Joe Cirulli started lifting weights at age 9 and works out five or six days a week, but his career started seemingly by accident when he arrived in Gainesville, Fla., in 1973.
Falling into work as a health club instructor, Cirulli decided to try his hand at sales and signed up eight members on his first day. He opened his own club, the Gainesville Health & Fitness Center, within four years.
Inspired by Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, Cirulli made himself a sales goal and met it in three months. He also listed 10 things he wanted to achieve in his life. He accomplished them all.
Then, in 1999, Cirulli decided to make Gainesville the healthiest city in America.
Here’s a glimpse of what he’s up to:
He serves his customers well. He welcomed members of failed health clubs by honoring their old terms. He lowered prices for college students. He bought defibrillators for his clubs, which saved one man’s life.
He treats his competitors pretty well, too. The founder of a St. Petersburg fitness chain says he lost two nights’ sleep after hearing that Cirulli might be entering his territory. Cirulli reassured him. He also invites competitors to visit his centers, use his training manual and share his best practices.
He uses a rigorous hiring process. The four-page application is mostly puzzles and games, to weed out slackers. He checks references. There’s a group interview, one with the department head, plus a high-intensity workout.
Employees decide how to test a candidate on the company’s four core values: (1) integrity, (2) work ethic, (3) an extraordinary commitment to helping people and (4) the desire to shape the future. One technique is the “chair test,” where the interviewer starts moving chairs “needed next door.” Once, an otherwise promising candidate didn’t move except to take his feet off a chair when asked. Game over.
He has a vision. The center offers not only fitness programs but strategies to solve medical problems. It pioneered machines for neck and lower back pain. It led in using hydrotherapy to relieve arthritis. The center also offers free summer access to children and sponsors health fairs.
Bottom line: In four years, the Gainesville Health and Fitness Center became the first and only health club to receive the top honor awarded by the Wellness Council of America. Plus, the club retains 77% of new members, compared to the industry average of 60%.
— Adapted from “The Believer,” Bo Burlingham, Inc. magazine.
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