Gainesville Health amp Fitness CEO Joe Cirulli has had opportunities to expand his company outside of Gainesville but has chosen to remain in the Florida town of 128000 His decision to remain small but focus on being great is one factor that led to his company being named No 2 on Forbes magazine39s first Best Small Companies in America list Photo by Migdalia Figuerao

Gainesville Health & Fitness CEO Joe Cirulli has had opportunities to expand his company outside of Gainesville but has chosen to remain in the Florida town of 128,000. His decision to remain small but focus on being great is one factor that led to his company being named No. 2 on Forbes magazine's first Best Small Companies in America list. (Photo by Migdalia Figuerao.)

Gainesville Health & Fitness Makes Forbes' First Best Small Companies List

Gainesville Health & Fitness, led by Joe Cirulli, was the only health club company to make the new list by Forbes. 

Gainesville Health & Fitness, Gainesville, Florida, is No. 2 on Forbes magazine's first Best Small Companies in America list.

The idea for the list grew out of the book that Bo Burlingham wrote in 2005, "Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big." 

Gainesville Health has 480 employees and revenue of $16.5 million, according to the list. Partly through the efforts of its founder, Joe Cirulli, and his staff, Gainesville was the first and only city in 2003 to receive the gold Well City award from the Wellness Council of America.

Cirulli is a sought-after speaker, often sharing how his company has member retention rates that are 30 percent higher than most health clubs. He has turned down opportunities to expand his brand beyond Gainesville, the article stated.

Joe Cirulli stands out among the over 100 club operators that REX works with in its roundtables, REX Roundtable founder and CEO Will Phillips told Club Industry. 

Phillips said that Cirulli is always open to a new way of thinking or doing things.

"Most club owners say they are, but when it comes time to implement, they are not," he said. "Joe takes every new idea and opportunity and rethinks it to fit his members, his club’s values and philosophy."

Phillips also said that Cirulli is "at home with failure."

"When something new is tried and fails, he uses it to learn and not as an opportunity to quit or blame," Phillips said.

Cirulli received Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. The company consistently makes Club Industry's annual Top 100 Clubs list. In 2015, it ranked No. 55 on the list, which is based on revenue from the previous year. Cirulli reported 2014 revenue of $16.4 million and 26,900 members at his three clubs. 

Another company on the list that is peripherally related to the health club industry is Big Ass Fans. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company sells large ceiling fans to a variety of industries, originally factories and warehouses. However, some health club operators have purchased the fans for their facilities, and the company has expanded into the residential market now, too.

CEO Carey Smith founded the company in 1999, and it now has 835 employees and revenue of $202 million

Criteria to be selected for the list were:

  1. The company had to be acknowledged as great by others in its own industry.
  2. The company could have grown larger but chose to focus on being great instead.
  3. The company has positively contributed to its community and been recognized for those contributions.
  4. It has sustained healthy financials for at least 10 years (sound business model, strong balance sheet, steady profit margins).
  5. It is privately owned and closely held.
  6. The leaders of the company have direct interaction with all employees, including frontline employees.
  7. The company has mojo or charisma. "When a leader has charisma, you want to follow him or her. When a company has mojo, you want to be connected with it," Burlingham wrote. 
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