September 3, 2019

Mel Tempest was a latecomer to the fitness industry when she started a club from zero in 2003 after only having 18 months practical experience in fitness. Her previous career was in real estate and as a mum. Today she is planning a September 16th birthday for her club and team, what started as a 450-square-meter old church hall gym has grown into 1750-square-meter club success story. She is the owner of the freehold and every single piece of equipment in it. And even though she is relatively new to the game, she has created the loudest impact in the Australian fitness business market place. “Not bad for somebody who left school at 14 and sold hot chips,” she says.

What specifically are you focusing on in 2019? 

In my club we are focusing on new group programming products, better systems that create profit based on technology and innovation. In the fitness business I’m focusing on opening the minds and thought processes of fitness business owners with speaking, educational events and podcasting, so that we as an industry can deliver what we promise to the consumer — results that lead to a better lifestyle.

You have quite a diverse background. How did you end up in this position?

As a club owner, somebody told me I couldn’t teach a particular class, but I couldn’t understand that in an industry that is supposed to inspire others to grow we weren’t practicing that with our peers. As a fitness business influencer I think that came about because I make people think bigger.

How so?

I alert people to ignorance and I hold people accountable, you can’t run from it. As gym owners we take money from the consumer and we have to answer to them and as professionals we also have to answer to our peers.

Your website describes you as “unapologetically passionate.” What’s that mean exactly?

Over the top! I give everything away freely, I’m the poorest business coach and podcaster I know.

Where does the boutique health club fit into the overall health club/fitness business in 2019?

For large commercial clubs I have been repeating myself for years — they need to build a business within a business. In fact, if they look closely they already have been doing that and they have the expertise to do it on another scale, they just need to get the right people and the right product behind them. They need to work more closely with people who have done it.

What would your advice be to individuals considering going the boutique club route instead of a larger or chain format?

Think like a consumer, know your community, know your demographic, understand your product, don’t just do it because everybody else is doing it. What you don’t know get an expert to help you with. Use marketing that reflects who your target market is. Use more short and sharp video content — we actually engaged FourD media and because of their expertise we became the authority of video storytelling within not just our club, but our events as well.

How would you characterize the state of the fitness business in the United States?

The strength of the U.S. market is that they are not afraid to try anything. I love this attitude, I love people who jump into the frying pan and into the deep end. They speak givingly, openly and create opportunities.

Any weakness that you see?

I think the weakness is the same as Australia — collaborating at finding a solution or a better way to decrease obesity. However, the U.S. is doing a great job at trying and the new Plus Size program will definitely change lives.

What are some of the unique challenges the industry faces these days?

Globally, recruitment. This is not a unique problem — it’s an ongoing problem. We also need to prepare for what happens when the bubble bursts. Are we educating business owners to prepare or are we just upselling to them at every possible moment. If we don’t prepare them they end up with zero and so do we as the supplier. It’s a domino effect.

How important is social media to fitness clubs these days and what kind of investment does it take?

Again, knowing who your client base is will determine where your spend is. Social media is paramount to success today — it derives automatic income if done correctly. In saying that though, it’s a lot harder to get that income than it was 10 years ago. That’s how long we have been advertising on Facebook. Like I said earlier, use video and use the KISS method — keep it simple and safe.

What role do you see FIBO USA playing?

FIBO USA is the new era and the shift we need. We have a new generation of exerciser, educator and supplier, so we need a new platform. We the consumer of the FIBO product need to take a leap of faith, believe and support. We as an industry are looking at FIBO USA because we believe down deep inside we want this — we just need to be brave and say yes. Most importantly, we need to remind ourselves that we were once the new kid on the block and we asked for the same support as FIBO USA asks of us.

What one piece of advice would you give to the typical club owner or trainer on how to be better – and make more money – in the fitness business?

Club owners, open your minds — stop living in the past. Personal trainers, find a niche, be brave, have a dream. If you can live with the worst possible scenario, why wouldn’t you give it a go. Stay true to you and the income will come.

To wrap up, in what direction do you see the fitness business in the U.S. headed in 2020 and beyond?

More franchising opportunities, virtual online events. More smaller, personalized educational expos organized by fresh exciting educators. The best way to take advantage of them is to get involved, be a voice and support people willing to make change. Don’t stand back. Get in and be part of the change. Our legacy is what we accept and tolerate.

Mel’s Marketing Advice

Since one of your areas of expertise is club marketing, how would you rate the marketing most fitness clubs are practicing?

Most owners know what they want to do, they just don’t know how to produce it. It’s not their why, it’s not the reason they entered the industry. Too many clubs follow whatever the media says is cool and on-trend. This is why I encourage them to understand who their business is and if they don’t know then engage another party to do the work.


What could be done to improve that aspect of their businesses?

Whether they like it or not they need to differentiate from the business down the road. Stop running clubs based on your own personal preference. Learn about innovation and technology and get rid of the attitude that if it’s not broken it doesn’t need fixing. Club owners need to change the identity of their clubs every few years. If you think you don’t, then you have never lost a customer to a new boutique