To say a Windsor Police SWAT officer might find themselves in some hairy situations is putting it mildly. Between drug busts, shootings, bomb threats, and all the other situations that can come up in a major city, it is the Tactical Unit’s sense of teamwork and family, as well as tough and consistent training, that keeps them straight.
In the time since he left the Windsor Police, Tony Smith has brought the lessons he learned during his 19 years of service, including 10 years in the Tactical Unit, with him to better the lives of others.
Through his businesses, Tango 1 Solutions and Garage Gym, he has applied his accumulated knowledge to helping individuals with their physical and mental well-being, as well as the functionality of local businesses.
“Fitness has always been a part of my life,” admits Smith. “When I was a part of SWAT, we had to have a higher fitness standard. I started realizing that if we started incorporating group training into our fitness, once or twice a week, we were working better together on all facets of what we do.”
He says it was never just about fitness, it was about bringing his team together—which became the premise of Garage Gym.
“Growing up as an athlete, you latch on to that same type of team atmosphere that the Windsor Police represent,” says Smith. “On the Tactical Unit, where everybody is very close, we were 18 men, at that time, working together towards one mission and sticking together no matter what. We were able to do some great things by bringing that same kind of premise, where everybody’s accountable to each other—every person doing their job on every single play is the best way to victory.”
While with the Tactical Unit, a friend of Smith’s who owned a gym talked him into taking a few courses he was running. He had no intention to ever use the knowledge he obtained there, but it certainly came in handy.
Smith and his wife, Dani, who was also a cop, were having their first child and Smith had been moved off the Tactical Unit. A friend of his, a bartender, came to him and said that he was about to pay a considerable amount for some personal training. Smith offered to put his knowledge to work and train him.
“I told him, why don’t you come by and work-out out of my garage with me and I’ll show you some things,” recalls Smith. “He started coming on a regular basis, and eventually he asked to bring a few more buddies, and they started throwing me a little bit of money for my time. Next thing we knew, we had about 30 people coming to our house. We moved to a bigger house with a bigger garage and people were still banging on our door.”
The Smiths jokingly referred to their little hobby as the “garage gym”.
Their concept and mindset proved to be popular with clients and they ended up buying the old Home Hardware building in Amherstburg and made the Garage Gym official.
Dani, a 13-year veteran, left the police service and set up the gym and it rapidly expanded, eventually resulting in a second location in Kingsville. Soon after, Tony left the Windsor Police too and the business continues to thrive. In fact, Garage Gym will soon have a third location in Harrow and are closing in on their first Windsor location, possibly in the Howard Ave. area.
Their customers, known lovingly as the Garage Gym Army, take part in at least two fundraisers per year and have raised over $1 million for the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation, scholarship funds, and families in need.
After the success of Garage Gym, Tony came up with another idea. What if his teamwork model could be applied to businesses too?
“It happened organically,” states Tony. “Someone asked me to help them out with some issues they were having in their business. I took the lessons I had learned in business, through running the charity, and then through SWAT, and I applied them. People are seeing that through running these systems, they gain accountability and clear communication. I think it’s what’s lacking in this world right now. People don’t have those hard conversations—real teams have that, that conflict—you evolve from that conflict and get stronger.”
Thus, Tango 1 Solutions was born. The name comes from his experience as team leader, also known as Tango or Tactical 01, from when he was a member of the SWAT Team.
“Tango 01, in the police service, it’s the only position of leadership that’s voted upon by your peers,” explains Tony. “You have no real rank; it’s voted upon by the people on that team and that’s a designation that is a great honour.”
He says that Tango 1 Solutions is not your typical consulting agency.
“Unlike the typical business consulting team, when you choose to work with my team and I, we aren’t sitting around singing kumbaya and doing trust-falls,” explains Tony. “I use tactics and strategies, earned through many years in law enforcement, and countless high-risk operations in which the consequence of failure could result in the loss of life.
“Tango 1 Solutions is hands on, no-BS business consulting service. I work with high performing teams that want to sharpen the blade, identify objectives, and create a mission-based approach to its execution, whether that be creating clarity, conflict resolution, or providing a thrilling team building out-of-office experience. My team and I can also provide emergency planning to prepare organizations to deal with violent intruders and medical emergencies until 911 services are activated.”
Tango 1 Solutions provides access to BLAST Camps (Basic Leadership And Survival Tactics) for their customers. These three-day camps are meant to help customers disconnect from the digital world, experience limited sleep and work under stress, and teach them basic skills like how to protect your home and family, firearm safety, navigation, starting fires in the wild, de-escalation, and, most importantly, self awareness through talking out your issues.
Tango 1 Solutions is designed to teach its four key values: Strength, Warrior, Protector, and Self-awareness to help its clients gain and create a sense of community. Strength of body and mind, Warrior mentality (mission oriented and solution mindset), Protector of what is your, your people, and your time, and Self-awareness of where your weaknesses lay.
“Even good businesses need a little help with leadership,” adds Tony. “They need some help with their mission-driven premises, but also emergency preparedness.”
Through Garage Gym, with Dani, Tango 1 Solutions, and his Tango 1 podcast, Tony has taken the lessons learned through his years with the Windsor Police Tactical Unit and has retooled them to help his community to be a better place.
“This whole journey has been a healing process,” reflects Tony. “SWAT takes a great toll on people and it took a great toll on me. I think the experiences I gained there, negative included, really helped me to thrive in the business that I’m in now. It has also put me in a position where I can speak to people about PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health issues.”
“Treating it, recognizing it, feeling it, and then moving on, will always make you bigger, badder, and stronger on the other side. That’s resilience—walking through fire and coming out the other side.”