Someone asked me at the last workshop why am I still doing this? Why, after all these years, am I still on the road and still teaching almost anywhere I can get a gig?
I got into this business as an accident. During graduate school I sat through a goal setting exercise, listed martial arts as something I wanted to do someday, and on the way home drove past a martial arts school/gym and signed up. One month later I was selling memberships there. This was in the late 70ís and except for a six-month period as a school teacher the fitness industry was all I have ever done.
The initial draw was the teaching and the training. I loved helping people and loved teaching someone something new each day. There was, and still is, satisfaction in thinking that you send people away a little better if they will just spend a some time with you and are willing to listen, learn and try.
It also dawned on me at the time that what I was doing didnít make sense economically. Touching 30 people a week one-on-one or teaching a few classes made a small difference but it didnít feel that it was enough. The seed of something bigger was there was there but I didnít yet understand where by frustration would lead.
Part of growing up and becoming a functioning adult is being able to determine exactly what you want from your work and your life. I wanted to change lives, but training and teaching martial arts was not enough of a platform for me and working in a single unit in Arkansas was not defining what I saw in fitness. We were good at selling memberships but overall we knew nothing about training people and despite whom we were not much more about developing a skilled, athletic martial artist. What we did made money but instinctively I knew the client was not getting what he paid for in that club.
Through the years I have learned to define success much differently than I did as a younger version. In the early days, it was just about the money. Today I realize that money is nothing more than a tool that gives you the freedom to live life on your own terms. Making money is relatively easy and it didnít take long to understand that you can help and influence more people with a million dollars in the bank than you can with a depleted checkbook and living week to week.
Success at this stage is defined as the ability to make someoneís life better. Meet me and I hope to leave you a better person, more successful financially and better prepared to build a business that is profitable, and better prepared to carry on the ultimate mission, which is to change lives in what you do.
Things changed quickly when I realized that I had been chasing the same hidden dream for a number of years. When I could articulate this dream, I was able to build a company and lifestyle that supported what I wanted to do with my life.
The mission is easy to explain now: I exist in business to change lives and to change the fitness industry one club owner at a time until we reach a point where we return to our foundational truth, and that truth is that all fitness should be about helping the client succeed in reaching his goals.
The industry is damaged and we have spent decades doing nothing but selling memberships as our product with little regard to the member and what he needs to be successful. In fact, the member has played a small role in our industry since he is nothing more than a number that can be replaced each month with a newer one that will take his place.
What we do in this industry at the foundational level, no matter who you are or what you own in this business, is based upon a simple agreement between a client seeking change and a fitness professional delivering it. Nothing more, nothing less, just a basic trust between the person paying and the person accepting the money and providing the vehicle and leadership to help the client get what he wants.
If the chain clubs would grasp this point and return to the simple truth that if you help get a client results, he will stay longer and pay longer, you could revolutionize this business, but if continue to frustratingly do nothing but seek new ways to sell an endless stream of memberships to people who will fail in just weeks, we cannot sustain what we do. We lose the business and the members lose faith that we can help them realize change.
Many of the training people get his. The Cosgroveís, before they were famous for being the Cosgroveís, understood this a decade ago. They gave a damn, figured out ways to support the client, and became successful one client at a time.
Todd Durkin might be this decadeís ultimate example of passion in motion. No one who enters Toddís domain leaves an unchanged man. The intensity he brings to each client, and delivered by those who work for him, is the same intensity that he brings to a discussion of kids over a glass of wine. Todd succeeds, and makes money, because the client is more important than anything else in his working life and people will pay for that over time.
Mike Boyle is also this guy, one who puts the clients first but still makes money. Joe Millet and Rick Mayo, two guys you might not have heard of yet in the business, also have built sustainable businesses by focusing on changing lives and treating their clients with respect, support and patience.
The Fitness Together franchise believes this and is progressing toward even bigger ways to change lives, but sadly you canít point to one major chain that makes the member, and getting results for that client, as their major goal. Perhaps the last example of an organization that made a difference one member at a time was Goldís in the late 80ís and early 90ís and then they lost their way and became just another player in the membership hunt.
The mission, my mission, is to get an owner to understand that we are in the business of changing lives and that if you return to this concept you can make money ethically, professionally and without hurting people and this concept is also scalable, meaning it would apply to the biggest chains in the business. Results and caring sell and retention is a far better business plan than competing for a membership base that is no longer in the market.
What does this mean to you? It means you should be chasing lives, not money. Get the client what he needs and the money will come. It also means that you need to rise up as far as you can. For me, it was not about one client, it was not about 30 clients, it wasnít about a small club and it wasnít about a fitness center. The goal, which also should be your goal, is to touch as many people as possible in your life leaving each one better for the encounter.
We change lives; it is what we do. What we do everyday makes a difference. What we do is important. What we all do in fitness will become even more important in the next decade. This mindset doesnít work for everyone, but I hope some of you will go on this mission with me. Make a difference today with everyone you touch.