Of the 58 million people who access over 30,000 health clubs in the US, you would think one half of them would be females (considering there are 101 males to 100 females living in the world today). Unfortunately, significantly less women make up a typical fitness facility membership. It’s not because women don’t need or want physical activity and exercise … it’s primarily due to the fact that the majority of fitness clubs and gyms cater their environment and services to a male crowd.
Gary Findley, former President and COO of Curves International, understands the business of women’s fitness better than most as he was an integral part of a fitness revolution in the late 1990’s. With over 25 years of experience helping new and experienced entrepreneurs in the fitness industry he played a key role in establishing over 9500 fitness locations worldwide (primarily in women’s fitness).
TodaysFitnessTrainer.com got a chance to speak with Gary and learn more about his experience in building the women’s fitness market, his thoughts and insights regarding how it has evolved over the past twenty years, and what he’s doing now to bring it into the 21st century!
1. Why did you get involved in the fitness business?
GF: I started working at a men’s only fitness center when I was 19 years old. I eventually bought the gym and over the next 20 years owned and operated gyms for men only, women only and coed. I realized very early that this was a great industry that was always evolving.
2. Curves for Women is known as the fastest growing fitness brand in the world. What sparked the creation of the Curves brand?
GF: Gary and Diane Heavin had become close friends of mine over the years through the health club industry. In the early 90’s they saw a huge under-served market in women-only fitness and opened the first Curves in 1995. They also realized that the need was even greater in small towns and among women who were not engaged in any form of exercise. When Gary decided to franchise Curves for Women, I was working for a franchise company and he asked me to come aboard to help him with the franchise model. Pulling from both my fitness and franchising experience, I put together a team and model that expanded to over 8,000 locations during my time as President.
3. What factors in the operation of the business made it so incredibly successful?
GF: From the corporate side, the team was the key. We all had different areas of expertise and backgrounds that complemented each other. I had an incredible staff and one of the best sales teams in the industry. The main thing to the franchisees was the low investment and profitable business mode. And of course Gary and Diane Heavin were visionaries and designed a business that was at the right place at the right time.
4. What are the three most important steps a fitness business must take to be successful?
GF: In order for any fitness business to be successful, owners and leadership need to:
- Be adaptable and willing to change their ideas to match the needs of the customer.
- Cultivate a business model that is diverse (yet avoid trying to be everything to everybody).
- Listen to their customers.
5. What are the most important mistakes to avoid to ensure the business grows and succeeds?
GF: There are three mistakes many companies make that stifles their growth and hinders success:
- Not adapting to the changing industry
- Not keeping the club clean and updated
- Not getting outside the store and marketing.
6. Do you feel the “need” for a fitness and exercise solution is more or less prominent today than what you experienced in the 1990s?
GF: The need is greater today than ever before. We are the fattest generation in the history of mankind. We consume more food and have more opportunities to live a sedentary lifestyle. The irony is that we also have a greater awareness of the dangers of living like this. Consequently there is real hunger in the marketplace for sustainable solutions.
7. Looking back at what you learned from the Curves brand, what would you do to improve it for today’s consumer?
GF: The problems are the same today as they were when we started Curves 20 years ago but there are more “solutions” being thrown at the public today than there were then. Unfortunately some of these solutions are valid and some are completely bogus. I think the key is designing a workable model based upon what the consumers are really saying instead of what you think a fitness club should be. Many brands today simply add more gimmicks and build bigger buildings instead of focusing on member retention through great service.
8. It was recently announced that you are bringing a new ladies-only fitness franchise to the U.S. called EnVie Fitness. Why would you want to get back into the fitness franchise business?
GF: The simple answer is that the need for an effective sustainable model is greater than ever before. Although the industry is constantly evolving, too often many of these new ideas are simply fads which soon fade away. When I started in 1981, we had the men’s only clubs which are nonexistent today. From there I saw coed, aerobics, step aerobics, the slide, Billy Banks Tae Bo, the mega clubs, the 24 hour models, the low price competitor, Zumba, spinning, and the list goes on and on.
9. Because the market is constantly evolving and changing, how will EnVie Fitness survive and become a brand that outlasts its competitors?
GF: We will continue to meet the needs of the women of today and the future. Our studios can be agile and we have one of the best teams in the industry today.
10. How does EnVie Fitness plan to grow and expand to meet it’s goals and expectations for the future?
GF: By getting the word out that we are filling a void in the women’s fitness market today. No one is providing a women-only environment with strength training, cardio, group training, and personal training all in one studio without all the other frills ladies never use. We will adapt to the needs of our market but we will not move from our core value of member retention through measurable results and superior customer service.
11. What are words of wisdom you would like to share with fitness entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals in business?
GF: I still get calls monthly from Entrepreneurs with ideas to franchise their business. In my 25 years in the franchise industry, building franchises to over 8000 locations and launching startups, there a couple of things I have learned:
- Not every good idea makes a good franchise
- Not every franchise is a good idea.
- You need to have a proven model before you launch your franchise.
For more information on the business of women’s fitness (including statistics and insight into the past, present, and future), click here. If you would like to inquire about franchise opportunities with EnVie Fitness, click here.