Lafayette’s best and brightest just concluded activities and events for the third annual INNOV8 festival, a collaborative community celebration of innovation and excellence. Without a doubt, one of the best displays of entrepreneurism and innovation I saw during the eight days was the INNOV8 Awards ceremony. To appreciate the significance of the INNOV8 Award, it’s important to understand that an entrepreneur is one who uses innovation, creativity and a relentless drive to solve challenges.

bootcamp  
HJ Adams leads a boot-camp session  

One of those honored with an INNOV8 Award this year was HJ Adams, founder of HIT Fitness.

HJ, a former New Orleans Saints strength and conditioning coach, has developed a consistent and competitive method to deliver fitness results with an emphasis on fun and camaraderie. The delivery of this program is compacted into 45 “effective and efficient” minutes of full-body training. For those of us who “hit the gym” regularly, the words fun, efficient and effective are not commonplace in our vocabulary.

HJ has been working with the Opportunity Machine for about a year. He had these insights to share about his success as an entrepreneur and about what it takes to “make it:”

What are your priorities when it comes to your company?
Like other business owners, my two concerns are expanding my client base and delivering a consistent high quality product. I want to see the HIT team grow and serve many more people in this community; however, we will not do it at the cost of quality and effectiveness. Our core values are deep-rooted and drive us to ensure you are not “a number” walking aimlessly into the gym. We live by the belief system that you should be motivated daily, held accountable to your goals, and most important have fun while achieving the desired results.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
HIT recently expanded — doubling in size as well as expenses. It’s tough to know when to take on the extra expenses to grow. I spoke with my advisers, my clients and my wife; then I dove in head first. I accept these tough decisions as challenges, which is a really cool way to look at an opportunity for continued growth.

Tell us about a time when you had to “push through” a tough moment or decision. How did you get through it?
My business started out of a local gym where I was training groups of clients. Some of these clients came to me because of the location, others from my efforts to build my brand. When I decided to go completely solo, I knew that I may lose some clients, it may be less convenient for others, heck, I may even fail. I trusted in my decision-making process and the support of those around me.  For me, when I get the chance to bet on myself, I always will.

What were you doing the last time you looked at a clock and realized you had lost all track of time?
That happens every day. Changing a life — your own or others — does not happen on a schedule. It is a mental commitment to excellence. You have to get your mind right before positive changes are able to take place. Fitness is my passion, so I don’t look at it as a job; rather, I look at it as helping people feel better about themselves physically and mentally. HIT is not a gym. It is a lifestyle — committing to a healthy nutritional diet, daily physical exercise as well as rest and recovery.

What book do you think everyone should read?
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff by Dr. Richard Carlson. Don’t confuse this as a message that you do not have to pay attention to the details, as that is extremely important in being successful. Just look past all the mess. Have a limited number of key goals and focus on the daily steps to get there. When you let the junk get in the way, you get way off track and can end up forgetting your purpose.

Give us an example of a time when you saw opportunities for improvement in a company’s leadership style. What did you do?
In a past job, I felt leadership was unsuccessful in guiding employees. The focus on developing individuals and assisting them in achieving their goals was secondary to the pursuits of the organization. That does not fit with my core values, so I looked at it as a way to learn through experience — how to make decisions that would lead me (and those around me) to a successful future. Every poor experience points you in the direction of opportunities that are around you waiting to be acted upon.

What does, “Sounds like a case of the Mondays!” mean to you?
Ha! There is no “case of the Mondays” at HIT. Personally, I have to drive the attitudes and work efforts of our clients. We focus on building a culture where there is no “I can’t.” There is only “I can and will.” A positive attitude equals positive results, improvements, progress and a healthier life. The only way to deliver exceptional results is through a company culture that builds self-esteem and confidence in a healthy atmosphere.

What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, do you have to watch when it’s on and why?
The Pursuit of Happyness. Life is more than being about the money you make or the material possessions you own. Your legacy is measured in how many lives you are able to touch. For me, it is about how many lifestyles I can change to help people achieve a goal. You can’t take things with you when you go; it’s about the legacy that you leave behind.

Tell us about a time when you failed to meet a customer’s expectations.
Being a business owner is all about delivering our brand promise: committed customer service and delivering a consistent results-focused product. What’s interesting about owning a business is that you feel that anyone can be a client. As you mature in your business, you realize that not everyone can be a client, and moreover not everyone should be. Some people you just cannot please. You know you have started to transition to a high-level business owner when you accept that protecting your culture and quality is more important than a little extra revenue.

What business would you love to start?
I would love to see an all-encompassing “one-stop shop” for fitness. The vision is a place where you can get childcare, an efficient and effective, results-rendering workout driven by a professional trainer, as well as an inexpensive quick grab and go (but fresh) nutrition café. I imagine made-to-order egg white omelets with veggies or steel cut oatmeal with a scoop of protein. I would love to be able to complete the circle of health. Maybe I’ll call it Triple H (Herm’s Healthy Haven).

What would you most like to learn that would help you in the future?
From time to time, it’s always good to step back and look at the big picture and to focus on being a complete individual. I would most like to learn how to feel comfortable about myself in front of a camera. My first Biggest Loser video took 33 takes but with one “coaching” session from a close friend the second was a HIT (yes, pun intended). I can get up in front of 50 people and teach a fitness class, but I get a little shy when getting up in front of 10 people to speak.

If you’re interested in learning more about HIT Fitness and HJ Adams, go to www.hjhitfit.com. For additional information on the Opportunity Machine and its entrepreneur acceleration programs, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Zachary Barker is executive director of the Opportunity Machine, a LEDA-backed initiative that focuses on cultivating Lafayette’s entrepreneurial and technology-based industries. Barker is also president and owner of Acadiana Sports Leagues and past president of the705, a local young leaders group. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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