Fitness professionals often have that herd instinct where they sometimes bunch together thinking that there is safety in numbers. While this might work for Wildebeests, who form a tight herd hoping to keep the lions away, it almost always fails for young fitness professionals who won’t open their own business unless they do it with four or five other people. Nothing spells doom faster than three or four drinking/training buddies opening their first gym without a business plan or a partnership agreement.
Partnerships are often a necessity in the fitness business, where a group of liked minded fitness people band together to pool money and talent; but most of these partnerships will fail early due to the group never setting them up properly in the first place. In other words, set up your partnership well in the beginning and you might become the exception in this industry that makes it work over time.
Partnerships fail for three reasons. First of all, no one in the group ever had the final decision-making power. Someone has to have the ability to weigh all discussions and then make the final decision. This is usually the person who is the most business minded in the group and who is willing to evaluate and then act on the numbers and data at hand.
Emotion is what often ruins a partnership group at this stage. One partner is usually the emotional one and every vote or decision he or she makes revolves around not hurting someone, displeasing a client or in reaction to a competitor. Making a good business decision is far down the list for this person and every vote is dictated by avoidance of pain rather than what is right for the business.
There is also usually a person in the partnership that is perpetually broke. Anyone with ongoing financial problems is the last person you should ever hire, since there will never, ever be enough money in his life. And anyone with everlasting financial issues is also the last person you should ever be partners with, or at the very least the last person who should ever have a vote in the decision-making process of the business. Every vote this person makes will always be to take more money, cut more expenses or a regular bitch session how he is doing more work than any other partner and now deserves more money than the rest of the team.
Secondly, partnerships fail because the group never took the time to clearly put into writing everyone’s job description. For example, if you have three trainers banding together to form their first training gym, who is going to do what in the business? If everyone thinks he or she will just be training clients, then who is going to acquire new clients and run the business on a daily basis.
It is also important to note that this is the stage where everyone complains about their lack of money and while they want to be partners, they also want to keep their own training money separately instead of pooling everyone’s cash flow into the business. This also applies to mainstream partnerships as well. There is always the trainer guy in the group who wants to be an owner, but also refuses to give up his cash flow to the business. In this case, he is just running his own business in the new business. This comes up when job descriptions are written and you have to declare what you will do and where the money will go.
Usually when a new gym group forms, and this is why this group will fail, is that everyone throws in the clients they have and you end up with three trainers just training and no one ends up running the business. The questions that should have been asked, and clarified by job descriptions, would be who is responsible for marketing, who handles the money, who is going to hire and fire, who will be the head trainer and set the training methodology for the company. Most importantly, who will read the numbers each day, keep the team focused on making money and make the final decision on every issue that affects the health of the business.
Thirdly, most groups are undercapitalized. This seems absurd since the group formed to pool resources, but it is because they didn’t have the money in the first place that they threw in everything they had to get going. The bad news here is that most investors, including family members, are reluctant to loan money to a group rather than just their person represented in the group. In other words, I really don’t want to give my son $50,000 to get started since the other guys in his group don’t have a lot of money to put up. This really means that one guy is paying the way for many, and if the group makes money his son only makes a smaller share, and if the group fails, the risk is with the big investor and not the broke partners who had little skin in the game.
The logic here would be to not treat all partners equally and whoever puts the most money in has the largest share, and whoever puts in the least will have the smallest percentage of stock. This theoretically makes sense, but four partners opening their first gym all think they are equals and usually demand to split the stock evenly.
Here are a few rules that will save you thousands of dollars, and maybe your business. As always, start with these as recommendations and let your attorney review everything you do:
ü A buyout agreement: If someone gets pissed off, you should have an agreement in place that one partner can use to buyout the other one using a set formula.
ü Agree to what happens with death, divorce and distress.
ü Agree to third-party mediation in advance
ü Agree to a five-year recapture plan to buyout someone else rather than having to get the cash today
ü Use this formula as the basis to buyout each other or to handle death and divorce:
(EBITDA + Owner’s compensation x 3.5) – debt
This formula states that the gym is valued at a predetermined number. In this case, you are using a standard EBITDA formula (earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortization). We do not use interest in this formula, but rather income taxes, since most debt passes through or stays in the business and most sales in this industry are under three million dollars.
This formula is important in several ways. For example, if one partner gets mad and wants out, there is no squabble over the price. It is predetermined by formula, which everyone already signed and agreed to as part of the partnership papers. It is also important to note again the buyouts should be over five years and not with immediate cash. Remember the broke partner that is in every deal? Imagine he now wants out because he needs the cash and thinks he can just walk away and get paid today for his share. This puts an undue burden upon his partners to come up with the cash. Simply put into the agreement that he will be paid for his share over five years.
This also handles death and divorce well too. If a partner gets divorced, it is an understatement that the divorced partner and his ex-spouse will wildly disagree as to what the business is worth. This formula again kicks in; the ex-spouse is paid by whatever percentage he or she is entitled to through the divorce, and the payments are over five years, which allows the business to stay healthy. The stock that was repurchased can be sold again to whatever partner wants to step up or split as the partnership deems right at the time.
This works the same for death as well. Instead of arguing with parents or surviving spouses who might think the business is worth millions, the formula predetermines value and how the dead partner’s family will be paid.
Partnerships aren’t evil; they are just usually done stupidly, which leads to many people getting hurt and often businesses failing. It is worth saying again; if you are going to do a partnership, never get in unless you know how you are going to get out.
Just one day to make things right in the fitness universe would be all I need to kick ass. The day would be a long one since there is so much dysfunction out there and so many idiots that would need to feel the wrath of the king, but in one day you could do so much if you just had the power.
Where to start would be the big question? Would you only allow Lycra depending on BMI: anyone over 25 would be banned for life? Would you make it a law that no one could wear a $1000 worth of yoga clothes unless you actually did yoga? How about putting to death any B List athlete or star that eats prepackaged garbage meals and then does commercials touting that diet as the ultimate solution for weight loss for life? So many screwed up fitness people, so little time, but if I was the King of Fitness for just one day this would be my checklist to get the day rolling:
If was King, I’d….
Publicly execute any bitchy gym member who stands at the front counter chewing out a young employee over a first world problem. Really, the towels aren’t fluffy enough today (sad but a true story)? You had to park at the back of the lot and walk to the front door? You want to cancel because you and your ginormous fat ass aren’t using the gym? Execution would be swift. No trial, no jury, no second chance. You bitch out a staff member over stupid shit you die immediately. The execution would have to be fitting for the gym business. I would park a treadmill at a major mall on Saturday facing the wall and let thousands of people watch your big ass shake until you die of embarrassment.
· Force any client who ever bitches about the cost of a trainer to attend the, “Get a life” outreach program for a year. You know nothing about fitness, have never been in shape a day in your life and you think $40 or $50 an hour is too much to pay to get your first fitness clue. How many thousands of dollars did you pay to get out of shape? How much did all that crap food cost, those 1200 calories Starbucks drinks and that six-pack a day diet beer habit? You pay thousands of dollars to destroy your life, but won’t pay a few bucks to work with a fitness professional that might save your pathetic overweight soul? One year of hard reality in a support group of whiners looking for a life is your penalty.
· Take away anyone’s business that has ever screwed a member or client in the name of fitness, and then sterilize that person so he or she can’t breed another generation of crooks. This alone could take my entire day as the King of Fitness, but it would be worth it. All the old chain guys would be first to feel the King’s wrath; followed by that new generation of $10 gym guys who promise fitness on the cheap and then give no help, no support and do nothing but rent out-of-date equipment to innocent people who will now think that everyone in fitness runs their gyms like that. The punishment would be swift and mighty sayeth the King: your gym is gone and your pants are down and you will never ever bring a child in the world that will perpetuate your crooked ways.
· The King will also take care of those annoying, petty crimes that drive all of us in this business insane and who make the world think we are a bunch of overzealous dysfunctional idiots. On this list would be purists who ruin dinners by refusing to eat anything that isn’t vegan, Paleo, raw, or that might have touched a sugar granule. There are people all over this planet, and also too many in this country, who go to bed hungry and would trade any meager possession for one decent meal a day, and yet we have people in this amazing place who stand there and bitch people out over meat or other food choices. Want to find out how much of a first world luxury your choice of diet is? Move to Africa for a few years and then get back to me about how that vegan diet belief system is holding up when you find that you would now trade your last pair of underwear for an egg and a clean glass of water?
Live your own life, and make your own diet choice, but stop the preaching and stop the self righteous attitude about not eating anything with eyes, especially when you are calling out of work sick three times a month because your body can’t get any nutrients from six pounds of beans a day. I like vegetarians and was one for 22 years, but keep it to yourself and be thankful you live in a country rich enough where many people have to limit the calories they take in rather than spend the day searching for your next meal. Ask a North Korean farmer, who spends 10,000 calories a day slaving in a field to grow a few thousand calories worth of food if he is lucky whether he sits at a dinner table embarrassing other people about their food choices.
· The King would also go after other things on the petty list, such as old aerobic queens who scream, “woo,” trainers who shout, “it’s all you bro;” bitchy, pity seeking, self-justifying people on Dr. Phil who swear that they have tried every workout and diet and still can’t lose weight and are now suing the potato chip companies for making them pigs; overweight, deconditioned doctors who tell clients that a calorie is a calorie; one tool wonder trainers who preach that their tool is the only tool (insert CrossFit, kettle bell people, TRX people, any specialty race crazy person, or any born again studio cycle person who rides seven days a week and wears Soul Cycle clothes on a date) and of course the female fitness contestant who spends thousands of hours working out to get into shape for a contest, but has the hair and makeup of blind homeless person.
· The King would also go after all the stuff that really has pissed me off over the years in this industry. Any gym that does any of this would be burned down on the spot and the owner’s children would be sold as slaves to a band of wandering Zumba zombies from Brazil: cracked vinyl on kettle bells, dirty toilets, no rental towels; young, stupid front counter people who have no manners and who have never been trained in customer service, owners who wear old jeans to work showing total disrespect to the customers; any owner who tells me he or she is burned out working in the greatest industry in the world; stupid trainers who still put middle-aged women on bodybuilding split workouts and train them for their first natural show; fat trainers who can’t muster the discipline to at least look as good as their worst conditioned client; any equipment or service company that blames the client for mistakes rather than just fixing the problem; sales people in gyms who aren’t trainers too, and any gym owner who still runs a picture in his advertisements of a semi-naked big breasted fitness model telling himself she is a role model rather than acknowledging the bulge in his pants as he stares at the copy of the photo on his desk all day. All have to go when I am King of Fitness and all will die a most horrible death by being boiled in the Greek yogurt wonder food of the week.
And finally, when I am King of Fitness, and at the end of my long day making all these wrongs right, all of you honest, hard working fitness professionals who are truly trying the make the world around you a better place would be rewarded.
On this day you would be given a day of rest away from the craziness, you would be given a most wondrous meal that would be calorie free, the King himself would pour you a fine glass of fine (have a drink you purists and get over your silly ass self) and most importantly, someone would say thank you for doing what you do everyday without complaint instead of bitching your ass out over nothing that really mattered in the universe anyway. If only I was the King of Fitness for just one day…
Someone ask me if I could simply explain why the membership model is dead and why the training-centric business model will rule in the coming decade. The first chart shows a typical gym in northern New Jersey two years ago. As you can see, all the revenue in the gym comes from membership dues and only $7,000 per month comes from training.
This gym now has intense competition from both the top-end players and the low priced guys. If you have been in business for more than five years, and you have intense competition, how much can you really change that $960,000 membership revenue model. Most likely, and this is what the big chains are now experiencing, is that this number will most likely decline rather than go up and most of the strategies used to pump this number up, such as sales and discounts, no longer work. In other words, there is no growth left in membership.
$960,000 a year in net
($80k x 12)
$84,000 a year in
($7k x 12)
In the next chart, the potential left in a big box player is illustrated. Simply explained, a big box gym that converts about 40% of its membership each month into a training-centric membership (based upon 12-month memberships and not one-on-one or packages) can achieve the same monthly income each month from its training revenue that it does from its membership income. In other words, and this is the entire industry in one line: the only growth potential left for the chains to pursue is a higher return per client served and not chasing memberships in an intensely competitive market.
$960,000 a year in
The industry isn't really that hard, the big chains just make it that way. The training gyms already understand, and are exploiting, a higher return per client. Most importantly, everyone in a training gym is mostly there to get results and doesn't mind paying for those same results. Where is the future for the chains. Simply change your business plan to pursue the second chart. Culture has to change, people would have to go, sacred cows would have to be slaughtered, but someday one of the big chains will post this blog on a wall and the game will be on.
“Sure, we have functional training—it’s in that room in the back.”
It is a shame that this statement is from a vice-president of operations from one of the largest chains in the country and not from some old and dysfunctional gym owner left over from the ”80s. This comment also explains why the smaller training gyms are creating such a threat to the chains that still don’t understand they never escaped the membership business while everyone else has moved on to the results business. The mainstream players chase endless volume and the training gyms have moved on to return per client, a superior business plan that is sustainable over time while the volume guys choke each other out in almost every market.
In other words, this senior executive, and so many like him, still thinks it is 1995 and believe it is just a matter of time before they magically find a way to turn back time and start selling a lot of memberships again just like the 90s: despite the price wars, increased competition in every major market and the boredom factor experienced by any normal human who now refuses to be a lab rate and repeat the circuit circle everyday for the rest of his life.
The chains also have tight blinders over their eyes preventing them from seeing that those neighborhood training gyms—the ones with 300 clients or so—are draining the best of the chain membership leaving the cheap and exploitive members left who haven’t purchased a bottle of water since 1997.
The problem for so many in the industry, and for the rest of us who have to work around their stupidity, is that functional training methodology is just another add-on offering relegated to the back room to be sold as an enticement to buy a membership. Step this way sir and here we have our juice bar, our cycle room, or childcare and our functional training room. And don’t forget we have TRX classes taught by aerobic queens who can’t even spell functional training and can give you an incredible experience after only one day of education.
The point not understood by so many who are so far behind is that a methodology, defined as a training philosophy, is how you establish your training culture in your gym. And this training philosophy is worthless, no matter which guru you follow, without a business platform underneath it. In this example, the business platform is defined as the price structure and product sold by the gym.
In the case of the chains, they are in the membership business and could not care less if any member ever got success. The chains, and most of the other mainstream players in the big box concept, are all based upon 1980s bodybuilding, and the culture in the gym is nothing more than trying to provide the widest range of equipment that will isolate the widest range of muscles.
In the training world, everyone lives by the belief that we are here to get the maximum results, for the maximum number of clients, in the shortest period of time. One side rents equipment while the other sells results, which is kind of like the old saying of coming to knife fight with a whiffle ball bat. You can swing that plastic bat all you want, but you will still leave a bloody mess. In this case, the knife is the results one gets from using a holistic methodology and you can’t beat a client that gets in shape for the first time in his life using something as simple as a kettle bell or sandbag.
Functional training restricted to the backroom is a gimmick used by owners and managers with a total lack of understanding as to what constitutes modern fitness. CrossFit, for example, is a methodology, or again a philosophy of training, and is in no way a business system, which is why so many passionate coaches in CrossFit make so little money in their boxes.
The same is true of TRX classes given by group exercise divas, baby kettle bells in aerobics, and any of the national group exercise organizations that are trying to add some type of large group team training to their group ex schedules taught by one-day weekend wonder, newly minted trainers that just hours ago had done nothing but teach aerobics for the last 15 years. All are gimmicks used to sell memberships and have nothing to do with delivering a consistent and high quality training product.
Perhaps one of the strongest examples was a conversation I recently had with a gym manager who was doing a major renovation in her facility. The facility was a big, mainstream fitness facility that was adding space. Her comments included, “Here is our new 12,000 square foot fitness area and back here is our 1000 foot functional room.”
I asked her how she explained the differences in the spaces? “Well, the big room is going to be our fitness room with circuit training, free weight area and cardio equipment and in the back is where we will have suspension training and kettle bells.” To her, one room was fitness and the other was functional training and her definition of fitness was the same that had been misunderstood since Arthur Jones started the circuit madness. In the real world, and to the consumer, the big room is 1995 and the smaller room is 2013.
She couldn’t understand that a truly successful gym has to incorporate a complete training methodology throughout the gym and then design a business platform built upon that philosophy. The business platform is our layered pricing system that we have been using for so many years in so many financially successful training gyms and mainstream players. These owners and managers are willing to change how they think about training and are also willing to move away from the same traditional pricing methods that are failing everywhere in the country.
This obviously could be changed in just a few weeks anywhere in any chain if the operators wanted to embrace the business platform that is allowing dominance by a few hundred training gyms. The picture included with this blog is Gold’s Gym, Webster, New York, and represents the first generation of owners willing to leave 1995 behind and move into a culture of success for every member. The owners, Todd, Jackie, George and Bri, have not only survived one of the toughest markets in the country, but have actually shown growth for six consecutive years.
These are talented owners who were willing to change the culture of the club, and drop so much of the equipment baggage from that era, and reinvent their business. This is especially powerful in that this Gold’s was the third original Gold’s in the country and while Gold’s corporate is chasing the $9 express, burn it down quickly model, a few other people, such as this team, remember that they are in the fitness business and only so many people can copy the cheap price model and survive.
Adapting a training philosophy is the first step when seeking change, but you still have to infuse this belief throughout the box, no matter how big or small the gym, and then build a solid business platform that reflects this belief to every member, not just those restricted to the five percent or so who typically embrace 1995 one-on-one training. The layered pricing system is nothing more than a way to make training, which is where the results come from, available to the widest percentage of clients. The layered pricing system also, by the way, allows the gym to make more money, with a higher percentage of profit, from a significantly smaller number of members.
Look for a series of blogs starting in the next few weeks on the complete business platform and what it takes to make sustainable money over time in this convoluted fitness market.
There are two parts it takes to build a successful training-centric business that almost every owner misses. These two pieces give your program that finished feel and are two keys that separate you from your competitors. Remember that it isn’t the big things that usually kill your business—it is the combination of a hundred small things done badly that will ultimately take you down.
The first missing piece of building a financially successful training centered business is creating a culture, in writing and that can be taught to everyone on the staff, that becomes the center focus of whom you are and what you are trying to accomplish. Culture is a nebulous word that is hard to grasp, and in this case it means you create a belief system based upon your philosophy as to how the client is trained and serviced during each visit.
The second missing key is the introduction of consistent coaching cues. For example, a trainer/coach who has a small group in progress, but who spends time talking to other coaches on the floor, has obviously never been taught that this behavior is bad service and bad coaching.
We stress culture in our women’s-only training gym. We currently have 1400 women in the gym and about 35%, and this number is growing each month, are currently involved in training. This gym was once sold and we had to take it back as a damaged business. The first thing you have to do when you get control of a business, or try and grow an existing one, is establish why you are there and what you are trying to accomplish as a team.
We use this culture guide as the basis for our training of all coaches and group exercise instructors. We are also currently giving this out as a reference in our certification programs and other workshops through the NFBA. Of course you will need to modify it as needed for your gym, but once you create your own version, use it as a review to start every staff meeting you have with your trainers and also share it with every new training client.
Many of you may disagree with some of the actual methods, but for the sake of applying this to your gym look at the creation of culture as your main goal and not whether you agree with the particulars of training as mentioned here. Also keep in mind that this makes a great handout for potential clients since it positions you well against competition:
Sample Culture Handout (for a women’s-only training gym with 22 trainers)
Why we exist
This business was created to shelter and nurture women who are seeking a more fit life, but who can’t find the help and support they need to be successful in traditional, mainstream membership clubs.
Why we feel training is the key to success
Fitness is motion and motion is life!
If a woman wants to maintain the highest standard of living throughout her life, then she needs to participate in a challenging fitness program at a minimum several times a week. The core to achieving long-term success in fitness is strength training, which is the heart of our training program and is the key to sustainable health and fitness over time.
Our motto of success
Strong women are beautiful women
(Strong women are beautiful)
Our mission statement
We change lives
This gym exists for one reason, and that is to constantly challenge and lead our members to achieve the highest level of sustainable fitness they can reach. We have an obligation to our members to provide a safe environment and to help as many as we can reach their goals and beyond.
Our core workout format (maximum of 50 minutes per workout):
The stages of a new client:
Once you establish culture, you can work on coaching cues. This is the elementary list here and pros such as Rick May or Alwyn Cosgrove could do full day workshops on just this alone, but these are the ones that most trainers ignore and are also the ones that irritate the paying clients the most. If you want to keep people paying longer and staying longer, start here:
The basic rules of coaching:
Start with culture and see if this works for you. If you haven’t ever written out your personal or gym philosophy, then how do your coaches know how to act and perform? Culture is not a verbal five-minute lecture at a meeting, but a systematic approach to creating an environment that separates you from every other gym in town.
Pareto’s Law states that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the process. In other words, 80% of whatever gain you achieve comes from a narrowly focused 20% of those involved in the process of creation.
In simpler terms, if you are a traditional sales person, 80% of your revenue is generated from about 20% of your client base. There is always that narrowly focused group of people who have the income, believe in or have a high need for the product, and are willing to spend the money to get what they want.
This is also true in any gym. Most mainstream gyms, for example, generate most of their ancillary income, defined as money spent beyond the basic membership fees, from a very narrow group of members/clients. Personal training usually only penetrates about five percent of the membership in most gyms and the people who regularly spend extra money on the shake bar, supplements, clothing, special programming or any other additional revenue source in the gym usually consist of less than 10% of the gym’s total clientele. Stated differently, once you get beyond membership revenue, almost ALL of the other revenue spent in a typical mainstream fitness facility is spent by far less than 20% of the membership.
What happens if these people would disappear and the money stopped being spent in that gym? For example, let’s say that a 25,000 square foot gym generates about $90,000 a month in total revenue and out of that number about $50K is from membership and about $30K is from training. The gym has about 2200 members, but the training clients that generate this 30K are only about 150 in number. The other $10k spent in the gym each month is from new memberships and the snack bar, which coincidently, is supported mostly by those same training clients. Stated more clearly, this gym has over 35% of its revenue being created by only about 150 members, which is roughly 7% of its membership base.
So again what if this 7% disappeared from this gym? Most owners worry about new competitors draining their best members, but the reality for most mainstream gyms is that the normal competitor is usually a similar box that chases a lower price, or a larger, national box that chases features.
In the first case, a similar physical plant offered at a lower price will only steal the cheap members who come and go randomly anyway and will shoot their mothers to save $.20 on a Diet Coke. In the example above, this gym would find that there is a new, $9 competitor down the street opening next month. He will lose a significant portion of his cheaper members, but if the gym is fairly current in its physical plant, he can adjust prices somewhat and fight and most likely survive.
In the second case, the smaller gym, in the example above is about 25,000 square feet, gets challenged by a larger gym that is 40,000 square feet. The original, smaller gym is usually nothing more than a shrunken version of a big box national player and will always be susceptible to someone doing something bigger and fresher at the same price. Again, if the gym is fairly current, he can adjust programming and customer service and still survive.
Both of these scenarios, however, don’t always result in death for the business, because the membership that leaves is usually a representation of an across the board spectrum of members and not from one specific gym demographic. In other words, all the rich people, or all the women or all the serious lifters don’t leave at once, but rather a few from every category in the gym leaves due to seeking something different, convenience, a cheaper price, or a fresher concept and equipment.
Both of these competition situations have been part of the gym landscape for decades and are nothing new. The ineffective get chewed up, but don’t always die, by a next generation competitor, but in most cases the old and the new will both find a way to survive unless the old is truly decrepit, a crook or in a bad location and then Darwin’s Law of Selection enters and the weak and ineffective die to be replaced by a more robust breed.
The real damage is just now starting to come and is already occurring in today’s market. This new killer category is represented by the next generation training gym, which has never existed in big enough numbers in the past to wreak havoc, but is now increasing to the point that they can no longer be ignored.
So now we imagine that a 6,000 square foot training gym opens directly across the street from the example we listed above and imagine that the new training gym takes only about 100 of the original gym’s training clients. The training gym is state-of-the-art, focused on just delivering a superior experience and exists for one purpose and one purpose only; to get the maximum results, for the maximum number of clients in the shortest period of time.
What would happen to our example gym’s total revenue if most of the 7% who have generated almost all of the business’s additional revenue beyond membership, left in a 30-day period? This gym would most likely fail since it would almost impossible to rebuild the training fast enough to save it and if the gym has been in business any length of time then there is usually not much it can do to dramatically increase the membership revenue beyond a few points.
This is why the mainstream players are vulnerable and why business for the chains, and chain emulators, will be so difficult in the next five years as more and more of these new training gyms open and drain the boxes across the street. Remember, you don’t have to take a lot of their members to hurt them; you only have to take a significant portion of that magical 20% who provide the 80% of the gym’s overall revenue.
The mainstream gyms can fight back by becoming training-centric and moving beyond just membership based, but as we all know change is tough and getting a chain to admit that its business plan is ineffective is much like getting your fat aunt to get off her ass and start walking. She understands the need, understands the concept, and realizes that what she is doing is not working, but it is far easier to avoid rather than go proactive and seek change.
Training gyms, such as the new generation that are able to do a million a year in 6,000 feet, are perhaps both the best thing that has happened to the industry in the last 50 years and also the most frightful if you own a big box that lives and dies on just membership numbers.
Happy Holidays from the National Fitness Business Alliance! Over the past few years, our keynote speaker, Thomas Plummer, has shared with us funny reflections of the year and hopes of the future through songs and poems.
This year Thom is sharing with us his Holiday Fitness Industry Wish List for 2013. We all know and love him for his blunt honesty and creative humor. No fitness professionals, fat pool ladies or elves were hurt in the production of this wish list – Enjoy!
It is that time when the year is wrapping up and everyone starts dreaming of a new start and new opportunities for 2013.
It has been a brilliant year in so many ways and there is so much to be thankful for in our lives. Everyone is healthy, the workshops have been growing by fantastic numbers and my clients worldwide are having successful lives and financially secure businesses.
But there are still things undone and here is my random wish list for 2013. I hope you find just what you want for next year somewhere on this list:
I wish that…
·Every gym owner who has ever ripped off a client by selling him a membership that he didn’t need, couldn’t pay for or was simply lied to in the process would be boiled in reindeer piss and fed to the Christmas pigs.
·Every client who has postured at a front desk as some type of self important idiot while chewing out a young counter kid over a simple service issue should be forced to clean the gym toilets for eternity.
·All training clients who quit working out blaming work, spouses, kids, no time, too busy, no money or state, "I am just not into this” experience that moment of realization where it hits them that their ass is fat, and getting fatter, and nothing will change until they finally take personal responsibility and stop blaming the world for their personal misery. If you are wearing it, then you ate it and you will not lose it until you move it. This should be tattooed around their sagging arm fat as a daily reminder. Santa, please bring these people the book, "No More Excuses…Getting Off Your Fat Ass is a Life Choice.”
·Hardcore vegetarians who preach to others during meals should be rubbed in bacon fat and tied in a field for the coyotes. Live your own life. Self-righteous attitudes just turn everyone off to any aspect of fitness. Go veggie, go Paleo, go fruit, but just go quietly. Please just eat the damn Christmas cookies, your mother or the members made them for you and you won’t die.
·Any young trainer, who goes overseas and refuses to eat any local meals choosing to live on Paleo Kits, would realize that life and meals aren’t perfect. Missing a chance to experience the world is far more important than going strict for one more meal. Santa, this kid needs the Scrooge ghosts and the ghost of Christmas future. Let them show him what he is missing in China, while eating dried meat out of a cellophane package, sitting in his hotel room.
·The word "moderation” would disappear from the culture of this country. There is no moderation and nothing good has ever happened based upon a moderate approach. The best day of your life was not moderate. The best sex you ever had was not moderate. Your first child being born was not moderate. If it is worth doing, then it is worth overdoing. Anyone who cites a moderate approach to diet, exercise, friends or living is boring and should be in charge of hand washing Santa’s huge tidy whitey’s after his all night run around the world without a single bathroom break.
·The owners of any chain club would realize that you can make more money, and change more lives, if you understand that you are better off with 1800 serious members than 3000 drive-bys who are just there for the cheap price. How can you morally or ethically claim to be the fitness business when only about 5% of your members get any help and everyone else merely rents equipment? Here’s an idea; what if we replaced Santa’s entire reindeer team with the owners or presidents of all the largest chains and forced them to haul the sleigh. Talk about functional workouts! Maybe then one of them would realize that selling memberships is far different than running a results-based business. Santa, please send these guys a reality check and let them understand that if there are 20 other gyms in the market, you can’t, and that is a big CAN’T, live on volume anymore.
·Every fat pool lady who complains about every single thing in the gym from the water temperature to the texture of the towels would finally admit that the only reason they love the pool is because it is almost the only place left in a gym where you can fake working out. Yes, your doctor told you to do the pool, but that is because you refused to do anything else and he just gave up. Santa, please humble these crazy bitches by forcing them to be nice to someone for at least one hour before they die.
·To the girls who wear low cut jeans with a muffin top hanging over the side and think: "Damn I look good!” To the guys who can’t run 2 miles or do 20 pushups in their size 40 jeans still trying to hit on girls. They probably feel they are in the best shape of their life but are still unhappy. It can get better if they decide today to make a change. Santa, please send them both coal, preferably heavy, so they break a sweat when carrying it around the house.
·Every trainer who submits personal photos posing or flexing, at the beach all oiled up in a tiny bathing suit, along with their resume, would understand that it is not about how you look, it is about what you can do. It is not about you, it is about the client. You are not a role model; you are a leader and professional guide through a difficult journey. Santa, bring these trainers books from Amazon on inferiority complexes and self-esteem
·The angel guarding the gates of heaven is a CrossFit geek and your first workout of the day is a month and half long row and box jump marathon.
·Every guru in our business would remember that if you wear the suit, you have to be the man. Meaning if you stand in front of 200 people who believe you are the real deal you have to be that "man” answering the same questions forever. Batman can’t decide tonight he isn’t going to respond to the signal. He is the guru of crime fighting and wears the suit. Batman can’t stay at home watching Jersey Shore because he isn’t into it tonight and is sick of helping people. Santa, I love these guys, but please bring them all drugs this year that will mellow their collective asses out.
·Every fitness guy would look at his net receivable, then look at his average training revenue and realize that the only growth left in the business is going to be in training and not in continuing to grow that membership. Memberships can be sustained over time, but never grow much in most markets. The only growth left to any fitness business is seeking a higher return per client and not chasing a shear number of new clients. Santa, please just replace these people with someone who does get it because they hurt far too many clients who trusted them with their money and who believe that every client is just a number that can be replaced tomorrow with another one just like it. Sad to tell you but 1995 is gone and it is the era of Training Centric Business.
·Running shorts on old guys, leggings on fat women and any form of Zumba wear on the severely deconditioned person would be outlawed in every state, and especially at every Wal-Mart. No one should ever be allowed to wear Lulu Lemon unless you actually do yoga or workout. Santa, please bring the old guys shorts long enough to cover the junk. Please remind the chubby women in tights that it is against the laws of nature to stuff 50 pounds of jiggle into a 20 pound container. Throw in a video showing one of those women walking away from the camera in tights. It sort of looks like 10 drunken elves trying to get out of a sleeping bag.
·Finally, I wish that we would all remember that we exist in this industry to change lives. Do this well and the money will be there. There are a lot of good people in this industry, Santa, reward them well this year. As to the ethically challenged, the lazy trainers, the inept chain people who won’t change, the old style box owners who fail to evolve and to every client who has lied to himself and abused any of my staff, I hope an entire team of reindeer craps in your shoes and that Santa bites your wife’s cookies.
Sometimes you have to realize that the dream you have been chasing for what might seem forever is nothing but emotion and that it might be better to just walk away and let the dream die. It might be the right dream, but the wrong time. It might be the right dream and the wrong place, or it just might be that everything you want might be the one thing you shouldn’t ever have.
There is an extremely thin line you can cross where the emotion and energy you are putting into realizing your dream slowly becomes ego and an inability to know when to quit. Pride, and often arrogance in proving to the bastards you can do this no matter who tells you no, often leads to forcing something that should have never happened in the first place.
One client in particular stands out in that he chased his dream of opening his own golf school for almost 10 years. He was the right guy in that he was heavily credentialed and was recognized as one of the top golf teachers in the world. He was also the right guy in that he could raise money through his clients, friends and the banks. The mistake he made was the market he chose was never going to allow the project to happen. Not enough people in the market, no space that could be acquired at reasonable terms and no hope of getting the deal where he wanted to be due to impossible terms that could not be overcome. He is the right guy, with the right dream, but in the wrong place to be in his life.
In essence he wasted 10 years chasing the right dream for him, but the reality became he was trying to force something into the market that even if he got it opened would have been a lousy deal with high risk and a high probability of failure. His ego, however, and the emotional response to getting his ass kicked by being told no, kept driving him year after year to keep trying to force it to happen. The best advice he could hear was to pack up your wife, who wanted to move out of that part of the country anyway and was only there because of him, pack up your dream, which was portable, and head to somewhere with more clients and opportunity where he could realize his potential.
You also see this same mistake when someone wants his first gym. Patience and common sense leaves the room within minutes of the person looking at their first rental space. When the real estate agent show this person his first space, the emotion rolls over him like fat women shopping the specials at The Wal-Mart at Christmas. The sale signs go up, the over fed herd gathers, the door opens and any reason or common sense those 500 crazed shoppers might have had evaporates and the stampede is on. Emotion rules and someone is going to die over saving a few dollars on a big screen television he or she didn’t need anyway.
Every dream and fantasy this potential gym owner might of had about creating his own business, and has kept him awake at night for the last three years, now has a location, a possible reality and the endless time he has spent thinking about being in his own place is now conceptually only a few months away. Except that this particular space is a bad deal and he should keep looking.
This is when the emotion overtakes the common sense and the deal gets forced. There isn’t really enough parking, but he justifies it by figuring he can park his car in the alley. The signage is poor, but he believes since he is the best trainer in the area people will find him. The potential landlord doesn’t want to throw in any build-out allowance into the space, which squeezes the new owner’s budget, but he just mentally lowers the expected cost of everything and tells the investors it will work. And finally there is no realistic option to renew in this space, but this is also justified as a chance for him to get in and get started and is viewed as something that can be dealt with in the future since the landlord seemed such a nice guy and it should be no problem sometime "out there in three years.”
In this case, telling the potential owner to walk away almost kills him. It is sort of like starting a marathon and you are only a hundred yards from the finish, but someone tells you to turn around and head back the other way or you will die and you aren’t allowed to finish this race you have been training for every day for years.
There isn’t any hard, fast checklist here you can use to see if this applies to you, but there are several questions you can ask yourself if you are currently feeling trapped by a dream:
Sometimes the hardest part of being a consultant is being a dream killer. Sometimes the answer is no, not today, not in this town and not for you…yet. Keep dreaming, but realize that your dream may have to change to become a reality and that chasing an emotional drain might kill you and kill that dream forever.
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