The Evolution of BFS Equipment
How BFS has been helping athletes succeed since 1976
“New” is one of the most powerful words in sales, but at BFS we believe our success is founded on the opposite quality: longevity. BFS has been in business for 38 years, and our continual growth comes from understanding the needs of our customers and finding effective ways to improve our customer service and keep our prices down. This is our story.
BFS began in 1976 when Dr. Greg Shepard found there was a huge demand among coaches to learn about his training system, the BFS Total Program. Three years later Coach Shepard recruited Bob Rowbotham, who recently became CEO after Shepard’s retirement. Their leadership and the talents of our BFS clinicians – certified teachers with impressive coaching résumés – have built a coaching history that includes over 10,000 BFS clinics and countless state championships. But that’s only one aspect of the company.
From his very first clinic Shepard concluded that coaches needed a training system that would enable athletes to fulfill their physical potential, along with the right tools for the job. He knew he could provide it by getting into the equipment manufacturing business. For strength training, athletes needed free weights: power racks, benches, barbells, and dumbbells. For speed, must-haves included plyometric boxes, pulling sleds, and systems for measuring speed and jumping ability. At first, one line of equipment was enough, as the focus was on providing high school coaches with quality equipment they could afford.
The initial manufacturing business Shepard started in the heart of Salt Lake City was small, but with rapid growth he soon expanded into two facilities: a manufacturing plant in a nearby industrial center, and a large warehouse that also served as company headquarters. John Rowbotham, Bob Rowbotham’s son, eventually took over warehouse operations and, upon Shepard’s retirement, assumed the duties of president.
Having its own production facility gave BFS complete control over quality control and equipment design, including the means to make custom equipment as needed. Quality control was a particularly thorny issue for companies that manufactured their equipment in China and other countries due to the use of inferior steel that affected the quality and safety of their equipment – in fact, many of their product recalls of barbells, dumbbells, and other exercise equipment made national headlines and cost their companies millions in lost revenue, along with the confidence of their customers.
It was also gratifying to BFS to manufacture equipment in the United States with US workers. In contrast, customers of our competitors that had their equipment manufactured in China and other countries often endured long delays while waiting for their purchases to be shipped to the US. Because BFS stocked its own warehouse with a large inventory of equipment, large orders outfitting complete gyms to BFS standards could be filled and shipped within 24 to 48 hours. Custom orders took a bit longer, of course, but few of our competitors could match our speed on special orders. As a bonus, because of the large volume of sales across the country, we could place multiple orders on one truck and thus avoid having to pass on large shipping costs to our customers.
With any manufacturing business there come challenges, and about a decade ago exercise equipment manufacturers were having difficulty getting steel – at any price. It wasn’t that US steel companies were decreasing their production, but that they were fulfilling orders from China and other countries that were willing to pay top dollar. BFS was fortunate to have developed solid, long-term relationships with many US steel manufacturers that could fulfill our needs, but other companies were not so fortunate and found they could not stay in business. The steel crisis eventually passed, but as a safeguard BFS built a 5,000-square-foot storage facility to stockpile steel, enabling us to fill our orders and also keep our prices down.
BFS started with one line of equipment, but our manufacturing business eventually expanded to four complete lines: Varsity, Elite, and D1. Although we can certainly outfit complete weightrooms, BFS recognizes that most schools can only afford to add or replace a few pieces of equipment each year. We believed it was important that all our equipment have the same basic design so that each additional piece of equipment would provide a consistent look, which is not possible when a weightroom is outfitted with equipment from several manufacturers. As for quality, BFS uses 11-gauge steel – which is the industry standard – as well as 7-gauge steel for units with independent posts that require additional support. BFS now offers full 7-gauge options in the D1 and Elite options for the most demanding environments!
The D1 line is our top-of-the-line equipment, suitable for the best college, professional, and commercial weightrooms. Organizations with substantial budgets are opting for premium D1 features such as chrome plating, pegs for band-resistance exercise, bench docking systems, and swivel-handle chin-up attachments.
This year we added one more equipment line: The BFS Absolute Line. This unique line of equipment was made possible by the purchase of a “bender,” a manufacturing device that molds steel into V and U shapes. Because benders cost $200,000 new, few of our competitors can afford them, thus limiting their design capabilities.
As BFS nears its 40th anniversary, we take great pride in producing the highest quality US-made products with value pricing. As a coach Dr. Greg Shepard always taught his athletes to “dream the biggest dream,” and that guiding philosophy has taken BFS from its humble roots to its current position as an industry leader.