Some people are born Romans, some become Romans, and some have Rome thrust upon them. Gerard Burley falls squarely into the third category. When his partner was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Gerard was faced with two options: Stay home and risk an almost certain end to the relationship, or move to Italy. He decided to pack up his stuff. He rented out his home in Washington, D.C., and in a matter of weeks, he had assumed a new life abroad, and a new identity as Coach G. Coach G’s business plan was bulletproof. Everyone knows that pasta and wine are some of Italy’s biggest draws, but also hazardous to your waistline. So Coach G parlayed his background in athletics into a career as a personal trainer to the well-fed.

While a life in Italy was never on his radar, personal training was his calling. His passion for fitness initially brought him to study sports medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, and later he worked as a trainer at a Division II school, Bowie State University. With his summers free, Coach G found a part-time job at a local gym and learned what it took to get people in shape. Coach G managed to establish a small clientele in the United States in short order, but duplicating this success in Italy was really raising the bar. He knew virtually nobody, and very little Italian. So he went to cocktail parties hosted by the English Yellow Pages, inserted himself in the network of English-speaking expats, and soon found a few takers. Then he looked up every U.S.-run business in the capital and showed up at their doors, armed only with a handful of business cards and a lot of charisma.

What he had to offer were the most modern training methods from the New World, an ebullient, almost preternaturally positive attitude, and rock-solid reliability. Coach G shows up on time, all the time. In Rome, these qualities are in short supply. He comes to people’s homes armed with a scale and tape measures to get the Before picture. The next time he shows up with kettle bells, weights and mats, and of course a no-nonsense, noexcuses attitude. And if you don’t take his instruction seriously, you won’t be his client for very long.

In a matter of weeks, the scales and tape measures, register smaller numbers. These days, Coach G has to turn down business. He is starting to hire instead. Then again, you may decide to forgo the import/export sector altogether and compete with Italians at their own games. One expat in Venice, Thomas Price, is regularly interviewed on Italian television to talk about his gondola-making business. Another option is what you might call A2A: American to American. Some examples would be an English-speaking real estate service, a wine-tour company for visitors, an English-language newsletter, etc. These ideas are not novel, by any means”there are hundreds of expats in Italy doing this kind of thing already”but maybe you can come up with a new slant?


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