Archive for October, 2015

Why Gyms Fail part 2 of 2

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

Part 2 of the “Donald Trump” version of why gyms are failing or going out of business

Ok, if you missed part 1 go here to read it now so you know the ground work and where i’m coming from with my gym marketing mindset and what I see when I go into a gym business, and truthfully any business as far as the issues in this article go.

In the first article I covered INNOVATION and the first few main things to do to start your GYM MARKETING off with to be successful in the fitness business. Now, I’m going to cover Gym Cleanliness, hiring and firing gym employees, and tell you a true story about a gym owner who’s headed backwards and out of business because he refuses to listen and will never admit or own up to any issue his gym has.

I’m going to cover all these topics with one TRUE GYM STORY. The famous Psychologist and holocaust survivor Abraham Maslow said “When all you have is a Hammer, everything is a Nail”. Well, all I have is a hammer.

Here’s the story:


I got into a huge argument with this gym owner and the following is the true story about what happened and why he is going out of business but still refuses to listen to his customers or his membership numbers

This guy bought a gym and I wanted to try it out because I love the gym business and I want to see what all other gyms do so I can learn more to share with you in my book and on this website.

It started out pretty good the first few weeks. Then the one employee the owner had started skimping on her duties and the owner didn’t say a word to her for months, until she took full advantage of him needing her so much he felt he couldn’t say anything at that point.

He thought she would come around on her own. The craziest part was he bought this gym and never bothered to learn any part of running it himself. I asked him one day what he’d do if she quit or died? He simply said “I’ll figure it out”. Talk about the Ostrich syndrome

What do you think happened? she quit about 3 months into it because the owner text her about her being late and taking off on short notice. Note, some talks you must have in person, not over text or email, unless the other person is crazy, then a text will do. (Also, she had good reason to quit by that point because the owner was trying to get her into bed). Either way, both were wrong but he’s lucky she didn’t sue him but she said she just wanted to leave and move on with her life, god would get him back for her. BOY IS HE!

The owner defiantly needed to have the talk with her because she was taking advantage of him. If you want to know how to have talks with anyone in your life including spouses, read Dale Carnegie’s book “How to win friends and influence people”. I have very productive talks now because of this book, most of the time!

Anyway, her quitting put him into a tail spin that he’s never recovered from because even though she was showing up late and taking off on short notice for dumb reasons, she actually was cleaning everyday and getting everything done, she just liked to show up in the fourth quarter with 2 seconds left and run it in. But she always scored a touchdown i must admit. I had employees just like her, the only difference is I now know how to have the hard conversations about being lazy, slipping into depression, or other factors that affect performance. we all get lazy and Blue at times and need Red Bull Energy Drink Like Words” to motivate us back to the real world.

Here’s where he messed up. He never hired anyone that would clean after that. He hired 3 people that came and went but he never directed them to clean or was a boss at all. He never gave them a cleaning list or even told them what to do. You have to lead by example, if you make a new hire, give them a list and lay out their responsibilities plainly when you hire them. SHOW THEM HOW TO DO IT AND WHERE EVERYTHING THEY NEED IS LOCATED so they cant have more excuses than a virgin on prom night when its not done.

This  gym is absolutely filthy now. It hasn’t been cleaned in 8 months, NO JOKE AT ALL. He’s lost around 100 members in 12 months, not just because of the cleanliness but that is a major cause.

Here’s the deal, break the cleaning down to one area every day so that everything is cleaned once a week at least. I’ve seen 5 local businesses go under in 3 months in my town, all because they were filthy. Unless you own a dive bar and the patrons are too drunk to tell that the bar looks like an ipad screen used by a DRUNK 4 year old who just ate a honey bun. clean your business or hire a cleaning company or work out a barter with a member to do it for a free membership, which is what I did many times.

Now to the EMPLOYEES part of this article

Hiring employees: throw out the resume when they sit down to interview. ask them questions like the following

BTW, I got this list from a club solutions magazine article. Here’s the link to the article to read for yourself.  If your not a subscriber I suggest you go to and subscribe. also club industry magazine at , subscription is free to most gyms

  • what are you reading right now, books, magazines, or listening to if its an audio book. I learned the most form this answer. Not that being 17 and not reading “think and grow rich” will not make them a great employee, but from my experiences it says a lot. It’s hard to lie with that type question.
  • what are you listening to, music wise. This might not be a big teller but it will give you insight. If its Marilyn Manson you may want to think twice though.
  • what are they most proud of in your life that you’ve accomplished, this is a difficult answer I admit, most young folks haven’t accomplished much but you never know, they may have grown up early and had to be the man of the house or help in a family business which can only help their management type skills for you.
  • what is the toughest time you’ve faced personally and how have you overcame it

When I owned a gym I had every new employee sign a contract stating what they are suppose to DO and NOT do and what they agreed would happen if they didn’t fulfill those duties. Then make them list daily or weekly for them to check off saying its been done or why it isn’t done (like, I couldn’t clean the treadmills because they were being used and i’ll do it tomorrow). If they don’t follow the contract, have a talk with them, even offer a second talk and go over the contract again, but then its time to tell them to load up and ease (in a nice way of course)

Sticket notes are my thing. I have them hanging everywhere in my truck and house and stuck in my billfold to remind me of stuff. All my employees use these daily to tell me what they need me to do. I have pink for “stuff to be done today”, orange for “needs done but not today”,  yellow for “future stuff”. The most important things to do get stuck to the edge of my computer screen (only one note though, but everything is listed on that note so I can have a check list).

Or you could do what I heard the other day which is to get two small boxes to put on your desk and lable one “DO TODAY”, the other “FUTURE”, and don’t leave until the stuff in the “DO TODAY” box is complete, that way you’ll not put too much in that box but make everything in that box count.

“WHEN YOU GO TO WORK, WORK, ACT LIKE IT’S THE DAY BEFORE YOUR GO ON VACATION”, the best advice i’ve gotten from any business book is that quote by Dan Kennedy in NO B.S. Time management for entrepreneurs

Time Vampires- employees will suck the most time with crap that anyone could ever take. Have a system for dealing with stuff your employees could take care of. Do like Conrad Hilton did, give every employee the authority to handle any issue up to a certain point. Conrad Hilton told his employees to do anything to satisfy a customer for up to $400 per customer because he knew the lifetime value of each was around $2000 each.

You’ll have to come up with a system for dealing with all normal issues that can be fixed by the employee if given a little authority and respect, which we all crave.

To learn everything about time vampires and how to kill them read the book by Dan Kennedy about managing and employees. Called No B.S. time management for entrepreneurs , its the best book I’ve ever found on dealing with employees and managing your time.

Talk to your employees. Ask them what they are hearing about your gym. I have found that all the complaints I ever got came through my employees. People will tell them if something is broken, needs cleaned, or they are fixing to quit for a stupid reason you can fix easily. You’d be surprised why people quit, and moving to a new gym is a big deal so something must have happened or be happening that they have probably ask to be helped up several times. If they see equipment not being repaired for months, nothing being cleaned and members getting sick and no one still cleaning. Here’s one thing i did once a week while members were there, we would spray everything with Lysol so people could see us doing it and smell it in the air. That took care of it not being clean in their mind.

How to have a serious talk with an employees-

First of all, just have the talk. You’ll have many sleepless nights trying to decide how and why and putting it off. The owner i’m talking about here waited months to do the deal only to get so mad he sent a mean text and the one person who knew how to run the gym quit, all because he couldn’t bring himself to have a talk with her long before about showing up.

When having a talk, always point out their good features first, then get into the main talk, then end with more good features and hope for their future. Most people take this news good because your not just saying “your fired” or “if you show up late again your fired”. You can say those things but always tell them something good before and after you do.

I’ve hired, fired, and had many talks with many employees in my businesses. This approach has worked beautifully the last few years, most of the time with the employee thanking me for bring the issue to light. Even Donald Trump tells the person what they did right and wrong before saying “your fired”.

Now for the GYM OWNERS section, and the mean part of this article

The owner I’m talking about in this story is probably the worst owner of any gym anywhere. He took a great fitness center from what I can deduce, dropped the prices in half, changed all the technology from state of the art to the cheapest stuff made (why I haven’t figured out yet besides maybe he didn’t want to learn the harder system, but a system that kept up with everything for him once entered), then quit marketing, and never tried to rehire anyone who could actually manage anything.

Ok, Here’s what happened in a short paragraph. He ran off the only employee he had worth having, was told many many times by customers about issues with machines, air conditioner, door access, cleanliness, music on stations that were extremely hard rock and cussing every other word (no joke), 10 of 19 lights in the gym were out and have been for 6 months, billed people in the middle of the month because he forgot on the first of month thereby causing many members to have overdrafts on their accounts which caused him to lose many members, tanning beds stayed caked with dust tanning lotion and haven’t been cleaned in 6 months and at least 5 bulbs are blown in each bed, and finally he quit marketing all together.

I knew he was in denial and a complete business idiot when I heard him telling a 50 year old woman one day that the reason she felt hot in the gym was because she was in menopause (when it was actually 86 degrees in the gym and the ac really was broken), and he wasn’t joking when he said it because he went to telling everyone she was crazy (she’s no longer there by the way). Every time someone complained about anything he would always tell the person it was their fault it was broken or they got billed twice in one month.

In short, he was a complete idiot. By idiot I mean he should never own any business.

I decide to tell him everything one day because I wanted to see his gym succeed. I really tried to tell him in the nicest way that he was losing his business. He didn’t want to admit to anything. He said he has never heard anyone say anything about the issues i brought up, to which I broke every issue down for him and said walk around and put your hands on these issues; the filthiness of the gym, the lights out, tanning bed bulbs out and needing taken apart and cleaned, equipment that has been broke for months, employees that are lazy, and most of all the total lack of marketing.

He couldn’t admit to having faults. (I’ve been guilty of this many times, but finally I did some soul searching and really examined my life just as the ancient philosopher Socrates recommended in his trial that led to his death. It took me sometimes months to see something that was so clear to others. Now when I think i’m in the darkness , I have learned to poke a hole in it and let the light in and choose to look from the outside)

He will end up losing his gym business because of this. Don’t be like this incompetent gym owner, ask your customers to honestly tell you what they think either by suggestion boxes or email, or just saying it. Then sit down and THINK ABOUT THEM, somethings you can’t  do anything about due to finances or space to do it. I had one customer who told me I needed to get him a special treadmill so the handles would be at his short height, but the treadmill cost $6,000 and he was only paying $20 a month and I really didn’t have the space anyway. Some things you just can do.

I grew my gym several times by asking for an honest analysis of my business and myself from friends, family, and customers.

You can either hear about your Gym Businesses short comings on a app like Yelp, websites like Google Reviews, or you can ask before it gets to that point and save your self a lot of grief and worry because those reviews will defiantly hurt your business.

These are simple steps you can take to revamp your gym and even gain members once they see your dedication to running your fitness center.

Learn my complete gym biography by getting the complete how to book about “How to open or convert your gym into a 24 hour Fitness Center and Market you Gym once open”

Questions or comments? email Shannon Cook at

Why Gyms fail and go under part 1 of 2

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Ok, here’s the “Donald Trump” version of why most Gyms fail

When it comes to these reasons why gym businesses are failing, most gym owners are in denial about everything. They get super mad when I tell them whats really going on. I try to be tactful, but not anymore, Marcu Lemonis on CNBC’s “The Profit” sealed the deal for me. I just have to tell the truth and let it sink in to the gym owner for days or even weeks sometimes. I’ve been there several times and almost went under also, so I had these same talks with myself believe me. But I did what it took to succeed by doing what i’m opening up about below.
  • “When your business get you to a place so dark you have to poke a hole in it to see out”, its time to ask for help
  • You’ve got to hunt down the problem like your looking for it in the daylight with a flash light.


  • The problem is most people are like the part of the Conway Twitty song, “He who won’t look is just as blind”. Most gym owners I deal with wont even look to find a problem because they are going to have to have some really difficult conversations with themselves first, then with those around them, and that’s really hard to do.

Here are the “going out of gym business sale” reasons:

  1. No innovation
  2. Getting Out Marketed (which is terrible to start with even with the biggest gyms)
  3. Uncleanliness
  4. Employees are untrained, wrong hires, or unmotivated (which is French for lazy)
  5. Owner is worn out and gives up from not having systems and processes in place.   (I think of these as a guide for my wife to run my business if I died today. She could walk in, open the owners manual or computer videos I made for every aspect of the business and continue on or sell the gym successfully)
Now let me break down every part to prove these are real issues in the fitness industry
  • Innovation: When I went from 120 members down to 50 I knew something was wrong. I had to offer something new and unique. I researched and went to other gyms in my town and out of town.
Then I sat down and ask myself which one I’d do with a very limited budget. By limited I mean $3000
I decide to boot strap a 24 hour gym access system and software because their were none in my town at the time.
I did everything myself except the install which needed an electrician. I ended up spending $3800 all together after I borrowed the $800
That was my one innovation to get started, later on I also automated my tanning beds so they were able to be accessed 24 hours by automation also. BTW, that was 7 years ago and as of yet no other gym in my town has done that with tanning because they cant figure it out for the insurance companies, and there are many 24 hour gyms now. They just don’t try to figure it out.
  • Gym Marketing: I got out marketed by a big gym opening close by. They didn’t even market was the crazy part. I got out marketed by not marketing.
  • I decided right after I Enacted the 24 hour access system and no one showed up to even glance at, that I had to let people know I was alive. Which meant learning how to market my 24 hour fitness center.
  • How? I went on a “how to market a gym” learning spree that has lasted 8 years now. I learned how to build a website, put an email form on the website and write marketing emails that gave great information out first of all then a call to action at the end of every email that got them to come in. Btw, it takes an average of 3 to 6 months after they start receiving the emails before they usually come in or call.
  • Video tour: Then came my video tour I put on YouTube then put on my website. This turned out to be the most valuable sales tool I ever used. It pre sold 95% of my prospects. I pretended the camera was a prospect walking up to the door and took the camera on the same tour the actual person would get. In this way everyone that visited my website got the tour and if we were not the gym they were looking for then we never wasted a second on them. But if they liked what they saw they’d come in, and when we started our sales pitch they’d stop us 95% of the time and say “I know how it works I saw the video, please take my money and sign me up”. Here’s the link to the very normal and cheesy video tour that you won’t believe actually saved my gym from 50 members to over 300 in less than 3 months.
  • Radio ads: then I write radio ads that lead the prospect to my website, sign up for the emails, and come in. Always, always, lead them to your website.
  • Then always lead them to sign up on your email form
  • then always include great email info, funny info, that leads them to your actual front door.
  • Then it’s up to you
“If you want to make people think your rich, wear penny loafers with a dime stuck in them”.
  Yes I love doing stand up comedy too, but its true about perception. Be charismatic, yes you can learn this art. Then listen, listen to what they want and need, then try to fill that need. If they need a program to go by, do as I did and make a program about how exactly to use the equipment in your gym and what pieces to use to work certain body parts, or even a basic diet program will go a long ways. Most importantly, when they say their name, burn it into your brain and repeat it several times to them during the conversation, the sweetest thing a person can hear or see is their own name, which is why we love to go to the mailbox even though we know there are bills in there.
I consider myself somewhat an expert now, but I did everything wrong to start with though. Like mark twain said “He who totes a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way”
I’ve toted many cats by the tail, learning every aspect of how to open a 24 hour fitness center and converting mine into a fully automated gym. Then marketing my gym to three times the members, doubled my fees, and finally selling my gym for over 5 times what it cost to start.

Part 2 of the “Why gyms go out of business” will cover cleanliness, employees, and the owners themselves” and how you can change everything just as I did. Be warned though, this article will be very blunt about laziness, time vipers, thieves, and owners who shouldn’t own a gym and exactly why. It will be the Donald Trump portion

For the complete NO B.S. Guide to opening a 24 hour fitness center from scratch and hear the podcast about the 24 hour system, go to to see his book where you’ll find much, much more detailed info of everything in this article.
Shannon cook is an author of “how to open and market a 24 hour fitness center” and former owner of temple gym in Tuscaloosa Alabama and owner of
Shannon is a consultant to the fitness industry for opening a 24 hour gym and fitness center marketing. Get the book below to learn everything you can about how to open a 24 hour fitness center and market it once open.

Questions or comments? email Shannon Cook at