Sam Bakhtiar On Overcoming Adversity And Building A Business You Love

At the early age of 11, Sam Bakhtiar and his mother fled the war in Iran and moved to the United States. They only had $500 to their names and a hope for a better life: the American Dream. They settled in a small town in the state of Pennsylvania. Sam Bakhtiar achieved a Masters Degree from Penn State University in Life Sciences and Nutrition along with a Doctorate in Chiropractic from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic (LACC).

Today, Sam Bakhtiar is a doctor, co-founder of The Camp Transformation Center and CEO of One Percent Nutrition. His extensive education is matched by his passion and knowledge on body transformation and fitness. The adversity he went through early in life made him very disciplined and gave him a killer work ethic.

Sam Bakhtiar

Credit: Sam Bakhtiar


In this interview, Sam Bakhtiar shares his experiences about starting life from zero after moving to the United States, his passion for fitness and how to start and grow a business that makes you money and fulfilled.

Abdullahi Muhammed: You moved to the U.S. from Iran with your mother when you were only 11 years old. How did you manage to turn your life around?

Sam Bakhtiar: I moved from Iran to the United States with my mom due to political tensions. We only had $500 and one suitcase in our names and we had to develop a ‘make it happen no matter what attitude’. We learned how to make things happen from thin air. We literally knocked on every door until one opened.

Raised by a single mother, I was taught to never give up no matter how difficult the circumstance. I joined the local boys club after I was cut from the basketball team and from there, I developed a passion for fitness. I began familiarizing myself with the different components of fitness and the results I obtained were beyond impressive. Growing up, I was only allowed to become one of three things: a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. Being a chiropractor aligned with my passion for fitness and I decided to pursue a doctorate in that field.

The biggest priority for me was making sure my family never experienced the same circumstances I went through and I had to do whatever it took to give them the best life possible. After opening my first gym, I developed a thriving personal training business and was making millions. However, the 2008 recession wiped me out. I knew I had to turn my life around and I mapped out a success plan that included getting up at 3am and working until 10pm. I invested heavily into coaching, mentorship and other resources so that we could continue to grow The Camp into a thriving fitness empire.

At that time, my business, Fitness Concepts, was only doing 1-on-1 personal training. Eventually, we formed The Camp Transformation Centre which was built on the group training model. The group training model has many advantages over 1-on-1 personal training which includes: lower prices for clients and higher profit margins for the business. The success led people wanting to franchise The Camp which allowed us to expand into other regions. Even though 2008 was a tough time, I gained a lot of wisdom from it.

Muhammed: I get that you make good money from your business, but how much does it excite you? Would you be happy with what you do if money wasn’t an issue?

Bakhtiar: Yes, the money is just a by-product of following my passion and developing that over the course of three decades. I am very passionate about fitness and body transformation. I like to learn about human performance and I constantly educate myself through books, seminars and coaching on how to become stronger, leaner and live a more vibrant life.

Muhammed: Do you hire gig or remote workers? What are your best tips for hiring the best talent?

Bakhtiar: I prefer to have everything in-house. It’s very hard to develop a company culture if everyone is working remotely. Keeping everything in house allows me to develop and implement ideas at lightning speed and efficiently.

However, from time to time I do hire freelancers for one-off jobs and to evaluate if they would be a good fit, I first give them smaller tasks to assess their performance. Other than attitude, I look for punctuality and attention to detail.

Muhammed: Where’s the fitness industry headed?

Bakhtiar: The fitness industry is continuing to grow and people are starting to realize the importance of their health and having a fitness regime. However, for trainers to succeed, it is important that they are intentional about differentiating themselves in a specific niche and being a master at their craft. Nowadays, trainers have convenience on how they want to train their clients and this is something they need to take advantage of–online, independent gyms etc.

Muhammed: What’s your best piece of advice for entrepreneurs and independent contractors?

Bakhtiar: Have a singular focus. In today’s day and age, we are constantly bombarded with distractions from social media, television and other platforms that we lose sight of our number one goal. Shiny object syndrome is the number one killer of success as today the average person is inundated with so much information on how to achieve success that they never end up taking action. Focus is following one course until you’re successful, whether that takes you five years or 20 years. Never stray till you achieve it.