Cultivating Community with Forma Gym
Forma Gym has two locations in California, and its strong community presence has contributed to its successful growth.
Robert Jackson, the owner of Forma Gym, formerly owned a personal training business, before it evolved into the two luxury gyms existing today. “We are full-service health clubs which offer yoga, Pilates, barre, cycle and group exercise,” he said.
Jackson took pride in his personal training business, which grew to have more than 60 trainers on staff at one point. However, he soon realized Walnut Creek residents were in need of a full-service product. So, Jackson purchased a nearby old racquetball club and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Over a couple of years we remodeled the entire facility, repurposed it, built out additional studios and put a high focus on group exercise and programming,” said Jackson. “And turned it from an 1,800 member operation to today, where we have around 4,100 members at the Walnut Creek location and an additional 3,400 members at the San Jose location.”
According to Jackson, a huge key to the company’s success is its focus on community through specific programs and initiatives. For example, The Forma Kid’s Foundation, the gym’s non-profit organization, is a huge presence in the Walnut Creek community and beyond. “We have a run that we organize every year on Thanksgiving day,” Jackson explained. “It’s called the Forma Gym Turkey Trot and last year we had 10,000 people from our community of 60,000 run this race.”
During the event, 1,000 turkeys are given away in a low-income neighborhood in east Oakland, California. Jackson said he and his team hand-deliver 20 turkeys, and give the rest to local food pantries.
In addition to a strong community, industry consultant Bill McBride has been integral in the club’s success. “He taught us a lot about details, and I think what really drove our success was when we started getting the team right, we started putting a lot of emphasis on training, orientation and our culture,” explained Jackson. “And then we started getting marketing right, too.”
Forma Gym’s marketing plan includes a high emphasis on its group exercise programming to appeal to the club’s key demographic. “We really started to understand what our differentiators are,” said Jackson. “We really appealed to a very specific demographic who lived around our club. And once we started profiling our members and asking them what they saw as differentiators and the main reasons why they joined our club, we were able to get a specific set of demographics and were able to begin targeting them.”
Jackson said one of Forma Gym’s marketing campaigns, “What Motivates You?” had extremely positive effects on the community and membership, but also with staff. He brought in a high-end photographer to capture top-notch images, and asked Forma Gym team members to describe what motivated them daily. The quotes, paired with sophisticated images, were not only mounted around the gym, but even made it onto local billboards.
“The staff felt like celebrities,” recalled Jackson. “If you have amazing people, shout it out to the world. Don’t be afraid to put it on a billboard. You want people to look and think, ‘I want to associate myself with that place.’”