Thursday, March 19, 2015

Healthy & Fit Magazine: small business report

Healthy & Fit Magazine is a small-market, monthly publication distributed primarily in Clinton, Eaton, Ingham and Jackson counties in Michigan.  Healthy & Fit will celebrate their 10th aniversary in April, 2015 so they demonstrated far more longevity than most "indie" publications.

A substantial portion of Health & Fit's success is due to their tight focus. 

Healthy & Fit Magazine has a heavy emphasis on regular folks who made a decision to get healthy.  The paper issues have before-and-after pictures.  This is one of the "after" pictures.
A typical reader might be a mother who found life running on fast-forward.  She had been putting the needs of her education, career, children, perhaps aging parents ahead of taking care of herself.  People can get away with that while they possess the resilience and recuperative powers God grants youth. But at some point in our lives, often in our thirties, we find ourselves spent.  At that moment we realize that we need to take care of ourselves.

Healthy and Fit Magazine is there, waiting to help show you ways to do that.

There is some activity that will work for you.  It might be as simple as walking your dog.  The key is to start doing it.

Another important function of Healthy and Fit Magazine is to be a cheerleader.  Many of us do not have workout buddies.  The cheerleading supports us through the aches and pains can accompany working out.  The cheerleading encourages us to get back on the tracks after life events derail previous efforts.


Most issues of Healthy & Fit are 32 pages long.  This is an efficient (cost effective) size for the printer to handle and the limited size enforces that tight control on the content.  There are a few issues a year, the Annual Race Guide and the Annual Gym and Fitness Center Guide that exceed that length.


Most of the content is provided by regular contributors.  The contributors are not "writers."  They are Dentists who can write, Personal Trainers who can write, Dieticians who can write, and so on.  The primary focus of the writing is to introduce beginners to the basics of fitness.

Tim Kissman

Tim Kissman is the publisher and owner of Healthy & Fit Magazine.

This is not a picture of the women who mugged Mr Kissman, but it gives you a feel for the crowd.
I interviewed Tim Kissman at an Eaton Rapids coffee shop.  It is not a coffee shop that he frequents.  I arrived five minutes early and noticed that a table of retired ladies was breaking up.  Most of the table exclaimed "Tim Kissman!!!" as he walked through the door.  The closest I can come to capturing their glee is to compare it to how a class of Kindergarteners would respond if Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny walked through the door at the same time.  Mr Kissman was obliged to hug every one of those ladies before he could enter the restaurant.

Half way through the interview another customer in the coffee shop recognized him from his picture, walked up and introduced herself.  Tammy is a yoga instructor at one of the local fitness centers and avidly follows Healthy & Fit magazine.

It felt like I was interviewing a Rock Star.

That kind of charisma is not essential to the magazine's success.  But is sure did not hurt.

Writing and editing

One of the pillars of the magazine are before-and-after case studies.  Enough personal information is given in each case study so we can identify with the person trying to become more fit.

The goal of the case studies is to have the reader realize, "Hey, that could have been me!  Maybe I can do that, too."

Before-and-after stories must be crafted with care.  The "before" portions of the story are factual recitations devoid of judgment.  The stories simply point out that there are many landmines out there that will derail our health when we are not mindful.

The "after" portions of the story are typically written about six months later.  Six months seems to be one of the sweet-spots for length of motivation.  Most of us can visualize looking good on the beach when we formulate our New Year's resolutions.

Turning content into money

Every blogger fantasizes about finding a way to turn our content into revenue.  I admit to being one of those bloggers.

So I listed very carefully to Mr Kissman when he talked about his business model since blogs look much like magazines.

Healthy & Fit typically prints 12,000 copies.  They are distributed across the four counties by a vendor.  The vendor is very efficient at what he does.  It only takes three days to distribute the 12,000 copies.

A large fitness center might get 75 copies.  A small fitness center might get 25 copies.  A doctor's office might get 10 copies.  The magazines are distributed free of charge.  All revenue comes from advertising.  (looking more and more like blogging, isn't it?)

Whether by design or good fortune, most of the copies are dropped off within 20 feet of the office manager.  The office manager watches the copies get picked up and read cover-to-cover by their patients.  They see the copies get carried home.  They are glad that the patients are not walking off with "the expensive" magazines.  From the standpoint of the office manager, Healthy & Fit Magazine pays for the space it takes up when evaluated on that basis alone.

The stack of magazines lasts 10-to-14 days.

The pay-off is when a patient walks up to the office manager and asks if they have any more stashed behind the counter.  They want to read one.

The really big pay-off occurs when a patient carries the magazine into the orthodontists' (or dermatologist, or dietician, or physical therapy) office next door,  points at a picture in the magazine and asks, "My teeth look like this...Is it true you can do something to correct them?"

Healthcare advertising effectiveness is incredibly difficult to measure.  Most customers make their decisions based on numerous inputs.  Often, they need to see many ads over time, in several different media before they are willing to entrust their health to a doctor or a fitness center.  They want reassurance that the advertiser is not a fly-by-night operator.

That makes it difficult to quantify advertising effectiveness.  In the absence of hard numbers, anecdotes of potential patients carrying the magazine into the appointment become huge.  So does the rapid disappearance of the magazines from the counter and of patients asking for copies by name....these kinds of things become small-talk on the golf course and determine where the advertising dollars get spent.

Sadly, I cannot figure out how to bend the Eaton Rapids Joe blog to look like that business model.

Mr Kissman's Three Pieces of Advice

Find something you love doing.  Starting a business is very time intensive.  There will be times when you are working a lot of hours, especially in the beginning.

Figure out how to make money at it.  There are a lot of enterprises that look like businesses that slowly lose money.  Those are not really businesses.  Those are excuses to mine capital.  No matter how much money you start with, you will eventually run out unless you can figure out how to make your enterprise profitable.

At some point your business must be profitable enough for you to pay for a manager at the prevailing market rate.  It is a sad thing when a business liquidates because the business owner can never afford to go on a vacation with his family and his wife divorces him.  Being able to take care of your mental health and your marriage is not a luxury.  It is a legitimate cost of doing business.
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Just start doing it.  Running a business requires keeping track of all of the pieces on the chess board.  "Business plans", no matter how detailed will never introduce you to all of those chess pieces.  You actually have to jump in the water and start swimming.

Tim Kissman can be contacted through by visiting THIS PAGE

Link to previous small business report.  
Link to the next small business report

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