Kyle Collins
The Union-Recorder


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a five-part series highlighting this year’s finalists for Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year. The winner will be announced at the Blue Sapphire Gala annual dinner and awards presentation on Saturday, June 1 at the Milledgeville Country Club.

Whether it’s the facility or the staff, Bodyplex Milledgeville stretches beyond the standard gym image. 

As a nominee for the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year, Bodyplex figures business gains equal the commitment to better serve employees, members and the community.

Co-owner Larry Mullis said the gym’s focused, goal-oriented approach spurred growth since 2007. There is no one person that is Bodyplex.

“It’s sincerity. We are all completely on board,” Mullis said. “We want to take care of our community because they take care of us. We’ve set a standard that is above most, and everyone just achieves it.”

Co-owner Dr. Mike Martino remembers the days of eight employees and 900 members. Now, the fitness club carries 25 employees and 3,000 members including the successful SilverSneakers adult and senior fitness groups.

General manager and co-owner Adam Shields arrived in September 2009 to a club with high potential that lacked a definite identity.

“We decided we would set out initiatives for what this business would stand for,” he said.

People matter most became a Bodyplex calling card. Caring about the staff helped elevate the club’s reach.

“We were going to invest into our people,” Shields said. “We knew if we gave all we could to our employees than we stood a much better chance of them giving that back to us. That’s where the growth of that club started.”

Professional development retreats and educational opportunities allowed several employees to excel from manning daycare to upper management positions. Many of that original staff still call Bodyplex home.

“Even if they leave us, we’ve helped them become a better professional in the long run,” Martino said.

The fitness club fosters a low-pressure family environment. Bodyplex is a place to sweat with no judgment, according to Shields.

Motivated member success stories remain the best advertising campaign.

The prosperous New Member Challenge pushes people to workout 20 times in their first 60 days. Members completing the challenge earn a free Bodyplex shirt and exercise bag.

Shields said the vendor loves them after 280 gym bags and counting. The new member program won national fitness trade magazine recognition.

“It’s our way to say you are winning the fight. We celebrate success. Losing 20 pounds is a big deal,” Shields said.

Even with poor economic times, the fitness club continued growth. Martino said the club promotes healthy lifestyle and attitude change above all else.

“People are feeling better because they are exercising,” Martino said. “We’ve helped this community lose 30,000 pounds and probably saved a million dollars on health care costs.”

The club sponsors at least 10 different types of community engagement or charity events yearly. 

Bodyplex doesn’t shy away from giving back as a successful small business.

“It’s our responsibility to give irrationally. We didn’t just want to help one or two and be selective. I want to help all,” Shields said. “I challenge anybody to tell me I won’t. We are here to give back for all we’ve received.”

Dollars go into the facility enhancements every six months as well. 

The ownership decided to expand by mid-summer, extending the usable gym space to 31,000 square feet. Doubled group fitness space, more free weights and other top of the line equipment are part of selling the brand further.

A bold move toward larger space took time, but Shields believes the expansion will blow people away.

“I think we’ll have a couple things they weren’t asking for,” he said. “We are bringing the best the market has to offer to Milledgeville.”

Multiple programming additions such as Friday Date Night, where parents can drop off the kids for three hours, serve a family mentality. 

Within the next month, Bodyplex will launch a customized mobile device application. The app allows live feedback when equipment goes down or doubles as a suggestion box.

Another mobile app feature is a club community network.

By forming local business partnerships, the club’s patrons receive deals and discounts on local services. Theoretically, members save money, while businesses get extra revenue.

“Whatever we can come up with to help our community and our members, we are going to do,” Shields said.

Over the last few successful years, the club’s management learned to listen more and talk less.

Perfection is unattainable, but the idea that Bodyplex could always be better drives the small business. Success doesn’t come with a shortcut.

“We aren’t perfect,” Martino said. “Every business makes mistakes, but we constantly try to improve little things.”

If the fitness club becomes the Chamber’s Small Business of the Year, the award goes to the employees.

“If we were to win this award, I look at the staff we have in place and the job they do on a daily basis,” Shields said.

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