Some people are just natural-born leaders and know that following the crowd and working a standard 9-to-5 just isn’t for them. One such individual is Mississauga-native Dr. Brendan Gomes, chiropractor and owner of The Lab, a sports injury clinic that caters to athletes and weekend warriors alike. Specializing in personal training, massage therapy, and more, The Lab is the latest business to open and thrive in a time when most businesses are far from booming. In a recent interview with The Edge, Gomes talks about being his own boss, adjusting during a pandemic, and the things about starting a business that no one tells you.
When did you realize that you wanted to be your own boss and how has it been so far?
I’ve actually been my own boss since I was 21, so I haven’t collected a paycheck from anybody [since then]. At 21, I started off as a personal trainer, just freelance training. I knew from then that I never wanted to have a boss, but I never had a team I was responsible for until this place. It’s been a transition—I went from learning about how to be the best at my job to learning about leadership, management, accounting and all the [stuff] that nobody tells you when you open up a place. It’s been very rewarding, and I don’t think I’ll ever have a boss again, hopefully.
What kind of leadership style do you think you have?
I try and embody some of the stuff that I’ve read. I try to be very open, very communicative. I try and give feedback and try and have positive talks with people. I don’t micromanage—everyone at The Lab has free rein. They have their own key. They do whatever they want. They take their own time off. As long as the clinic is running well and they’re doing their part, I’m pretty laid back.
What challenges have you had to overcome since branching out and becoming self-employed?
The biggest challenge I think that I had was before I opened up The Lab. I was in a big sports training gym [that] was basically only training teams and athletes and they needed volume to make their money. The biggest challenge I had was realizing, during the pandemic, that this business wasn’t going to make it [and I had to] take a leap of faith and open up my own shop. […] I just think that people don’t tell you [that] basically [you] have to learn everything on the fly. Nobody really knows. You don’t have a handbook on how things will play out. You kind of have to learn or spend a lot of time [researching] on Google.
Did you put together a business model or business plan?
When we first opened up The Lab, it was me, one of my friends who is my business partner, a massage therapist, and a physiotherapist—we just started out with the four of us. And we set a goal of trying to pay back all the money the two of us put in within five years. Since then, we’ve grown. […] We’ve almost tripled in staff and we’ve tripled in volume coming through our front doors. We actually didn’t even have a business plan. We didn’t have a business model. We just tried to provide the best care and be as honest as possible with people. I guess if you just do things the right way, people will come back.
How has COVID impacted your business and how have you adjusted?
It’s actually been the biggest blessing I could have ever imagined. When we first opened up, I was almost positive that our numbers were going to be slow. We wouldn’t grow because I didn’t think anybody would come in during a pandemic.
I think a lot of people started doing activities they normally wouldn’t do, like body builders are running now or people [are] playing tennis [and] their bodies may not be ready for such a drastic change. We’re seeing a lot of those types of injuries and we’re seeing where people [who were usually] sitting at home working for nine hours a day, not moving and [now] coming in, so it’s very different.
Which high profile clients have you dealt with and are you eager to work with anyone in particular?
I had a lot of exposure to NHL athletes, and I’ve worked with a variety of them. I’ve worked with NFL, CFL—any NHL, MLS, and MLB pro athletes that make quite a bit of money and played professionally and on TV. I did have a chance to work with the Argos in the off-season, but my dream would be to work my favorite soccer team [Arsenal F.C.], but I don’t know if I could give up my practice to commit to it. But I don’t really have a population that I think I’d love to work with.
Have you had the opportunity to learn more about the business side of things?
Yeah, so definitely [learning] more about the business, I’ve had to read a lot of books on running a business, implementing systems, accounting, tracking different indexes. But it also helps having a business partner because we delegate tasks to each other. I think the biggest learning curve for me has been learning how to manage nine to ten different people. I’ve never had to deal with that ever before.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to start their own business?
Better yourself. It’s scary, but it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do. Just take the first step. Start the process. Pick the first domino. You don’t have to be ready—just dive in. A lot of the time people don’t really know when to start if they should start. […] There’s never going to be a time when everything lines up.
Dontei Wynter | Staff Writer