Good to Great by Choice by Jim Collins

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Congratulations to our newest Level 1 Coach, Tim Thackery! Below is just one piece of Tim’s case study that is required in order to complete Level 1.

Good to Great by Choice by Jim Collins

The current fitness landscape has been described as the ‘Wild West’ recently, and on many fronts I agree with this analogy. We are currently in an era where there are huge amounts of great discoveries being researched and developed, while at the same time, this increases the market space for at best misunderstandings to be sold, and at worst, straight up charlatans. Based on the Jim Collin’s research, there are five large areas that stand out to me that current fitness business owners will encounter as they set out to build their business to last. They find themselves in an area where consumers do not necessarily understand the knowledge gaps between coaches, the effects of competition on their products, the changing landscape that is currently taking place, realigning to focus on the things that a company does the best in the world, and building a team to carry this out.

The lack of knowledge or standards has shown itself to be a major hurdle for new and facility owners. There is a perception that people must rush to become a business versus developing a product that is in line with your core values, and you know exactly how it works. The rush to open doors trumps creating a product that has longevity and value to your clients. Clients are then sold on these methods having value to others., and these popular methods of training CAN be effective when in the right hands. It’s not so much that it’s not powerful. It’s more that some methods maybe the more powerful than a 15 year old with a permit knows how to use, meanwhile they’ve just been handed the keys to the parents sports car.

I feel that it is because these tools are so powerful, specifically the flood of mixed modal training facilities that are popping up faster than we know could ever meet a quality standard, allows people who don’t know what they’re doing with it to feel like they’re actually helping. In the short term, yes, there may be growth, and the appearance of progress, but in the long run it may not actually solve the problem they were set out or hired to solve.

This failure of knowledge, found in a low knowledge or certification barrier to entry becomes manifested in increased competition. Facility owners must understand that everyone wants to spin off of what you do, because hey, how hard could this be! Run around the parking lot and let’s call it a day, shall we? Their methods then do not focus on having a facility of increased knowledge, but differentiate themselves from competitors by being louder than their previous space, showcasing how they are different from you to gain a market advantage.

Because gyms lack systems of progression on the athletic development side, they end up resting on the dose response that newbies love, people fascinate about, and outsiders decry. Clients aren’t educated on the effects of this, and when programming changes, they have too much leverage over an uneducated facility owner who cannot explain long term training processes to them, so tacitly threaten to leave to other facilities. Gym owners only answer is to double down on this dose response, which over time leads to the viscous cycle of burnout, turnover, focusing on getting them instead of keeping them. When you have to focus more on getting people vs keeping them, that means you are generally unable to monetize your core product to the extent you need to…leading to undercutting prices, devaluing your product, and general bad business practices.

For some facility owners, myself included, this cycle cannot be maintained. Even though this is popular now, facility owners need to be able to look further down the road and see the changing landscape. This has caused me to see the group fitness model being similar to ‘selling the mills.’ Yes, it’s popular now, and yes, this makes money – now. But at what point does it make sense to sell the mills & go against the tides initially to do what is now glaring me right in the face?

For facility owners who aren’t afraid of the knowledge gap and understand the effects of a race to the bottom in local competition between other gyms, this can be found in individual programming. At first this is not as easy because you don’t have a sign up that says ‘CrossFit’, but what you do have is your own product, longevity, and something that is yours and you really believe in.

This also means you have to look out in front and see this is a generally unsustainable model, and ask yourself what is next? Is it group classes with 2 rooms, yoga in room A and Bootcamp in room B? Yes this approach can work too, but with it comes the need for larger scale investors, and again having the potential away from your own control of the company or vision. Your gym is now again focused on turnover, with spreadsheets trying to answer ‘exactly can I get people into a yoga class or a Sunday evening class?’ Where is the lifestyle piece for ANYONE – coaches, clients, or owners? By trying to make the ‘mills’ work, we can become the jack of some trades, and master of none.

This thought leads me back to focusing on the thing you do that is world class, the one thing that you uniquely do best in the world. In this area, I believe a gym owner can start to find a solution, and find meaning as well. A gym with yoga, bootcamp, xyz classes, may have people coming in. But this approach is not designed for longevity & meaning, or finding what you do better than anyone else, and love doing.

Because people come into fast without proper knowledge, think it’s easy, and don’t have a roadmap to success, they focus on what is next. Facility owners can start out running a gym because they want to use this as a holistic method of health for their community; they’re quickly finding themselves running a boot camp or a mommy-at-home training system. Now there’s nothing wrong with either of those in any way, the problem for a facility owner is that I’d question if that’s what sparked the passion in their stomach to leave their job as an accountant and go full time on the fitness bug that bit them.

The final piece that should be addressed for facility owners, once the other areas have been addressed, is building a Team, and being a Level 5 leader. Again, lots of people want to come up and act like they are the man. They have the car that’s wrapped in their gym logo and a pretty sweet Affliction shirt with skulls and awesome gold-foil lettering.

Truly being a level 5 Leader is probably the final hurdle that gym owners will run up against. The other factors already explained, especially the knowledge barrier to entry getting lower & lower, make it more enticing for others to think they are qualified enough to start their own business because they did a weekend seminar. A level 5 leader will continue to help those that work & train with them to grow, creating long term loyalty to their business & program. They will strive to deliver on the results their clients came to them in the first place for. When they don’t, they won’t blame it on the client, they’ll continue to look outward for new ways to help the people they’ve been entrusted in, and do it in a way that creates meaning in their work for a long, sustainable time.


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