Passion into Profit EliteFTS Small Business Conference Feb. 2009

TAGS: personal training, marketing, Elitefts Legacy Log, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, training

I received the email early Friday afternoon:

“If you’re going to be in town, please feel free to meet around 6 pm at the Compound (same location as the seminar) to train with me and my group. You are all welcome to join us.

-Dave Tate

This was certainly different. I mean, it’s not every day that I get an email from Dave Tate, and I have never, and I mean never, ever been invited to train with him. If I was excited to attend this seminar before, well, that had just been ratcheted up by a factor of eleven!

Unfortunately, I was unable to take Dave up on his invitation. Somehow, however, I knew that Dave’s invitation was heartfelt, it was sincere, and it was only the tip of the iceberg, as I would later come to learn. Dave Tate and the EliteFTS crew are truly good to the core. It would be Dave’s core values, and the core values of the company he founded (EliteFTS) that would have a profound impact on my life and on my business in the days to come.

As it was, getting myself to London, Ohio for the EliteFTS “Passion into Profit” Small Business Conference this past weekend was something of a task. Attending a seminar is never cheap, it’s always a bit of a sacrifice, and you never really know what kind of a payoff it will have, if any. I had never attended an EliteFTS seminar, however, so no matter what the outcome, I was confident that my experience would be worthwhile. As it turns out, it was.

Finding the facility known as “The Compound III” proved easy enough. The map I received with my conference confirmation was right on target and easy to follow. I walked into the facility Saturday morning and saw for myself what might just be the finest collection of strength and conditioning tools I have ever seen, all in one location. The floor was set up with chairs for the guests, and a table projector was flashing familiar images on a large wall screen. I took a walk around and breathed in the atmosphere: the photos on the wall, the equipment on the floor and the bars standing all in rows waiting to be loaded and used. Everyone was friendly and eager to talk.  Jeff Allor, EFS’ sales rep, confidently walked up to me and shook my hand. He introduced himself and we immediately began talking shop. This was my kind of place. I fit in here. I really belonged.

Dave Tate began calling roll. It was approaching 9 AM and it was time to get started. When I heard my name, I approached Dave, shook his hand and was warmly welcomed. Does it get any better than this? Yes, in fact it does.

The conference began with an inspirational introduction by Dave Tate. This alone was worth the price of admission. Dave’s passion is like a fire raging out of control, barely contained by the massive frame he’s built over nearly a quarter century of work under the bar. Dave moves laterally across the floor, quickly bobbing and weaving as he presses his message into the crowd. He reminds me of a hungry prizefighter, delivering everything he has with each and every blow.

If you came to the conference unsure of what makes EliteFTS successful, without question, now you knew. Dave freely shared the keys to his personal and business success. He outlined a clear and direct path to follow, encouraging and empowering the eager entrepreneurs in attendance to do the same for themselves.

“If you want to get stronger, if you want to improve, your only option is to identify your weaknesses and continue working on those weaknesses until they become your strengths.”

Does this sound familiar?

If you read the Q & A here on EliteFTS or if you’ve spent any time with Dave Tate’s inspirational book Under the Bar, you know this strategy and you know it well. The road to success requires strength and the “extraordinary resolve” to conquer your weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about your lifts, your life or your business. This principle is universal in its truth, powerfully effective in its application and would be the recurring mantra during this weekend of education, inspiration and awakening.

After Dave finished his introduction, he stayed right in the thick of things throughout the day, adding details and credibility to the points his presenters made. He also made himself available throughout the conference to discuss business, training or whatever came up, and he always made the participants feel welcome and at home. This was his gym, after all. This was his home and this is who he is.

The conference continued with presenter and EliteFTS contributor Jim “Smitty” Smith.  Jim expounded on Dave’s message of identifying weaknesses, and explored the latest methods for identifying the weaknesses in a business and taking the methodical steps necessary to eradicate weaknesses however they may manifest themselves.

Jim’s presentation was a departure from the initial tone Dave had set. While Dave’s message was one of internal examination, emotional energy and physical expression, Smitty presented ideas that required much more thought and external observation. He was asking us to examine our businesses from a completely new standpoint, which was hard for me to wrap my mind around at first.

During a break, I had the opportunity to speak with Smitty, and it was then that I started to realize the importance of his message. After a few questions, Smitty was able to point out that I had elaborate written progressions for my training and the training of my clients. I knew exactly what was going to happen, on which day, with whom, how it would happen, and the exact results I expected to produce in the time allotted.

But here was Smitty’s question: Was I putting that same effort into my business? Did I know with such exacting certainty the results I expected? Was I achieving those results? Did I have systems in place to monitor the effectiveness of my business programming the same way I have systems in place to monitor the effectiveness of my personal training programming?

In business or in training, no one likes to learn his or her weaknesses. Nevertheless, without this kind of honest, straightforward examination and coaching, we can never improve, and that’s exactly what I came here to do. Improve. I took Smitty’s advice to heart.

Smitty continued his presentation by giving the participants specific tools, templates and methods for correcting problems and avoiding potential pitfalls before they develop. Jim’s experience in the corporate world and in the hardcore Diesel Crew weight room provided seminar participants with real-life examples of how best to achieve the epitome of corporate strength, stability and leanness.

Lunch was served as the participants continued their discussions with the team of business experts Dave Tate had assembled. Talk of aim, integrity, objective, focus and drive flowed seamlessly between the disciplines of business and training. Walking up on a conversation, it was sometimes difficult to tell what was being discussed – business or training. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. We were all there to accomplish the same thing: to increase our total.

After lunch, presenter Mark Lundquist took the floor. Mark is a well-established entrepreneur, mentor and advisor with extensive experience in corporate and small business development. Mark happened to be the only presenter without a lifting background, but that didn’t stop him from making an impact. Mark provided the attendees with options, ideas and strategies for growing their businesses and developing their long-term business plans.

This was pretty heady stuff for a bunch of meatheads. I have to admit that I thought, at first, that this information may have been a bit out of my reach. However, early in the seminar introduction, I remembered Dave saying that all problems could be identified as being either mental, physical or technical. Then I began to put the pieces in place. Dave had presented the physical side of the equation. His passionate plea for action reached out and grabbed our attention. Then Smitty challenged us with the technical aspect: examining our processes and business systems from an external perspective, correcting miscues and wasted motion. Now Mark was providing the mental aspect of business development by tying it all together and presenting new options and new ways of thinking about the planning and growth of our businesses.

Mark’s presentation continued as he outlined options for equipment leasing, business finance, acquiring investors and raising expansion capital. Mark engaged and enabled the participants to think of their businesses as more than just a job, career, or extension of their passion. Mark challenged us to plan long-term, think of exit strategies and the way we would like to leave our business and preserve our legacy.  Mark may not have been a lifter, but his passion for business was evident. And passion was the defining characteristic of the entire conference.

Mike Szudarek, public relations expert and elite powerlifter, was our final presenter. Mike complemented Mark’s discussion of long-term corporate vision, strategy and image. However, Mike re-focused the group and targeted his presentation on the power of personal and corporate branding. Mike discussed the importance of developing a corporate brand based upon one’s own personal aim, integrity, values and strategic objectives. Mike provided examples of good and bad logos, as well as bad ideas. The group discussed the color, shape and layout of logos and the power of “emotional reaction” in the sales industry. We also learned the meaning of being true to your brand and the power of creating lasting business relationships.

Mike’s presentation ended with an open Q & A session which lasted well past the scheduled close of the seminar. It was during this open Q & A that Mike provided a one-on-one branding consultation with a lucky participant. Dave Tate and Mark Lundquist joined the consultation and provided additional feedback from their own unique perspective. This was coaching at its best. Three talented, knowledgeable and passionate professionals guiding, directing, coaching and cueing the athlete as the rest of us leaned in to soak up the experience and to learn.

The seminar portion of my weekend ended, we reluctantly headed out into the cold and dark Ohio night. However, I would be back in the morning and the learning would continue.

The next day, Sunday morning, the participants were invited to stay and train with Dave and his crew. This was yet another dream come true for me. This time, I would take Dave up on this once in a lifetime offer. Nothing was going to stand in my way.

With the tables and chairs cleared away, the Compound now looked completely different. Walking in the door, I was immediately struck by the awesome power of the bars, benches, racks, plates, chains and bands that are lined up in military-esque columns and rows across the walls and floor of this impressive facility.

I could have used any piece of equipment I chose. I could have easily spent the entire morning trying every imaginable tool in this wonderland of strength. But instead, I choose to watch and learn.

In walked Dave Tate, just as massive and as friendly as the night before. Dave greeted everyone with the same affable attitude and friendly smile that made me feel so welcome and so at home the day before. As the crews go back to their training, I watch Dave as he stands in the corner of the facility, having an easy conversation with Phil, one of the attendees of Saturday’s “Passion into Profit” conference.

Nothing escapes Dave’s attention. As he chats with Phil, I can see him scanning the room, noting the training, the tempo, the technique and the effort of all the lifters. A few glances here, a nod of his head there, and he motions for one of the leaders in the gym. Dave asks a question, gives a suggestion and the training goes on. I watch this same scenario play out over and over throughout the morning as I continue pestering Dave for more answers to my many questions.

Dave answers each and every question I have and then some. He’s not one to stand around, though. Dave quickly makes me a partner in his training for the day. If I’m going to get anything more out of him, I’m going to have to do it between sets and reps, which of course is fine with me. I continue asking and Dave continues giving, always looking me in the eye, always listening to what I have to say and always seeing more in me and in my questions than I can see myself.

Dave graciously spent the entire morning with me, giving me answers to my questions, tips for my training and providing me with more motivation than I could have ever imagined. I’m not sure how, but I’m going to find a way to repay that generosity. That is, if he would ever let me.

At one point in Dave’s introduction the day before, Dave was speaking about the camaraderie and spirit that prevails in the real gyms across the country.

“You remember what it was like,” he said. “There you were, doing lat pulldowns or something, throwing yourself back and cheating the hell out of the movement. Some big guy who knew his shit would come up and tap you on the shoulder.

“Hey, c’mon, tighten up. Stick your chest out and squeeze. Pull it down to your sternum.

“Next thing you know, you’re walking across the gym with your lats all puffed out because you just got the best pump of your life. That’s how it should be!” Dave continued. “We should all be helping one another out!”

That afternoon, driving the four and a half hours back to Michigan, I could barely contain myself. I felt just like that kid in the gym again. I was pretty pumped up. I guess I still am.

I suspect that the first EliteFTS Small Business Conference was just the beginning of Dave’s ultimate vision for this program. And from what I can tell, it’s a program destined for success. All of the industry experts that Dave assembled share the EliteFTS vision: they each “have a passion for empowering success through personal achievement.” All of the presenters were readily available and easy to speak with. They were eager to help and listened intently to the needs of the participants.

The concepts, principles and ideas that were shared throughout the seminar are really no different from the concepts, principles and ideas that are necessary for success in any venture: Aim, Attitude, Integrity, Honesty, Teamwork, Education, Risk Management, Perseverance, Flexibility and Execution.

However, the way in which Dave and the presenters were able to pull these concepts, principles and ideas together and make them accessible to those of us who attended was truly astounding.

I have great hope that this Small Business Conference continues as a series of workshops and perhaps develops into a premier mentorship program. Dave Tate, EliteFTS and the industry professionals assembled for this event provided the tools, templates, attitude and passion for success, be it in life, business or Under the Bar.

I am looking forward to the next EliteFTS Small Business Conference, and if you want to succeed in business and in life, I highly recommend you attend the next offering.

It was well worth my time and investment.

Paul D’Arcy is the owner of Sport Fitness & Physique, LLC in Adrian MI. Sport Fitness & Physique serves busy, professional women in their pursuit of health and happiness through superior nutrition and fitness. Sport Fitness & Physique can be found on the web at To contact Paul directly, email him at or call (517) 673-5286

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