Why Do Gyms Fail?

I talk to a lot of people every week, including myself. In fact, I talk to myself so much that I've decided to wear one of those ridiculous bluetooth earpieces so people think I'm actually on my phone. Yeah, I know what you are thinking… In order to find my equal, I need to talk to myself.

Hossein Can Frequently Be Found Talking On His Bluetooth Headset To HimselfIt was during one of these late night conversations that I had what can only be described as a breakthrough. And it has to do with a conversation I had with a gym owner (or maybe myself) earlier this week: Why do gyms fail?

Failure is the "F" word in business. Rarely is it a precipitous drop. The cataclysmic event. The "I never saw it coming," moment. In fact, if you look at businesses that fail, it's obvious to everyone other than the person running it. It's akin to being the no-name guy who Captain Kirk picks to join him in exploring the new planet. You know he's not coming back.

So, why do gyms fail and why don't they see it coming?

I can tell you why people think they fail. I refer to these as excuses. Here are a few of my favorite ones:

  • A new gym opened across the street.
  • The gym across the street has new equipment.
  • I can't find good people to hire.
  • The $10 gym is taking all of my business.

If this is why you are failing, let me tell you who you can blame: yourself.

  • A new gym opened across the street.
    • Were you under the impression that you would never have competition? We are a free market, you better believe there will always be a new guy.
  • The gym across the street has new equipment.
    • Perhaps you should have considered reinvesting instead of taking a fourth vacation!
  • I can't' find good people to hire.
    • Perhaps you should have been willing to pay for talent instead of taking a fifth vacation!
  • The $10 gym is taking all my business.
    • Then you need to think about how to position and package your gym better.

I'm not trying to bring out Angry Hossein this week. But you need to be aware that failure is really just an easy way of saying death by a thousand paper cuts. It's all the little things that eventually bring you to your knees. It's those things you never saw coming or never took the time to look at and examine.

I want to make a call back to something I've written about previously. In business, if you follow the personal axiom, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," you will fail. In business, the more accurate axiom is, "If it ain't broke, and you don't fix it, you will be broke." It's called innovation and lots of companies have ultimately failed because they didn't innovate.

Look at AOL or Microsoft for example. They got big and fat and happy. And lazy. So along came Amazon, Apple and Google. As soon as you stop innovating, you are opening the door to your competition.

Let me give you the sports analogy: I am a huge hockey fan. Specifically, I am a huge Washington Capitals fan. And guess what? Every year they make the playoffs. And every year they lose earlier in the playoffs than they should have with all the talent they have. And every year after they have been booted out of the playoffs, they interview the stars who talk about the refs, and the injuries, and the bad bounces. They never stop and say, "It's me. I need to take personal responsibility. I need to think about what I can control and what I can do better so that I can succeed."

And all those excuses I mentioned earlier, it's the same thing. Am I being un-naturally harsh? Perhaps. But deep down, in that pit in your stomach, you know I'm mostly right!

So what's the lesson here?

  • Don't get lazy
  • Stay hungry
  • Always look at how you can do better
  • Just because it ain't broke, doesn't mean you can ignore it!

Control what you can control and you will succeed. As for me, I just need to control this voice in my head which is telling me to stop writing now.

Hossein Noshirvani is the executive vice president of Motionsoft Inc. Learn more about Motionsoft's club management solutions at motionsoft.net.

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