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Soldier turns college business plan into successful business

Spanaway Fitness loyal customer to owner

1st Sgt. David Morley, owner of Spanaway Fitness Center. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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In 2010, 1st Sgt. David Morley began working at Spanaway Fitness Center upon his return from his 2nd deployment to Iraq. He immediately felt at home in its warm and welcoming environment. "It felt like a community of members. Everyone was nice and supportive. You feel at home the first time you step in the gym," he said. Little did he know, five years later he would be the owner.

"While attending Pierce College in pursuit of my Associates degree in Business, I had to partner up with a business for one of the classes and write a business plan. I spoke to the owner of Spanaway Fitness about the ins and outs, and asked all the in-depth questions about what it takes to own a business and, specifically owning a gym," said Morley. In 2015, the owner decided to sell the business and asked Morley if he would be interested. The terms and timing of the deal seemed perfect to him and he took the leap of faith into becoming a small business owner.

Morley found that many of the skills he learned in the military, and taking advantage of his G.I. Bill, were beneficial to running his own business. "Having been in the military for 20 years, I was always involved in fitness, so helping others reach their fitness goals has always been a passion of mine. I used the G.I. Bill to earn my bachelor's degree from Western Governors University in Business Management. It helped prepare me to run my own business. A lot of the tools I learned in the military can apply to a business. If we have an event at the gym, we do an AAR or After Action Review so that when we do the next event, we can improve upon it," he said.

Two areas have been very helpful in making his business a success: a good staff and great customer service. "Running your own business is hard. It takes a lot of time, work and energy. Our success comes from finding staff that shares the same passion and vision as I do. Pamela Jacobs, our general manager, came from a Human Resources background. She was tired of the corporate world and wanted a break from that realm. She is vital in taking care of our members when I am serving in the Washington Army National Guard during drill weekends and annual training. She's stepped up big time, and having that trust between owner and manager is huge. If you can't trust your employees to take care of your customers when you aren't there, it will be tough." He also found that respect for people is huge. "Business is about customer service; each member is important and has to be. We encourage our members to give us feedback and let us know what we are doing well, and how we can do better. In return, they tell their friends, family and co-workers about how much they love Spanaway Fitness, and we get new customers from the word of mouth advertising," he said.

In addition to the renovations Morley did when he first started, he has plans to add 6,000 square feet of space by the end the year. "I like knowing that we are making a difference in people's lives. We have an environment that is unlike most gyms. We have a place that anyone can work out in and feel comfortable. Just like the military, we all come from different places, backgrounds and experiences, and we find a way to tap into that and use those strengths to accomplish the mission. Our gym is no different. We have mothers and fathers, professional body builders, community leaders, competitive powerlifters, seniors, teens, servicemembers, First Responders, and everything in between," he said.

Spanaway Fitness Center, 13819 Pacific Ave. S., Tacoma, 253.531.8444,

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