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Pot Brownies in the Gym? Would Your Brand Stand for That?

I love paying for a gym membership and never actually showing up. Ridiculous, for sure, so the other day I finally got myself there after a mild eternity.

It was a happy surprise running into a friend who works at this national franchise gym, which shall remain unnamed. He's using this experience to learn the do’s and don’ts of running a gym both on the floor and on the management side.

He shared a couple of crazy stories:

• Personal trainers with no experience or fitness education need only take the gym’s 3-day, $300 training program and pass the test to get hired

• A trainer was fired for having sex with a member in a back room in the gym

• My favorite though… a trainer brought homemade pot brownies to the gym and gave them out to members and staff without telling them they were laced with pot

The location I go to apparently has the highest sales and personal training revenue of all branches, yet the sales team has never received any show of acknowledgement or appreciation from the owners. When I looked around, with very few exceptions, most of the trainers were out of shape; a strange look for a gym.

Recently, the media reported that an employee at the upscale gym Equinox (my gym is not Equinox), was moonlighting as a gunrunner and busted for stashing guns in a gym locker.

You can’t make this stuff up.

So what does this have to do with you and your brand, company, or organization? Perhaps nothing immediately comes to mind but... 

How in tune and connected are you to what makes your brand tick, to its DNA, which impacts everyone your brand reaches both internally and externally?

How is your employee retention? What about your customer or client loyalty? How's the word-of-mouth about your business?

Knowing what your brand stands for is as important as knowing what it won’t stand for.

Encounters you have along the way in your daily life, like my gym experience, can be a great eye-opening guide to help inform what your brand is and isn’t about - from customer service to UX (user experience) to how to treat the staff.

Years ago, I joined the first Equinox in NYC from floor plans before the gym was built. Ushered in with a ‘family’ rate, each year the membership inched up slightly but stayed lower than those just joining. After a couple of years, they wanted to bring my membership to the street value. I fought saying, this isn’t how you treat those that have been here since the beginning. Their response: ‘If you don’t like it, join another gym.’

With no other nearby gym, I renewed with $800 in rolled up coins. They were pissed, but so was I. Not a healthy user experience nor corporate culture.

Whether you’re a solopreneur, entrepreneur, brand, organization or company, it’s so important to establish your values, beliefs, attitudes, standards, brand promise, vision, and goals. This has a ripple effect across all aspects of your business.

If you don’t care about your employees or treat them respectfully, they likely won’t care either. If you believe everyone is expendable, it will be felt and breed a culture of fear. As in any relationship, it’s give and take. It’s in the best interest of any business to have happy employees, consultants, freelancers, or vendors.

What do you stand for and what won’t your stand for? 

Sometimes this is hard to know until you’re facing a situation head-on. And usually, the situation is more nuanced, not as cut-and-dry as what was happening at my gym.

In the era that we now live, we have to be hypersensitive and hyper vigilant when it comes to sexism, racism, ageism, and probably plenty other -ism’s. Knowing what you stand for and what you won’t stand for will certainly be a big help in navigating this landscape.

When thinking about your brand culture remember:

Know your values, mission, brand promise, and make sure everyone that works with you does too - whether on staff or for-hire

It’s about serving your customers/clients -- a happy brand culture makes that possible and successful

Be honest. Empower. Trust.

Many companies create a Brand Book (aka brand guidelines, style guide) to explain how their brand works to employees and outside consultants. In addition to guidelines around visual branding, they also can include an overview of the brand’s history, vision, message, story, personality, brand voice, promise, and values, which are all part of how I help clients.

This helps maintain consistency and sets boundaries within a company culture so pot brownies being handed out willy-nilly doesn’t become commonplace. Unless, of course, that’s what your brand will stand for.

I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.
— Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently