Anatomy Of A Successful Powerlifting Gym

Sean Donegan, owner of Bad Attitude Gym located in Carrollton, Texas describes the formula he used to launch and grow the gym.

For years I went to every meet, every seminar, read everything I could get my hands on, and didn't go around being invisible. When I went somewhere I took upon myself to network and make connections. This was huge.

Originally I was just buying equipment because I knew I wouldn't make my goals training at the commercial gym. After months of people coming to my house 4 times a week and Mike stinking up the whole freakin' house, I decided to look into an office/warehouse like the one the new Westside is in. Phil found a great central location. Best advice I got from Dave Tate before I decided to take the plunge and make my stuff available to others - "Don't make it about the money. It has to be about the lifting. If you make it about the money it will fail." I passed on what I had seen from other groups who were successful mixed with some life coaching. There was a possibility I opened for myself in some personal coaching and the gym was this possibility. I knew what I had expected out of it and it was to have people win. That didn't mean just on the platform. That meant everywhere. The lifting was just a tool to show people they could do things they never thought possible.

Obviously with Internet blowing up, the website was a huge contribution of Phil's. That and having a logo legitimized it as a REAL THING. Not just a group of meatheads lifting weights in private.

All our members are great people. Right now it runs itself with new people following the example set by the veterans. There's plenty of room to help in this sport and while I fully expect our people to get involved, they have grown to expect it of themselves. That's what you saw this weekend. Outward focus.

People will love this one. You're gonna have to go to commercial gyms, workout, and do some recruiting. If nothing else at least you get the name out there and show people you're legit. Go to every supplement shop and talk to them about your group. See if they'll let you put up a flyer. Nobody is looking for something they don't know exists.

We were on a Ford dealer's TV commercial and 250,000 flyers as sponsors of Barbie Barbell's WR deadlift attempt up here. One phone call. No lifters.

I thought about what I said earlier and it might be mentioned that I had a lot of backing from the people around me to go ahead with this. I busted Mike's balls but he also brought by 14 45 lb plates as a contribution to the cause when I needed weights in the garage. He was also the instrument for the life coaching I referred to. Everyone involved in the early stages took some part in making it happen. Be sure your people are committed.

Another tidbit I got from Dave Tate was "Don't let the operating costs exceed what you can handle on your own. You need to be able to tell everyone to fuck off without having to think about it." I've shown losses averaging well over $10,000 a year for the last years. Not saying that anyone else is in the same position but it's something to keep in mind. I don't mind because this is my contribution to a sport I love. I'm definitely not saying this for any recognition. It's just the reality of things. My wife is cool with it because she sees the results and knows we're doing something positive that keeps me out of trouble.

When I decided to move forward I talked to every gym I knew existed and felt it out. Diablo and Southside were very helpful. Tommy has Tampa and that's pretty recent so he may want to chime in.

Detroit Barbell is probably the biggest private gym I know of and their people are all about powerlifting. I'd put them up against anyone including my own team. They have a huge facility, run meets, kick ass, and are in my opinion, the best helpers in the game. I'd like Va-jay-jay, or is it JJ, and Clay to chime in here also.

Phil Wylie who has been with BAG from the beginning:

BAG is Sean's gym, but I was there from pretty much from the beginning. We started out training at Sean's and a commercial gym. At first we would train at Sean's every once in a while. We got to where we wanted to train at Sean's all the time. I started training with Sean on September 18, 2003 and a year later BAG was moved to a warehouse. By that time there were 7 of us training in Sean's garage. Once we moved to the warehouse we started gaining more and more lifters. The warehouse was in a good central location. I think that was one of the major keys.

From my point of view here is what made BAG what it is today:

1.) Sean's networking with other lifters nation wide. He travels a lot with work and has had the opportunity to travel with a lot of high level and pro lifters. This was also accomplished by Sean competing out of state and doing several seminars hosted by Elite FTS, Louie Simmons and Mel Siff, as bench greats Clay Brandenburg and Sebastian Burns of the Metal Militia. Sean has hosted several seminars. 3-4 years ago not a lot of people in Texas knew about Elite FTS or Westside Barbell Club. Sean routinely attended the Arnold as well as other big national level meets.

2.) The commercial location. I think this gave us more credibility and the central location made it easier for people to train here. Not to say anything is wrong with training in a garage, but I don't think everyone understands. The larger space made it easier to expand.

3.) We are always attending meets whether we have someone lifting or not. Erik and Adam joined use due to their observations of our support to our team and others at meets.

4.) Our website has helped get the BAG name out to the powerlifting community.

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I own a gym, and will look at this as it grows for advice and influence.

Very, very structured Sean. Thanks for sharing that.

Representing INZER AD, Atlarge Nutrition & APT

Glad to see this kind of post. Too much negative stuff going round. Nice to hear some "good news"
Jamey

sean,

your gym is outstanding, and when i started my gym, i wanted all the members operating as a team as i observed them doing at your place.

i will chime in on your board a little later once i get caught up with work.

good post.

Good post, very interesting Sean.

Sean and the BAG crew represent (and do it well) what the sport should be all about... Keep it up fella's!!! BAG4LIFE

RJ

Some very good concepts here,not least the transition from gym to life.Goodluck.

I agree 100% with going to commercial gyms to recruit. I think everyone training at powerlifting gyms keeps the sport underground.

I agree that JJ's nickname should be va jay jay from now on!!!!!!!

I am glad I have such great fans

VA JJ

this is an awesome post. thanks for all that info. I plan on opening up a gym right out of college so I love reading this stuff!

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One of the guys that works out Bad Attitude Gym also posts at IronAddicts.com, and is in charge of Strength And Power Equipment Company, both are awesome places!