Business, Health, Family and More – The Life of Paul Dias
Updated: Aug 13, 2019
What were you doing before Beach Fit & F45?
Before turning towards a life in health and fitness, I was doing several things. I started off working in Cronulla as a plumber by trade; I was running a night club, I had an events agency and I was also running boat cruises. It was at this time that I made a change in my life and decided to stop trying to do everything and focus on running night clubs full time.
Because I was living out Cronulla way, I started promoting night clubs in the area. From there I moved onto Miranda to Hurstville, to the Sydney CBD; to Oxford Street, to Kings Cross and Bondi Junction. I also worked for people like Justin Hemmes, from Merivale at the Ivy when it first opened.
Why a change of lifestyle?
I always said to myself that if I ever started waking up hating what I did, and my work no longer made me happy, then it was time for me to find something else that would.
After 20 years of being in the same industry, working late nights and getting home at all hours of the morning, I knew it was no longer how I wanted to live my life.
One night at Piano Room, a very close friend of mine Savannah, who I’d lost contact with for about 5 years tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned to face her, she told me what I already knew, ‘You look like shit!’ That was the turning point for me. It was a long time coming, but after that night I knew it was time to hang up my boots in the clubbing industry.
Because my twin brother Marc and I had a small percentage in Piano Room, we both agreed to sell our share to our mate who was majority share holder.
It was an exciting time for me and my brother. We always said we wanted to own something in Bondi, so we decided the time was now to find our next venture. Apart from Icebergs and the monkey bars down on Bondi beach, there were no other gyms in the area; that’s when we knew the best thing to do was invest in opening a gym.
Tell me about the making of Beach Fit
We found this old warehouse on Jacques Avenue which we thought was the perfect space for a gym. It was occupied by a tenant but that didn’t stop us from wanting to submit a proposal to the owner.
The night Marc and I knocked on the owner’s door, he already knew who we were and took interest in our proposal straight away. From that meeting, he leased us the warehouse.
Unfortunately, we needed council approval to build the gym so in the interim we used the space to create an indoor market called Fashion Avenue. We set up about 23 stalls and leased each space to ‘up and coming’ designers. We also rented the space out for events to the likes of Red Bull, Heineken, and for Fashion Aid parties.
Once we got approval by council, and before we even opened, we sold approximately 500 gym memberships. Within the first week of opening, the gym was full. We were at Jacques Avenue for about 3 ½ years before we reached capacity and decided to expand Beach Fit in 2014 at our current location on Curlewis Street.
In 2016, we were approached by F45. They wanted my brother and I to manage one of the franchises in Bondi. We didn’t want to do it, but because we came to an agreement that we could own it and manage it our way, we opened Bondi’s first F45. We had to move about four times due to the demand and the number of members who joined.
F45 Bondi is now one of the biggest studios in the world.
What is your philosophy what you do?
Our philosophy is ensuring that we are creating a safe space for everyone, so we’ve hired some of the best trainers around Sydney. Each one brings something special to the gyms. We have trainers who specialise in mental health, others who specialise in strength and motion, some in injury management and more. This is to cater for all people of all ages.
We try and ensure that we know everyone who joins either gym, so we are between the two almost every day. We know that the strength of the culture starts from management, so we behave in the way we want our staff and our members to treat one another.
We also love animals and understand that our members have pets they treat like family. So, we have created a dog friendly environment where members can leave their dogs in a safe area at the gym while they exercise.
Who are the people behind Beach Fit? Originally it was just my brother and I but after a few years of opening Beach Fit we knew we needed help to keep it alive. We had created something special in Bondi that we didn’t want to lose or disappoint people who had invested with us. Our staff and trainers are incredible, our members are loyal and so Marc and I knew that we had to do the right thing for everyone involved.
Beach Fit was no longer about my brother and I ‘owning something in Bondi’, it was about a place that we created for the community. Beach Fit was about the members who brought it to life, it was about our staff and trainers who were like family to us, but even more so, it was a place that we came to love and call home.
The business partners who came on board are Jason and Pete; two awesome guys Marc and I used to work for when we were running night clubs. We knew they would be the perfect fit for the business because their mindset around culture, values and morals were aligned with ours.
It was one of the best decisions we had made for the business.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way? At one stage we opened a cafe in the gym but that drained our finances, so we had to shut down the café. It was also during the GFC when interest rates were at their highest peak, so we almost lost the business – twice!
At one stage we opened a cafe in the gym but that drained our finances, so we had to shut down the café. It was also during the GFC when interest rates were at their highest peak, so we almost lost the business – twice!
So many times, we could’ve given up, but we persisted through the issues. We knuckled down and supported each other and got through the challenges. For the first few years all we did was make sure we paid our rent, paid the staff and anything left over we saved for a rainy day. We didn’t take a wage because we wanted to make sure the next time we were experiencing challenges with the business, we had the finances to back us up.
At times it was a bit frightening, but my brother and I were lucky to have each other which kept us going.
What inspired you to not give up?
There were a lot of people who used to say that my brother and I didn’t deserve to open a gym in Bondi. That was the main catalyst which kept us going so I give thanks to all those who didn’t believe in us and wanted my brother and I to fail. You only fail when you stop trying, so we never stopped trying to find a solution for every hurdle we experienced.
We also wanted to make our father proud. He helped us get the business up and running by doing the painting and laying out the concrete for us with his friends.
One of the other main reasons though as to why we didn’t want to give up was because we had built something special everybody wanted; we had surrounded ourselves with great people and we had created an environment for members who were the heart and soul of the gym.
Who has been a great role model for you?
My parents. Dad worked hard all his life. He started with nothing, and after marrying my mum, got on a boat and came to Australia. He was put in a camp in Northern Territory but that did not stop him from pursing a life when he made it to Sydney. He used to work for the Water Board as an Engineer digging trenches. My father was humble and did what he could to ensure we were always taken care of. He speaks 7 languages, he served in the army as a military cop and used to help people come off the streets. To this day, even though he is retired, he is still willing to give a helping hand where he can.
My mother was one of 12 children. She was the matriarch of the family. She would be the one making sure everyone was ok and taken care of; she was the one who organised every event, dinner and holiday for the family. She looked after everybody else before she looked after herself. She was always giving where she could. Sadly, she passed away with cancer when we were 17 years old. That was the hardest thing for my brother and I because she hasn’t seen us as we are today, so we always strive to do great in hope that we can still make her proud.
Both my parents helped those less fortunate which instilled the same values in Marc and I. We support charities such as Kids with Trauma and Sunshine Kids which is for the Sydney Children’s Hospital. We love giving back. We have been involved with charities since we opened Beach Fit. Sydney Dogs and Cats is another charity we love supporting. But we also try help others in our everyday life; if members are struggling financially, if staff need more support from us, we try help everyone as much as we could, really wanting to see people back on their feet again.
Working with Justin Hemmes, I also learnt so much from him. One of the things he told me which I was slowly starting to do, and what the Portuguese culture teaches you, is treat every single person with respect. You do that with everybody and you will get the same back. Whether it’s a homeless person, or the CEO of Westpac, treat them both with the same respect. I saw Justin do that all the time. He knew the name of every single person who worked for him. Seeing someone of his calibre honour everyone he met, I vowed to do the exact same thing.
What is the wow factor you believe your members experience?
I believe it’s from the time they walk through the door. The gym is beautiful with lots of greenery, lots of plants, and a retractable roof. But also, the culture of the gym. The staff are so welcoming and treat their clients and all members with respect and kindness.
With so many gyms opening up, how do you stay competitive?
We make sure that the equipment we stock is new and dated, kept up to date or repaired as soon as possible.
Also, our prices are reasonable to suit the demographic of our members. If we increase membership fees, we only bump them up by a few dollars. And I believe we have a prime location that attracts those who love exercising close to the beach.
What tips would you give to a personal trainer who wants to work at Beach Fit?
We only hire PT’s who are fully qualified because we want to ensure our members are being trained by the best in the industry. The type of PT’s we look for need to be personable and compassionate, easy going and hard working. They also must love what they do and want to give their best to every member they are in contact with.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to go to the gym for the first time?
Find something you like and that is close to where you live. Find something that fits your price bracket. Do your research and find out who works there by signing up for a trial. Understand the type of people who attend that gym and get a feel of who the staff and personal trainers are; it’s important to know if the staff are willing to invest time in helping you reach your goal. But it’s also just as important that you attend a gym you feel comfortable training at.
What advice do you have for aspiring business owners?
Stay on track; don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do it. There is always someone who is going to try talk you out of chasing your dream. If they do, don’t take it personal and don’t listen to them. If they are not doing what they love, then they are not inclined to see you happy living yours.
Do your market research. Speak to other businesses in the area, in the community. Understand if your business is required in the area, if there is a market for it.
Research your competitors and understand what they are doing and why they are succeeding or struggling.
Don’t go into something that you don’t have the financial backing for. Make sure you have your financials in order. Somewhere like Bondi where it slows down in winter, you must make sure you have enough money to get your through the slow periods because all businesses experience those type of periods.
Manage your finances so that you are always covered in advance for at least 6 months.
And don’t go in half-hearted or do something just to make money. Do what you love, and success will follow.
What are the values you live by?
Trust, loyalty, friendship and surrounding myself with family. Giving back to those less fortunate and helping people when they need help. Always be true to who you are. And like I said before, treat everybody with respect, no matter who they are.
To find out more about Beach Fit go to https://www.beachfitbondi.com.au/
To find out more about F45 Bondi Beach go to https://f45training.com.au/bondibeach/