Back at the beginning of 2016, industry vet Mark Polli and his wife, Kim, set out to presale memberships for a new (to them) concept to add to their fitness portfolio, UFC GYM Rocklin. They enlisted the help of our team here at GYM HQ to tackle all of their back-office needs. The journey so far has been a blast! We love working with the Polli's. It's been awesome to watch their progress as the location has matured. We sat down with Mark to learn a little more about him and his views on the industry for this month's GYM HQ Client Spotlight.
GHQ: How did you get started in the fitness industry?
MP: I have been in the Fitness business since 1981. I was in my senior year of college in Upstate New York, and my Brother called me from California to come work with him at a health club in Foster City, CA. I went out on my winter break and sold memberships for 3 weeks. The Vice President asked me to stay, but I wanted to get my Bachelor’s degree in Business/ Marketing, so they agreed to pay my way back out there after my final semester. I worked for that company for 5 years. I took a break from the fitness Industry to become a stockbroker in 1985, just in time for the Black Monday crash in 1987. I pushed through until 1991 when I was contacted by Mark Mastrov and went to work for Mark when 24 Hour Fitness only had 9 Clubs. I worked at 24 Hour Fitness for 18 years as a Regional Vice President before I started with Crunch Fitness in 2009. Mark Mastrov helped me get involved with Crunch and we opened 5 clubs in the Sacramento area. Mark reached out to me again in 2014 and invited me to the UFC GYM convention, and it was an amazing experience. I was able to see and feel the difference between regular health clubs and “Training Different” at UFC Gyms.
There was 7,000 SF of space available next door to the Crunch Fitness in Rocklin and on the other side was a Century Movie Theater. The spot between the two was an “A” location, and I started negotiating with the landlord. I also had to get approval from UFC Gym Franchise and Crunch Franchise to have the clubs next door to each other. After a lengthy negotiation, we got the deal done and then the Landlord offered us an additional 3,000 sq. ft. which we agreed and so glad we did! We are running out of room even with the extra space.
My wife Kim and I went down to Anaheim for the Franchisee Training and it was a great experience.
We contacted Melissa Knowles at GYM HQ to do our back-office work and it was one of the best decisions we made. We would have had to hire 3 full time people to do all of the work that they do for us and at a very reasonable cost.
GHQ: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen occur in the industry over the years?
MP: The biggest changes I’ve seen in the business are technology, equipment, and marketing strategies. I am not sure how we even did it in the 80’s with only a fax machine and corded phones. Equipment was more about looks than functionality with most all machines made of chrome and only 2 lifecycles in the clubs for cardio. Marketing today is an entirely different, especially with Social Media. But the best ever marketing in the clubs has never changed and that is referrals from current members.
GHQ: Why did you choose to go the franchise route and why did you choose UFC GYM?
MP: Working for a large fitness company had its benefits, and it was a great experience to help a company grow from their humble beginnings. Owning my own franchise is getting up every morning knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of my employees and our members. I take pride in every square foot of every club and working for myself means I answer to the community and the employees. UFC GYM offers an experience like no other club offers.
Mark Mastrov was talking to me about doing UFC GYM franchise clubs in the Sacramento area while Urijah Faber was getting ready to do a signature club in Downtown Sacramento. I did some research and was on board with starting to check out potential locations. I was on vacation in Hawaii and stopped into the BJ Penn UFC Gym and my wife and I were amazed about the classes going on and we were both surprised how many women were attending the classes. When my wife saw all of the women in the classes, it completely changed her perspective about UFC GYM and she was all in!
GHQ: What makes UFC GYM unique?
MP: UFC Gym is unique in every way. It’s a tight-knit group of members that you know every one of them by name and get to watch them as they improve physically, emotionally and reach goals they never thought were attainable. The Coaches take great care of the members and they live and breathe the UFC Gym brand.
GHQ: What do you currently have in the pipeline for growth and expansion?
MP: We have a lease signed in Folsom, Ca and it is going to be 12,200 sq feet.
We are very excited about bringing this brand to Folsom.
GHQ: What is the UFC GYM experience for members?
MP: The experience for members is amazing. Watching all of the new members come into the club and they are a bit nervous about what is going to happen is great. No one leaves the club without being dripping with sweat and a smile that says “I did it!” We have members that have lost over 75 pounds and others that have put on size and increased their strength dramatically. The skills classes have brought both men and women that had never worn boxing gloves and are now in the octagon or on the BJJ mat competing and winning.
Watching the kids program is especially exciting as we see them grow from tumbling to takedowns to submission holds. Their self-confidence grows on each visit as they learn BJJ moves and respect for the sport as well as respect for the other kids.
GHQ: What have been the most challenging aspects of the business?
MP: The most challenging part of the business is driving New Member Sales daily as we try to limit attrition. The other hard part is changing people’s perspective about the gym being a fight club. We have been successful with our outreach in the community by setting up Women’s Self Defense classes as well as Anti-Bullying classes in schools.
GHQ: How important are back-office functions for the business and why did you decide to partner with GYM HQ?
MP: Choosing GYM HQ was one of the easiest and best decisions we made. There was no way I could drive new business, work with our existing members and be present in the club if I was doing back office work. From Payroll to Accounting, Accounts Payable and HR they are a terrific group of people who are always available and quick to respond.
GHQ: What gems of advice would you like to share with others looking to own their own fitness business?
MP: Be Present in the club. Build the culture in your club yourself and make sure you are in the club working with the employees, members, and guests. Be part of the community and do everything you can to help people in the community by donating time and resources to local charities. Hire great people who are passionate about Fitness and live the brand. Treat everyone with respect and deliver a great product and service that outshines all of the competition. There are a lot of fitness clubs out there and the biggest difference maker in the club is YOU!