4 Lessons From a New York Firefighter to Ignite Your Business Spirit

Sometimes, entrepreneurs might feel like they are in a burning building as various fires need to be put out. But for Frank D’Agostino, co-owner of Transform Fitness and the Style Society by Joseph Smith, the fires started first – and they informed the development of his brand. In a recent interview, Frank gave me some of his best tips for entrepreneurship, inspired by his experience as a firefighter. You’ll be surprised at some of the lessons that emerge from the ashes – and how you can apply them to your business, too.

1. Look for Needs and Root Causes

Frank, whose gym, Transform Fitness, opened fewer than three years ago, was struck by something unexpected during his work as a firefighter. As a first responder, he was often called to situations that were medical. Time and time again, he served at scenes where chronic health conditions, the result of lifestyle choices, had turned into emergencies. Because Frank sees everything he does as service, he began to wonder how to address the root causes of these “fires”: How could he transform people’s lives and begin to make his clients more aware of the relationship between wellness and longevity? Similarly, you can look at the “fires” in business and see them not as emergencies, but as opportunities to meet needs.

2. Find Success in Taking Calculated Risks

Frank, the son of a fitness enthusiast mom and a serial entrepreneur dad, grew up in a home where taking risks was normal. When working with the fire department, this became even more visceral. Firefighters don’t have a choice: Their duty is to run into the burning building and make things better. This is noble in and of itself, but in the business world, the same is true. Losing money after rushing into a hot trend is frustrating, but it does not compare to risking injury and death. In our interview, Frank told me that being courageous enough to take risks is a crucial part of entrepreneurship. In fact, this is one of the phrases painted on the wall at Transform Fitness. When things go wrong, fall forward and use your failures as stepping stones.

When things go wrong but you choose to fall forward, your failures or mistakes can be some of your biggest lessons.

3. Put Others First and Give Back to Them

What could be more altruistic than firefighting? (That’s a rhetorical question!) Yet businesses can model this approach as well. Frank has deliberately pursued business models and services that put others first. At The Style Society, Frank’s barbershop, the focus is not just to provide styling, but also to provide camaraderie and to make clients feel good about themselves. Led by a third-generation Master Barber and 26-year style veteran Joseph Smith, the Society offers a community experience with top-notch male pampering services that leave their members confident and refreshed. When combined with the self-care services at Transform Fitness, you can see the commonalities among D’Agostino’s endeavors: Whether serving as a firefighter, a fitness coach, or the purveyor of a fantastic barber experience, Frank’s business values are to serve others in a positive way that leaves a lasting memory. Considering that his mother’s mantra is “What goes around, comes around,” it seems quite fitting.

4. Survey the Structure

Those working as firefighters are trained to quickly assess situations and evaluate structures to assess risk. Fighting fires involve more than pouring water on flames: It requires a thorough knowledge of materials, building, and risk assessment. Consider how that relates to business: Risk assessment and market knowledge are similar, and being able to conduct these quickly, even in the face of disaster, can help position an entrepreneur for resilience. In Frank’s case, this has involved risk assessment on both an individual level as well as in his entrepreneurial career.

Firefighting and running a business are not identical, but Frank’s approach shows how portable some of the lessons can be. Embracing risks and using them to leverage opportunity and to serve others are goals that can propel a beneficial spark into an eternal flame. Frank couldn’t end the interview without giving credit to his business partners, amazing team and brothers in the fire department. With an assertiveness in his voice, he said if there was a golden rule, it would be to always remember where you came from and who has truly been there along the way. No individual is wholly self-made.

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