The Zappos of the Fitness Industry

March 31, 2015


By: Melissa Knowels

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, “Oh, they’re like the Zappos of gyms.” “They’ve got a real Zappos approach to collections/customer service/memberships/personal training.”

Everyone wants to be the next Zappos of their industry, but I’m not sure many people really know what that exactly means. You may want to be Zappos, but you can’t. And here’s why.

Every company has its own culture. Culture can’t be forced. It has to grow organically and it has to be led from the top. So while the idea of letting your staff dress up like pirates, create their own job titles, and strum their guitar to the lady on the other end of a customer service call (I actually witnessed this on my tour of their HQ back in 2012), may in your mind be the perfect shortcut to a stellar reputation and P&L, it’s not that easy. There are no shortcuts.

You have to start with an idea of what you want you business culture to be. And since this direction comes from the top, this is your vision. Ask yourself a few questions:

What do you want to be known for?

What are the “ten commandments” of your company?

What are you known for right now?

What do your clients think about you?

What do your employees think?

Those last two may be a bit tricky. Look at your web reputation, take a survey, look at your turnover, and you should start getting a picture of your starting point. Does your customer service team provide you with a “defect” report? That’s a great place to start.

With an idea of what you want to be known for (your vision) and where you currently are (your reality), you can now start focusing on what needs to change.

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What are your expectations?

How has your company historically responded to problems?

What needs to change to make this response better/on target?

Next, ID your allies in your cultural overhaul.

Who are you change leaders or cultural fireballs?

How do you empower them to empower others?

Just like you can’t force fun, you can’t force a change. You have to guide it, nurture it, and get it to spread throughout your organization. You have to live it everyday. So grab your notebook of ideas, put on your pajama pants, and head into the office. With luck and a personality transplant, your gym will be Zapposeque in no time. Or, and this is just a wild idea, you can be yourself and be honest about your company. What are you cut out for as a leader? What are you not? Take some lessons from Zappos to create your own culture and your own brand identity instead of xeroxing theirs. If you take their slogan and put you’re focus there, you’re off to a great start.

There are a lot of great companies out there who aren’t Zappos and have their own formulas for success. What matters is that you constantly work on improving; you have your finger on the pulse of your business so that you know when something needs to be fixed; and that you respect your team and your members/clients. Do this daily and you have the only truly scalable model for success.