Why Do Gyms Succeed?

We recently published a blog titled "Why Do Gyms Fail?" You've helped make it one of the most-viewed blogs here at iClubs. As a follow up, Hossein authored the following piece:

There are success stories all around us. In fact, find a person in any field, at any point in history, log onto Amazon, and by gosh someone, somewhere has written a book about them. History is littered with these books of extraordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things and the writers who have brought them to our attention. And I have read a lot of these books, and in this blog I want to highlight what I have learned and how they might be helpful in running a successful facility.

Success BabySo, I have convinced you to read this far... and I know what you are waiting for. The plot twist. Where is Hossein going with this? Well I'm not going to disappoint...

The fact is, you can learn just as much, if not more, by looking at failure. In fact, I think the idea of standing on the shoulders of giants is totally wrong. For those not familiar with that saying it comes from the Latin phrase, Nanos gigantum humeris insidentes. (Mrs. O'Drudy my 7th grade Latin teacher would be so proud right now!)

It's a metaphor with a contemporary interpretation meaning: "One who develops future intellectual pursuits by understanding and building on the research and works created by notable thinkers of the past." (Yes, I stole that from Wikipedia.)

But guess what? More people fail than succeed. I think the saying should be, "Standing on the bodies of losers gives you a much higher perch." (If someone knows the Latin for that, post it in the comments and then maybe find a new hobby.)

I know what you're asking yourself. Hossein, give us an example of something you can learn from failure? I give you World War II, planes and a little known mathematician named Abraham Wald (stay with me here, it's a long story but it has a happy ending.) Early in the war, if you were a bomber pilot you had about a 50% chance of making it back from a mission. And you were expected to do this over and over again. The chance of survival, in the long run, were slim to none. So the military decided they needed to reinforce planes with armor. So as planes came back from a mission, they would examine where they had been shot and reinforce those areas.

The results were surprising to the entire military brass. It made no difference. The success of the planes returning stayed exactly the same.

That is until Abraham Wald was asked by the war department to help. And like any good mathematician, he looked at the world differently. And his solution was actually quite simple. (If you have figured out the answer just skip to the end.) By reinforcing in areas that were shot on the planes that returned, they were just reinforcing the strongest areas of the plane. If you wanted to have more planes come back, reinforce the other areas. All those planes never came back because that's where they had been shot. Turns out, the areas they didn't reinforce were weaker. And that's why those planes didn't come back.

Long story endless. Wald looked at failure and came up with a solution. By a man who was trained to spot human error. He was one of the very first people in the new field we now call operational research.

So let's bring this back down to you, me, your facility and what it all means.

If you are opening a new gym or wellness center, or looking to grow your existing facility, find people who have failed and find out what they did wrong. Take copious notes and at the beginning of each sentence write, "Another thing I NEED to avoid!"

One number to consider: Roughly 2/3 of all businesses fail within the first three years. So finding people who failed shouldn't be so hard. Let me also mention when you approach these people you need to be sensitive. I mean you are about to ask them to recount to you one of their more painful life experiences. So have some chocolates with you. Maybe a nice bouquet of sunflowers.

Don't get me wrong. You need to look and learn from successful enterprises. Imitation is a smart business model too. But don't overlook the failures. And lest you forget, you can probably learn a lot from your own failures.

And now for a bit of irony. Wald, who helped so many pilots over the course of his lifetime, died in a plane crash. As for me, I am looking for a biographer to write my life story too. I've got plenty to say about lots of things... and I can even be wrong sometimes.

Hossein Noshirvani

About the Author:

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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