Jetting To Business And Fitness Success

You are the owner of Jetts Fitness. Can you give our readers a little bit of background on yourself and the business?
I started in the fitness industry in 2002 as personal trainer, working from a local gym before setting up a personal training studio. After 18 months in the studio the fire was burning to do something bigger, so I raised some debt and purchased the old gym in the area I grew up in. Together with my now wife Cristy, we built the club up before selling it in 2006 to develop the Jetts business plan. In 2007 we relocated from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast to open the very first Jetts club, in the suburban town of Helensvale. The club was a hit, selling out of memberships in 6 months – we knew at that point we were onto something big.

How did you come up with the idea behind Jetts’ 24/7, low maintenance centres?
While operating the old gym we conducted some market research and found that 87% of gym members only used the basics - treadmills cross trainers, resistance machines and free weights. I realised there was a gaping hole in the value end of the market – big clubs were getting bigger and offering all the “bells and whistles” such as steam rooms and pools, however members were paying for these services and never using them. On top of that, consumer sentiment around big chains was diminishing due to heavy sales tactics, long term contracts, overcrowded clubs and high fees.

We started the business plan by putting the word 'customer' in the centre of a page and building our proposition around them. We knew from our research what customers wanted, so set out to eliminate the least used services found in big gyms and focus on the basic facilities that members used regularly.

As a result we were able to significantly reduce overheads and the size of the club, which in turn meant we could pass on reduced pricing and position clubs closer to members’ homes. The inclusion of a 24/7 access system, no contracts, free membership suspensions and access to all clubs created an outstanding value proposition that members swarmed to.

What is the difference between Jetts and the more traditional gym model?
Jetts has taken an opposite end approach to the traditional gym model – we offer 'no contracts' as standard, prices that are significantly lower and locations that are conveniently located closer to members’ homes. Jetts is also the only national chain to cap its membership levels at each club – once a club reaches a pre-determined member number we start running waiting lists to avoid overcrowding.

But by far one the biggest differentiator is our 24/7 access. Our members have the freedom of choice to workout on their terms, at a time that suits them, at any of our 180+ clubs across Australia and New Zealand – this is really important for an ever increasing base of time-poor consumers.

The business works on a franchise model. What was your reason for using that structure?
I started the business with very little capital, so franchising was the most logical way to grow. We started just before the GFC so banks were not that excited about lending money, particularly for gyms. I also recognised that this would be a very fast growing segment, due to a relatively high demand for successful fitness franchises, the customer demand that had been demonstrated and the availability of real estate. Franchising allowed us to expand our footprint quickly and develop a strong position prior to competition moving in.

You recently won the ‘Emerging’ Category in Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Northern Region Awards. What is the secret to Jetts’ success?
The secret is…there really is no secret. I put the success of Jetts down to three things that I believe are the pillars of most successful companies – 1. Having the foresight to recognise a need and focussing first on the customer and creating a vision that is built off a purpose. 2. Having the relentless hunger to ensure that vision transpires into reality, and 3. Having the fanatical discipline in the execution of the growth and operations of the business.

The rest comes down to a little bit of timing, and with good preparation and opportunity, comes a little bit of luck.

Do you work out regularly?
Yes, it’s important to walk the walk in this business. Interestingly though, I am not a gym junky. Like most people who are busy with young families, time is precious, so I focus more on effective training as opposed to spending hours in the gym. I will typically exercise 4 times per week, usually 2 gym sessions and two sport sessions, either training or matches (such as touch football, Oztag) or a run with Cristy through the Noosa national park. We are an active family and are rarely sitting still when the sun is shining.

What is your favourite exercise?
Chin-ups would have to be my favourite – simply because it works the majority of your upper body in one movement.  Dips and any movement that includes a squat are also ones I do regularly.  

What are your personal fitness goals?
Put simply my fitness goals are to be able to enjoy being active, competitive in sport and injury-free well into my old age. My main goal right now is to be able to consistently touch my toes – being an ex-sprinter this is not as easy as it sounds!

What are your business goals for the next 3-5 years?
My primary goal is to see Jetts continue its 20 mile march through new club openings and setting the benchmark in the 24/7 segment through customer service, impeccable standards and teamwork. Our long-term plan sees 350 clubs across Australia and New Zealand, and 2000 clubs across 10 countries by 2030.

Outside of Jetts, I am preparing to launch a cause-related online platform that assists people in need. I also have an interest in helping young entrepreneurs get a start through angel investing.

What are your 5 tips for business success?
  1. Ensure your company has a purpose, and create a bold vision that is realistic and achievable
  2. Develop a deep, burning desire to achieve your vision, and use this to keep you going when times are tough
  3. Focus on relentless execution of your strategy – don’t give in on quality for the sake of quantity
  4. Hire people that compliment your weaknesses or are downright better than you 
  5. Be a great listener and subscribe to the fact that others most likely know more than you do – learn from those around you

By Neil Donnelly