When most people hear the name Buffett as it relates to the business world, they think of Warren Buffett. Although this multi-billionaire certainly deserves his due, the five lessons I learned from Buffett came from the other Buffett-Jimmy Buffett. Yes, the flip-flop-wearing, island-loving, laid-back, not a care in the world “Margaritaville” singer. Over the years, I have spent time studying Jimmy Buffett and what makes him tick. I’ve read his books, listened to interviews and even remember a few of his concerts. The truth is, he fascinates me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he makes a lot of sense when it comes to the business side of the fitness industry. Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Create a brand. Buffett has created a brand for himself like no other. Parrotheads love him and want others to love him, too. He has mastered the art of having people buy his products, get their friends to buy his products and then have their children buy his products. Imagine if every person who walked into your fitness center brought in a friend to join the next day. Then, five years later when their kids were old enough, they signed up them, too. Your empire would just keep growing. It becomes contagious. Lesson No. 1: Make your brand something others want to share.
2. Be memorable. If you’ve been to a Buffett show, you won’t forget it. Each is unique, fun and results in great stories to share. My favorite memory involved a pirate with a real wooden leg. If you can create memorable experiences for your members, they will tell their friends. Why not hold an appreciation party for your members? Have you ever walked up to a member and shown them some new exercises without trying to sell them something? Do you give away free birthday smoothies? Lesson No. 2: Create memorable experiences for your members, and they will tell their friends.
3. Be multi-dimensional. Concerts, compact discs, T-shirts, tequila, restaurants, beer, books-Buffett makes money from all angles. He has branded himself so well that I even stopped drinking Corona and switched to Landshark, brewed by Buffett’s Margaritaville Brewing Co. If you run your fitness center purely from fitness memberships, you are guaranteed to fail. You cannot be one-dimensional in this industry. Raise your profit margin through memberships, personal training, group fitness classes, smoothies, clothing, etc. Get creative. We all have walls inside our gym. Sell an ad to the local car dealership for $500 per month. In fact, cover your walls with ads and make another $10,000 per month. Lesson No. 3: Create as many sources of revenue at your fitness center as possible by being multi-dimensional.
4. Change lives. Jimmy Buffett has some of the best fans in the world. And they represent a diverse population. You never know if the person next to you is a doctor, lawyer, teacher or school bus driver. Everyone is there for the same reason: to have a great time and forget about their worries for awhile. Buffet changes their lives even if just for a couple of hours. He makes them feel good. We are in the fitness industry to achieve the same goal: change lives. We have the ability to positively affect every member every day if we choose to. If you take the time to listen to your members and help them achieve their goals, not only will you help change their lives, but you also will earn a fan for life. Lesson No. 4: Change a life, and you will have a fan.
5. Create an experience. I remember being in 101-degree weather in Camden, NJ, with 20,000 other people all sweaty and screaming. I could barely see Buffett on the jumbo TV, and I was having the time of my life. Did I mention I paid $85 for the ticket? The ticket price didn’t include parking, gas, tolls and “smoothies.” I would do it all over again. The experience was worth the price tag. Is the experience your members are having at your fitness center worth the price tag? The average person who walks into your center does not think that fitness is fun. Walk around your facility and talk to your members. Ask them how their day is going. Pick a random day and bring in a live DJ to your center. Hold a push-up contest on a Monday night and give the winner a $50 gift card to your pro shop. Create an experience where your members never know what is going to happen, but they know they do not want to miss it. Lesson No. 5: If you create an experience, you can create the price tag.
It is important to look outside the industry when you are looking for inspiration. Next time you are out and you hear the lyrics “looking for my lost shaker of salt,” take a look around and see the smiles on people’s faces. That is the look you want when people think of your fitness center.