Lead from the Front, Not from the Back


The passing of Labor Day feels like the real start to the new year for many of us and is a good time to launch self-improvement goals. With that in mind, I recently spoke to my client Ruben Belliard about his entrepreneurial journey in the world of fitness. After serving as a U.S. Marine, Ruben launched his first fitness endeavor, Warrior Fitness Bootcamp, in 2008. WFBC changed how I thought about my own fitness and pushed me in ways that were unbelievably gratifying (and exhausting). Ruben opened The Training Lab at 28 West 37th street earlier this year — a big success since day one.

What did you learn in the Marines that helped you become a successful entrepreneur and business owner?

“The Marines taught me to never give up and to always move forward. “In 2007 at 27 years old, I started my first fitness venture with a partner. We had no business experience, it was early days in the boot camp fitness movement, and we barely had enough money to take on a lease. We met with 15 landlords during a one year period before we found one who said yes to us and our vision.

“After getting our lease, I knew we would make our fitness studio happen and that we would not retreat or surrender. I had to commit all my energy and that meant working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for years. I was ready for the grind and I believed in myself. The Marines instilled in me a sense of discipline that I think is critical to run a business day-to-day. I knew that no one would out work me. I knew that if I kept true to myself that it would all work out. And it did.”

What are your most important leadership qualities?

“The Marines have a saying: lead from the front not from the back. I’m that kind of leader. I operate as part of the team. For instance, when we were building out The Training Lab, I worked alongside my contractors every day. If we have to move equipment in the gym, I’m the first to start doing it, I don’t only supervise. Everyone who works for me knows that if something has to get done, I’ll be the first to do it, and that means they are more likely to help me. That’s been my experience.”

What is your secret sauce for attracting clients?

“Stay true to what you do and who you are. People will notice the authenticity and genuineness that you bring to whatever you do and they will come back. My clients only see the best of me, regardless of what kind of day I am having. I compartmentalize whatever else is going on and don’t let it affect how I perform, lead and train my clients.

“Genuine connections are priceless. When I was launching this new venture, I asked former clients to support me by pre-paying for a work out package. Before I hit “send”, I was nervous. I hadn’t seen some of these people in years. Would they commit sight unseen to my new gym? The response was overwhelming. Within 24 hours, I had far exceeded my goal. It was a testament to the genuine connections that I make with my clients.”

What advice do you have for people who want to “up” their physical fitness game?

“You are never going to be truly ready to start. Stop talking about it and put in the work. You just have to jump in and take one step at a time and keep putting one foot in front of the other. You can do that here. Your level isn’t important, if you are moving, you are going to go places, one step at a time.”

Contact Ruben to discuss how he can help with your fitness goals.

Reach out to me if you are pondering a career move or looking to "up" your leadership game.