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Entries in Joe Cirulli (14)


How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan

If they're honest, some health club owners will admit that they began with no greater plan than to combine their occupation and their calling. While that's commendable—you must have passion to succeed in any business—it's not enough. 

What you need to succeed over the long haul is a strategic plan. Here are some tips from industry leaders on how to formulate one.

Figure Out Where You Fit in the Health Club Landscape

The first thing you must do is identify what your club offers that others in your area don't. Is it lower cost? Better member benefits? More workout options?

Whatever sets your club apart, it should be emphasized in your strategic plan. That will help you leverage your competitive advantage. "Once your club is up and running you need to differentiate it, distinguish it, from the competition," wrote Joe Cirulli, president and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness.

Continue reading "How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan."

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6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders

Identifying and nurturing emerging leaders continues to be a challenge in our industry.  

It’s also one ofif not the most importantchallenges we face. In his IHRSA 2016 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team,” Eddie Tock of REX Roundtables said, “research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment.”

So, in looking at the leadership traits of many of our industry’s leaders, I’ve distilled those traits into six common actions leaders use to foster leadership in both their own organizations and throughout the industry.

To develop the next generation of industry leaders, current club leaders...  

#1. Lead by Example 

Most everyone replied that leading by example is by far the most important trait. Basically, the leadership traits you want to see in your club staff are the same ones they want to see in you every single day. Any form of leader should be professional, ethical, communicative, supportive, display a high work ethic, and be willing to share knowledge and experiences.  

Jim Worthington, owner and president of Newtown Athletic Club, who is known for “walking the talk” has said that being a leader in the industry has given him the chance to mentor employees as well as colleagues at other clubs.

#2. Are in Perpetual Learning Mode  

According to Leadership Hospitality, it is important for leaders to ‘be visible about their own need to learn. Great leaders are never more powerful than when they are shown to be in a learning mode.’

Our industry’s leaders are some of the best at sharing the fact that they are information and education-hungry. Allison Flatley, CEO of Corporate Fitness Works, has shared that she loves learning growth strategy from successful entrepreneurs and training techniques from experienced personal trainers. And Janine Williams, vice president of human resources at Leisure Sports, said that the most important leadership trait is “to ensure that you continue to expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge; not only in the health club industry but in business and financial acumen as well.”

#3. Cross-train to Develop Across Skills or Knowledge Gaps  

Our industry already understands the value of cross-training to build endurance, flexibility, and skill. The same applies for leadership learning as candidates that are rotated through various jobs gain first-hand experience and new expertise in many different roles. They also develop a broader vision of your club and exposure to staff dynamics and member concerns.

In his IHRSA 2016 presentation, "Developing NextGen Leaders," Brent Gallagher discusses the practical steps involved in establishing a team of next-generation leaders, including the need to train across areas to create a healthy leadership pipeline.

Continue reading "6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders."

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Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Each Challenge You Face Will Better Prepare You for the Next

The Lessons in Fitness Leadership series highlights IHRSA’s industry leaders and thanks them for their continued commitment to growing, promoting, and protecting the health club industry. By sharing their business expertise, we hope that you will get to know them, what they've learned along the way, and how they view leadership. 

Joe Cirulli
Gainesville Health & Fitness
Gainesville, FL 

What is the most fulfilling part of being a business leader in the fitness industry?

I believe it’s the opportunity to share experiences with other industry leaders as well as newcomers to our industry. 

If you were able to go back in time, what is one piece of leadership advice you would have given your younger-self about working in the fitness industry? 

I believe you may hear this story a lot, but the truth is ignorance is bliss at times. If I knew every challenge I was going to face, it may have changed my moving forward in the way that I had to.

Therefore, meet every challenge you face with the belief that you will not only make it through, but that the lessons you will learn will help you to be smarter—and better prepared—the next time you encounter a new challenge. 

What prompted you to join the Industry Leadership Council (ILC)? 

I was actually the president of the board when it first came into being. I never thought of not being part of the ILC. I’m a firm believer in all of us working together on major initiatives. We’re all impacted by the same set of government rules and we have to speak as one voice. 

In 2001, when Joe was the IHRSA board president, he wrote the following words which still hold as true as they did 15 years ago: 

Protecting the industry is a monumental, ongoing challenge that requires a great deal of time, money, and effort. If we’re going to succeed at it, winning both the daily skirmishes and the never-ending battles, it’s essential that everyone get involved in the campaign—that the great many become one unified force. 

The threats come in numerous forms—e.g., unfair competition from non-profit fitness centers, government legislation that can cripple a business, etc. The industry must bring its expertise and financial resources to bear on the decision-making process whenever its interests are at stake. The association and many individual clubs do an excellent job of “fighting the fights,” but, unfortunately, the vast majority of clubs don’t get involved. They have to; you have to; we have to. 


Gainesville Health & Fitness Helps Special Needs Athletes Get Fit

Zig Ziglar, the American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, once said, “You can have everything in life that you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” 

Gainesville Health & Fitness in northern Florida has applied this belief to their business model since its opening in 1978. Owner Joe Cirulli was the first person to suggest a commitment to servicing community members by offering traditional programs focused on making donations to support local charities. And, since then, the club’s programming has expanded to include a wide array of initiatives that help the residents of Gainesville and the surrounding areas be more active. 

“Our ideas for programming come from simply answering a need,” says Noah Hastay, Gainesville’s operations manager. “With our vision of becoming one of the best companies for the world, we are striving to help those inside and outside of our four walls.” 

IHRSA Institute Inspiration 

The club’s latest venture was realized after attending the Health Promotion & Community Service session at the 2014 IHRSA Institute. The session, co-taught by Amy Bantham of IHRSA and Sandy Franco of Franco’s Athletic Club in Mandeville, LA, explained the fitness industry’s efforts to emphasize the benefits associated with daily physical activity and work to reduce the inactivity crisis. 

During the session, Franco spoke specifically about her club’s involvement in the community and how giving back acts as an opportunity to build brand loyalty. In particular, she spoke to the development of all-inclusive programs tailored to fit individual needs, and she described how Franco’s used this model to help children and adults with disabilities maintain strength and good health despite adversity. 

When Hastay heard about this program, he was inspired and immediately envisioned implementing a similar program in Florida. 

Gainesville’s FIT for ALL Program 

Gainesville officially launched their FIT for ALL program in February 2015, and now, the program has gained traction, offering three program tracks per week which serve more than 50 special needs athletes. 

“We are always looking for ways to disrupt the segment of the market that has been ‘untapped.’ When I started this program for individuals with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities, I quickly saw that it was answering so many needs—such as the needs for inclusion and structured, individualized, training—while keeping the social component, and making exercise fun and rewarding,” says Hastay. 

Continue reading about Gainsville Health & Fitness' special needs programs.

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Gold’s Gym Annual Convention Goes “All In” in Vegas 

IHRSA represented at Gold’s Gym’s annual convention, held at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV, July 11-13. From the first day, when new CEO Brandon Bean proudly championed the Gold’s motto “All in,” to the last, when guest speaker Kris “Tanto” Paranto talked about the importance of leadership and communication in the face of adversity, the conference stressed the importance of collaboration and cooperation between franchisee’s and corporate management.  

Attendees stopped by the IHRSA booth to network with Global Membership Representative Luke Ablondi, who invited visitors to download IHRSA’s Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon following discussions on industry hot topics such as boutique studio competition.  Booth visitors also expressed excitement that the 2017 IHRSA Convention will be back on the West Coast in March. 

Keeping on trend with the hot topic of boutique studio competition, IHRSA member and speaker Sal Pellegrino of Precor facilitated a session called “How to Handle a Low-Cost Competitor (Even When You Are One).”  Sal discussed the massive impact studios have had on the industry, citing successful examples such as fellow IHRSA member Joe Cirulli (Gainesville Health & Fitness) who combats competition by building member relationships with results focused programs. 

Gold’s revealed several new “Gold’s Studio” programs—“Gold’s Fit” and “Gold’s Cycle”—which address and target the growing market of boutique studios, and aim to channel the global presence of Gold’s Gym by creating a strong sense of community for participating members.  The “Gold’s Path” program marks a change in sales and member onboarding philosophy. 

Luke AblondiProspective members choose one of four main “paths” for results, depending on the person’s personal goals. They are set up with a meeting where each new member will receive a custom fitness assessment and ultimately walk away with a 30-day fitness plan, a scheduled follow-up, and a 30-day money back guarantee. 

The conference closed with the awards reception and dinner on Wednesday in the Grand Ballroom of the Mirage Hotel and Casino. Highlights included IHRSA Member Bill Austin being inducted into the Gold’s Gym Hall of Fame. 


Best Practices: Strategic Planning for a Small, Independent Club

The following post was written by Joe Cirulli for our Best Practices series. 

Question: I’m currently developing a small independent club, and need to create and implement a strong strategic plan. Do you have any tips? 

Joe Cirulli: Strategizing, of course, is the first essential step when launching any company. You have to define the concept, choose the most appropriate business model, and decide how your club will differ from, and prevail over, the competition. 

The vision, mission, core value, core purpose, and culture of the organization have to be defined and clearly described. The company has to be structured and staffed to achieve your objectives. Everyone needs to understand and be aligned behind the club’s values and goals. 

One of the benefits of articulating a business’ core values is that it indicates the type of people who should be working for you. Changing a person’s core values is virtually impossible, so your entire hiring process should be designed to find individuals who share your company’s philosophy and principles. 

The right staff, in turn, will create the desired culture. 

Develop your team’s leadership skills, and always be on the lookout for new talent. 

Once your club is up and running, you need to differentiate it, distinguish it, from the competition. And what I’ve discovered is that execution is generally the defining hallmark of exceptional companies. 

Joe Cirulli
President & Owner
Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers
Gainesville, FL


Best Practices: How to Best Market a Club That’s Under New Ownership

The following post was written by Paul Brown and Joe Cirulli for our weekly Best Practices series.

Question: How can we market a club that’s under new ownership to let consumers know we’re making major changes to what had been a mismanaged facility?

Answer: “New owners, new attitude!” When you take over the reins of an existing business, be excited, be bold, and be loud. … But there’s no need to highlight the failings of the previous owners. The public and your clients will see for themselves. My list of must-dos would include:

  • Define your company’s vision, core values, and mission
  • Hold a team meeting to obtain feedback on past performance, expectations, and ideas
  • Hold town-hall-style meetings with past and present members. Avoid judging the past management; simply seek useful feedback
  • Solicit editorial coverage in local and regional newspapers and Websites. Invite interviews and offer to submit prewritten pieces
  • Create a members’ blog and invite clients to share honest feedback on the club’s new direction
  • A new name, slogan, and/or logo might be advisable. New signage, a fresh paint job, and updated lighting can also demonstrate that things are changing at the club without breaking the bank
  • Have a grand club relaunching day. Invite local dignitaries and members of the Chamber of Commerce to participate in a ribbon-cutting and plaque-installation ceremony
  • Attend lots of local events—e.g., fairs, fun runs, and Rotary and Toastmasters meetings—and distribute free passes and your new “core values and mission” statement

Paul Brown
Face2Face Retention Systems
Paradise Point, Queensland


Answer: The strongest and most effective marketing you can do as a health club operator is to create the right environment inside of your center. The first thing that requires is any requisite or appropriate changes to the physical plant—e.g., cleaning every part of the facility, making sure that all of the fitness equipment is in perfect working order, etc. This means that, as far as members are concerned, nothing is ever broken down; if something isn’t functioning, it should be removed from the floor until it’s fixed.

A second major priority is the retraining of the entire staff. In order to achieve this, you have to make sure that your vision, mission, core values, central purpose, and corporate culture are perfectly defined and clearly aligned with those of employees. If your current people aren’t a match, you’ll have to find ones who are.

As you do these things, attending to the facility and staff, you should update your members regularly via e-mail and with signage inside the club. Then, when everything is ready and going at full force, have a large grand reopening party for, among others, your customers, their friends, and members of the Chamber of Commerce. That’s the point at which I’d begin making use of advertising on TV, in the local paper, and via e-mail.

In the final analysis, word of mouth will prove to be your most powerful advertising tool.

Joe Cirulli
Founder & CEO
Gainesville Health & Fitness Center
Gainesville, Florida



Best Practices features answers from experts from both inside and outside the health club industry to thought-provoking questions on a wide range of topics. If you have a question you'd like answered, submit your question today


On the Move: IHRSA 2016

Moore explains, “People around the globe suggested Orlando as a site because of its size, climate, and the fact that, for many attendees, it represented a quicker, easier, and more affordable trip than one to the West Coast.”

Named No. 13 on Forbes’ list of fastest-growing cities for 2015, Orlando and the surrounding metropolitan area have a population of about 2.1 million, and welcome nearly 60 million tourists a year. In March, the city boasts nine hours of sunshine and an average high temperature of 79°–81° F every day.

Molly Kemmer, the chairperson of IHRSA’s board of directors, and the regional director of MediFit Community Services, based in Littleton, Colorado, is enthusiastic about Orlando. “I like to shake things up a bit, and I think this location is going to appeal to many, many people,” she says. “It’s going to keep the convention experience fresh.”

Read on for more information about IHRSA 2016

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Tips To Implement A Strategic Plan To Develop A Small, Independent Club

The following post was written by Jill Stevens Kinney and Joe Cirulli for our weekly Best Practices series.

Question: Can you offer some tips on how to create and implement a strategic plan to develop a small, independent club?

Answer:A good strategic plan begins with a thorough understanding of the marketplace, and leads to realistic expectations about the most critical aspect of your new business—the membership projections.

Start with a model that identifies the number of people (both residents and workforce) located within a 10-minute-drive radius of your club. Take into account only those individuals who meet your age, income, and educational criteria. Multiply this number by 17%–20% (the average percentage of the population that’s likely to join a health club). This will give you a good estimate of the number of people in your community who are reasonable candidates for a club membership.

Now, develop a complete list of all the potential competitors in the marketplace—including fitness facilities that may not exactly resemble your business model—and estimate their membership capacity, not their current membership level. Subtract your competitors’ capacity from the number of potential members you calculated for the market as a whole, and you’ll have a good sense of how many real prospects are available. This number should be two to four times higher than the number of members you’ll need in order to be financially successful.

In the process of developing this market analysis, you’ll gain insight not only into the number of members you’re likely to attract, but also into your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. This will help define the challenges that you may face in launching your new club. Good luck!

Jill Stevens Kinney
Clubsource Development Partners, LLC
San Rafel, California


 Answer: Start by asking yourself, “Why would someone be willing to spend their money on the services my club provides versus those of a competitor?” Then, make certain that everyone in your organization understands the edge that your club possesses, and is aligned behind it. That means your vision, mission, core values, core purpose, and the culture of your organization have to be clearly defined and well understood.

Next, design a company that’s easy for your customers to do business with. Execution is what usually separates exceptional companies from mediocre ones.

The best mechanism for ensuring flawless execution that I’ve discovered is a regular, two-hour meeting every Monday morning for all of the members of the management team. During that meeting, we evaluate how we’re doing in a number of areas. Everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and everyone knows they’ll be held accountable for them. And, once a month, we evaluate our progress at these meetings.

Then, once a year, we develop our strategic plan and budget.

Remember that your staff creates your culture. The benefit of embracing the core values of your organization is that it helps identify and clarify the type of people you should hire. Your entire hiring process should be designed to find individuals who have the same values as your company. Trying to change a person’s core values is virtually impossible.

Finally, develop your team’s leadership skills, and always be on the lookout for fresh new talent.

Joe Cirulli
President, Owner & CEO
Gainesville Health & Fitness Center
Gainesville, Florida


Best Practices features answers from experts from both inside and outside the health club industry to thought-provoking questions on a wide range of topics. If you have a question you'd like answered, submit your question today



Joe Cirulli is determined to cultivate a sense of “home” at his three fitness facilities in Gainesville, Florida.

Reflecting on why that might be, he recalls how, when he was 21 and planning a facility of his own, he decided that he wanted it to emulate the atmosphere of an upscale, but affordable, country club –warm, inviting, a place where staff and members entered into enjoyable, rewarding relationships.

Today, his vision has become reality in the form of the Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers (GHFC), which, founded in 1978, now consists of three high-end, and multipurpose properties, totaling 120,000 square feet: the main 90,000-square-foot club, a satellite location, and a women-only facility.

Many club operators understand the importance of making prospects and members feel welcome and comfortable, and make every effort to do so. Their instincts and initiatives are supported by IHRSA research: according to The IHRSA Trend Report, two of the primary reasons that people join and make use of clubs are for “the social aspects” and because “my family and friends work out” at one.

“Joe has always said that he wants his club to have the relaxed. Front-porch feel of a home in the 1950s and ‘60s,” says Debbie Lee, the company’s marketing director. “It’s his vision of what he wants the business to be; it’s woven into our beginnings, our culture.”

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