Originally Posted 01/21/09
One of the negative parts about being a consultant is that the more experience you get the easier it is to smell death.
I think it might happen when you get to visit maybe 500 clubs or so and realize that there just aren't that many creative ways to build a club, or anything really particularly new or innovating, out there in the fitness world. Every once in awhile I get shocked and see something fresh and effective, but mostly it's the same things done over and over again. Fields of equipment, cardio too close together, locker rooms that are never quite finished and colors picked out by blind, old Republicans (conservative to the extreme with white, beige or the occasional ugly yellow, red or cheap plastic blue).
At some point, however, you stop seeing the physical plants for what they are and you start looking for the signs that the business is making money. It gets so weird that you eventually get to the point where you can actually tell how much the club is generating and how many members it has. Businesses that are successful have a definite look that is easy to see when you get used to what you're looking for in the club.
The painful thing is that you can't hide failure. Failure stinks and all the paint and equipment in the world won't cover the smell of a business that is failing and an owner that is scared and who has given up. It's a lot like really obese people or heavy smokers who won't change; they are already dead but they just won't lie down. They quit trying and become passive passengers in life, unable to enjoy the finer moments of a long walk, ski vacation, sex or anything else that might interfere with a destructive lifestyle.
Can you come back from the dead? It's possible, but it takes some type of life altering circumstance to force change. In fact, if you notice, few people make any major change in their life unless they are forced to by circumstances outside of their control. The drunk quits when he ends up wrecked at the bottom. The overweight person only loses weight when his wife leaves him for someone who is willing to walk on the beach instead of sitting in front of the idiot screen. And the failed businessperson will only learn business skills after he has lost one business already and is now finally open to the thought that he doesn't know everything.
Here are a few signs I've seen in the last year in clients who are near the end of their careers, whether they want to be or not. If you see yourself in here, remember that self-awareness is the first step toward changing a behavior that is killing you or your business:
You don't market: You have every excuse, from too expensive to it doesn't work in my market, but there is nothing more important than chasing new leads. If you're not marketing every week, every year, and if marketing is not your full-time job, you are failing and don't even know it. Marketing is not a person or a department; it is your purpose in life if you own a small business. Any business, anywhere, can do some type of marketing each week no matter how broke you are. Stop whining and do some door hangers if nothing else.
Your lack of success is some else's fault: The economy, your competition, the new guy your wife is dating or any other excuse is just that, an excuse to fail. It's your life and it's your fault if it turns out like poodle crap.
You go home at 5:00: This one is a major indicator of a club on the way down. If you own one club, you have to be there working where people can see you, such as selling memberships or working with your counter staff, when the majority of the members are in the club. Tony DeLeede, perhaps one of the most talented club owners in modern club history, would often just drop into a club and teach a class that night to get a feel of what was going on, and he had 25 clubs at the time. The 5:00 owners are the ones who believe that being busy means something. It does. It means you're busy. But it does not mean you're effective. Busy is busy but it isn't always effective. Is what you're doing now, at this moment, making money for your business. If not, don't do it. Only do the things that make your business grow.
You're training clients: Training clients is the least effective thing you can do in your business, even if you own a personal training business. Sell memberships, speak to business groups, teach a group exercise class once a week or so (touch bigger numbers) or hand out flyers. All of these money-producing things are more important in your business, and more effective at generating money, then training a member one-on-one. No, you can't keep that favorite member you love to train three mornings a week because then you want to go home early because you feel you've been there all day.
You own a club, or a small chain, and you haven't sold a membership yourself in months: You have to sell memberships to stay in touch with your potential clients. The look on their face when you show them around, the questions they raise about your business offerings or the concerns they express about your competition are things you need to hear personally to keep in the game. Name anything you do, or think you do; that is more important than generating new income for your business? And you can't teach it if you don't know how to do it.
You don't know your numbers: How many tours last month? What is the closing percentage for your team and for each individual salesperson? How many check-ins do you average on a Monday? It's the 15th of the month, how much do you need to average per day for the rest of the month to be profitable for that month? If you don't know your numbers, you are not involved in your business and you will die a painful and ugly business death.
You micro-manage: You don't train people well, and don't have systems in place, both of which take work, so you just hang around the club irritating the staff and getting in the way. Micromanaging is often a sign that you are a situational manager, meaning nothing is written down and you just make stuff up as you go along driving your good staff away and making the dummies who stay worthless. Involved owners build systems and teach from those systems. They have procedure manuals, training courses, customer service and sales training and everything else a small business needs to be healthy. If you don't have systems, you are simply making up nonsense as you go along.
Chose life. Learn new ideas. Challenge yourself. Come to a seminar if for no other reason to have some yell at you and get you moving. Change is painful but life on the other side is worth it.
What I am reading this week: I just bought, "People Are Idiots And I Can Prove It", by Larry Winget. I buy all his stuff and laugh my way through it. Give your staff his book, "It's Called Work For A Reason to get them thinking about how they work and why (hint: we carry and sell this one).
Final thought of the day: It doesn't matter whose side you are on. President Obama is the elected choice and we need this guy to get it done. Do something this week to make a difference. Buy a car, buy cheap stock, or get a house at half off. We're coming back but do something to help besides whining because your guy didn't win.