Tell HCM readers what’s been happening
Having set out with the intention of building a gym to rival the most advanced in the world, we’ve absorbed all sorts of challenges, from Grade II listed building obstacles, through to the issues the pandemic brought.
Having discovered a site for the first gym location – a 12,000sq ft space in my beloved home of Manchester – we’re now three years further down the line and only weeks away from opening.
On reflection, I’m grateful for this time, as it’s allowed us to enhance the product far beyond what I’d originally planned and I’ve also taken the time to increase my certifications – something I’ve invested in across 18 years of being a personal trainer and mentoring other PTs.
This has taken me to new levels of knowledge that’s being percolated into the membership service.
How have you been coping with the stress?
Stress happens when the body is in a sympathetic state. Learning how to keep switching out of this and into a parasympathetic state helps mitigate it.
There’s a lot of adrenal support you can administer to yourself and our gym members have the same needs, which is why GSquared Clubs will be offering adrenal testing and blood panel work as one of the secondary spend options.
One of the most challenging aspects of this journey has been the challenge of becoming accustomed to uncertainty – keeping the faith and the focus, especially when others felt the project was dead in the water or futile.
However, even though the demands on each of us are incredibly high right now, I, for one, just don’t feel fatigued at all. I’m doing this while embarking on my fourth degree and continuing to fit in time to train.
I suppose when you’re working towards your life’s purpose, fatigue just doesn’t appear.
I’m driven by a sense of guilt that as an industry we could have done so much more for our members and when I think of the eye-watering attrition rates in some parts of the industry, it drives me to want to give more.
GSquared is without question the most advanced gym in the UK. I’m certainly not setting out to upset or clash with other gym chains, but there’s no disputing that we’ve put the time, money, research and painstaking design time in to create a new standard and a new level.
What’s your vision for GSquared?
I was planning on moving on from the fitness industry after years working with major (and some smaller) chains – LA Fitness, Fitness First and DW Fitness, to name a few – but had a strong sense of unfinished business.
I feel strongly that gyms have held back for too long and members have lost out as a result.
For more than 30 years, since gyms became multi-site, most have focused on the physical and neglected the emotional, mental and spiritual.
GSquared incorporates all of these elements of conditioning, empowering members to achieve their full potential by incorporating protocols, assessments and information to help with mental, emotional and spiritual conditioning. We’ll never get optimal long-term physical benefits until we address these other three aspects of wellbeing.
As a nation, we’ve fallen behind with our health; something very wrong has occurred in the last 20-25 years, with obesity increasing from 15 per cent in 1993 to 27 per cent in 2020.
We have more stress than ever before, 75 per cent of the nation have some form of pre-diabetic or insulin management issue, 64 per cent have some form of sleep disruption and most recently The Economist reported that male sperm counts have dropped by 54 per cent since 1974 which is in line with the continued drop in male testosterone in the last 30 years by 30 per cent.
This all links back to GSquared’s core values and purpose – it goes beyond the physical, and it’s time the industry understood this.
Our strapline is ‘extraordinary as standard’ and we’ve gone to great lengths in every area of the business to deliver on that promise.
The jewel in the GSquared crown is the seven-step member journey we’ve affectionately called ‘You Squared’. This involves members going through seven in-depth assessments that take the standard gym induction and turn it into something incredibly valuable.
We’ve also committed to giving every member four meaningful contacts every year on top of the engagement they have with staff in the gym on a day-to-day basis.
What else will make GSquared stand apart?
Some things we’re keeping under our hat for now, but I can share that we’re the first commercial gym or PT studio in the UK to house a Bod Pod – the gold standard for body composition analysis – and we’re giving this service to our members as a standard feature.
Inside the gym, you’ll find quirks such as the assault course, climbing wall and running track. We’ve also infused as much nature into the place as possible, with an aquarium, waterfall and cv ‘garden’.
We’re affiliated to the CHEK and Poliquin Institutes and all our PTs go through what’s arguably the toughest interview anywhere, using its five-stage process.
The design of the club will blow members’ minds and as part of this we’re bringing back a full Front of House operation, which is something members appreciate.
The space could accommodate 3,000, but we’ve created a member-to-floor ratio that will keep numbers between 800 and 1,000.
We’ve ramped up cleaning to ensure the changing rooms are immaculate and that’s where you’ll find our infra-red saunas – the benefits of which exceed standard saunas.
In total, there are also 15 high-quality and very relevant secondary spend lines available, such as supplements, making GSquared one of the most profitable gym models around.
Finally, I personally train the staff myself to really help them develop and ensure the culture and core values of GSquared are fully absorbed.
What’s the full extent of the offering?
If members invest in our top membership tier (Platinum+ £225/m), they get a very full package, which includes guaranteed class access, full use of the facility, an appointed relationship manager, permanent locker, laundry service three times a week, a chauffeur service if they need to be collected or dropped off at the office – basically anything they request, whether it’s a pre- or post-workout drink or a fresh shirt.
They’re also entitled to the You Squared journey – a 12-week online transformation programme, as well as the full class timetable and access to the single-sex saunas which are inclusive of all membership tiers.
GSquared also has a members’ privilege card, with discounts from our partners, including names such as Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Stock Exchange Hotel, Sweaty Betty, Hotel Kimpton and more.
In addition to Platinum+, other packages are Platinum at £150/month and Executive at £95/month.
How many members are you targeting?
We’ll open with 400 – approximately half capacity and we’re on course to achieve this. We’ll cap it at 800 to 1,000 and then look to develop a second location.
Our pitch to prospective members is that a cheaper membership could actually cost them more, given everything we provide and the high-end nature of GSquared has been incredibly well received in Manchester.
How much have you invested?
The current figure is £1.8m, which allows for re-works and unanticipated structural challenges.
I’ve personally contributed a third of that from personal finances and the rest has been relatively easy to find, if I’m honest.
The interest and attention at an investment level have been encouraging and I’m now in final discussions for the next round of funding that will help us scale quickly after the doors open for this first site.
As much as this first development has been protracted due to the pandemic, it’s been a blessing in disguise, as it’s given us the chance to review and make changes and additions that make it a spectacular space.
What equipment have you specified?
We went with Watson Gym Equipment for free weights and resistance and Freemotion for cables. Ian Thorpe of Fitness Systems has also been involved.
I was born and raised in the city, so it made sense – especially given the number of personal and corporate contacts I have here.
This provides me with an unfair advantage over out-of-town fitness brands hitting the city. I feel a bit sorry for them, as we’ve cornered the high-end market.
How many locations are you planning?
We’re aiming to have the first three open in the next year to 18 months. The second site, which will be connected to a residential development, is currently at the legal stage.
The longer-term picture is to roll out into every city and financial district, with potential growth into residential locations alongside the commercial.
Will you go international or franchise?
We’re not looking at franchising – I feel too purist in what I’m doing – but we’re looking at international markets.
Having consulted for gym chains in Europe, I’d intended to hit European cities first, but contacts and friends in the US are pushing me to go there first, so the US is looking more appealing at this point.
What’s your plan for delivering on digital?
We’ve pretty much got it covered with the 12-week online transformation, which is free to our members and available at a small charge for non-members.
Once we’re settled into the first site, GSquared streaming will be made available in people’s homes.
I believe the streaming service will be well received by those who see GSquared as a lifestyle brand that’s committed to utilising cutting edge research and information.
Who are your competitors?
In Manchester, honestly? Nobody. The product and service are so far ahead nothing comes remotely near. We’re engaging higher earners who are looking for something more exclusive, luxurious and personalised.
Once we grow beyond Manchester we’ll go head to head with Equinox and Third Space.
I love competition – it’s what drives me. By stretching ourselves and each other, we raise the game. A rising tide raises all boats, as they say.
With the resources behind me and a polished offering in GSquared, I’d say a few business owners out there need to start looking over their shoulders.
This is how it should always have been and perhaps if this had been so, leaders in the industry could have learned from each other, raised the standard together and given members true benefits and tangible results and really influenced the health of the nation.
What’s your take on the market?
I believe the only people wanting low-cost gyms in years to come will be bodybuilders, powerlifters and those wanting a cost-effective space to lift weights.
From being the nemesis of brands such as LA Fitness, Fitness First and other middle market operators, there are now people who want more.
The achilles heel of budget facilities is their attrition rates and the stigma of being ‘low cost’ – as people become more discerning, they’re treating their gym membership like anything else in their life that they want to stretch themselves with.
What have you learned about yourself?
Firstly, there’s always something productive you can be doing; secondly, if you want something badly enough, you’ll make it work and thirdly, to step back and use time effectively. I’ve found that even if that means doing something else for a while, it will serve you well in the longer term.
Did you make changes due to the pandemic?
We’re sharing more about gut health to give the best information about natural defences against COVID-19.
With the gut underpinning our immune strength and with so many people having compromised gut health, it’s a consideration when it comes to understanding why we’ve had such a horrific time of it.
It’s not a case of ‘vaccinate or nothing’ – there are many factors that impact inflammation in the body and a range of naturopathic protocols that can be deployed to give the best chance of survival, it’s sad this knowledge hasn’t been more widely shared.
Most people train for one of two reasons – they love their body or they hate their body. That is the starting point for gyms. The more owners understand and respond to this, the more success they’ll have.