Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Crunch Fitness CEO Rowley: ‘If You Stay Ready, You Never Need To Get Ready’

© AdobeStock
In this edition of our Corporate Competitor Podcast, former marine sergeant and current top gun at Crunch Fitness Jim Rowley discusses how his focus on preparedness and setting high expectations honed in the military enabled him to take the company to new heights.

When Jim Rowley stepped in to lead Crunch Fitness in 2009, one of the very first things he did with his partners and senior leadership team was to design an emergency action plan. A third generation military man and former marine sergeant, Rowley was acting on his ingrained belief that “if you stay ready, you never need to get ready.”

In the event of a hurricane, an earthquake or “any natural disaster or catastrophe,” Rowley wanted to already be ready, which meant being in a position to take care of his team and their customers. It was 11 years in the making, and it was only the second time that Rowley had the chance to roll out that action plan; the first time was in response to Hurricane Sandy, but this time it was to a pandemic—Covid-19.

“When Covid hit, the first thing I did was assemble my team. And we brought out the emergency action plan, which ensured a high level of communication, maintaining payroll and technology systems as developments changed over time,” Rowley said.

Like many businesses, Crunch Fitness did have to cut expenses and lay off team members, but it did so while providing compensation and health benefits to help many ride out at least part of the pandemic. Crunch then used the enforced “downtime” to improve their facilities. “A lot of people stopped spending money and stopped thinking about strategy,” observed Rowley. “I said, ‘Let’s take this time to get better.’” No aspect of Crunch Fitness operations were left unexamined, and once society began opening up, the 400 franchise and corporate-owned fitness clubs found they were not only a better business but had managed to grow Crunch by five percent during the pandemic.

A 30-year veteran of the fitness industry who had to beg for his first job, Rowley was a three-sport athlete growing up, but in high school, his athletic focus shifted to football only, and, later, a four-sport coach for his children in youth sports. But listeners to this podcast don’t have to be any of those things to benefit from the vividly drawn lessons Rowley shares from his amazing career. These include:

• Why asking the right questions is a more important leadership skill than having all the answers.

• What he learned from reading about Navy Seal Kiko Suarez in regards to communicating leadership strength to his team.

• How to build a resilient leadership career regardless of your industry.

Rowley looks every bit like the owner of a fitness franchise, but he recognizes that it’s not about the weight on the barbell, it’s about going in and recognizing who you are there to serve. “I have a technique,” he said. “If I feel like the team is too focused on goals or KPIs, I get us out on the floor and I’ll ask my team, ‘Who’s that on treadmill one? Tell me about him.’”

Check out the full Corporate Competitor Podcast interview archive and subscribe to new episodes.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.