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Brothers in Fitness

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Thirty-two years. Twenty-plus locations and growing. Two siblings. 

The previous statements can only describe one duo in the fitness industry. And that is brothers Angel and Willy Banos, the co-owners of Gold’s Gym Southern California (Gold’s Gym SoCal). 

Since 1987, the brothers have been finding success as Gold’s Gym franchisees, putting their unique stamp on the brand and establishing a network of one-of-a-kind gyms throughout Southern California. 

And they’ve done it all on their own. 

“Angel and I have been able to sustain our growth, so far, without having to bring on any equity partners,” said Willy. “We’re still in charge of what we do, when we do it, and how we do it.”

This autonomy has resulted in the brothers’ franchise group earning a number of accolades within the Gold’s Gym network, including “Best Marketing Campaign of 2019,” record-breaking presales at its last two club openings, and “Best New Club of Gold’s Gym International” in both 2018 and 2019. 

These successes stem from a number of key best practices carried out by the Banos brothers, including a passion for the industry and the Gold’s Gym brand, a culture of rewards and recognition, and a commitment to staying innovative. 

Passion

The ability to stay inspired and committed to seeing a business successfully through 32 years requires one thing: passion — of which, Angel and Willy have plenty. This includes passion for the fitness industry, and passion for the Gold’s Gym name. 

The first Gold’s Gym was founded by Joe Gold near Venice Beach, California. Due to its origin story, the brand seemed like a natural fit for two brothers looking to invest in a franchise in the Golden State. 

According to Willy, the brand’s starting point in California, and the power of a global brand, made the investment a no-brainer. And today, the franchise’s significance in the state is still felt. 

“Similar to Harley-Davidson, we have a deep brand that’s rooted in the California culture, being that it was founded here,” said Willy. “Because of that, customers will drive longer distances to be part of our health clubs. They love to wear our t-shirts. We have a brand people are proud of.”

According to Angel, this brand equity has given the Banos brothers an edge over the competition, by allowing them to cater to a clearly defined consumer. And that is those who are serious about fitness. 

“The brand attracts those types of members who are hardcore about working out,” explained Angel. “And hardcore doesn’t mean you have to lift 500 pounds. We cater to the hardcore executive, the hardcore policeman, the hardcore truck driver, the hardcore soccer mom and the hardcore school teacher. If you want results, there’s nothing better than our brand. We know who we cater to, and we go hardcore after them.” 

Culture of Rewards & Recognition 

The brothers’ passion for the brand has resulted in a high-energy vibe felt immediately upon entering a Gold’s Gym SoCal location. According to Angel, it’s a normal occurrence to see staff and members high-fiving each other for sales made or fitness goals met. 

However, this energy isn’t felt by accident, but is hand-crafted by a culture of rewards and recognition established by Angel and Willy. 

Every month and quarter, clearly defined goals are set for the teams at individual clubs, and all marketing is aligned in support of those goals. Oftentimes, a reward or contest will be held surrounding a goal, instilling a positive sense of friendly competition among the teams. 

“We like to have contests for our people, and for three years we’ve been not only hitting our numbers, but gone beyond our numbers,” said Angel. “Our teams are competing with each other, but also for each other, at the end of the day.”

According to Angel, this culture of rewards and recognition has been key to the retention of its people — which is vital for a growing franchise. 

“The challenge to scaling up has always been the people part — getting enough people in your bullpen to scale up,” explained Angel. “That’s the hardest part because, like when you’re building a football team, you want to make sure your people have enough training and development, they’re knowledgeable about your brand and the company, and buy-in to the results and experience you want to give every member. That’s the key.” 

To overcome this challenge, the Banos brothers have built a training and development department, including its own Gold’s Gym University, with protocols and procedures specific to the franchise group

Staff training, paired with a culture that rewards and recognizes those who strive for excellence, has resulted in greater staff retention, and ultimately, the brand’s success. 

“We definitely recognize the entire team for their efforts,” added Angel. “That’s been huge, because people are looking, at times, even more for recognition than they are for monetary rewards.” 

Innovation 

Of course, remaining successful through 32 years of business requires more than just passion and a competitive culture. It also requires innovation. 

Over the years, the Banos brothers have remained in-tune to changing trends in the fitness industry and ever-evolving consumer expectations. 

A great example is the brand’s inclusion of studio-style classes and small group training within its core offerings, such as GOLD’S FIT and GOLD’S BURN, two classes that foster camaraderie among members and provide results. The franchise group is also building out expansive functional training turf areas within each of its locations. 

In addition, Gold’s Gym SoCal is currently offering eGym at its Glendale club, which allows gyms to personalize the strength training experience through individualized training plans and goals. Together, the eGym equipment and app help keep members accountable and motivated to achieve their fitness goals. 

According to Angel, the integration of this technology has resulted in higher usage, particularly among new members. 

“We’re always looking for something that’s new to evolve, and eGym was one of the products we took upon,” said Angel. “It’s used by millenials as well as our silver population, and it’s been terrific. Our welcome workouts have increased because of the eGym technology.”

Although a lot has changed since Willy and Angel first became franchisees, Willy explained the one thing that hasn’t is their emphasis on hospitality. Hailing from former careers in retail, the Banos brothers have always recognized the importance of providing a great customer service experience. 

And in today’s digital age, where consumers can shop dozens of clubs with just the click of a finger, an emphasis on hospitality is more important than ever. 

“Today, the consumer has more opportunity, and more options to search those opportunities at their fingertips, than they’ve ever had,” said Willy. “So it’s very easy to pick and choose where you want to go, and I think sometimes the first few minutes of your experience with a company determines if you want to be with them or not.”

This dedication to service and innovation will remain vital as the Banos brothers continue their expansion in Southern California, and potentially beyond. 

“We’re trying to grow throughout California and possibly out of state, so we’re very excited about that,” said Angel. 

In fact, this past October, the brand announced it had acquired two additional locations — Gold’s Gym Pasadena and Gold’s Gym Long Beach — furthering its stamp as a force in fitness in the Golden State. 

“I think the brand equity we’ve built here in Southern California is an enormous edge over our competition,” said Angel. “We’ve been doing it for 30 years plus and we’ve not only survived, but have thrived and are growing.” 

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Rachel Zabonick

Rachel Zabonick is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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