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It Really Is About The Frog and The Boiling Water...

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Thomas PlummerThomas Plummer

It really is about the frog and the boiling water. You know the story; the one where the frog happily swims in the science lab pot as the water gets turned up hotter and hotter, not aware that doom is just a few more degrees away.

In the fitness industry, we are the frog sitting in the pan of ever hotter water slowly starting to bubble. Yet, we still sit and stare over the edge of the pot wondering why it's getting a little warm in here and denying that change is happening no matter how we work to ignore it.

Denying change is a way of life in the fitness industry, especially in the chain driven mainstream markets. We fire a CEO or President, clean out middle management, hire another fugitive from the mainstream fitness world who wrongly believes that all of fitness is just another commodity-driven business, or sell the whole thing to guys who ran the same model 20 years ago, and then we repeat as needed.

We still manage to send out great financial reports that get a little shaky down deep, spin the stories in the trade magazines that every chain is successful and that this new guy, this time, and not like the last time, will change the world. Then, it falters, and we start over. In the mainstream world, no one is ever taken down, just rebuilding as Bally's did for a few generations, as it went from the world's best to zero units opened. Nothing lasts forever in this industry, and there is no promise that today's best will not be tomorrow's failure.

Of course, you have to take the ever positive with a strong dose of reality, because as we learn from television, you lie to protect your personal image, your stock or the next merger. In reality, if you opened 350 businesses based upon the same concept, and they all made a 30% profit, how hard would you have to work to sell that idea/franchise? So, what is the probable reality that every national group is wildly successful? If every unit in that system were all making the money they claim they are making, there would be a hundred added yearly. And, every major chain would be the next Starbucks, and every independent with 20 gyms would be selling for giant multiples.

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