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Much of What we Accept is Worthless
Originally Posted: 7/20/09

Much of what we accept as business experience in this industry is worthless.

Many owners pride themselves on longevity in this business, and if you have survived over eight years doing this for a living, I congratulate you on a rare feat of magic in an otherwise unforgiving business. But often, this shield of experience is what keeps you from performing at a higher level in your business.

Experience is usually equated with survival. I learn to cut corners, manage expenses, do a little marketing and survive a few attempts at my market from other, persistent, but equally business-sense deprived competitors and; therefore, get to stay in business another year. I haven't learned to make money, but I have, through experience, learned to just do what it takes to stay in business longer than the other people who have tried this business in my market.

Although I have said it before, it is worth saying often: a typical owner who has been in business for 20 years usually has one year of real experience and 19 years of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. These owners surface often at conventions standing in the isles but never in a seminar or during phone calls to get them into a workshop. The standard response is always, "Why do I need a workshop? I have 20 years of experience and I don't think there is anything out there worth knowing or anything new someone can teach me.”

This guy is right, there isn't much anyone can teach him. And I am sure his wife would agree as well that he never changes, and all the talented employees that have left this closed minded idiot over the years because their ideas were never heard also would probably add an amen brother too. Locked, rigid minds isolate you from almost everyone who want to help you mover forward in your life and your business.
You can also see that change eludes this owner by just looking at his business. Nothing has changed in years including the colors. The equipment is dated and hasn't been moved in the club since Carter was president, the walls are white with the traditional stripe around the top, and group rooms are clusters and piles of never used crap in the corners and the club has a total feeling of stepping back into the 1990s.

This is also the first person to complain about how unfair it is that a nonprofit is coming to his town or that a low priced competitor is hurting his business. This owner deserves to get his ass kicked because he has failed to keep his business viable in the marketplace. Why? Because this is the way he made money 15 years ago and he isn't going to change because he doesn't know any other way to function.

Experience as we define it in the industry is what actually insures that you will perform at a lower level in your club. Experience should not be defined by longevity but by adaptability. Personal growth, change in your business and adaptation to trends and member desires are all more important than still trying to force ideas that are 15 or more years out of date.

Change happens, with or without you and failing to adapt and keep moving forward becomes your limiter, not just in your business but in your life too.

We recently interviewed a guy in his late 50s for a phone job. The NFBA is a tough business in that it requires a certain skill and persistence to penetrate the screens most owners have set in their businesses. Our goal is to talk to someone who can make a decision about attending a workshop and it is difficult getting an owner to take a few minutes to sit and chat about something she may never of heard about previously.

The person we interviewed stated quickly that he had experience on the phone but he wasn't really good with a computer. Much of what the NFBA does is based upon a database, emails, finding websites, Facebook and every other electronic way imaginable to get information to people who we hope come to see us. This guy had failed to change, failed to keep up with the real world, or in other words, he failed to adapt to the way the world is now, preferring to remain stuck somewhere in his past experience. He had work experience; it just wasn't enough without the other skills.

Way too many owners in this industry are like the guy we interviewed. Their skill development simply stopped at some point in history and they have failed to adapt, grow and change to the way things are now in the market.

For example, drop closing worked many years ago. Drop closing, for you precious few not attuned to this part of our industry history, means that you show the potential member a price during his first visit and then you knock-off a $100 if he goes today. "Normally our money due today for joining is $150, but if you're willing to get started today, and I know you're serious or you wouldn't have stopped by, I will knock off $100 and you can get started for just $50, but you have to get going today because this won't be here tomorrow.”

This is insulting. The potential member isn't as dumb as you hope. This person has so much more sales exposure than the kids we pitched with this nonsense 20 years ago. All this, and yet we can't get owners to stop drop closing in their business because that's how they made all their big sales 15 years ago working at a nasty chain club.

The most successful owners in today's market are the ones constantly willing to move their business ahead. To quote Alwyn Cosgrove channeling Bruce Lee, only keep what works and discard the rest.
Business changes. Life changes, and what made you successful even a few years ago will not keep you successful in this business. We are in a lot of ways like modern medicine. Research brings forth a new concept that save lives almost daily. We are in that same fast forward mode in this industry. Change is happening but most owners hide behind the "I have experience and know how this business works” mode rather than admitting that what they do doesn't always work anymore and that they haven't had a new idea since they were 19 and discovered pot in college, and the ideas they generated then after four bongs and two dozen chocolate chip cookies are maybe not the ones that were so good anyway.

What I am reading: Dan John's book, Never Let Go, for a second go around. I read it on the plane for the first time a few weeks ago and picked it up again when I got home and found myself reading the entire thing again. This of course, led me to Dave Draper's book, Brother Iron, Sister Steel, which is a great read about the start of the modern era in fitness. Both books lend strong but different perspectives to what we do in today's clubs and are worth the read. Experience is also the gathering of different ideas and these books are a must read if you own any type of fitness business.
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