I used to believe “The harder you work, the luckier you get”. I’m not sure I believe this any longer. I have worked my tail off, to where I didn’t think I could go any further and never felt LUCKIER. I believe the harder you work, the more you learn. From that experience you understand how to make your own LUCK.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Rowley. Jim serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Crunch Fitness. A veteran of the fitness industry since 1992, Jim leads the executive team responsible for day-to-day operations, franchising, development and marketing of the brand’s 315+ locations across its Crunch Signature and Crunch Franchise portfolio. Before beginning his fitness career, Mr. Rowley proudly served his country for eight years as a U.S. Marine, including a three-year assignment with the State Department, Marine Security Guard Battalion and a combat tour with “Task Force Ripper” during the Persian Gulf War. After serving in the Marine Corps, Jim entered the fitness industry at 24 Hour Fitness. During his 16-year tenure, Jim held multiple management positions across virtually all the company’s disciplines, from club General Manager to Senior Vice President of Fitness, where he developed a national fitness program that generated $300+ Million annually across 420 locations. His final role at 24 Hour Fitness was Division President, responsible for leading 225 fitness centers, over 8,000 team members and $750 Million in annual revenue. Next, Jim joined 24 Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov in the launch of New Evolution Ventures (NeV), where he served as Chief Executive Officer. His responsibilities included the day-to-day operations of NeV’s global investment portfolio, which, in addition to Crunch Fitness, included UFC GYM, Hard Candy, YogaWorks, Steve Nash Fitness World, Chile’s Energy Fitness, Alex Rodriguez’s Energy Fitness and more, spanning over 20 countries worldwide and hundreds of facilities. A native of Northern California, Jim is an avid weightlifter, water and snow skier. Jim spent many years living abroad in Africa, Spain and the Middle East and now resides in Alamo, California. Jim and his wife Michelle are proud parents of three grown children.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have an identical twin brother that was working in the fitness industry while I was an active duty US Marine. During the late 80’s and early 90’, I spent time as a Marine overseas in Africa, Europe, East Asia and the Middle East while he spent that time working in California fitness clubs. His life, as you can imagine, was far different than mine. He was in his late teens/ early 20’s working in health clubs surrounded by beautiful people and making a great paycheck and I was, well let’s just say, in far off places doing things most people can’t imagine. When I left the Marines I applied for a job selling memberships as a “rookie sales counselor.” In 1992, I had to beg for my job and call in a favor from my brother to the owner of 24 Hour Nautilus, Mark Mastrov.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
When I first started my career there were two things I faced; 1) it was a hard transition from Marine to Civilian. I learned years later that Marines don’t ever become Civilians they become Veterans. What I mean is, I was too militaristic with my guests and co-workers and wasn’t connecting with either. I received some good advice about changing my demeanor, which I did and from there I continued to rise in the ranks. 2) I think I quit every payday. I just felt like I was working 12–14 hour days and not making enough money. My GM at the time, Rose Olsen, would always calm me down and tell me I was good at this job and should be patient and keep working hard. She was right.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Some of the best lessons I have learned in life have come from 3 sources. My father (a former Marine), playing youth sports and learning about perseverance and of course last and most importantly I was a US Marine, we adapt, overcome and improvise and we do it with tenacity.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
It’s a great question. Honestly everything I have achieved has come from just that. Grit, perseverance, determination, a willingness to never quit. I never wished for it more than I worked for it. In my opinion those characteristics are what separate those that DO and those that TRY. People quit too easy these days. Stay the course. Anyone can TRY and then QUIT. It takes a special person to TRY, FAIL, TRY AGAIN and continue until they WIN.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I believe what makes Crunch stand out primarily is the fact that we are the original “No Judgments” gym. What does that mean? No Judgments means room for everyone, regardless of your shape, size, age, race, gender or fitness level. No matter your workout of choice, we want you to feel good while you reach your goals with Crunch. Join our Fun.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I don’t believe in “burn out” necessarily. If you are burning out, you might be in the wrong industry. I am fueled by my work. It provides me with great satisfaction. That isn’t to say that there aren’t dark days, or days that aren’t inspiring. For me, the days that are filled with the greatest source of inspiration and motivation are the days we can be in our gyms, surrounded by the positivity of our members reaching their goals and sharing their stories. Surrounded by our team members, eager to learn more, to ask questions about how to get better or to share their accomplishments. I love it. Now, if we want to discuss, taxes, litigation, and administration duties, those are less interesting and less fulfilling for me. Exercise is a great resource for not “burning out” as is having the presence of mind to take a break, a trip or vacation when necessary. We need to be in water, breath fresh air, push ourselves for adrenaline as humans, don’t ignore these opportunities for the sake of MORE WORK. Finally, take responsibility. It might be for your family, your future or yourself, but if you own the responsibility that success, happiness, burn out, boredom etc. are all your own doing, you will find the passion to perform, the perspective that work can be fulfilling and you will avoid “burn out.”
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My business partner, mentor and friend Mark Mastrov has been the most instrumental with help, but more importantly with guidance, with opportunity, coaching and patience. There have been others as well. I mentioned my first General Manager who hired me, Rose Olsen, she continued to teach me to trust the process and myself. Ron Thompson, taught me a different side of leadership, humanity and compassion as an employer. Lastly there have been so many teammates, peers or team members that have “helped,” they may not even know it, but they continued to inspire me or remind me along the way, why this industry and my journey were important.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
My wife, Michelle and I have raised 3 great kids, Jordan 22, Jake 21, Taylor 18 who are kind, compassionate, hard working and noble. As a parent I believe our primary responsibility is to raise kids that are good citizens. We are charitable and help multiple causes with our time and money when necessary. I wish I could do more and plan to do so in the future.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Debt, the blessing and the curse. In order to grow we often find ourselves needing debt or often times private equity will place debt on a company to lower their capital requirements. I wish I would have learned earlier in my career the impact of debt, the strategy of debt and the constraints. It’s not all BAD, don’t get me wrong, I believe its fundamentally important to understand its impact on your business.
2) Board of Directors- Ensure they offer great value, can assist you, will support and defend you/your company and trust and empower your decisions through thoughtful interaction, Q and A etc. As a business leader surround yourself with people that make you better, your company stronger and fuel your passion, not diminish it.
3) I used to believe “The Harder you work, the luckier you get”. I’m not sure I believe this any longer. I have worked my tail off, to where I didn’t think I could go any further and never felt LUCKIER. I believe the Harder you Work, the more you learn. From that experience you understand how to make your own LUCK.
4) RISK. In my opinion the difference between those that make BIG MOVES and those that talk about the people that Made Big Moves. The people that don’t take risks, often say that others were LUCKY or IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME, but won’t fully comprehend because they aren’t risk takers and sometimes you have to GO ALL IN on Yourself and Your team. To trust your instinct, your preparation and your strategy.
5) It’s not your resume, it’s your DNA. Take a hard working, dedicated, high character, high passion, enthusiastic person who believes the world owes them nothing over those that might believe their education, pedigree and formal upbringing should provide them something more, something that they haven’t earned.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-).
My movement would be, sharing my story and experiences with those that are separating from The Marines and hope that I could possibly influence some to truly believe that many of the skills they have acquired, especially those with combat or team leader experience can absolutely translate to the private sector. Don’t believe you aren’t qualified for high paying, high achieving opportunities. My personal belief is the business sector has an absence of leaders, warriors and people of high character and drive. We are inundated with educated, thoughtful people that don’t understand what it truly means TO LEAD.
How can our readers follow you on social media? Instagram @jimrowley3
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!