WHY THE COMMERCIAL GYM MODEL IS SO F@CKED UP - PART 1.
There is something inherently wrong with the fitness industry as it stands.
You’ve seen it. You can’t quite put your finger on it… but it is there.
In fact, everyone knows it.
Your doctor knows it: “Craig, I would advise against going to that place to rehab your shoulder.”
Your barber knows it. “Man, my cousin Jimmy went there. He signed up for a year in advance and lost all his money after they had an ownership change three weeks later.”
Your guidance counsellor certainly knew it: “You sure that’s what you want to do with your straight A average?”
If you ever tried to open a gym, your banker, insurer, or payment processor all knew it: “Sorry, you are going to need a whole lot more collateral and downpayment than that.”
Shit, your grandmother even knows it: “Those people? I don’t think you should be hanging around with those people.”
It’s a lot of things to a lot of people and mostly not good things.
From 18 years of being in the fitness industry after coming from a decade in the mechanical engineering industry, I can tell you one massive fundamental difference between the two:
Long-term thinking (We need this building to last 200 years) vs short term thinking (let’s pack a “class” full of untrained clients, doing high-intensity, high-risk movements and have them be “coached” by untrained kids (or Tv’s in some cases) with a 2-day “coaching” course.
3-year design process vs 4-minute abs
4-year degrees and 4-year practicum’s vs a mishmash of weekend technical “certifications.”
Get rich quick or start lying vs swearing a professional oath of conduct
The fitness industry is made up of a lot of sub-sectors; for today’s scope, let’s focus primarily on the commercial gym business:
WHY IS IT SO FUCKED UP?
The traditional ‘gym’ model is based on three things:
Low barrier to entry for clients - cheap and fast (straight into class/membership)
Low barrier to entry for coaches - minimal training
Low $/coach hour
All of these are designed for franchisees, licensees, and mass marketing companies to scale quickly. The business model for these companies is to SELL MORE FRANCHISES, LICENSES, AFFILIATIONS AND MARKETING CONTRACTS TO NEW GYM OWNERS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
Their gyms are set up for short-term success to ensure the gym is profitable in the short term so that they can sell more franchises, licenses and marketing contracts… F A S T.
The business model they follow directly conflicts with the long-term success (i.e. sustainability) of the gyms they are setting up in business.
There is little attention paid to long-term client retention or developing professional coaches.
THE BOTTOM LINE: They’re not built from the ground up to create long-term client, coach or business success. Instead, they’re investor-driven models that take a top-down approach.
This is unsustainable in the long term.
Let’s imagine this:
Imagine a franchisee, licensee, or mass marketing company implementing an actual client consult, 3-day evaluation and 15 personal training sessions before that client could get into a group class?
Imagine the boardroom conversation with a franchise seller?
Well, we can. It happened to us. After we proposed this client development process. What we immediately got back was…
“WHAT? That would take months, maybe even years of coach training.”
“Who is going to do that? That would slow down franchise sales by years.”
“We need to get out of this entirely by year five, seven at the latest.”
“Imagine the infrastructure costs?”
“NO WAY WE CAN DO THAT!!!”
If the client development process is complex, it slows everything down. (And god forbid, actually teach people how to thrive independently)
It is very simple:
The franchise’s primary concern is not what happens to the clients, the coaches and the gym owner after the contract is signed.
The pursuit of long-term excellence in a gym is not their concern.
It is simply not how they make their money.
The business model for these companies is to SELL MORE FRANCHISES, LICENSES, AFFILIATIONS AND MARKETING CONTRACTS TO NEW GYM OWNERS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
It begs the question: If the long-term success of the client, the coach and the owner is not the primary pursuit, then is it inherently unethical?
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