Chantal: Jim, welcome, and thank you so much for joining us on the show.
Jim: Oh thank you, looking forward to talking.
Chantal: First and foremost, I have to say an absolutely huge congratulations to you on your selection as chairman of IHRSA. What do you see on the agenda for IHRSA in the next 12 months?
Jim: Well, my agenda is going to be one of not creating a brand new agenda. What I mean by that is, every year a new IHRSA chair comes in with their list of things that they want to do. What I did is, prior to being a chairman, I went to the IHRSA staff up in Boston, visited them, and tried to get a sense for how much was on their plate, and how they felt about any new initiatives.
I also talked to all the board members to get a feel for if there is anything on their list that they felt that we needed to do. The reality was, and I was glad because it came out really the way I wanted it to come it, is that everybody agreed that we had already had enough on our plate. Most of the staff, and the IHRSA board, and we felt like we needed a year to just advance those initiatives further.
So, we’re not introducing anything new, but what we’re going to do is try to push forward the things that we’ve all started over the last couple of years. For instance, domestically the FIT bill, that’s something I’m very passionate about, which expands health saving accounts FSA’s, to where they’re able to be used for healthy lifestyle activities. So in other words, you’d be able to use these accounts to pay for kids sports leagues, exercise equipment, health club memberships.
I’d been working very closely down in DC, along with IHRSA and Helen Durkin, and Meredith Poppler, Jeffrey Perkins, to try to get this passed down the last six months, down in DC. That’s one of the initiatives that we’re really concentrating on.
Another initiative that we’re really concentrating on is the IHRSA board and staff, this sounds very simplistic, but really I think is probably the most important thing that we’re doing globally, is to get the board, and the staff, more involved in the trenches of being more ambassadors for the industry. About less than a year ago, I noticed when I was on the board, we had the industry leadership council; the ILC, which was really a domestic IHRSA agenda trying to get more people involved and how federal and state legislation, I suggested that we should have something similar for international. So, they formed that committee.
So, with that being said, now that we have international board members, of course, every year, now we’re charging our board members to go out and get more people involved in IHRSA, get people more involved in, domestically, the ILC. Get more international board members involved with recruiting people and singing the praises of IHRSA.
And I think if we as a board, get out and basically, sing the praises of IHRSA, make sure people understand it, get people more involved, I think that we will do a better job. And honestly, the staff does 99% of the work. So, when you speak to the staff, and you say, “What would you need from us as board members?” They’re thrilled that we’re becoming the mouth piece for the great things that they do. Led by Joe Moore, and Anita, and the people that run it.
So, they were thrilled with the fact that my agenda is more of us being supporters of what they do, and spread the word of what they do. And to give you an example, my term starts July 1. And I wanna make sure it’s understood, at my personal expense, not on IHRSA’s dime, I have told Joe Moore that I would like to go out each month to a different location, whether it be domestically or internationally, to meet with IHRSA members in a city.
Let’s say I go to Chicago, I set this up in advance, I invite the Chicago IHRSA clubs to come, and also non IHRSA member clubs. So we can get together, and I can tell them about the value of IHRSA. And also hear what the current members would like IHRSA to do.
In fact, back about a month ago, I went down to Florida to meet with- which was like a hall of fame line up of guys.
Jim: Rick Caro, Joe Cirulli, Geoffrey Dyer, Dale Landers, Roger Ralph, Art Curtis. I met with them because they were former chairs, just to get their input on what they would do as a chair, what would they suggest for me as a chair, the do’s and don’ts. Also, to get their input on things that they would like to see IHRSA do differently going forward.
So, I mean, the more we can do to be the mouthpiece, but also to listen to our constituents, is I think will make our organisation that much stronger and better. That’s kinda the initiatives, and then of course, they’ve got the technology, and the rising stars, and all the things that we want to continue to do, and promote the IHRSA Institute. And get more people involved in the ILC.
Course, I’ll be going to Lisbon for the European congress. And I’m going to Brazil for the Brazilian event that IHRSA does. So, we really want to be ambassadors for what I think is the greatest, and I know is the greatest global fitness organisation in the world, and really the one that’s most responsible for my success in the fitness industry is IHRSA. So, I mean-
Chantal: That’s amazing. That’s amazing, Jim, and you know what I feel as if we’re already feeling that impact of having international representation as part of the IHRSA organisation and I can tell you that over the last 12 months we had, most recently Alan Leach, and a little while ago we had Carrie Kepple, on the show. It is great to see that extension of IHRSA, and that you are touching so many different countries, and impacting so many lives across the world. So that’s exciting, and I wanted to move on to some other huge news, because we’re recording this on the 8th of May, and just a couple of days ago, and a massive congratulations to you, you were appointed to the president’s council on sports, fitness, and nutrition. Congratulations, Jim.
Jim: Thank you, yeah. It’s amazing that these honours are happening simultaneously.
Chantal: Well, yeah.
Jim: This year, this month, in May is the 40th year of the New Town Athletic Club.
Chantal: Oh, happy birthday as well.
Jim: Thank you. Which is, amazing because we were this 11 court racquet ball club back in the day, and there was, at the time that we were started, there was 22 similar type clubs in our area, and there’s only me and one other one left. That’s just, in my Philadelphia market.
So, for us to be here 40 years later is a miracle in itself and then on top of it, to get the highest honour you could get in the fitness industry. To become the IHRSA chair, and then to top it off, just this past Friday where it was a presidential appointment, by President Trump that had to sign off on this, that I as nominated for it.
Now I’m going to be serving for the next two years with some pretty astute people. Herschel Walker, who is a professional football player, and Heisman trophy winner. Mariano Rivera, who is a hall of fame pitcher for the Yankees. You got Dr Oz, Bill Belichick, the coach of the New England Patriots. Johnny Damon, that played for the Boston Red Sox, Lou Ferrigno. A lot of unbelievable names. Misty May Treanor, she’s an olympian. There’s about eight other people besides them on it, including myself, and I think, tentatively we’re going to the White House on May 30th to meet on the south lawn to kick it off, and you know, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Donald Trump now, and Vice President Pence. And I’ve been very, very active in a couple of things.
The FIT bill of course, which we’re trying to get passed. And another bill called the Right to Try, that helps terminally ill people access experimental drugs. I’ve been very active in the last couple years.
So, you know, these appointments give me a bigger platform to push my life’s work, and our lives work, your lives work and everybody in IHRSA, and all the club operators in the world of solving the global obesity crisis, and making people healthy. I mean, that’s what we do. We change lives. We make a difference, and this certainly is putting me in huge company, great company to be able to advance these agendas. I feel like I’m so blessed to be at a point in my life where I have the ability to come and go, and have the time to do my advocacy work, and my charitable work, and to be appointed the President’s Council is just amazing.
My only thing I feel sad about is my dad passed away three years ago, and he would have been very, very proud to see the things that I’ve been fortunate enough to get involved in and if you believe, he probably does know what’s going on. But I would’ve liked him to been here. But the reality is in his memory, and I only got involved in the political process three years ago in honour of him, and it just turned into this, kinda moved into all these different experiences.
You know, I’ve been to the White House a number of times. I’ve met the President a number of times. I’ve met both sides of the aisle, democrats and republicans. Many of the highest ranking people in congress and the senate. So, it’s been a real unbelievable opportunity, but this getting on the Presidents Council puts me with a lot of people that can make a difference because just of who they are and how much of celebrity status they are. So, I’m gonna take advantages, and as much as I can to advance the ball for our causes, for IHRSA, and the industry.
Chantal: Oh, I just think that’s phenomenal, Jim. And you know what, I bet your dad would be incredibly proud, and I can say on behalf of the international fitness industry, just how much so many of us admire the work that you’re doing and the accomplishments that you have had throughout your career, and obviously 2018 is a huge year, and I think, you know when I think about all of the things that are going on for you, and we’ve touched on so many in the last 15 minutes also. I know that there are a lot of club owners that look up to you, and they are inspired by you, and they’re probably thinking, “How on earth can Jim do all of this stuff and still have a health club running in the background. Not just any health club, but a massive health club.” As I’ve told everyone about in your bio.
I know that you have set the business up in a very unique way, which allows you to be able to step away from the business, and put so much empowerment and trust in your team. So, can you explain to us, how have you set up the NAC so that you can step away and the business still runs as you want it to?
Jim: Well, that’s really the secret to any success I’ve had, you know it’s funny, we laugh about this, 80% of my time is probably, oh well let’s say 70% of my time is spent on the health club side of it. But 70% of what I do for a living is outside the health club. Because I’m involved in a number of other businesses, but even here, 70% of the time is not enough in the type of club that I have to be able to really know what’s going on day to day.
So, what I did many, many, many years ago, is I opened the books of my business some 25 years ago to all of my employees, and basically I set up a system which I call Open Book Management, but I allowed them- I don’t want to say allowed them, I asked them to come in as my partner.
What I mean by that is, if you run a profit centre, and in our club there’s a number of different profit centres. There’s director of birthday parties, which is a million dollar kids birthday parties a year. A million dollar business. Spa and salon, a million and a half. Personal training, two million dollars. Food and beverage, a million and a half.
I mean, you get the idea. There’s all these different profit centres. I turn around, they have their own PNL and what I do is I incentivize them, I give them a salary, and then I say, “I’m gonna give you a percentage of the net.” And I explain to them, that they are a business owner.
So, if you have anywhere from 5-20%, so let’s say you have 10% of food and beverage. The net profits on food and beverage. Well, you’re really my partner, because unless I sell that business, which I’m not because it’s in the club, you are getting the same thing that I’m getting. You’re getting cash flow. Profit, right?
So, you’re my partner. So, you need to run it as efficiently, and effectively as you can and make sure the product’s good, the service is good, all nine yards, because you’re getting 10% of the net at the end of that, and so, once they understand that, then they buy into the culture of the NAC.
There are parts of this club, I do not kid you, that I have not been in, in a year. I haven’t stepped on the indoor aquatics pool, on that deck, in well over a year, and it’s probably 75 feet from where my office is, but I got a girl, her name’s Hailey, that runs it so well, that I don’t need to be down there. In fact, people are gonna find this odd, I do not even have a general manager. It goes directly from me to each department head. They get little snippets of my time coming in here, in fact somebody just walked in a second ago and I waved them off, they couldn’t come in, so they can’t- they don’t get a lot of me. But, they don’t necessarily need a lot of me. They’re empowered to make all the decisions, and they do a great job.
How I manage that is through the PNL, so I get daily PNL’s I get monthly and I get quarterly, and they get quarterly bonuses based on how they do. That’s when we sit down and go now sometimes things don’t work out and they may take a little longer to uncover than if I was in the trenches every day, but for me to do my other businesses and more importantly, my work for IHRSA as chair and board member, and my advocacy work, because I have my own foundation called Have a Heart that does a lot of fundraising. We’re a big fundraiser for Augie’s Quest and another other number of charities that I raise money for and advocate for.
I couldn’t do it any other way if I micromanaged, so I don’t. Yes there will be some times, there’ll be some disappointments, but more often than not when you find the right people, and empower them and tell them they’re your partner, it energises them and makes them, their value feel so much better and feel good about the fact that they’re the decision maker, they’re the boss. Hey you live and die by the sword right, so I have an instance right now where that profit center’s not doing as well as it did last year, well that person isn’t making as much money, but guess who else isn’t making as much money? Me.
Jim: So I mean, so I say to them you’re disappointed? I’m disappointed too. So we need to find a way to work together that they can get back up. Here’s the other thing that really works in this, because I can give them a certain amount of time, but I can’t give them all the time. I am a very strong believer in continuing education, and getting out and being a part of talking with smart people like you and other industry leaders. You go wherever you need to go, visit whatever club you need to do, go to whatever, go to the IHRSA. I sent four people to the IHRSA Institute every year religiously, I take 15 people to the IHRSA convention, the seminar part of it, and then I take another 15 to the trade show, so I bring 30 people almost every year to that.
I’ll send them wherever they think they need to go to learn, and to learn from smart people. I’m an avid learner, when I go to any- I’ll go to the IHRSA Institute this year, I will sit in there, I’ve been doing this for 40 years, I will sit there and I could listen to someone that maybe’s been in the industry five years that is 30 years old. I can tell you, I will find some gem, some nugget of information that I could use to better my club. I laugh because when I come back from an IHRSA Convention, I will come back with an excess of 100 lists of things to do from every year, and I’ve been going since 1982, and by the way nothing for nothing, I don’t wanna digress but IHRSA is the number one reason why my club is I think one of the biggest in the industry. 25 acres, pushing 300,000 square foot, 12,000 members, $20 million revenue a year, it’s because of what I learned from IHRSA and my contacts with IHRSA and listening to really smart people.
Getting back to the empowerment, that is the key. This maybe a little controversial, but I’m gonna say it anyway, the other thing I’ve done, and no offence to the males in the industry, but most of my decision makers and department heads are women. I find that women are, I feel more passionate about the customer service aspect, I feel the integrity issue. There’s a lot of reasons why I have seems to be more of a female dominated staff here. Don’t get me wrong if it was 50/50 men and women that would be fine, but I’ve found over the years that I’ve had a lot more success with women at the helm than men. I do have some men that are excellent, I will say but primarily the people that drive my club, Linda Mitchell 37 years with me is one of the leading women in the industry. It’s just phenomenal, won the Julie Main award not too long ago. Melissa Christie who does my member experience is phenomenal I think one of the best in the industry.
Amanda Brown runs my children’s programmes, does a million dollars a year in camp, she’s 24-years-old, she’s phenomenal. Kate Golden is a rising star. I mean I can go on and on, Denise Watkins in sales, but I really, really got an amazing team, and they understand that they have to adapt to an entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s what I live by. That’s what I empower them to do, so it’s been a huge success for me and it lets me do all the other things I do, not only in the club, but outside the club.
Chantal: Well, I think it’s fascinating to hear about your team and how you structured it. The fact that it is so female centric, because I’ve had the opportunity to meet a number of the people within your team and I can say they are such strong leaders, and we’ve obviously we’ve had Kate on the show and I had a chance to spend some time with [Lingeret 00:21:36] at IHRSA this year. One of the things that struck me was, that people don’t stay with a business or in a role unless they have immense connections, relationships unless they respect the vision of the leader, and I think that is just testament to you in that role and to the way that you built the business, that your employees do stick around for a long time. You just mentioned Linda Mitchell has been there for 37 years, so I do have one more question in relation to that Jim, because you said how important it is to find the right people, and we just talked about the way that you structure your business.
When you are appointing those roles, those roles that are so instrumental in your business, what is it that you’re looking for? What are those qualities in a person, do you look for above everything else, and then what do you feel you can then teach them or train them to get them right for the role?
Jim: It’s pretty simple, loyalty, integrity and the willingness to learn. Those three things are key, because keep in mind again I am not a micromanager, so if you’re not loyal, and integrity can come a lot of ways, but integrity to do the best at your job. I’m not talking about integrity, I’m afraid your gonna steal from me or something, but integrity to know that your gonna be left alone and that your gonna be this entrepreneurial business person that’s gonna give your best effort.
I just had this conversation today they threw a little surprise party for me, because of this appointment and I was actually, when I got appointed Friday, I heard about, well I knew I was appointed they told me earlier in the week, but I thought they were gonna announce it in mid-week. Well they announced it Friday when I was on a plane down to Florida going to a political retreat with 40 Congressmen to try to work more on the FIT bill, and to talk with the folks about the FIT bill and the Right to Try bill. I wasn’t in New Town, I was in at the NAC when this got announced. When I came in today, they kinda surprised me and threw a little lunch, and they came and threw me this little party. When they did that, it just made me realise that, and I said to them, the NAC isn’t about me, and getting this appointment wasn’t me, I’m the tip of the spear.
It was all the employees over the last 40 years and the community and the people, and particularly the employees, I said you’re the folks that make this happen, so it’s important they understood that. This was an honour that was about them. I just happened to be the face of the NAC, and it’s all their good work that they do, and once they understand that, then they realise that they are really part of every success we have.
Then the other thing I said to them, I said don’t believe everything that you read, because we do have this perception of being one of the top clubs, and we are a top club, and that’s because of them, but don’t think that we’re as good as all the press clippings, because the reality you can always get better. When I get upset with an employee, it’s not, don’t take it personal in fact, Linda Mitchell tells me that all the time, it’s because I have a passion to be the best. It’s about being the best, so when your considered to be one of the best, there’s a responsibility to live up to that.
It’s funny I’ve got a round table coming here, my [FOUS 00:25:30] round table, and these guys are all smart people, I mean they’re the who’s who, the Rick Bussmann’s and the Gale Landers and Angel Banos, they’re all coming here, Rick Caro, Mike Benton, and there’s a whole, I shouldn’t name ’em because I’m leaving a few of ’em out, Clyde [Caldwell 00:25:51], they’re all coming here June 6th to 8th. It worries me to no end, because they’re coming here expecting to see this well-oiled machine, and we’re not, we’re far from perfect, but that’s what drives me to get up every day and should drive them to get up every day too.
We’re never gonna get there and we need to get better, and by the way these folks are showing up and you better be at the top of your game, and if you’re gonna be published in the newspaper or if you’re gonna be published in a magazine, which our people are all the time, that stuff you say in those magazines you better be living that and it better be not just fluff and it sounds good, if not you’re a fraud. I’m always pressing these folks to live up to what is said about them. Oh by the way I did forget one other rising star, Taylor [Angelino 00:26:43], my marketing director’s phenomenal. I don’t wanna leave her out.
Chantal: Definitely not.
Jim: These are the things that keep me up at night, and this is gonna sound a little crass too, long ago it stopped being about money for me. You get one shot to leave your legacy and nobody cares what’s in your bank account. At the end of the day it’s, what have you done to effect change? What have you done that somebody can drive by and say you know what, that guy Worthington, he was kinda a little rough around the edges, but you know what, he had a hell of a fitness club, one of the best in the world. That would be my legacy, that’s what I’d wanna here, if and when something comes down the pike a year or 20 years from now.
That’s what I try to get across to my employees, is that hey yeah we’re old and got to make a living and do well, but there’s an obligation, and a legacy there to be the best. By the way I’ve had tens of thousands of employees work for me too, and most of them haven’t stayed with the team, and when I say that I mean, they come, they go, not everybody but I’ve had a core group of people that have been here for 20, 25, 30, 37 years they have stayed with me. I guess you could say maybe they’re crazy but, that they stayed here that long with me, because I drive them to be the best that we can be, and they can be. You either accept that vision, or you don’t.
You’ll find out real quick who does, but people like Linda Mitchell, let me tell you, I’m nothing without somebody like her. She’s been by my side and some of the other ones, my assistant Nancy Gracie, they’re the people, they’re the NAC. I’m the tip of the spear, I might be the guy out front, but they’re the ones that get it done, and they just take my vision, and they run with it, and implement it. They are a credit to the industry, I’m really proud of them.
Chantal: Well Jim the way that you speak about your team just it says volumes, and I wanna thank you for giving us what is essentially behind the scenes look at the NAC, I think it’s really interesting for other business owners to hear about how you’ve set up business, and the way that you lead the team, and the way that you’ve brought the team together and empowered them. I just wanna say thank you so much for taking the time, because today we’ve just had a glimpse at just how much is on your plate in 2018, and for you to take 40 minutes out of your day is a great privilege for us and I’m really, really genuinely grateful for you doing that. I can’t wait to share this with the international fitness industry. On behalf of all of us I just wanna wish you the absolute best for your appointment as chair of IHRSA, and of course for you to be President’s Counsel on sports fitness and nutrition, so congratulations once again Jim and thank you for joining us on the show.
Jim: It was a pleasure. Thank you very much and I appreciate the opportunity. Hopefully this was helpful to someone.
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