Eddie Ray - Founder and Managing Director of Progressive Sports
A fascinating insight into Eddie Ray's journey with Progressive Sports and how he has built up the business within the education sector. Going from a small business focusing on getting children active through after school clubs to expanding into a franchise business, but also understanding how legislations and funding can help shape the business. Take note to the last question as Eddie identifies the key attributes he looks for in his staff.
Edexpro interviews Phil Jones - Industry expert
Here at Edexpro, we think it is vital for students to gain work experience during their studies. You need to stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your employability. We hope to offer that all-important work placement, as well as any advice we can give along the way.
With this in mind, we sat down with Phil Jones, founder of Swansea Outdoor Fitness and SOFit Group. (hyperlink to https://www.sofitgroup.co.uk/)
From starting your own business, to gaining experience in the fitness and health industry, we hope the industry knowledge we have been able to obtain from Phil serves to benefit our members.
Who are you and what is your background?
My name is Phil Jones, and I own Swansea Outdoor Fitness and SOFit Group ltd.
My background before I started in the fitness industry was in the military, where I spent just over 10 years as a Royal Marines Commando. I left and I decided I wanted to help people but did not really know to what capacity. But, from being involved in fitness at a high level in the military, getting involved in fitness and exercise seemed like a natural progression for me.
What advice would you give to students who are also looking to start up a business within the same industry as you?
I would say that the best advice is to try everything, really work hard at giving everything a go, and I am sure that you will find your love. It is a big industry, I am sports therapy trained, and there is the corporate health and wellbeing world you can get involved in. But, when just starting out, you want to be reliable and give every single client the best possible experience you can give. What that does is generate word-of- mouth and return clients; it puts you in good stead. Also, do not undervalue your expertise and time. That is one big thing that I have learned over the years.
So, one of the big clients you have worked with is Swansea City Football Club. Can you describe the work you have done with them, and how you managed to land that client?
The partnership with Swansea City FC is an exceptionally good one and has been longstanding. Basically, we are health and wellbeing consultants for their staff. If they have problems with mental health, weight gain, anything to do with wellness; then they can come to me or one of my staff to seek advice. This extends to their academy, where we speak with their academy guys and do some life experience work with them. We put on breathing classes, stretching classes, virtual walking challenges; things like that which really helps their workforce be happier and more productive.
What ‘soft skills’ do you think students need to possess if they want to enter these types of industries?
Communication is key.
I have found that communicating within the military is different from communication in the civilian world. I quickly had to tap into changing the way I spoke to and approached people. It is about listening to clients and giving them the attention that they deserve. Let them speak and get their point across. From that, you will pick up on potential problems or barrier they may have, which you can then factor into your work (training, PT sessions, etc.). Listening will allow you to create an incredibly good service for customers. Confidence is another massive one. If you are lacking in confidence, then it is something you will have to work on for this industry. For example, just last week I had spoken to over 100 people working for the DVLA as part of delivering to a client. The best way to work on these skills is through practice, and how you do that is through speaking to people, volunteering, placements, etc. If you can practice talking to people, even if it is just in front of friends, then you can work on your communication and confidence.
How important do you think gaining experience is for students looking to enter the field, or start their own businesses?
It is vital. I went to University a lot later in my life (to study teaching, leadership and management), and I think gaining experience whilst you are studying is crucial. You need to practice what you have learned and apply those ‘soft skills’ that we have talked about. It can be anything from volunteering to coaching. Work experience, and the skills you will gain, is going to set you apart from your peers. Which is priceless, you cannot buy experience.
What is the best advice you could give to students?
That is a good question. I would certainly say follow your passion. If you think about it, you are going to be involved in this industry for a long time, and you are you not doing something you love then you are not going to succeed. Hands up, growing up I wanted to be a footballer and I loved football. Now, I get to work closely with my hometown football club. Follow your passion, be determined, think big, be brave, and just give it everything.
Welcome to Edexpro
Welcome and congratulations on becoming a member of Edexpro.
This solution is about you, and what you require for a career in the sports and health industry.
After 15 years of working in sport and education, we have a new mission. We are bringing opportunities in all disciplines in sport and health from all levels of the industry. We aim to help you build-up your experiences and qualifications ready for a career in sport and health.
Alongside these opportunities, we also aim to bring you content and insight to help you further understand what it's like to work in specific disciplines at different levels.
CPD is a big focus of ours. Several free workshops are in place to further your knowledge and understanding whilst enhancing your profile.
Due to COVID and the current climate, we expect opportunities to start again around April. Take this time to build your profile, focus on your video bio and build a library of videos that showcase your skillset.
Tell us what insights you would like to see by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Insights"