Cory Brightwell Talks Chuze Fitness
Chuze Fitness got its start in Carlsbad, California in 2008. Co-founded by Kris Peterson, Nick Barshick and Cory Brightwell, the budget-friendly gym has since grown to 19 locations in California, Arizona and Colorado, with plans to have 22 locations by the end of the year.
Here, Cory Brightwell, the CEO of Chuze Fitness, shares an update on where the company is today and where it’s headed.
CS: What are the keys to how Chuze Fitness has been able to grow?
CB: The first factor is our hiring process. Using our extensive recruit/select hiring process to find talent that fits with the Chuze culture and standard of execution has been paramount to getting the right people in the right jobs. Chuze managers are trained in recruit/select once per year during an eight-hour course delivered by the COO and myself.
Second, our culture training. Our on-going Chuze Culture training program is called “Making the Kool-Aid” and is solely focused on how we can enhance the member experience through every type of member interaction you can think of. All new staff take the 4-hour course/seminar within their first 90 days. The course is presented by our COO, Nick Barshick, and consists of primarily live role playing that allows new “Chuzers” to learn and experience the level of customer service we are expecting them to deliver. Then, existing staff will take the “Chuze Olympics” course once per year thereafter. The Chuze Olympics is designed to fine-tune their customer service skills and even take things to the next level through some very intricate role playing scenarios that are graded by three judges. Cash prizes are handed out to winning teams and MVPs for their performance and overall scores.
The third factor is our team building. Once we have great people, we have to keep them. They are now our family and we do our best to treat them that way. Each quarter, all clubs and districts conduct a team building outing. These usually consist of off-site events such as hiking, camping, sporting events, retreats to ranches in Texas and Idaho, etc.
CS: What’s it like looking back at how far Chuze Fitness has come?
CB: Surreal. Eight years have flown by and now we are doing very well. I’m so proud of the team we started with and the team we have grown into. I can’t wait to see what the next eight years holds.
CS: In what ways has Chuze Fitness evolved?
CB: We have evolved substantially when looking at overall footprint and amenity offerings. The first club we opened in October 2008 was 16,000-square-foot club with your basic equipment set up of cardio, strength, free weights and locker rooms for $14 per month. We are now opening clubs that are 35,000 to 40,000 square feet, with $9.99 per month memberships and features such as pools, Jacuzzis, saunas, group exercise studios, team training studios, Hydromassage beds, cycling studios, turf training areas, Chuze Cinemas, Kid’s Club, smoothie bars and more. Each gym we open is better than the last.
CS: What have been your biggest learning lessons?
CB: We learned very quickly that we are the best at what we call “the basics” — customer service and cleanliness. We also learned that if we don’t continually pour our energies into “the basics,” we will very quickly not be the best. So, we now focus on being the best at the basics. This is why we have implemented the Chuze Culture program.
CS: What have been Chuze Fitness’ biggest challenges, and how were those challenges overcome?
CB: A huge challenge we faced early on was finding the right people for our growing company. We were making too many poor hires that were costing us financially and culturally. Fortunately in 2010 we were able to attend an extensive hiring seminar that was being used in the real estate industry, and we had an epiphany: We weren’t spending near enough time on the front end to ensure we were recruiting and selecting the “right” people for our company. We were instead spending very little time hiring, and way too much time training and attempting to manage those people into being the right fit for the company.
The end result was the creation of our Recruit/Select hiring process. It is designed to put in the time and energy upfront to ensure we’re hiring the “right fit,” rather than hiring someone and attempting to make them the “right fit.” The process has drastically improved our good hire batting average. All of our district and unit-level managers are trained on the process, and it has allowed us to grow our company, while maintaining a great culture and high standard of execution. I’m happy to announce that I have not had to personally hire anyone in 3 years due to the Recruit/Select process being a success.
CS: What are your hopes for Chuze Fitness’ future?
CB: We will continue to grow our Chuze brand and Chuze family throughout the southwestern U.S. We are expecting to open four to six new locations per year for at least the next five years. Our vision is not to be the biggest health club company out there, but we certainly want to be the best. And for us that means being the best at the “basics,” customer service and cleanliness and improving our amenities with each new gym we open.