There’s a good chance that if your group fitness isn’t growing as you’d like it to, it’s because your culture sucks.

You can talk about fat loss all you like and that might attract people but the reality is that body composition results aren’t what KEEPS most people.

Strange but true.

Look, I know a lot of good people in the fitness industry.

Fun people.

Adventurous people.

Outgoing people.

I get excited to go to their fitness facility and see what’s going down.

But when, it can be like walking into exercise time at the local Home For The Elderly.

People are trudging about, standing in corners and there’s about as much noise and atmosphere as the annual Sign Language convention.

I’m thinking “What the hell happened?”

Culture is everything in business, particularly now when it takes a matter of hours for your methods to be viewed and copied.

It’s not something you can leave to chance because it’s like a garden.

If you don’t take the time and make the effort to grow what you want, weeds will grow wherever there is space.

Do your fitness camp socials look like this?

Wait…you don’t do crazy days out?!

Okay, let’s start from the beginning.

The moment you stop solely focusing on people saying they want to lose fat, is the moment you can start to create a group fitness business that attracts and keeps a lot of members.

1) Start with knowing your personal values.

Mine are Fitness, Fun and Adventure.

I live those values but also made sure they seeped through every single thing we did in our fitness camps.

The fitness side speaks for itself although you should define what that means to you and what type and level of fitness you want people to achieve.

Are you about movement and mobility over everything else?

Are you about hardcore ‘survival’ sessions where people need a wheelchair to get to their car?

Are you a cardio hater and believe everything in the gym should be about strength?

All of the above can build a successful group fitness business IF you stand by it and communicate it at every opportunity.

We made everything fun!

The sessions were fun (but very tough), the employees were fun, the Facebook inner circle was fun and we had a minimum of one big social every quarter.

When those socials went down, they were crazy (see the photos above)!

When Christmas week came around, we didn’t fade into the excuses of festivities.

We cranked things up and the whole thing crazy.

Your values, whatever you determine them to be, should also be evident in both your marketing and your recruitment strategy.

Remember, you can’t just copy the values of another business because it’s doing well.

If you communicate having certain values but don’t live it every second, people won’t connect and you’ll be left wondering why things still aren’t working.

A lot of fitness business owners lose a lot of members because their marketing conveys a totally different experience and atmosphere to what they offer.

Maybe their training is on the hardcore end of the spectrum but they make out everyone is welcome and can do the workouts.

At the first session that person gets a totally different experience and feels like they walked into a war zone.

They never comes back.

Alternatively, the business tries to make out that they have a thriving, upbeat community but then very little happens as evidence of that and the bootcamp sessions are half-hearted, low energy affairs.

Your core values must soak through every single thing you do.

The best way to describe this is ‘Disney-fying’ your business.

If you’ve never been to Disneyland, you should go, even if you hate Mickey Mouse and nearly throwing up on rollercoasters.

Go there on a business field trip if nothing else and learn from Walt Disney created!

Look at how everything is designed with the customer experience in mind (and of course to get you to spend more).

You have to wait outside in the morning before you can enter so you see the entrance show, building excitement and getting you absorbed into the whole experience, forgetting the outside world.

There are more and more ways to spend money of course but all of them enhance the experience you have of Disneyland.

The cleaners are not walking around getting in the way – in fact hey are barely visible but the place is always spotless.

Every employee appears happy and smiley. I’m sure they have bad days like the rest of us but company culture is that your problems aren’t the customers!

How do your fitness camps compare?

Do you pay attention to the ‘little’ things day in and day out even when things aren’t going well, or only when you feel like it?

Valuing values must extend to recruitment as well.

I read about ”value based recruitment’ in one of Richard Branson’s books, so figured it must have some solid foundations as a business principle!

It turned out to be a very good policy.

Recruit people based on their energy, values and commitment to ‘the cause’.

You can teach the technical stuff, but you can rarely teach people new values.

The majority of the staff I have recruited for both trainer positions and admin work have been existing members.


Because they value what I do enough to pay for it with their hard earned wages.

They’ve committed to it and turned up to enjoy it three times per week when they could have been doing something else!

They share the values I put on a pedestal (and on the gym wall)!

I actually used to half-joke that I would only employ people if I would also train with them and drink with them. 

I wanted to know that the people who carried the torch running the fitness camps valued hard training, understood the work rate required and would be out-going enough to get to know our members on a personal level and make things fun.

No matter what systems you put in place in your business, you need to have a team that you can trust to deal with unforeseen situations with the same approach as you would.

Businesses that employ people who don’t share the same values will constantly suffer from decisions that don’t fit with the ethos or culture and lead to confusion and frustration both within your team and amongst members.

When you recruit people with a similar set of values, there is a much greater chance that they will make decisions that help rather than hinder the situation, keeping you out of the daily firefighting that occurs in a lot of businesses.

2) Know what you won’t accept or tolerate and enforce what must be done.

The second important factor in creating an amazing culture in your group fitness business is an extension of knowing your values.

Do you have rules that you actually enforce or do you allow people to create the culture and accepted behaviour for you?

  • Timeliness
  • Clothing
  • Leaving mobiles in the locker room
  • Work rate
  • No complaining
  • Attendance
  • Listening to instructions

Do you ask people to be on time but never follow through if someone is late?

Do you insist everyone wears the Camp t-shirts for bonding purposes when they train?

Do you terminate memberships in your exclusive camps when people don’t attend more than 10/12 sessions per month without valid reason?

None of these are essential but are examples of rules that help maintain the quality, community and experience for everyone.

A sign on the wall means nothing and can actually make things worse when people expect that to be ‘the way’ but nobody ever ensures that’s how things go down.

It is very easy for one bad egg in the box to bring down everyone else, particularly if they continuously behave differently to everyone else and the values you supposedly believe in.

3) The connections within your business are the third piece of the jigsaw.

You have to actively engineer connection and community before, during and between the actual training sessions.

Connect people of similar interests and hobbies. 

Go out of your way to introduce them to each other.

This shows that you really are about enhancing people’s lives and it’s not just an empty marketing message.

Connect people by putting them in new situations that encourage team bonding such as Mud Runs, activity days and of course, parties!

Connect people through regularly topic discussions in a private Facebook group.

Connect new people to members who have been working out with you for while.

We had ‘Camp Buddies’ in fitness camps.

They got a free Camp Buddy t-shirt, and would be charged with actively helping new members settle in during Week 1 of a new camp.

The more bonds you create and the stronger you make them, the greater your retention levels will be and the more outsiders will want to be a part of something which is clearly very different to going to the gym where they’re made to feel like they’re invisible.

I always looked at my fitness camps as part of a bigger picture in life.

Is this something people want to make their ‘3rd space’ or is it just something they feel they have to do so they don’t get fat?

Everyone has a 3rd space outside of home and work.

For some it’s the pub, some it’s their music band, others it’s an internet forum.

You want to make your fitness camp their 3rd space – the best part of their day.

That won’t happen by just guaranteeing a bit of sweat or even some weight loss.

It comes from constant development of connection and community.

Take a look at your business from the outside in.

What culture are you creating?

Are you just leaving it to chance then complaining about the way people behave?

The process is simple.

First, establish your personal values and those of your group fitness business.

Next, look at each area and process in your business and analyse how evident your values are in that space.

Finally, take some action!

You’re the boss and the culture that develops comes from the top down.

Failure to do this, leaves a lot to chance which is then very hard to reverse later on!

Find out how I implemented the most powerful group fitness programming and marketing methods on the 2 x 1/2 day online Group Fitness Accelerator course.

Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September (including post-event recording)