As the CEO of Mountainside Fitness, I’ve had to retrofit 10 locations with cardio, strength and functional training equipment. Most recently, Mountainside Fitness opened the first-ever club inside Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. As a result, I’d like to share some buying tips I’ve gleaned over the years of purchasing equipment.
Our country’s recent economic challenges brought a renewed sense of pride in supporting local companies and manufacturing. Does supporting a U.S.-based company matter to you? Does where the equipment is manufactured matter to you? I understand that manufacturing overseas translates into lower prices for buyers. I also understand the difficult position manufacturers find themselves in. I’m cognizant of both sides and do business with both U.S. and foreign manufacturers. However, all things being near equal, I give preferential treatment to U.S.-based businesses and prefer that the equipment be manufactured in the U.S. as well.
I’m going to generalize here and say that when comparing the top equipment manufacturers, a treadmill is a treadmill. Yes, I know the nuanced differences between one manufacturer’s equipment and another’s. However, my customers don’t. What really matters is the relationship you have with your sales rep and how much support he or she has from corporate. How does a manufacturer respond when there is a problem? How often do you see your sales rep? Does he or she only call you when it’s time to make a purchase? The relationship you have with the manufacturer and sales rep should factor heavily into your buying decision.
Warranty VS. Price
Early on in my career, I made the mistake of focusing on price when negotiating cardio equipment deals. Three, four, five years after the original purchase, I noticed rising repair and maintenance costs. Oh, how I wish I had focused more on negotiating a better warranty! Today, I play the long game. I look at the expected life of a piece of cardio and what it will cost to maintain and repair it over a five-year period. Yes, I want a low upfront price, but what I care about even more is a long warranty. Don’t jump over dollars to save quarters.
Bring More Than One Date to the Dance
When it comes to strength equipment, don’t go steady with one manufacturer. Consumers enjoy variety, so give it to them. Your strength floor should feature equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Don’t let a sales rep turn your strength floor into his or her show room.
When it Comes to Cardio, Disregard My Last Point
There are pronounced differences in strength equipment, and only minor ones when it comes to cardio. Cardio requires a lot of maintenance, so for ease of service, going steady makes sense. Our goal is to never have a piece of cardio be out of service for more than 24 hours. Achieving this goal requires us to stock all normal wear parts. Logistically, that becomes challenging if I have to stock decks, belts and motors from numerous manufacturers.
The Real Housewives are Lower Maintenance Than Most Cycling Bikes
Customers love cycle classes. Club staff and maintenance personnel hate cycling bikes. They require weekly attention and are frequently the source of customer complaints. When making a buying decision on bikes, go for ease of use and durability. Cool features don’t matter if the basic components keep breaking. Also, make sure that your bike manufacturer can support your part needs in a timely manner. Buying from the largest indoor cycling manufacturer doesn’t guarantee you professional customer service or support.
Don’t Buy Too Much Equipment
I know that statement won’t be well received by the manufacturing community. But, sorry, I’m not sorry. Equipment is expensive and weighs heavily on your balance sheet. More importantly, your customers want open space. Functional training is topical and being comfortable in your surroundings matters. I’m not trying to go all “CrossFit” on you and suggesting that you “set up four walls sans any real equipment.” Strength equipment and enough of it is very important. The mistake I see many make is that they try to cram too much of it into their building. What I’m advocating for is balance. Dedicate a certain percentage of your workout floor to open space and make sure that your equipment layout is such that customers may move with ease throughout the floor.
By Billy Malkovich, the CEO of Mountainside Fitness.