A Father’s Inspiration for Success
When Joe Gworek enters his gym, he sees the portrait of his father and thinks about all the lessons he learned about business and fitness. Gworek’s father Dave passed away from a heart attack in 2005 just a month after Gworek opened his own gym, The CLUB Health & Fitness in Naugatuck, Conn. As a 17-year businessman and Ironman competitor, who competed four times in the world championship, Gworek’s father was a well of information for his son.
“He was the one person I would look to for business advice,” Gworek said. “After that had happened, that was my biggest motivating factor because I wanted to push myself every single day to make The CLUB work and grow and create a great environment in here that my father would be proud of!”
Dave Gworek was an environmental engineer and owned his company Diversified Environmental Services. Joe watched his dad start running marathons in the mid 90s and compete in his first Ironman in 1997. “He was something else,” Gworek said of his father. Watching his father in business and in Ironman competitions motivated Gworek to attend college and focus on a fitness related major.
Gworek has owned his gym, The CLUB for five and a half years. “I love working out and love to help people better themselves and assist them to a healthier life,” he said. “A health club, in my eyes, should have great energy, a positive vibe and a great place for people to better themselves. That is one thing I make sure to project to my staff, to make sure every member that walks in the door gets the most out of their workout each and every time they come in.”
In order to ensure his employees keep their focus on the members, Gworek spends time each day quizzing employees on member names. “The most important thing we do here is really get involved with each individual that comes in,” Gworek explained. “I know each member by name and make sure my staff does as well. We always say at least ‘hello’ and ‘have a great night’ to each member that comes in. My staff and I are constantly walking around helping members out and making sure each member is doing what they need to in order to better themselves.”
Gworek believes that this extra effort has given him the upper hand in terms of owning his health club. In the beginning, things were a little different for Gworek. He purchased The CLUB from another fitness facility that was going out of business.
According to Gworek, the company cut a lot of corners and spent time trying to make money, as opposed to creating a terrific member experience. “The first month after I bought the gym, I realized that the previous owners did nothing to try and grow the business,” he said. “They were just taking advantage of every person that walked in, trying to get the most money they could out of them and also billing members past their date that they had canceled.”
In response to the disregard of customers the previous owners had, Gworek had to muster up business the old fashioned way. He put is cousin at the front desk and made his way around the town.
“I went door to door to every business within a five-mile radius,” Gworek said. “I had 20,000 business cards printed up and handed a handful to each business.”
Gworek would encourage the businesses and their employees to attend the The CLUB for a free trial and also invite them to the grand opening where they would be able to win prizes that ranged from a flat-screen TV, iPods and free personal training.
“I feel that being a small business owner, especially a ‘non-franchised’ gym, I need to get my face out there and really show my members that I truly care about all of my members and their well-being,” Gworek explained. “I take time to talk with all of my members every time they come in the door. Of any gym I have ever gone to, I never saw that, and I feel like that is the ultimate difference here as opposed to anywhere else.”
In order to perpetuate his gym’s philosophy, Gworek has taken time to employ great people. He has found a quality staff that has the same excitement and overall care of other people’s health that corresponds to his own. “I’m constantly training my employees and working to make the club even better than it was the day before,” Gworek said.
Having employees that keep The CLUB operating smoothly has allowed Gworek to look beyond the club. Aside from implementing bootcamps and group classes, he is targeting the childhood obesity epedimic. “We are starting to implement high school programs and clinics for the athletes, and camps for younger children in the community that could use a helping hand in living a healthier lifestyle.”
When Gworek entered college he thought he’d major in something fitness related. However, after five-and-a-half years, he has grown a business that would make his father proud, helped his community get healthy and encouraged the start of healthy lifestyles among children throughout Naugatuck. -CS