A letter to my previous leaders and employees

Dear club managers, fitness directors and other key people,

My purpose in life is to inspire and empower people to achieve their God given destiny.  For the most part my purpose is accomplished through the running and operating of fitness clubs.  I have dedicated myself to giving the next 10 years of my life to building absolutely, the most excellent fitness company in the world second to none.  In order to accomplish this goal of building an excellent company we must first develop excellent leaders.  It is my hope that these leaders will in time be capable of taking our company to the next level after I retire.  But until then, like I said, I am dedicated to give my all in energy, experience, wisdom and financial backing to this worthy cause.

If it was up to me we would be building five new clubs per year.  We have arranged financing for this type of growth and we have developers that would develop clubs for us at this rapid rate.  What has been holding us back is our slow growth of quality managers.  Our managers for the most part are neither developing themselves or the people under them.  In the last 12-18 months we have increased our compensation packages significantly for everyone on the production side of the company only to see our sales decrease, new business decrease and our dues decrease.  Most recently we have taken the front desk responsibilities away from the sales management teams in order to free up more time for prospecting and the generation of more new sales.

This slide in sales production must stop and will stop and we will together rebuild this company into the most excellent sales and service company in the fitness business.  When I evaluate our management teams in most all of our clubs I see plenty of talented people, but few who have developed their own personal character, few who truly have a good work ethic.  In some cases they would rather just sit around and wait for someone other than themselves to solve their problems.

I believe there are 3 major compounds that make up a quality leader.  First is character, second talent and third a good work ethic – all in that specific order.  I define character as someone who will do the right thing, at the right time, all the time.  Those people who have this type of character have no problem leading and developing those people under their authority.  Because they have lifted themselves above the common follower who lives his life on a whim or in other words does whatever feels good at any given moment.  Remember, doing the right thing, at the right time, all of the time is not limited to inside your club.  Character is something that is mostly developed when no one is watching you.

Character development begins with a decision to become a man/woman of character all of the time.  What first comes to my mind is their commitment to be under authority.  Will they submit 100% to their boss?  Will they do whatever is asked of them within the guidelines of our company, with a good and positive, can do attitude?  Will they compete with themselves to do better than any of their peers?  So if they are asked to learn and to use and teach their people to follow our sales presentation or training dialogue, it is done, or if they are asked to implement the 10/5/3 system to absolute perfection, it is implemented excellently and their attitude is such that they would rather die than not accomplish what has been asked of them.  They are determined to do for their authority the absolute best they can do, hoping someday that those people who are under their authority will respond to them as they respond to their boss.  I believe this is the most important ingredient into the development of character and the development of a quality company.  Until there is speed and urgency to carry out orders from the top to the bottom we all work in vain.  A rebellious spirit is one of the hardest spirits to break, but mark my words once it is broken, you will be amazed with the ease and enthusiasm you will work with.  Everything will become smooth sailing.  Your people will see what a humble servant type leader you are and they in a short period of time will emulate you.  Unless you can develop this essential ingredient of character you will be no good to anyone as a leader, especially to yourself.  If you have a problem in this area and you want to change simply commit yourself to change and then ask your supervisor for forgiveness and begin a new life of submitting to authority.

The next essential element of character that comes to my mind is the paradigm of excellence.  The overall mind set of being excellent in all you do.  Never approach a task half heartedly.  Your entire self image, how you see yourself, is in a perfect and complete form.  It begins with a smile, your dress and personal hygiene is a shining example of who you are on the inside.  Your words that come out of your mouth are uplifting, encouraging and empowering, they bring life to your subordinates and peers.  Your physical body shows self control and discipline.  You therefore practice good nutrition and exercise consistently.  When people see you, they see a picture of radiant health and well being.  Your club is sparkling clean from the entrance to the locker rooms, to the toilets.  Nothing is out of order even the clocks within the club are all synchronized to the exact right time.  Not you or your staff would have considered walking through your locker room without shutting lockers, cleaning up the vanity area and the toilets in order to better serve the customer.  Your car, your home, everything about you is excellent.  If there was a monsoon the night before you are the first to get your car washed.  If your house needs painting, it gets painted.  Everything about you is dress right dress and in perfect order.

A man of character is prudent and temperate.  He always lives within his means.  He does not allow his emotional “wants” to overcome his common sense.  He understands the universal law of giving and receiving.  That the first 10% of his income should go to support his favorite charitable organization.  By doing this he will in a sense perform major surgery on his heart.  He will soon become a “giver” in all he does rather than a “taker”.  Soon he will experience how the universal law of giving and receiving will take care of all his needs in many mysterious ways.

Leading a temperate life means that he will save 10% of what he makes regardless of his situation.  If he is in debt because of past foolish behavior he will take the 10% and begin to pay off his debt.  Once it is paid then he will save the 10% and invest it wisely into conservative investments that will yield an 8% return and his money will grow and double every 6 to 7 years.  Never will he ever spend his money on luxuries that do not produce a handsome return.  Nor will he invest his money on get rich quick schemes.  He always consults experts who have character like himself to manage his money.  A temperate person never spends his futures.  Although he has great vision for his life he always keeps himself and his feet well planted on the ground.  For an example, if he is losing his equipment payment in 90 days and his profits will increase $25,000 per month and he receives 10% of his profits, he does not start spending that money that he expects to get before he actually gets it.

A man of character has a healthy sense and burn for competition.  He loves competition because it brings the best out of him.  He wants to compete with the best.  He would rather win by 1/10th of 1% against his best competitor than win by 30% against a weak opponent.  But as much as he burns to win, never would he cheat or intentionally hurt his competitor.  His basic character trait of honesty and integrity would never be sacrificed for the victory.  For he understands that victories come and go, and no one, no matter how good they are, can win all the time.  But what burns in him more than his competitive nature is his desire to do right and be honest, even to the slightest detail.  A man of character abhors lying and cheating in any degree, especially from himself.

A man of character has moral ascendancy over his men.  His men look up to him because he has overcome the strong bestial pull to destroy himself.  Nothing controls him, not alcohol or drugs or women.  He is able to make the right choice when tempted in any given situation.  When he falls on hard times in his marriage, or at work, instead of going out and getting drunk and entering into an illicit relationship that temporarily takes the pain away, he faces up to the situation and focuses his energies, prayer and meditations, into solving the real issues of his life.  However he learns to solve his problems, he in the end solves his problems and moves on to a higher ground each time he overcomes his obstacles that life brings his way.  In conclusion, he will not medicate himself with drugs, pornography or anything else that only covers up the problems in front of him.  He knows that if he can’t solve his problems how can he expect his people to solve theirs?
As a man grows in character he will discover that no longer does he need to yell and scream to get his people to do that they need to do.  Instead, his quiet, simple directives will carry much weight and his people will jump to action.

As most of us know talent is important.  I think of John Wooden, the great basketball coach, once said when asked how did you win 151 games straight, his response was “with greatly talented players!”  The interviewer followed up and said “No coach, really how did you win all those games?”  and again Coach Wooden said “talented players!”  What John Wooden did not say to this reporter is that he spent his life not only teaching his players to execute his game plan but how to become men of character.  Like Vince Lombardi, the great football coach, his players many years later did not remember the unique plays he taught his players to run in order to win, but rather how to become quality men of character.  The key component to teaching them character was first for the coaches to be men of character themselves.  As important as talent is it will only get you so far.  From my perspective, now 33 years in the business world, I believe that the more talented a man or woman is the better their odds of destroying themselves is.  Out of the top 10 most talented people I have had a chance to mentor 5 of them have destroyed their lives either through drug overdoses or simply suicide.  The sad thing about this is most of these talented people never saw it coming.  Their talent blinds them, their supervisors alibi for them because they are so good and before you know it they are so lost they never make it back.  It is my strong opinion that the more talented a person is the more discipline they need.  If you are afraid to discipline them they are already out of control and soon will be down the road anyway.  The great coach must first be a man of character before he has any chance to lead a powerfully talented person.

The last component to becoming an excellent leader is a good work ethic.  The younger the leader you are the harder and longer you will need to work.  What used to take me 12 hours to do now takes me 1 hour or less to do.  When I started in the fitness business as a janitor I knew nothing about sales, leadership, advertising, finance, banking, accounting, the law and all it’s different regulations, buying and selling businesses, etc…It took countless hours of hard and long work to read, study, interview people who had more knowledge than me.  But I had a vision for my life of living in a beautiful home on the lake, nice cars, beautiful family and wife who loved me, lots of money in the bank and extravagant vacations, just to name a few of my dreams.  A life of mediocrity depressed me.  I didn’t want to be just one of the other 6,000,000,000 people who just barely got by.  So I determined to take my visions, electrify them with faith and get them into my feet.  In my earlier years because I knew so little about nearly everything, I worked to exhaustion.  Sometimes on Sunday I would sleep 16 hours after working back to back to back 16+ hour days.  I now have a handful of friends who are very, very wealthy and they all raised themselves up from humble beginnings and although they have made their money in completely different businesses their story is the same.  That is work harder than everybody else, don’t cheat, be honest, keep your vision alive in your heart and keep your faith strong and soon, unusually 5-10 years your crop of success will begin to come up.  The problem with at least this generation is most think there is some magic formula to success.  Even if there was like the dot.commers of the 90’s – if the success comes too fast – it will be recklessly spent and soon be gone.

In conclusion, my burning desire is to attract the most talented people there is for the fitness business who want to be mentored and developed into men and women of character.  I promise you and God that I will pour my everything into you, so that instead of the process taking 30+ years like it did for me, we can shorten it down to about 10-15 years, cut it in half!  That’s a pretty good deal wouldn’t you say??

Sincerely,

Neil

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