As Royce Pulliam walked out of the gym he exercised at more than a decade ago, he was disgusted at its poor condition and told his wife he could do it better. He wasn’t just talking – he bought and opened his first gym in Lexington, Ky., just six months later.

“When I said that to myself and to my wife 17 years ago, I didn’t know what I meant. But I knew I could have a facility that was clean, had good equipment and offered a good service,” Pulliam says.

While those were good starting points, he is now the owner and CEO of Urban Active, a brand consisting of 38 clubs in seven states. Years of subsequent growth have given him greater insight into the needs of a larger company encompassing multiple locations.

The most important component for growth is choosing a successful location. Establish criteria you deem essential and evaluate potential sites against them.

“We look at competition, we look at the education of the demographic in a three-mile ring, we look at population density in that market and we look at income,” Pulliam says.

“Once those four things match up, if the lay of the land changes at all or the design changes, we’re nimble enough that we can work with the model and tweak it. But if it doesn’t fit with the main criteria, we won’t pass it.”

While expanding, maintain strong investment in existing company locations to ensure a solid foundation, and choose new locations with traveling distance in mind.

“We were definitely going to continue to develop out our existing territories, but also to geographically try to expand into neighboring states that were an hour, hour and a half flight time away and easy for our people to get to,” Pulliam says of his initial growth plan.

Another component of growth is the challenge to maintain effective communication with clients.

“We expected all the club-level people to get the information up the ladder, and as we grew, we found that that became more challenging,” he says.

“It was just taking too long and there were too many middle people, and that’s what happens with companies until you go straight out and put yourself out there.”

To improve communication, empower customers to contact senior executives directly through email. Back up the gesture by making sure each concern is addressed.

“(Another CEO told me) ‘It’s a gutsy thing to do but it’s the right thing to do, because everybody needs to have access and you need to know.’”

Although management must strive to be directly informed, growth challenges the ability of executives to control all areas of business. This makes investing in employees instrumental to success, as they will be working directly with customers.

“You’ve got to trust your people. You can train them, you can spend endless hours, but they’ve got to execute,” Pulliam says.

Hire friendly, energetic employees who can set customers at ease. Instruct employees to smile and wear name badges to make them seem more accessible.

 “I want our members to be able to walk up to someone and know their name – not have to ask what their names are. We have a lot of members in our facilities and I want them to feel comfortable.”

How to reach: Urban Active, (877) 824-3571 or www.urbanactive.com

Published in Akron/Canton