Interview by Sarah Shumick
Jeffrey Binek’s path to fitness began when he was just 18 years old and serving in the U.S. Army as an Airborne Infantryman. Binek had the opportunity to serve as Sentinel #563 at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Arlington National Cemetery, where he was placed in charge of training and physical activity for all new solders. “Subsequently, my unit scored the highest PT Scores in our regiment for the rest of my time,” says Binek. Post military and while finishing up his bachelor’s degree at Ohio State, Binek began providing fitness training on the side to make extra money. What began as a part-time gig out of his garage has grown into a full-blown business called Friendship Fitness, with two locations in Dublin and Lewis Center.
What led you to start Friendship Fitness? And what one piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
After getting out of the military, assimilating back into civilian life and culture can be awkward and uncomfortable. I needed to find “my tribe”, but I was a healthy person, so bars and post-college social life for people my age was not appealing. Once I saw the power of group exercise, and like-minded, motivated, hard-working people creating a community, I knew I had to be a part of it.
There weren’t many opportunities to get involved with group fitness in 2009-2010, and I really wanted to do something where I could continue teaching and instructing (my degree set me up to be a History Teacher & youth sports coach, which would have been my path had Friendship not gone well). I was young and had my signing bonus from the military, so I thought it was worth a shot!
I have many pieces of advice, but if it had to be one, it would be to understand the value of your time, place a hard number on it, grow it every year and earn that number every day with your decisions, habits & work ethic.
Tell us about Friendship Fitness. What should we know?
Friendship is looking to change the landscape of how American’s look at fitness. We look to integrate the best parts of mental training, physical fitness, Nutrition Coaching, and medical practices to create a one-stop wellness facility. We start as young as 3 years old and have people working with us in their 70’s.
We believe that in order to be successful in your health for the long run that you need an integrated approach of community (support structure), guidance (coaching / mentors), and wellness (eating, sleeping, exercising and stress management). We package those things in a fun, energetic atmosphere so that you can learn, improve and enjoy it all at the same time!
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Every single day I have the opportunity to be the best moment of many people’s lives. Not only in the moment where they earn a long-term goal, or achieve their first pull-up, but also just in giving someone a hug, asking them about how things are going or creating a podcast that resonates with their situation. I work tirelessly to achieve these moments, knowing that if I can be that energy giving light to someone each day, it’s been worthwhile.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
I’ve worked with four mentors over the past 10 years and they all have taught me different things. I am also an avid reader and podcast listener, which I also consider to be a bit of a mentor. Some of the most worthwhile things that I’ve learned are:
– Be consistent. Inconsistency is a lack of integrity and will always come back to bite you in the butt.
– Over communicate, with clients & your team – Communication leads to more understanding and less disagreements.
– Look out for your employees above all else, if your employees are happy and healthy, they can believe in your mission and enjoy coming to work every day, and thus your clients will have a better experience.
– Be grateful every day, the world of business moves fast and you have to enjoy the moments along the journey.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
I have an amazing wife, Maria, and those who have met her never forget her. We both love animals and have two dogs, Blitz & Gus and a cat, Charlotte, who we enjoy playing with. We bought a fixer-upper house last year and are always working on making it better. We love hosting bonfires in our new fire pit and having friends over.
Alone, I love taking a sauna and listening to 30-minutes of podcasts or audiobooks. Follow that with a cool shower and pop into bed and all your troubles are gone!
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I recently finished “Above the Line” for the second time, “This is Marketing” by Seth Godin, and am now reading “Scaling Up” by Verne Harnish. I highly recommend Alex Charfen’s “Momentum” podcast for entrepreneurs as well, I listen to that daily.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now?
Oh my, I LOVE my city. The military gives you an INTENSE love for your hometown, and defending the Buckeyes for all those years made me very excited to come back after I got out of the Army. Right now I am loving Bridge Park in Dublin, the restaurants are second to none, it is gorgeous and the energy around there on a nice spring/fall evening is electric. I also love all of the sports teams and getting out to see the Buckeyes play in anything (football, basketball, wrestling, lacrosse) is a great way to spend time. They’re good in EVERYTHING so you can never go wrong!
What are three things you wish Columbus had?
A Train system! The one thing I loved more than anything when I was stationed in Washington D.C. was the Metro. With Uber/Lyft things are easier now, but having a really cheap/easy way to get places quickly and encourage walking more was something I really enjoyed.
I love small theatres like Broadway, or diner-type cinemas. I’ve been to a place in D.C. and Chicago that are a restaurant kind of like The Avenue, but shows classic movies, comedy shows and acoustic bands. It was always very raw and authentic, and I don’t know if Columbus has anything like that.
I wish Columbus had more hiking trails and outdoor activities, my wife and I love to get outside and enjoy nature, and we end up mostly at Highbanks, which leaves something to be desired. But that’s not something we can change probably!
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Intelligent, Kind & Fun! I’ve spent a lot of time with people from all over the U.S. and I can tell you that you will never find people that are more genuinely kind than in the Midwest. Out of all of the Midwest cities, Columbus is one of the most intelligent due to the job growth, business HQ’s and University presence in the city. And Columbus brings in a LOT of entertainment and fun things to do, creating a very enjoyable place to live. The combination makes Columbus the only place I would ever consider living, and I am very proud to be a business owner here now!