A LETTER FROM RAMI F. ODEH TO ALL OUR MEMBERS (PAST AND PRESENT) AND FRIENDS!
April 19th, 2019
Change is EXCITING!
Change is INTERESTING!
Change is FUN!
Change can also be scary, unknown and disruptive.
But, ultimately, change is…
Some housekeeping first. This letter is super important to me, however, I know that many of you that receive this have just started at FormWell or have been gone for a while and might not even know me so in the spirit of efficiency I will split into 2 sections:
1 – A brief explanation of the exciting changes occurring at FormWell
2 – A longer history and explanation of the decision (for those that know me better and care to read).
Overview of the exciting change, business stuff
Getting right to the point, as of today, April 19th, 2019 (Good Friday, being a devout Catholic the timing of that is not lost on me), Cody Parks is now the 100% president and owner of FormWell Personal Training! I cannot tell you how excited I am to have Cody taking over the company that I founded 20 years ago on February 15th, 1999!
Cody has some very, very positive and exciting changes planned for the company and I am so excited to watch where he (and his wife, Halston) take FormWell in the next 20+ years.
For our existing members, rest assured that nothing changes in terms of your billing, contracts, pricing, etc. The only things you can look forward to are positive changes, many of which you have been asking me to implement for a long time (refresh of the space, new equipment, more fun community events, etc.).
I will be staying on for 30 days to help make sure the transition is smooth and will, of course, be available for questions!
For the members who are currently working with me in nutritional counseling, rest easy, you will continue to work with me (if you choose to, of course). Initially these sessions may still be at FormWell (for next 30 days) and then they will be done remotely via phone, possibly video conferences, and eventually in my new office.
What will I do next? After a much-needed break to rest, recover and focus on my family and planning time, I will be (God willing) be moving on to my next dream career and what I truly feel I was put on this earth to do with the remainder of my years: motivational speaking, writing more books and online coaching. Heather and I will remain as the landlords for the building that FormWell is in so you will see us around for sure!
Thank you all for a FANTASTIC and blessed 20 years!
Some history and narrative
If you are still reading, you are either a long term member, a personal friend or someone who is genuinely curious about how business sales are born and brought to fruition. So thank you for listening, as you all know I am a writer so grab a cup of coffee and settle in…
Some of you may not know but the genesis for my career in personal fitness training, and eventually FormWell, actually began WAY back when in 1992. At the time I had finished my first graduate degree, Industrial / Organizational Psychology, and was working in the “corporate world” (yes, I wore a suit and tie to work for almost 4 years!) I worked for a large credit card processing company, and had a few different roles in human resources / training and development and finally running a sales department. I was in one of our frequent (10+ hour – I certainly don’t miss those) management meetings and we were waiting for the executive team to show up. The age-old conversation started “if you had to do your life over what would you do”. I could not believe the diverse answers most of the people in the room gave (most were 40+, I was 29 at the time) – these were ALL that I would consider very successful business people and NOT ONE of them said they would do what they were doing for a career (the answers ranged from musician to hardware store owner, to carpenter, etc)! Interestingly when the question came around to me, I didn’t even have to answer, they all said: “Rami would be in the exercise field”! I was the guy who was doing triathlons every weekend and working out after work instead of going to happy hour so I guess I had a reputation.
I took this as a strong sign to follow my dream, they were “stuck”(or at least felt like they were) being older, married, settled, children and I was young and single. I literally went home that night and started applications to graduate school to get another Masters degree, this time in Exercise Physiology!
I have never looked back and never regretted my decision!
I ended up at the University of Miami and obtained my 2nd graduate degree in 1994. Originally I thought I would be in corporate wellness or an Exercise Physiologist at a Hospital, however, while I was in school I did an internship at a local gym and fell in love with personal training. I couldn’t believe how much you could directly impact and change a persons’ life for the better. I knew this was the career for me!
After I graduated, in 1994, I moved to Atlanta to start a new life and career here. My girlfriend (Heather Flynn, who would later become Heather Odeh) and I decided we wanted a fresh start and Atlanta had everything we were looking for at the time!
I incorporated FormWell (legal name Formula Wellness, Inc) in 1995 but didn’t do much with it till 1999. In that time I was a full-time personal trainer, working at larger gyms (Athletic Club Northeast, Concourse Athletic Club, The Peachtree Center Club, Jeanne’s Body Tech, etc) and doing In-Home training as well.
During my first 5 years as a trainer, I gained a ton of experience, and also built up a ton of frustration regarding how trainers were treated and compensated at clubs AND how trainers, for the most part, did not take education and certification seriously.
In 1999, I decided, instead of complaining about it, to make a difference and start my own business.
My value system in starting my business was centered on the philosophy to only hire and develop coaches who were serious about changing peoples lives and were willing and able to obtain the education, certification and experience it would take to get there – and compensating them commensurately! I am proud to say we have never wavered from these values. Through it all and all of the changes and ups and downs, we have maintained the best staff anywhere, in my humble opinion!
So, on Feb 15th, 1999, with 12 of my own clients and me as the only employee, I opened FormWell in Dunwoody – in a small 2200 square foot office space.
In typical “Fire, Ready, Aim” entrepreneur fashion, I had no idea what I was doing, and also got engaged, did my first Ironman triathlon, got married and had our first child in the next 2 years!
We were blessed with an amazing first 8 years, growing an average of 30% per year, we also actually opened a 2nd location in 2005 but that did not work out, so when we closed it down I decided it was time to move to a larger, nicer space.
In 2008 (does that year sound familiar, the start of the worst economic downturn, recession since the Great Depression) we moved to our current location in Morgan Falls, Sandy Springs. We had 17 employees and almost 400 active members at that time and were one of the largest, most profitable personal training studios in Georgia.
So, without going into a ton of details, suffice to say we doubled our fixed expenses right when the economy fell apart.
For the next 5 years, 2009 – 2014 I worked really hard trying to bring our business back to what it was. We had been through recessions and downturns before, I just thought if we worked harder, we would be fine.
I was wrong, as were a lot of people during this time.
In 2014 I had expended all of my ideas, energy and personal savings and it was time to face facts. We had leveled out and were not losing money anymore, but our space was just too large and expensive for us to generate a profit that I could provide for my family with. So I started looking at smaller spaces to move into and we would rent out our current space.
At the same time I was meeting with Rick Mayo, my good friend, and business mentor for 20 years, and he knew everything I was going through. He said to me, “I have one more idea for you, I have a guy who just finished his internship with me and I think he could help you turn the business around”. I really didn’t want to give up and downsize so I figured I would give it a shot.
That “guy” was Cody Parks.
I had no idea how I would pay Cody, we were barely able to pay me, but I trusted Rick and I trusted the Lord so I figured I would go into some debt and give it one last shot.
Well, long story short, it worked!
Cody brought in positive changes he had learned working under Rick and, more importantly, his positive energy brought back my “mojo” that had been beaten into almost non-existence with the brutal 5-year decline of the business.
Working with him and developing a Team culture also taught me that, although being a “lone wolf” and doing everything myself for the first 10 years worked well, it was time to surrender and allow someone to really help me become a better businessman. Together, we have brought FormWell back on the road to its former “glory” and it is poised to continue.
The focus has always been to change peoples lives. But when you are struggling financially, it gets really hard to focus on this, Cody helping me to bring the business back has allowed us to help SO many more people than I could have on my own.
I feel so blessed that Cody came into our business and my life, and that I had the guts to take the risk back in 2014 to take him on.
Fast forward to 2018 and I was meeting with Rick again about Cody’s long term plan and growth into management with FormWell. We came up with a ton of ideas, from partnerships to Cody opening a second FormWell location but ultimately Cody was ready and felt called to take on the business 100%.
This REALLY was not on my radar, I was finally having fun at work again, we were helping tons more people and we were growing again. But the minute Cody suggested it, it started a fire in my belly that this could be the opportunity to move onto my 3rd career, and the one I have felt called to do for years.
In addition, I never would have even entertained the thought of selling at this point had it been an outsider, someone I didn’t know, to take care of my “baby” as it grows up. As tough as it is to sell and move on, it would be impossible at this point if it was someone I didn’t know well and who didn’t know and have the same passion and values for our business as Cody does.
It also brought into clarity that Cody and I had brought the company as far as we could as a team, it was time for the “old man” to get out of the way and let Cody flourish and implement all the new ideas that will bring FormWell to the new level it is ready to obtain!
So, what’s next? Those that know me know that I absolutely love motivational speaking and writing. I have done a ton of it over the years, but I have never felt like I could pour myself 100% into this. Perhaps this could be the opportunity to do this? Over the past 2 years, I have also learned to really love one on one nutritional counseling so I will continue to do this as well, in a virtual and remote capacity.
Well, here we are! After months of negotiation (I had NO idea how complicated selling a business can be, even one as small as ours) we closed the deal yesterday!
As nostalgic, sad and scary as it is to change like this, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude.
I am so grateful the Lord has given me a chance to pursue another dream career (personal training was truly a dream and life calling for 25 years) AND that I am able to feel SO confident and peaceful that the company that I built, ran and sweated over for 20 years will be taken over by someone who shares my vision, drive and values to help change peoples’ lives!
Thank you ALL for your support of our little company over the past 20+ years, I cannot wait to see where the company goes next!!!!
Rami F. Odeh, President and Founder:
Quiet The Noise, LLC