Tony Little Interview
In the world of Health and Fitness, Tony Little is a big man.
He is the Number One Certified Personal Trainer in the World.
A supersalesman, his accomplishments are many.
A former Mr. Florida, Mr. Southern U.S., Mr. Central U.S. and Junior Mr. America, a near fatal car accident in 1983 almost derailed the career of Tony Little forever.
His come-back from that accident is nothing short of amazing.
Tony Little spoke with us recently about that accident and his phenomenal rise in the Health and Fitness industry.
Q. Tony, your story is remarkable. Before I get into all of
it, are you in any pain as we speak from that car accident?
A. No. I think the only time I ever get in pain with my back problem is when I'm on the road too much and not exercising or when I'm in a plane overseas. Other than that, I don't have any problems. I don't know if you know this, but about 3 months ago, I had another car accident. I took 160 stitches to may face.
Q. You better stay out of cars.
A. Yeah. First time it was a bus. Second time somebody ran me off the road I came out of that really well too. My face is healing well.
Q. How bad were your injuries in that first car accident?
A. I had a herniated L-4 disc, a herniated L-5 disc, a herniated C-7 which is the seventh vertebrae of the neck, cervical. I had a rotated cuff tear and I had three knee surgeries.
Q. You went from that to starting your own t.v. show "Working
Out and Shaping Up with Tony Little."
A. Yeah. It's kind of an interesting story. I got motivated to go to the local cable station to do a television show because sitting at home watching a lot of the celebrities and people doing exercise shows, kind of ticked me off. You'd watch 'em, and listen to 'em and the first thing out of their mouth was, 'Let's begin', and nobody told you how to begin. There was no educational process to any exercise show. It was just, do it! Remember, they had a huge injury rate with aerobics, like seventy per cent at the time. So anyway, I decided to go out and do my own show. When I got there I was overweight. They guy said, Who are you? I said, Tm a former Mr. Florida.' He said you can have your own show, but you gotta pay for it. You can try out 13 shows for $5,500.1 didn't have a job at the time, but, I was pretty determined so I signed the contract for 13 shows. Then, I found out you could shoot your own commercials for the show. I had to figure out a way to pay for the show. So, I went home and came up with a company idea. I called it T and T Cleaning Service. It specialized in Health Spas. I used to sell in health Spas. Those wetrooms and Jacuzzis were always too dirty. So, I created a company on paper that specialized only in cleaning health spas. I went out that same day I signed the contract for 13 shows and I sold $60,000 in contracts to American Fitness Center for cleaning their health clubs.
Q. Hey, when you're good, you're good.
A. It's a weird thing when you get motivated. I came home and figured out that it would be like $20 — $25 an hour to clean the clubs. So, I hired all my friends at $10 an hour, (laughs) and I was able to make $10 — $15 an hour without being there. That's how I got money for the show. And, I decided to sell my air-time to support the show, as extra revenue. So, I went out to Health Food stores and told them of my idea of shooting a commercial to help their business. I ended up selling to quite a few people.
Q. Where does Dr. William LaTorre enter the picture?
A. The problem was none of the doctors or professionals at the time wanted to be on television as advertisers. So I switched it around and said to Willie LaTorre, 'I don't want you to advertise. I do want you to support the show. So, why don't I give you 5 minutes at the end of the show and call it Injury Prevention.'And, he loved the idea. So, he came on and was a major sponsor for my shows. He ended up writing a letter to Westinghouse Cable Companies and said out of all the advertising he's ever done in his life, he got more response out of being on my show for 5 minutes, than any other form. So he supported the show for 4 or 5 years.
Q. Before the car accident, your goal was what? To be Mr.
A. Oh yeah. My goal and no doubt I would've accomplished, would've been the Mr. America, Mr. Universe thing. But, mine was not to stay in the sport for very long. At a certain point, the sport becomes unhealthy. My goal was to have the titles and to build my reputation up and then to maybe open up some clubs and do some product endorsements for a living.
Q. That auto accident as bad as it was, helped you become
what you are today.
A. Oh yeah.
Q. You actually turned a negative into a positive.
A. While it didn't seem like a positive at the time, it turned out to be a wonderful positive. When I was a bodybuilder, I won all the shows that I was in. I always had a philosophy, have I done everything possible, I don't care how small it is, that nobody else would do? If I could answer myself yes, I did, then I always won. If I didn't, then I always lost. People always say you can decide what you want to do. If you really want to be on top, you really don't have a decision, but always to go forward. You can never stay where you're at and you can never go backwards 'cause that's exactly what it is backwards. I guess I have a real simple way of thinking about it. It's just like this last car accident I had. Twenty one stitches after the accident, with 160 stitches in my face, I shot a new show, and the show is a giant success. It's not what happens to us in life that matters, it's how we respond to it.
Q. Why are you so passionate about what you do?
A. Well, I think it's two fold. I look at the business I'm in as being all positive. There's no negative to what I do. If I'm able to convince one person to take care of themselves and change their life and feel better, I've done my job. It's easy to sell something that's positive and can influence somebody to a better lifestyle and a better feeling. If you're depressed or have a low self image, it can change your life. I'm also a very highly competitive person. I don't just like to win, I like to totally win. I can't help the competitiveness in me. Eleven years I've been on television and every year, I break everybody's record or the previous records and anything in sales. It fuels my fire. Since it's such a positive goal, it makes it so much more passionate for the competitive part of it, 'cause you know you're doing good.
Q. You never went to college, so you don't have a degree in
Business. How did you learn the art of marketing?
A. I think it's kind of like that old analogy, if you're a person that comes into a new town and you don't understand the restrictions of that town, usually you're more successful, because you have no limitations. I've always been a person who doesn't allow limitations.
Q. You’re probably the only guy to come out of St. Petersburg,
Florida with a cable show and go on from there.
A. Yeah. It ended up being a huge stepping stone for me. I narrated the first 6 or 7 shows because I was too overweight. So, I hired a good-looking female model and a good-looking male model and I basically narrated the techniques they were doing. Now when I got in shape, those people lost their jobs. (Laughs). Then I got on there and did it myself and it became a one on one personal trainer type of thing. Then I went out and became certified as a physical fitness specialist by the Aerobic Research Center, Dallas, Texas and then a Certified Personal Trainer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I came back doing some training with lawyers and doctors and professional people, one on one. It was a good income. I could make as much as a couple of hundred dollars a session. I was training so many people, and you would find because it's a very close type of sport, you have to touch and make someone move a certain way, I got hit on a lot. (Laughs). I got hit up on by peoples wives and girlfriends, and it became very uncomfortable for me. And, I didn't want to be in that business anymore. So, I came up with the idea of putting my personal training on video, so nobody could touch me. (Laughs).
Q. Now, that makes sense. You can sell hundreds of thousands
A. I've sold 19 million videos. I'm in 81 countries. I've broken records in Japan, Russia, Germany, Europe, everywhere. I've probably done 4-5,000 hours of live' shows, more than anyone. My shows air more than Dan Rather has been on television. I average a minimum of 5,000 hours air time a year on U.S. television alone. It's kind of hard to go around and convince people because you do a local cable show, you now need the money to do a video so you can beat (Jane) Fonda with. I always use the philosophy if you ask a hundred people, you're gonna get one. So I asked a hundred and some odd people and I got one who gave me about $100,000 cash to produce my firat video. I produced it and went out with my little briefcase, on the road, to these big conventions and tried to sell my title to a big company for distribution. I came -back with 6 offers, which is kind of unbelievable. Let me tell you why it's interesting I got any offers. I had 3 stereotypes against me. I was a former bodybuilder and they thought I was dumb. I was a man and 99.9 per cent of the videos at the time were women. And, I was aeiling weight-training when everything else was aerobic dance. So, people were totally against the concept that it would work. I just had a strong personality and was able to convince them that I could make the difference.
Q. You've said, "Someday I'd like to get out of this." What
would you like to do?
A. I got a lot of things I'm doing. (Laughs). I've always had a long term plan. My long term plan was, actually I started backwards. Most people start with a book. I started with a video. Then I got into the books. Then I got into the audiocassettes. Then I got into the apparel. Then I got into the equipment. Then the Shopping Channels. Then the Infomercials. Then retail. Then repeat the process internationally. After all this was over all I wanted to do was find a marketing type of market that I didn't have to do any more television that was not dictated to air time and that I could build a bigger company. Even bigger than what I have now. So, about 4 months ago I signed a deal and became co-owner of a company out of Las Vegas called Longevity Network. Longevity Network is a marketing company, a multi-level marketing company. They have a strong medical advisory board and some high integrity people. What they needed is somebody who could really charge ahead in marketing and hopefully be like a hero to the company and the customers. I did that. In the last 60 days we've grown one hundred and thirteen per cent. It's the fastest growing network marketing company in the United States right now. The goal for me there is I don't have to do a lot of television. 1 could do maybe one infomercial a year that supports that Longevity concept of home base business. The way that it grows for my customers and I is I have between 17-18 million customers who've bought from me. I now want to give them a chance that when they buy, they can also be a distributor. And that is where I'm heading now.