Paul Tomlinson Roundtable

Date: 04 Nov 2020

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Paul Tomlinson on getting his business into shape – and taking the city’s gym culture by storm

Milton Keynes Business Leaders joined a discussion with Fierce Gym’s Paul Tomlinson last week on opening a gym in the midst of a pandemic, and how he got MIRUS IT into marketable shape.

As part of MKBLP’s ongoing series of online events with key guest speakers from the city, entrepreneur Paul discussed the sale of MIRUS IT, the company he established in 2002 at just 25.

The IT support and telecommunications provider, based in Milton Keynes, amassed significant growth in almost two decades of business. Disclosing the personal and professional reasons why he decided to sell the company when he did, Paul highlighted the fact that he had got to a point where he believed the company needed external investment to grow:

“Fundamentally, I didn’t want an IT company anymore. I’m an engineer, I love working out how to make things work, but I don’t love the HR side of a business.

Paul candidly disclosed that, “we had a ‘let’s see where we go’ philosophy. We were bumping along and making a success, but equally, we made mistakes. We didn’t always plan properly.

Recognising that developing the right mindset was key to successfully making the business an attractive investment option to potential buyers, Paul enrolled upon the, ‘Your business Your Future’ course at Cranfield University. The course helped him shape the company’s exit strategy and management structure, which ultimately led to the 2019 sale of MIRUS IT to Microsoft partner IT Lab (now Content and Cloud). “We knew and respected IT Lab, so it felt like a natural fit and the most logical step for the business.”

Keen to invest, and realise an ambition with his wife to open a gym in Milton Keynes, Paul wasted no time in getting back to a ‘start-up mentality’ with the launch of super-gym, Fierce.

Determined to break the mould, Paul and his wife threw open the doors of Old Wolverton based, Fierce in June after a month’s delay due to Covid.

Creating a gym which caters for a wide variety of fitness disciplines, Paul admits that they have a good business model with Fierce, with transformation programmes selling out within an hour, and a strong membership with people on the waiting list. “We didn’t go into it thinking we would set up multiple sites. However, if we hadn’t been set back by the new restrictions, the plan was to start looking for another gym.”

Inclusivity has undoubtedly been a key contributing success factor for the gym as Paul admits, “It’s not unusual to see a 50-year-old woman working out next to a champion bodybuilder!”

At a time when Milton Keynes is creating specialist educational pathways such as the Institute of Technology, for young people to meet the specific needs of the city, Paul’s journey to success is testament to this approach.

“Education wasn’t for me. I left school at 16 and took industry qualifications around Microsoft. While a more structured learning path may have stopped me from making mistakes, I learnt from these mistakes and this learning curve benefited me all the way through.”