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You Can't Fix Stuipd
Originally Posted 11/23/09

Darwin had it right: people who evolve progress and those who don't die.

It is no different in the fitness industry. Those who are evolving make money and those who don't fade away. This is true for not only the club side but for the vendor side as well. Many companies out there are hurt now, and most blame the economy, but if you look at their product lines and sale forces, you understand that saying, "You just can't fix stupid.”

Here is my list of what's stupid in the business today. These are just opinions based upon what I see in the industry but if I can figure this out so can the consumer. It's also the list of things that probably won't change because those doing these things don't understand that these are the things that are killing their businesses. Oh well, stupid is as stupid does, to quote the great philosopher Forrest Gump:

• How many times does the market have to demonstrate to Nautilus that their products are not salable except to trainers who grew up in the 70's and still believe one set to failure is the hottest trend in training?

• Bally Total Fitness seems to build a culture of failure into its business model. High-pressure sales, little help for the new member, price-driven marketing and dated clubs full of dated equipment make up their plan. Life Time Fitness strives for a culture of success. One company goes bankrupt several times and the other has become the big chain role model. Are they even in the same industry?

• Is there anyone on the planet who doesn't realize that giving a member a 12-piece circuit workout written on a big card and kept in a box on the side of the floor is just bad business? The circuit doesn't work. The equipment doesn't provide service. The member fails and goes home feeling like the club let him down.

• When will we realize that bigger is not always better (easy now)? It is virtually impossible to provide service in a huge box, even if you have the right intent. As clubs embrace more functional equipment, while cardio remains strong, the clubs themselves will become smaller because we just need less space. Who is going first?

• When will we realize that it is hard to run a financially successful fitness facility if you're fat? If you want to make money, you have to embrace business management, weight management and training. You can't just decide to be a businessperson and ignore the foundation of our business. If you don't workout, go sell cars and get out of the industry because you are a bad role model.

• I respect IHRSA but when are they going to understand that if they don't return to their foundational truth--that their sole purpose is to be a trade association dedicated to making every club financially successful--they will never penetrate the industry in this country much beyond 10 points are so?

• One of the single biggest mistakes owners make year-after-year is that they will not learn how to hire and train people. If you hire stupid, you get stupid, and if you are leaking members away each month then why would you not start with the simplest thing to fix, which is customer service?

• White is not a color. Color through paint is a cheap way to change the energy in your business. Call someone like Rudy Fabiano and invest in getting good colors in your club. It's cheaper than you think and you need it

• Who will be the last gym owner in the industry that still believes knocking off a fake $100 if you join today works in today's market? If the client does believe it, he is too young and dumb to be a member

• Yes, there is something to that whole karma thing. Owners who continually screw their members and vendors end up losing everything at some point and this makes the universe very happy, and puts a smile on the rest of us too.

• All the innovation in training is coming from the training clubs and the functional gurus, such as Durkin, Boyle and Cook. The training clubs are the cavemen with very sharp spears and the old box clubs are the mammoths with nothing but a cliff behind them and no place to run.

• Good business is good business and the basics are the same for any fitness business no matter how big or small. Create a concept, market it to the public, convert the leads into sales, service the members you do get, train your staff daily and work on retaining the ones you did get. It is that easy and the only difference between a big club and a small one is how the rules are applied.

• Nonprofits have to stop thinking that they are so radically different. The fitness member who stopped at your club, but signed up at the nonprofit down the street, is the same person with the same service needs and the same issues. These nonprofits are just as likely to make the same mistakes as the for-profit guy but they always claim the higher ground that they are morally superior because they aren't in it for the money. You still have to change lives and get results and the old technology and philosophy that the nonprofits taut can't be overcome by thinking you are working from a higher plane of existence because the mainstream club is trying to make a living doing what he loves. Working for a profit might actually make you more efficient and you might get better results, but not always.

• Trainers that still put clients on split workouts with Monday as chest and triceps day need to go home now. Your day is over and the adults need the floor

• You have to stop letting your staff dress like a bunch of homeless people. People don't trust you with their money when you are wearing a tee shirt and baggy jeans. Get a life and get some uniforms.

• Why are some of the national equipment guys, such as Star Trac, so progressive and build for the future and others still are selling equipment that was out of style in the 90's?

• Why do the writers in Men's Health know more about fitness than the average owner who has a fitness center?

• Young is cheap but it isn't usually smart. That goes for dating and hiring staff.

• Here is yet another point on the medical community. Someone asked me how to build rapport with doctors in order to get referrals. How many doctors actually work out? Why would they refer something they don't do? If you want to penetrate that market, give a bunch of doctors a free year, hook them up with a trainer and change their lives. It is easy to get referrals from someone who just lost 10 pounds.

• Call your mama and ask her if you were dumb as a child. If she says yes, you might be overachieving, which makes you even better than you thought

• Why do owners have group programs and then never do the classes? These owners have no idea how badly they might be represented by a whole bunch of people who hold you hostage by doing something you won't take the time to understand or control

• Why is it that every successful owner I talk to can show me a written business plan as to how he will make money and every one that isn't making money can't show me any type of plan except for a bull…. plan they had their accountant do for the first business loan?

• How much time did you spend last month looking for good staff? If it is under an hour or two, you probably own what you deserve.

• If your staff is always showing up late because they were out late and partying big then fire them and stop hiring stupid young kids who stay out late partying and think that is an excuse to come in late. Again, you got what you deserved.

• Spending more than you make builds a great, lost decade of your life but it doesn't build a life.

• Why do owners look so surprised when they lose half of everything to a spouse who did nothing more than stay home while you tore it up with one of your employees and then got caught in your own business?

This list could go on forever, because stupid has no limits. Progress is slow but by refusing to be dumb you can accelerate the game. If you are not making the money you expect, always, always return to the fact that what you're doing isn't working and the only way to change the results is to change the action.

We just came out of Atlanta and it might have been the best of the year with over 130 people. Our last gig of the year is in Phoenix and then it is off to 2010. Get your people trained and be ready for a great January-May.

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