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The "Ups and Downs" of the studio concept


by Lloyd Shaw

This is a focused look at the ups and downs of the Vibration Training industry from the studio concept angle to date. This article is not intended to do anything other than allow the potential studio owner to avoid any pitfalls.

The Rise....

In late 2003 the worlds first dedicated Vibration Training Studio was conceived and set up in N.Z with the machines being made in Europe by a well known company. The concept was simple , to allow the consumer to have access to a professional machine being operated and overseen by a professional trainer in a non-gym like surroundings. It was hoped in the process Vibration Training would gain a reputation sought after by every workout system ever created.

(1) It would work.
(2) It would be safe
(3) It would be affordable.
(4) It did not discriminate.

I mean how hard could that be , take an unknown technology and make it a  success ?  A harder task was going to be to produce an industry free of the overhype of previous popular workouts. It was hoped others would follow and we would have successful studios dotted around the world offering a good service at a good price. I honestly couldn't see how anyone could fail. But the reality 5 years on is quite different. Some companies have grown , but others have set up fast and gone just as quickly. Some lasting only 6 months or so.

What went wrong in these cases and can it be avoided ? I will break it down into exact problems , keeping in mind some had only a few issues while others had them all.

THE COMPLETE FALL....

One entire chain was set up to fail right from the beginning.

A franchise system was set up under the guise that a studio could be purchased and protection which would be offered in two forms...

(a) Trademark/advertising rights.
(b) Exclusive rights to the machinery in your area.

A few big problems with that ,

Note: The first is the big one to watch for if planning to operate a business with your primary income being Vibration Training.

(a) The machinery was not full commercial as advertised, it was the lower end of professional at best so the limited lifespan and quality was always going to effect the business long term. Not only does the consumer need to be continuously impressed by the machines performance which is hard to do on a very limited unit , but you simply can not buy a new machine every so often to replace your stock.

Note: Warranty work was not done quickly so income and customers were lost .

(b) The machines were in fact planned to be sold to anyone that moved despite contracts being signed saying otherwise. So not only could people buy the exact same model but they could also advertise the name as long as you said they "used" the product.

The machines are at present being sold online at half the price the studios paid.

There were other problems as listed below but nothing that could not have been fixed.


THE STUMBLE....

Now the failure of these studios is harder to nail down and I will need to put the smaller issues into their own categories but all are equally important.

THE MACHINES....

These studios had good machines, in fact some had the exact units my own studio network started with and still used at some , others were similar. The machines where at the higher end of the professional bracket so did have a limited lifespan ( 3yrs+)  but that cost could be absorbed if you were successful. And you could always buy newer better models as they where released.
The machines where also not exactly designed with studio use in mind, more of a quieter professional environment offering the trainer a few too many options for their own good sometimes if really busy , but besides that no real problems.

THE PROGRAMS....

Now this is where the whole thing gets like a religion. I mean you are either right or wrong but quite often you don't know you have been led astray until after you get into trouble.

Problem:
As the exact science for this technology is not understood fully yet the programs are quite often written by those who "believe" one way is better than another. Very little reasons are given sometimes for those beliefs.

Example:
Sometimes research papers are produced to show a vertical height increase in athletes or better stretch reflex at a certain Fq so it is applied to all programs. But what's the best one for weight loss ? It is just assumed that this Fq must also be the same for everything.

LESS IS MORE , OR MORE IS MORE ?

These programs were often overtly complicated and long winded taking your quick workout to something that resembled yoga + using a lawnmower. This was done to cover up the fact the program designers really didn't understand even the principles of Vibration Training and throwing in other disciplines to make up for their lack of knowledge. This mistake was even given out in poster format to make the problem worse while some companies did one better and just copied others work.

Note: This is similar to copying the dumbest kid in schools homework.

"The risks of this practice outweighs the benefits of Vibration Training"

The Effect on the Customer...

They did not feel safe, not only were they being asked to trust that this new technology was not going to hurt them but the trainers seemed unsure of themselves . And with the programs changing every time they come in,  depending on what trainer they got , consumer confidence was always going to end up being an issue.

The only real reason I got for this random behavior was...

" but the customer will get bored "

This statement is an example of operating out of fear, never a good indication of confidence. The fact is the consumer in general does not like change, they go to the same pub , wear the same thing,  and not once have I heard of a gym-goer leaving an aerobics class because they get sick of the steps. THEY GO BECAUSE THEY KNOW ALL THE STEPS.


INDUSTRY SUPPORT....

This one is easy and I will keep it short. There is no way you will survive in this emerging industry unless you have someone behind you that really knows what they are doing , you will need real answers in real time to keep your customers. The medical questions alone will kill you if you have no-one to call on . The base knowledge needed to run this kind of specialized business safely is more than most could learn in a lifetime, and no that is not an exaggeration.

Note: A standard exercise prescription education is not enough.

It has been reported that some studios only received back-up close to the sale with some medical questions never being answered.

PASSION....

The other reason which is even more ambiguous is the motivation behind opening a studio. I have no illusions that this industry is seen as a cash cow by some, nothing really wrong with that in itself , as long as they still act with consumer interest there can be no harm done, and in fact we need good business minds to make this work. But some people with just the money in mind jumped in way too soon trying to claim a stake early on thinking it would automatically translate into success later on.  These people did not fully understanding how much hard work and dedication it was going to take to form this industry. Very long days , lots of repeating yourself to the uneducated consumer , and you had better be willing to run on love for a while. Not exactly their strong points.

I personally even advised some to hold off until we had finished all the groundwork but the advice was viewed with suspicion and I was accused of being anti-competitive which is understandable given their own motives.

Final word

There are of course other factors involved in not succeeding, bad location, bad management , bad luck etc... but overall if the above is taken seriously you should have a good chance of not repeating others mistakes.

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