April Pattee is co-owner of the National Federation of Professional Trainers with her sister Angie Pattengale, author of the Director’s Corner. April wrote the following post to share her NFPT journey.
I was 15 and a little reluctant when my dad, NFPT founder Ron Clark, started dropping hints that he would love to see his daughters taking an interest in his business. Watching the blood, sweat and tears he poured in didn’t make this a very appealing career path. He was always on his computer, in meetings all the time, pulling late nights. I wondered if this was really something we would want to do or could even take on.
My sister Angie and I noticed the praise our dad got for his plan to teach fundamental knowledge to aspiring personal trainers. As he would always say, get the foundation laid before building the house. He wanted to strip everything away and get straight to the heart of personal training. He used layman’s terms so trainers could actually understand and apply their knowledge every day. He’s always been the king of analogies: he can take something so complex and make it sound so simple. It didn’t take long to for me to realize the impact he was making in the fitness industry, and I was ready to walk with him in any way he needed me.
Flame lit the entrepreneurial fire
My start at NFPT was sparked by a question about the company logo: “Hey, girls. Should the flame in the torch blow backward or stick straight up?” Dad asked. And we got our way: the flame still sticks straight up to this day. Many shared opinions later, he finally asked us if we would work a few hours here and there for extra spending money. At 16, that caught my attention! I could buy that super-cool outfit; I could start saving for my first car. So, I folded letters and put labels on envelopes — and, if you’ve received an upside-down label or two, I’m sorry, that was probably me. Oops! I felt like such an integral part of the business, making my dad proud.
As a senior, I joined my high school’s internship program, where not only did I get to miss the last two periods of the day (bonus!); I also got to work for NFPT part time. More hours meant new responsibilities like data entry, processing applications, entering brochure requests and handling the deliverables. I was NFPT’s processing and shipping department, little ol’ teenage me. I felt such a sense of empowerment that my dad trusted me to handle these vital tasks.
You have to talk to people
My mission soon became earning my degree from Purdue University and NFPT was my vehicle through it. I had a job, I was getting good grades…so, what was next for me? NFPT continued to thrive, which meant Dad needed even more help. “Hey April, are you ready to start fielding phone calls?” What?! I did not sign up for that. I liked being behind the scenes. This new, non-negotiable role did not sit well with me. You old-timers might remember hearing a shaky voice on the phone quavering, “Please be patient me. I’m new and still learning.” It was like removing my bike’s training wheels for the first time. About 50 calls in, I finally felt at ease that people weren’t so scary after all. What an accomplishment to add customer service to my business tool belt. My worst fear became a normal part of my everyday routine.
Building relationships became my jam. People inspired me. They loved NFPT and the fundamental, practical approach we used. I could see the impact my dad was making and I decided I wanted a bigger role. My sister and I both had the want and the will to continue on this journey as the Fierce Three, with help, of course, from other Very Important People.
We tackle the same mission in new ways
As we gained momentum, my sister was called to take a managerial role, which included NFPT’s pursuit of accreditation. To lighten her load, I trained to handle some chief financial officer responsibilities. I was scared at first but these tasks became a favorite part of my job and they still are today.
My mission is to never lose sight of our trainers and their needs. If we grow, our trainers grow, and what a gift it is to pay fitness forward! Back in the day, our dad would always say: if it’s not broken, why fix it? My sister and I transitioned that to: If it’s not broken, let’s break it down and make it better. We want our NFPT trainer family to be the best they can be so they can bring out the best in those they get the opportunity to serve.