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Patrick Ilfrey: “Constant attention to detail is essential”

A great company understands its clients and ensures the experience is unforgettable. At QuickHIT, we say “Come for the results. Stay for the experience™.” We focus on every interaction with our clients, starting with text messages for appointment reminders. Then, when they walk through the door, we script everything to deliver the greatest possible experience. […]

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A great company understands its clients and ensures the experience is unforgettable. At QuickHIT, we say “Come for the results. Stay for the experience™.” We focus on every interaction with our clients, starting with text messages for appointment reminders. Then, when they walk through the door, we script everything to deliver the greatest possible experience. We practice talk-tracks with our certified trainers who then ask open-ended questions about the workout, how they feel and how the workout is affecting their everyday life. We hand them cold towels and a bottle of water after every workout.


As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick Ilfrey, Founder and CEO of QuickHIT Fitness Labs, the fastest growing personal private training studio in the nation. Ilfrey founded QuickHIT in 2017 and has since opened 21 locations. By utilizing its patented Robotically Controlled Resistance™ machine, expert nutritional guidance and specialized accountability technology, QuickHIT can help clients achieve their fitness goals and provide sustainable results. Ilfrey is also the Founder and CEO of RockSolid Floors, where he developed and patented a garage floor coating kit that reduced the industry standard drying time from five days to 24 hours. He sold his company to Rustoleum, and his kits are sold in home improvement stores worldwide. Ilfrey graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS in Meteorology and Mathematics.https://content.thriveglobal.com/media/5f268fd917fea5d6c4f291837573922e


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

When I was 40 years old, I weighed 235 pounds and had a 42-inch waste. I was miserable. I couldn’t keep up with my four kids, but I was 100% committed to making a change. I basically starved myself and did an hour of cardio every morning until I was 168 pounds.

I thought I was doing great, but I was chronically fatigued and I was in pain constantly. In addition, my cardiologist told me I had 33% body fat which is close to obese. I had no muscle mass. I was what they call “skinny fat.” I started lifting weights on top of doing cardio, but I kept injuring my back. I’d have to stop for several weeks, then start again.

In August 2017, I planned on having a wonderful day with the family spending time outside on the lake in the gorgeous Wisconsin summer weather. I woke up, did my morning workout, then my family and I were supposed to go to church and spend the rest of the day on the lake… instead, I threw my back out and spent the entire day in bed. I laid there in pain for three weeks. That was the final straw for me. I began to do some research and started to google the most effective and safest exercises, which led me to resistance strength training.

I came across a book titled “Body by Science” by Dr. Doug McGuff which showed a high-intensity training technique that focuses on lifting heavy weights slowly. I went to the gym and started using this method. It was great, but I wanted to make it more efficient.

I got a cheap winch and added it to a home gym system. By varying the speed of the winch I realized, I could vary the resistance. Ideally, I wanted the machine to match the force I was giving so I would have the perfect resistance when I was contracting and releasing my muscles. I was convinced I was on to something… that’s when I went all in. I hired a robotics engineer to build a machine that would robotically control the resistance that would give you the perfect rep. It took about a year-and-a-half to develop the technology, and the final machine design produced Earth-shattering results.

I started QuickHIT Fitness Labs in 2017. We now have 21 locations nationwide. I work out twice a week on our machine. Now, I’m 50 years old, I weigh 185 pounds and I have 17% body fat. I feel and look stronger and healthier than I ever have.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Getting the machine to work was my first big challenge. There were times when it folded in half. Cables kept breaking. It was just disheartening.

Once we got the machine going, we knew it was proven technology, but we couldn’t get buy-in from potential customers. It took a lot of work to figure out how to relate to potential clients and retain them.

Giving up never crossed my mind, though. It’s not in my DNA to quit. Did I get frustrated? Of course, but I never once considered failure, never. I knew we had the best solution and we could achieve something amazing for people.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

We do body composition testing for our clients. The machine we use displays medical terms on a screen. You do not want to tell a 40-year-old woman she is “overfat.” That term popped up on the screen, and one client was very upset.

We quickly removed terms like “overfat” and changed the scale to list a percentage over what they should be. I learned not to use negative sounding terms with clients. People can be sensitive, especially when it comes to their bodies. Positive reinforcement is essential.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have the ability to make people believe in themselves again, that they can lead a healthy and fulfilling life. When they take back control of their body, everything else starts to fall in place. They rebuild the confidence they once had. It’s incredible how it impacts them, their friends and their families.

People post about their journeys in our Facebook group. Prior to joining QuickHIT, an older lady had fallen and was deathly afraid of falling again and potentially hurting herself. She never did anything with her grandkids because she was afraid. Now, she has her strength back, and she plays with them nearly everyday.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s a grind. We’re in a recession. This is an unprecedented time, and a lot of folks will *choose* failure. They’d rather go out of business instead of reinventing their business. If you’re fighting for your survival, you will not burn out. You need to be willing to push through whatever comes your way to in order to succeed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

A man named Buddy Williams gave me my first shot out of college in a career I should never have been in. I worked at a Reebok store during my Senior year of college at Texas A&M University. I sold his wife a pair of shoes. He really liked the way I treated them and sensed I was a good worker. Buddy pulled me aside and asked if I was willing to work hard on an oil rig. The timing was perfect. I was about to graduate in a few months, and I knew I wasn’t going to be a TV Meteorologist as I had originally planned. I went down to Houston that next Monday to interview and landed a job that served me well for years.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?

A good company just goes through the motions, delivers a satisfactory product or service and keeps the lights turned on.

A great company understands its clients and ensures the experience is unforgettable. At QuickHIT, we say “Come for the results. Stay for the experience™.” We focus on every interaction with our clients, starting with text messages for appointment reminders. Then, when they walk through the door, we script everything to deliver the greatest possible experience. We practice talk-tracks with our certified trainers who then ask open-ended questions about the workout, how they feel and how the workout is affecting their everyday life. We hand them cold towels and a bottle of water after every workout.

We also call them to review our service. Our clients give honest feedback, and it gives us inspiration to continually improve our service. Great companies are always looking for ways to improve.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.

Grit- There is an actual formula to determine grit. Talent x Effort2 (effort counts twice). The combination of talent and effort gives you a skill. Once you have that skill, the additional effort you display determines how far you will go. A lot of people are good basketball players. Those who make the NBA have the talent and work harder than anyone else to to get the most out of their ability.

Spirit- I hire people with entrepreneurial spirit. We set goals. We’re on the same page. I empower them to run the business like they own it. I give them freedom, but they need to be results-driven. That autonomy motivates them. They stay longer, they make the extra calls and they feel they have ownership in that facility. That’s what they need to be successful.

Fake it until you make it- You have to get people to believe in you. When we started, we only had a handful of customers and two testimonials. We repackaged the testimonials several times from the same few people. We didn’t have hundreds of success stories because we didn’t have hundreds of clients at the beginning.

Failure is not an option- Burnout/failure is not on the table. You keep pushing until you succeed. The question you need to ask yourself is, “What level of success will you have?” We’re not content with where we’re at. Our goal is to open two new locations per month and we’ll keep working to make that happen.

Faith- I have faith in myself and faith in God. Without that faith, I’d be nowhere. I pray every day for myself, my family, my company, my employees and my clients.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?

The nature of our business is purpose/results driven. We measure everything including strength increases, body composition improvements, how many inches they’ve lost, how many pounds they’ve lost and how much muscle they’ve gained. When we provide that information, we don’t hide from it. If we’re not meeting our promises, our clients see it. This business is built on helping people live a healthier, happier life with minimal workout time.

What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?

They need to get back to basics and take away a lot of complexities they may have added over time. Rediscover what got you where you are. We sometimes go three steps forward and one step back. We stop properly executing one thing, rediscover what made us successful and get back on track.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

I think it’s very important to communicate the status of your business and how precarious the economy is with your employees. If clients are going to pay their hard-earned money during a recession, we must deliver the results they’re looking for. I don’t think a lot of companies do a good job of leveling with their employees and reminding them what the world is like and what the status of the company is. Don’t take anything for granted.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

Constant attention to detail is essential. You can set things up perfectly, but people start to slide and shift away after a few weeks because they get distracted with other things. Employees don’t always follow through with the original game plan. Go back and revisit details. Constantly make sure people are following the game plan properly.

After a workout, we give clients a bottle of water and a towel. Some employees didn’t think it was important and stopped doing it because they didn’t want to go to the store and buy bottled water. I did some customer interview calls and they noticed. I had to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the little things.

As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?

The biggest thing we can do in our line of work is care more about potential clients than they care about themselves. If you do that, they will feel you are the person who can solve their problems. We approach every sales call like that. It’s something we practice nearly every day. We ask very specific questions and based on their response, you know if they’re holding back or being honest. If someone says they’re 30 pounds too heavy, we tell them about some of the results other clients, who are similarly overweight, have experienced. We ask how they have been affected, and we relate to the struggles they’ve been through. It’s important to show them that you can help get them where they want to be. We have the ability to help because it is so emotionally driven.

Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

We use social proof. Clients go on social media platforms and talk about the remarkable experience and service they get every time they come in.

It all comes down to the Golden Rule: treat people the way you want to be treated. We try to anticipate people’s wants and needs, and we always treat them with kindness and respect.

Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?

You truly need to understand a customer’s needs. Everything surrounds their needs, not yours. Every little detail, like the paint color on the wall, should be tailored toward them. I used to be overweight, and I needed to be told I was “overfat.” Most people don’t. We needed to take the time to understand our core clients’ needs.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

I do not share this concern. I love social media. If you treat people by the golden rule in good and bad situations, you’ll have a good reputation online and offline. You won’t have anything to worry about. Social media has amplified everything good and bad. If someone asks for their money back, you give them their money back. Bottom line: do what you can to maximize your upside exposure and limit your downside exposure.

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Some CEOs underestimate how hard it is to succeed early on. They set initial goals way too high with an unrealistic timeline. When they don’t meet their lofty goals, they get discouraged, and it can turn into a death spiral. The key is to set lower goals, breeze through them and set more goals. Keep that momentum going.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

At Texas A&M, everyone walks around and says “howdy.” During this pandemic, you can now go out and not say anything to anyone. To me, that’s crazy. I think saying a quick “hi” to a perfect stranger and making a connection with them is important.

This pandemic has given people excuses to display poor behavior. This is really time to make an effort.

How can our readers further follow you online?

You can head to our website, quickhitfit.com. You can follow QuickHIT Fitness on Instagram and Facebook and you can connect with me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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