Bruce Sweeney started Simply For Life (SFL) in a personal quest for optimal health based on a family history of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Bruce’s personal heart condition motivated him to seek options other than surgery and medications. He began researching alternative ways to stay healthy and became inspired by using exercise and the power of food and nutrition. He also knew there was no magic pill.
Bruce felt obligated to help people gain their health back. After years of research, Bruce developed an effective program and a very high standard of service. At his first SFL location (after starting in his basement) he had 1,781 names on his waitlist. He was seeing 328 clients each week, and working seven days a week to keep up with the demand.
Today, SFL has more than 50,000 active clients being served in clinics across Canada, They’ve worked with over half a million clients over the past 15 years, guiding and advising them to eat and to live better. And Bruce, a gifted motivator, has personally trained hundreds of consultants. His energy and passion for living a healthy life is the foundation of Simply For Life.
I began my conversation with Bruce by asking about the philosophy of Simply For Life.
A: The philosophy is simple. Create amazing relationships, empower our clients with the right education on nutrition and personalize their meal plans to match their lifestyle. It is as simple as that. I didn’t believe in ‘one size fits all.’
Q: How did you get started?
A: Before Simply For Life, I was working at Air Canada. I spent a lot of time studying and researching nutrition. I was frustrated with our system here so I started studying the Mediterranean diet. My research took me to 42 countries, including time I spent on the island of Crete in 1996, where I was absolutely amazed that pharmacies didn’t carry insulin, antidepressants and blood pressure medications.
Q: What did you take from you experience on the island of Crete?
A: For me, my time there really inspired me to bring traditional ways of eating back to Canada. The people on Crete have all this good-quality, non-engineered food. They don’t make claims of organic food because everything is organic.
I saw 90-year-olds working in their garden, beautiful teeth, beautiful smiles, biking to go get their fruits and vegetables. They didn’t import fruits from Peru or China. They ate what was in season. They were still heavily involved in the kitchen. I saw the vision.
[Tweet “They were still heavily involved in the kitchen. I saw the vision. – Bruce Sweeney”]
Q: How did people react when you returned to Canada with this idea?
A: When I brought this vision here, everybody said,‘He’s crazy. Traditional ways of eating are gone. We’re not in the 1800s.’Fast forward 20 years and you will notice that we are bringing back traditional ways of eating, knowing where our food is coming from, getting in touch with our local farmers.
Q: What kept you going in the early years when few people saw and understood your vision?
A: We started changing people’s lives – people that had health obstacles. I decided I really didn’t want to work strictly with weight loss. I wanted to help people that had high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. We would reverse client’s diabetes in seven to 14 days. After 15 years, we’ve reversed diabetes over 36,000 times.
[Tweet “After 15 years, we’ve reversed diabetes over 36,000 times. – Bruce Sweeney”]
Q: Did you have any problem getting financing to start SFL?
A: We went to the bank and projected our business idea and they said,‘You know what? That’s the craziest thing we ever heard. It will never work.’
Q: So what did you do?
A: We decided to never rely on the bank. We became self-sufficient.
Q: What can clients expect when working with you?
A: If a client comes to us and does not take it seriously, I’ll say,‘Listen, I’ll give you back your money. Come back when you’re ready. There’s Weight Watchers. There are other people. But I have too much love in this.’I’m in a position now where I don’t need to do this anymore, but I want to. That’s my proof that I’m still doing this because I really care. I have the same love for this as when I started.
[Tweet “I have the same love for this as when I started. – Bruce Sweeney”]
Q: How do you attract the right clients?
A: We have a philosophy, it’s in our agreement when a client signs up; if you’re not following protocol (I’m not talking about being perfect) we have the right to terminate the program. And people respect us more for that. One of the things that our clients need the most is to have somebody who truly listens to them. We have to be able to understand and empower our clients.
Q: How did you determine that using a franchise model was best growth model for SFL?
A: We started with a different model, we had 11 corporate stores in 2008 and it was challenging. I was running myself short. I was eating well, exercising but I was sleeping two hours a day – having 11 locations was way too much for me and it took a toll on my health.
So, we started franchising. I learned that the most important thing with franchising is that the financial model has to be successful, not just a little bit, but very successful. It is important to have the right people, the right program and duplicate what you’re doing, but you also need money.
Q: If you were to redo one thing, what would it be?
A: I would have a financial adviser or a group of people to train our franchisees on how to manage money right from the get-go. We where fortunate enough to integrate this in the fourth year of business and it truly paid off, helping us stay profitable and sustainable.
Q: How would you finish the following sentence:“A leader’s job is to …?”
A: A leader’s job is to be grateful for his team every day. Without your team, you can’t grow. I couldn’t grow this by myself, not without my team. I’m grateful for them morning and night. I never forget them. And my wife, Claudine. They are the reason we’re here today with not only the ability to adapt to change but the ability to strive and survive.
[Tweet “A leader’s job is to be grateful for his team every day. – Bruce Sweeney”]
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is about to go to market with an idea?
A: Expect obstacles and the obstacles are what will make you better. If you expect that everything is going to go smooth, you’re setting yourself up. Success is based on failure.
It’s like going into the ring. You start fighting. You lose a couple fights. The more you practise, the better fighter you become. It’s the same with this.
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This article published in the Telegraph-Journal on Saturday, December 31, 2016.