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Born to Fail
Originally Posted 08/26/10

Some owners just never had a chance. They opened and were preordained to fail. No clues, no hope, no chance to ever make it. They were the wrong people trying to open a business they didnít understand and would never grasp and end up burning through a lot of other peopleís money before closing their doors.

Years ago I used to be kind and patient with this group, but I realized that I wasnít helping them by encouraging them to get into the business. Most of these folks had too much to lose, and too little chance to win, and I should have done then what I do now, which is try and warn them away from this business.

Donít open, get a job, you have no chance at all. It is okay to say this when it is the truth.
The fitness business, and it is a business, is not a business for the weak or the lazy. The business is tough, demands a lot of hours and it also absolutely insists that you have a very thick skin to fend off the vast stupidity of a small group of members that makes you question why you ever opened a club in the first place.

Here are 10 signs youíre doomed as an owner before you even open:

1. You will fail if you donít know anything about the business yourself, but you have hired a manager to run it and be your partner. This partner, however, failed running her own club but blames unfair competition, or a bank loan that didnít come through or a bad employee that hurt her business. So the first rule is that if you canít run it yourself, donít hire people who failed running their own businesses to take care of yours. This is also true of hiring the professional manager, who has been in the business for 30 years, used to own a club back in the day, and has ran an endless stream of other peopleís businesses. Do not hire this crazy bitch. All she can teach you is how she failed for 30 years. We have one of these in our area and she just keeps showing up again. She pays herself big bonuses, runs the club into the dirt, blames the owner for not trusting her, and then moves on to the next victim. If you canít run your own business, you canít run mine.

2. You want to open a business but you donít really work out. It should be obvious that fat people make lousy gym owners, but it comes up often in the workshops. Whenever I hear, "I just thought it looked like a fun businessĒ or "I am really not into working out but I have this partner who can run itĒ I immediately try and talk the person out of the business. You canít own it and make money doing it if you donít know anything about the product you are selling. There are no skinny chefs that are good; there are no fat trainers and owners with credibility

3. You will fail in this business if all you are seeking is a lifestyle. I just recently talked to someone who wanted to open a club because she and her husband ate healthy and she really liked the "lifestyle.Ē What lifestyle? Eating a dry sandwich at 3:00 in the afternoon because you were eaten alive with member problems when you walked into the door. What lifestyle? Gaining 10 pounds because you canít work out in your own club. Contrary to popular myth, we donít sit around all day working out when we want and being on the floor gently guiding our members. See, we canít do that because we have our heads stuck in a toilet cleaning out four pounds of toilet paper a dumb ass member stuffed down it along with his underwear. And after we fix this, we can do a shift at the counter because it is sunny outside and my new counterperson is "doesnít feel good,Ē which is covered well by her new tan when she does show up for work the next day.

4. You will fail if you are the money guy helping the trainer kid. Yes, trainer kids need help and money. But have you as the money guy ever asked the kid if he has a business plan. Money guys get sucked in because they think the kid gives a great work out and all he needs is his own place. Owning his own place means to most trainer kids that he now gets to train people in a bigger room. The trainer does not know how to manage staff, market his business nor is he usually willing to give up his clients to grow his business. Very few money guys ever ask the trainer kid for a business plan and how they will make money and the money guy has to do her own research before she should ever give a trainer money. If you donít understand how it works, donít stick your hand in it.

5. You will fail if you have never read a marketing book. How are you going to get new members into this club? The right answer would be to develop a comprehensive marketing plan based upon testimonials or some other tool and budgeting for monthly marketing throughout the year. The wrong answer that I hear too often is, "Well, my club is going to be so different in the market that I wonít have to market. We are going to have great service and I am going to pick out the perfect line of equipment. And our classes will be so much better than everyone elseís because I am taking two of their best instructors.Ē How will anyone know you are the best if no one ever sets foot in your business to try it out? Build it and they will come is not a business plan; itís a script for an old Costner baseball movie. Donít know marketing and donít read about it? Stay on the porch little dog or the big dogs will eat your butt.

6. You will fail if you canít sell. If you canít sell someone a membership, or donít want to learn, stay out of the business. Ninety-five percent of what we do everyday in this business is sell someone something. If you canít sell, you canít produce revenue and if you canít produce revenue why did you open a business? Most importantly, even if you think you are dependent on managers, you have to learn to sell yourself in your own business. You cannot be held hostage by the one lame salesperson you have who produces 12 memberships per month.

7. You will fail if you like to be home with the kids at 6:00 p.m. Welcome to the fitness business. You now have the right to work about 70-80 hours per week for the first two years you are open, and that includes evenings Monday-Thursday, most of Friday and you will be in your club on Saturday mornings for the first year just to keep control. Not willing to work evenings or over 40 hours a week? Get a job with the city and lean on a shovel for 40 per week because you will never make it in the fitness business.

8. You will fail if you arenít willing to work out with one of your own trainers. You have to be a workout person. You have to workout every week. You have to workout with your own trainers on a regular basis so you can understand how good, or bad, they are and what they do to your members. You also have to take group classes several times a month so you can see how bad that part of your business is too. You also have to take supplements if you sell them, drink your own smoothies and be a part of all the other stuff you sell because if you donít do it, you donít believe in it and you canít sell it if you donít understand it.

9. You will fail if you donít have a partnership agreement in place before you open that clearly states who will do what in this business. Two trainers opening a club isnít bad. Two trainers opening a club and both thinking they are going to be the head guy is bad. Two trainers opening a club and both taking their own training money instead of running it through the business is really bad because it isnít a business they own, it is a large room where they hangout and train and donít trust each other. You will disagree at some point. You will get tired of each other and want to buy each other out of the deal. Someone will get divorced, die or go crazy over a stripper named Vanessa Starlips. You need a strong partnership agreement in place before the first dollar is ever thrown on the table.

10. You will fail if you try and open a business without a dollar of your own money in it. You have nothing to lose so you will never do the work when it comes to the long weeks and tough service. If you have nothing to lose you will walk away when it gets tough. This is why I always tell the money person, or banker, to turn down the project unless the new owner can put something on the line that scares him or her to lose. Borrow the last $50k from your parents, who only have $100k in their life, and you will be there at midnight with your head in that toilet. Without the blood money, youíll be out with Starlips.

On the other hand, you might make it if youÖ.

ē Learn to drink heavily and say, "What the f@#$#! I can fix that.Ē
ē Divorced your last spouse to marry a fitness geek (ran away with a trainer or aerobics queen).
ē Own more kettle bells than shoes.
ē Can sell a money guy into giving you a lot of money. You can at least sell, which gives you an edge.
ē Drink too much Red Bull already and are up a 100 hours week just because youíre crazy.
ē You like to train people and were smart enough to marry a businessperson to back you up.
ē Think cleaning toilets is kind of fun and better than your last job.
ē People shouting in your face, "This place sucks and youíre a crappy ownerĒ doesnít really bother you much.

And the big reason you might make itÖyou realize that you can change the world if you take care of your members first and the journey in this wild business is always worth the reward of doing it right.

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