If you woke up one morning and had turned your passion project into a million-pound business odds are you’d immediately quit the day job – but not Tom Exton.
Tom, one of the four cofounders of LDN Muscle, has developed what was a blog into a highly successful fitness business but still makes it in every day to work his 9-5.
He spoke exclusively to UNILAD to discuss how he manages the demands of LDNM without letting his day job suffer, how the company is succeeding with realistic advice not fads, and how he still finds time to maintain his own ripped physique with limited time…
The 29-year-old along with his twin brother, James, Max Bridger, and Lloyd Bridger (also brothers) were inspired to share their fitness tips after being repeatedly asked for insight by users of their gym.
We all trained in the same gym and we actually all worked as lifeguards at the local outdoor pool. People were constantly asking us what we did in the gym – in the local area we became known a little bit.
People were asking what do you do? What do you train? People wanted to train with us, so we thought ‘why not set up a blog?’
We built up a bit of a following, but we never intended to turn it into a business really. We set it up to see how it’d go, it was just a hobby between a few friends engaging in a passion.
Since that initial start in 2012 business has been booming, and having been incorporated in 2013 they now have a turnover of £1.2 million.
LDNM now boasts over 180k followers on Instagram, 144k on Twitter, they have their own clothing brand, a series of enormously popular exercise and nutrition guides, and they’ve also launched their own personal training academy.
But all of the founders had difficult decisions to make to reach this point, including Tom who chose not to serve notice on his banking job.
My background – I did law at Uni and then I did the solicitors course, the LPC. My twin brother also did law but he went the barrister route…Lloyd had just finished a chemistry degree and he got into the marines to be an officer, Max was at Uni and I’d already started a banking job.
The other three boys, to cut a long story short, they are full time in the business and they put their careers to one side. I was in a job when the company kicked off, and I’m still in it because my role in the business is more remote.
The others take a salary to be in the business full time, and I don’t so it is equitable.
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Exton’s personal mantra is ‘make hay while the sun shines’ and along with LDNM he is certainly achieving that.
His secret isn’t closely guarded either, he credits all his successes to effective time management and staying connected to the net.
Tom told us:
I’m flat out mornings, I’m flat out evenings and weekends, and I am online all day anyway.
It doesn’t really matter what desk I’m sat at, as long as I get all my work done for the day job it works – it’s the beauty of modern technology.
We [LDNM’s founders] are all in a group chat with each other, we all have our own email accounts, we can run the business from anywhere.
So what does a typical day look like for a man who is never off the clock, and how the hell does he fit his own workouts in?
I get up about quarter to seven -so not too early in the grand scheme of things- I’ll knock some emails on the head on the way to work, create some social content, do some posts before I start work.
I won’t eat breakfast at home as there’s not time for that, but I’ll grab something at work. I squeeze in a gym session between 11:30 and 2:30, and as long as it’s focused a half hour workout is just fine.
I finish work around 6-6:30. Then the whole way home until about 1:00 AM I’ll be doing emails, posting content and staying on top of things I may have missed in the day.
It is difficult to juggle it all, it can mean a lack of sleep from time to time, but it can be done.
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Tom also believes LDNM’s success is through their own understanding of the average person, and targeting realistic strategies for exercise and nutrition.
He explained his own regime is about hitting macros, not depravation:
We pride ourselves on being realistic, not everyone loves the gym, wants to eat boring food, they’re busy. People have kids, they have jobs, they’re not obsessed with bicep curls.
It’s about giving people the tools to stick to something and not hate it, rather than doing something for eight weeks, losing a bit of weight, stopping and putting it back on.
It’s not about clean eating. Every diet works on creating calorific deficit – other diets dress it up in different ways to sell books or specific products.
Cutting carbs works because it is creating calorific deficit. Carbs are calorie dense so that works. But we’ve been very careful not to pigeon hole ourselves…We’re very much promoting the flexible diet route.
I think it is more realistic for people. You want to be able to go for meals with friends without feeling guilty, and they shouldn’t as it’s not healthy and can lead to disorderly eating habits.
The ‘clean eating’ fad is exactly that, a fad. It does lead to all sorts of things like orthorexia…Getting in shape and body composition is about calories and macros, not that your calories came from a tree.
A calorie is a calorie…people want to lose weight, not their sanity.
LDNM’s mentality may be harder to make ‘sexy’, but the company’s commitment to sustainable plans for real people is a genuine USP in a crowded market – and it is paying dividends for company and client alike.
As for the future, well the sky is the limit…
An NCTJ Journalist with an MA in Sports Journalism, Kieron is an experienced social media journalist who has worked in the industry since 2015. His experience includes work with ITN, the MEN, WISH/WIRE/TOWER FM, and 8:50 Sports Digest… not forgetting his time at ASDA.