Big Box Gyms Still Work

I read it all the time and I’m sure you do as well, big box gyms are a thing of the past. Do you think this is true? Not based on what I see.  Let me explain why.

Yes, when you read the survey’s and talk to owners, you hear tales of struggle, but when you dig deeper, you see something completely different.  The survey and the story of a struggle are, many times, just the end result of many things that have been missed.

We work with many big box gyms that flourish and the opportunity is available for any club owner to get the results they are seeking if they will integrate the following;

  1. Overcome the issue of obscurity. This is the biggest problem faced by gyms, no one knows you’re out there and those that do aren’t thinking about you. Too many gym owners significantly underestimate what it will take to gain attention.  It requires a massive, determined effort and not just doing a few things to accomplish this.
  2. Get a club app and actually use it. You are literally in the palm of the hand of your club members and prospects.  No club should be without one.
  3. Become a digital media company.  I don’t see many really taking advantage of this incredible opportunity. Blogs, Video, podcast, email, social media and salesperson resource center.  This is significantly underutilized or even truly understood.
  4. Turning cost centers into profit centers. The days are long past whereby the monthly dues can underwrite every area of your club.  Your front desk, nursery and group x must product (at minimum) enough to cover their cost.  In the end, this means training and development of staff.
  5. Sales Process.  These are the proven steps of the sales process.  Every guest, no matter what  the circumstances, must receive a membership presentation.
  6. Sales fundamentals.  The two biggest areas of improvement are being agreeable  with the customer and asking for the sale.
  7. Learn how to follow up on existing leads.  So much time and effort is placed on getting the phone to ring and people to call and then the ball is dropped in follow up.  Salespeople need training on how to properly do this.
  8. Keeping the club as new and as trendy today as it was the day it opened.  Much like the restaurant and nightclub business, your gym must stay on top of the recent trends in order to stay relative in the marketplace.
  9. Install a strategy to grow and develop member loyalty.  This is the foundation of your member retention success and it can’t be simply “we provide good service, it must be quantifiable.
  10. Actually define a unique selling position.  Most gyms we go into cannot answer this question.  Quite simply; what makes you different, why should I join your gym?  And you can’t say because you’re friendly, have great service and have the best equipment – everyone says that.

Now, go make your big box gym a success!

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at:


Would you like to double your health club membership sales?

This is a story about three very different types of clubs.  All in three different parts of the county, but they have a few things in common. They were all struggling in membership sales production as a result of a poor sales process and poor sales fundamentals.

In 30 days each club had doubled their membership sales production plus they doubled their contact value (by selling a 24 month agreement instead of a 12 month agreement.)  Of course, this kind of success sets the stages for others successes to come.

Here’s how they did it.


  1.  They gained immediate control over the non member traffic coming into their club and now required each guest to register in.
  2. Each guest is now completing a Needs Analysis to help determine goals and what they want to accomplish.
  3. The membership rep is now giving a tour based on the Super Objective (emotional reason the guest wants to accomplish their goals).
  4. The membership rep is now sitting down with each guest and giving a membership price presentation based on benefits with a strong reason to buy today (that is not price related).


  1. All sales staff is learning how to be agreeable.  For example, if the guest says “that’s a lot of money or that’s a long commitment,” the sales rep now says, “yes, I agree, that is a lot of money, a lot of our members say that, but you should see the smile on their face when they lose that 20 pounds and have that waist line down.”  This works much better than simply defending your position.
  2. The sales staff is now selling desired outcomes (Super Objective) instead of giving a tour the only points out the features and equipment in the club.
  3. With decent boldness, the sales staff is now asking for the sale.  They have learned that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

There is still more work to be done, but each club is well on their way to success.

Now, go double your sales! 

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at:



How to Spot a Potential Star Health Club Salesperson

After having interviewed thousands of potential salespeople over the years on behalf of client clubs…and after having hired and helped to supervise many of them…and after having trained them and worked beside them, I have found there are certain qualities that every star health club salesperson possesses.

One of the secrets is…don’t be tricked by what they know relative to fitness or the health club industry, and don’t be blinded by how they look. Instead, concentrate on who they are.  Here you go:

1.  Will they do the right thing when no one is watching?  Do they have integrity?

Members and guests appreciate and want to deal with honest people.  Fast talkers will come and go. Hard closers will get some sales, but will create some ill will… experts in fitness will help us understand, but the thing that draws us to do business with a person, more than anything else, is that person’s integrity. We know that we will be dealt with fairly and honestly.

2.  Do they have a high energy level?  Are they a self starter? What kind of work ethic do they have?

Whether we like it or not, it is still true, to a large degree, sales, in the health club business, is a numbers game. Every health club sales person must talk to a certain number of people in order to sell one.

So, the element of volume is very important to a successful health club sales person. Given two salespeople of equal skills, experience, intelligence, product knowledge, etc., the one who works the hardest will be more successful.

There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes, the difference between one sales person being successful and another being unsuccessful comes down to quantity of sales efforts.

3.  Are they coachable? Do they have the ability to learn?

I’m not talking about the kind of knowledge that you get in school. For the successful health club salesperson, the ability to learn means the ability to evaluate a situation, and then to modify or make adjustments in the way they do things as a result.  Can they think quickly on their feet?

In today’s health club environment, there are a number of areas in which a good salesperson must continually be inquiring, learning, and changing their behavior.

The first of these…are their personal sales skills. Health Club sales is an area of endeavor where a person is never as good as they could be. There is always some skill that can be learned or improved upon. The successful health club salesperson never considers themselves to have arrived, but is constantly looking for ways to refine and improve their sales skills. It’s a continuous learning process.

The health club salesperson must learn how to change their behavior to meet the needs, drives, and personalities of the club guests and members. The successful health club salesperson is a chameleon. They change their behavior and, to some extent, their personality, to meet the ways in which different guests and members need for them to behave.

4. Do they have the ability to build positive relationships? Do they have a winning attitude?

The successful health club salesperson is the individual who can quickly build trusting relationships with all sorts of people in the community and inside the club. That requires empathy, the ability to listen, perceptiveness, and the ability to mold themselves into the kind of person the prospect and club member needs.

Those are relationship-building skills. And the most successful health club salespeople are relationship builders.

5.  Do they have a self-image of success?  Do they see themselves capturing every sale?

People tend to live up to their image of themselves. We all understand that.

Every one of us can think of people in our own lives who have lots of ability and potential, but who never live up to that potential because of their poor self-image.

Somewhere, they developed a poor self-image, and began to think of themselves as incompetent, unable, or unworthy.

6.  Do they really want to be in sales?  What is their personal motivation?

The best health club salespeople all have within them a drive to excel, to be the best.  They have a desire to persuade others.  They have a desire… to get you to see their way of thinking.

It’s that internal motivation that drives all the other qualities of the superstar salesperson. And that drive to succeed is far more powerful than any of the other qualities. Given a strong internal motivation, sooner or later the health club salesperson that is driven to success will succeed. It’s only a matter of time.

Now, add that internal drive, with an ability to learn, an image of success and achievement, a high energy level, personal integrity, and add the ability to create strong business relationships, and you have the ingredients of a superstar health club salesperson.

And should you find a salesperson like this, get ready, because they will make your health club the most interesting it has been in a long time…and, oh by the way, profitable.

Now, go find that health club superstar.

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at:


10 Reasons Your Gym Business Has Become Stagnate

We work at both ends of the fitness industry – with those gym owners who are just starting out and want to shorten the learning curve and those who have been in business are in need of a turnaround (and everything in between).There are many reasons why some gyms grow and others become stagnate. Of course, there are factors like market size, competition and consumer demand. But there are also other factors that have to do with operations, leadership, accountability and systems.

Based on what we’re seeing across the country, here are some thoughts on why gym owners and their business become stagnate.

1. Success apathy. Just because you have had success in the past, it doesn’t guarantee success in the future. Simple complacency…we take our eye off the ball. . An independent gym is usually a reflection of the club owner’s needs, desires and personality.

2. The right staff. You cannot build a successful gym without the right people in place. This requires both the proper hiring and training process and the willingness to make the changes that become necessary as the business grows. This is easier said than done for many gym owners. It takes dedication to the process.

3. The lack of standards, systems and controls.  It’s not enough to have high standards in your gym without implementing the control systems that assure those standards are met. Without the controls, you will have good intentions accompanied by bad results.

4. The member attitude. Not the member’s’ attitude but the gym’s attitude toward its members. There is nothing more destructive than gym staff who dismiss difficult members as “nutty” and conclude that there is no way to make them happy. The problem is that most nutty members have not so nutty friends, and word of mouth travels fast these days.

5. Technology. New technologies can do many great things but can also be overwhelming and time consuming for gym owners. Acquiring the financial, technical and staff resources necessary to solve a technology problem can be very difficult for a small gym, but there’s not much choice; the marketplace does not stand still.

6. Marketing. This includes everything from branding to advertising to market analysis. How your gym executes may be the major driver of its success, but how your gym is perceived is also crucial. The other reality is that small gyms can have a difficult time finding resources to help them with this critical part of their business. That means that the success or failure of a small gym’s marketing frequently comes down to the abilities of the club owner. Few people are good at everything.

7. Stale fitness services. Whether you are talking about fitness products or members, the market is always changing, and your products and services have to change with it. If you are fortunate, the changes are slow and subtle; sometimes, they are dramatic.

8. Lack of investment. Whether it is for more new gym equipment and accessories, new technology, a bigger facility, or more employees – growing gyms require more cash than non-growing gyms. Getting this cash may require borrowing money, finding more investors or using up whatever cash is on hand. It’s ongoing. Some gym owners tire of the demands and decide to slow down the investments — and that slows down growth of the gym.

9. Stubbornness. It is stubbornness that helped the gym owner get the club off the ground, get through the learning curve, survive the recession and cope with every problem along the way. At some point, though, focused adherence to what you know can limit a gym’s ability to adapt to change and get to that next level. Policies and strategies that might have worked when you had 10 employees can hold you back when you have 30 — a common example is when you start to hire higher-priced managers who have different expectations than a $10-an-hour employee.

10. Leadership. This includes vision, courage, fortitude, attitude and gym culture — all of which should create an inspired staff. And of course there’s the often-used word that is many times called the secret to it all, passion. Here is the real secret: passion is critical, but it can’t make up for deficiencies in the other categories. I have seen many owners struggle in the gym business that had plenty of passion. It will not be enough.

Jim Thomas | Fitness Management & Consulting | 800-929-2898

Jim Thomas, Health Club Turnaround Expert, Addresses Most Common Causes of Gym Failures


In the ultra-competitive world of health and fitness, where less than 50% of new gyms and fitness centers are expected to survive beyond the first 5 years in business, Jim Thomas has many answers to questions most gym owners don’t even know to ask.

Jim Thomas is the well-known founder and president of Fitness Management USA, Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. The tagline for his company is an apt one. “When the going gets tough, the smart get help.”

The health and fitness industry, like so many others, is one in which many businesses are spawned through passion. For example, a personal trainer loves what he or she does so decides to open a gym hoping that the old axiom, “Do what you love and the money will follow” will hold true. Unfortunately, it rarely does.

“Other than being under-capitalized, the biggest reason we see for health club failure is lack of business know-how and lack of proper implementation of sales and marketing strategies,” points out Thomas. “Another common misconception that many new gym owners have is that the gym will sell itself.”

It is rare to find someone that is both passionate about providing health and fitness services and adept at marketing and sales. The result is often that one side of the business falters and may drag the entire operation down with it.

In these cases, Thomas suggests, “If you are not an expert in gym sales and marketing find someone that is. Embrace sales and marketing. Get some training. In an effort to provide good service, you can’t give up key steps of the membership sales process.”

After 25 years of owning and operating gyms as well as speaking and consulting extensively on the subject, Thomas has seen pretty much all the industry can throw at gym owners. When asked what precautions or research new gym owners could undertake to improve their odds of success, Thomas responded, “For people entering this business, be fully aware the biggest mistake is a failure to grasp and implement proper sales and marketing programs.” He also added, ”Keep fixed overhead low. Newcomers need to shorten the learning curve and not learn based on trial and error – it’s just too costly.”

It seems that gym owners – like many entrepreneurs – may be overly optimistic for their own good at times. When asked what the greatest challenge he faces in helping aspiring or struggling gym owners, Thomas was very up-front, “Club owners often wait too long to engage professional help. Instead, thinking the problem will miraculously be fixed without help.”

The lesson to be learned here? Running a health and fitness facility is a high-overhead and sometimes complicated business requiring a diverse skill-set. To ensure the greatest likelihood of success, anyone thinking about entering into this industry should either have the proper skill-set or be willing to work with someone that does.

To learn more about Jim Thomas and Fitness Management U.S.A Inc. please visit: or call 1-800-929-2898.

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