Monday, September 12, 2011

The Business of the Gym Business...Gym Jones is Interestingly Different

Yesterday’s NY Times had several interesting articles and retrospectives. On the business front, I particularly enjoyed the piece on the Gym Jones, a unique fitness gym that has nothing that most of the modern gyms have…but is doing very well. The article addressed so many of the topics that we like to talk about in the business school including opportunity recognition, customer retention, growth, customer service and all from the perspective of the fitness industry.

A willingness to take on famous clients has actually been problematic for Gym Jones. The studio cash is nice, and the “300” notoriety was rewarding; a version of a 300-rep workout designed for the cast as a graduation test has gone viral and was even plugged by Men’s Health. But the Twights prefer privacy. They aren’t angling for their own line of protein powders or a reality show, and accept only 30 to 40 clients at a time. If you are hearing about them through their work with stars, a tiny part of the gym, your chances of getting in are pretty much zero.

The Twights generally require an interview or a referral from a current Gym Jones client, the completion of a written application that’s more of a fitness SAT than anything and, if you pass that step, a workout with Mr. MacDonald,
a world champion mixed-martial-arts fighter. “If I’m surrounded by substandard people, I’m not going to work that hard myself,” Mr. MacDonald said. Again, it’s right there on that full-of-itself Web site: “We choose clients. Clients don’t choose us.”

Gym Jones has another reason to guard its privacy: its military customers like it that way. Although the Twights refuse to talk much about this side of their business, which occurs inside the gym and in the nearby mountains, it appears to be considerable and to involve people who are supposed to be invisible. Six of Mr. Twight’s former students, for instance, were among the 30 Americans — most of them Navy Seals, including members of the team that killed Osama bin Laden — who died in Afghanistan in August when their helicopter was shot down.

Theater is a big part of Gym Jones, which the Twights founded in 2003 in a garage with no air-conditioning and no heat. (The couple moved to Utah from Colorado in 2001 to operate a climbing-equipment company and later started Gym Jones as a side project. Eventually, the Twights decided to go full time with Gym Jones.)

Everything about the gym’s current configuration screams hard core, from the Web site (“Don’t complain if the work is too hard, or if you pass out, drop a barbell on your head, a kettle bell on your toes”) to cold décor: cinderblock walls, black rubber floor mats, fluorescent lights, no mirrors or windows. Outside magazine described the gym as “part martial-arts dojo, part smash lab, part medieval dungeon.”

Gym Jones calls clients “disciples” and prominently displays a quote from “Fight Club,” the 1999 film starring Brad Pitt. It reads in part: “Quit your job. Start a fight. Prove you’re alive.”
But once you’re past all that, the mood at the gym is surprisingly warm. Mr. MacDonald, 33, has a daunting physical presence (at 6-foot-3, he can dead-lift 550 pounds) and blunt speaking style, but he also once taught kindergarten. The pixie-ish Ms. Twight, a 50-year-old jujitsu practitioner, has a quick, infectious laugh. A celebrated mountain climber, Mr. Twight, 50, is direct and aggressive but also quite polite and generous with his time

As an educator and a parent who used to struggle with the kids and homework, I also liked the article The Trouble With Homework.

From the article:

The quantity of students' homework is a lot less important than its quality. And evidence suggests that as of now, homework is not making the grade. Although surveys show that the amount of time our children spend on homework has risen over the last three decades, American students are mired in the middle of international academic rankings: 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math, according to results from the Program for International Student Assessment released last December. A new study, coming in the Economics of Education Review, reports that homework in science, English and history has "little to no impact" on student test scores. (The authors did note a positive effect for math homework.)


  1. This is more what i want. I have seen all the pilates machines and they intimate me I want the core workout benefits that i can do at home with a dvd or video or simply at a women gym. I am ready for something pop and fun!

  2. As a gym owner myself, I can see how exclusivity can really key in on member retention! Members want to belong to something special and something in which not every can belong. Look at how Facebook got started - same concept!