It’s always a pleasure to bring in not only guests, professionals, and business partners, but even more so to bring in my friends.
That’s why it’s my immense pleasure to welcome you to this week’s episode of Tuesday with Terry… and Terry.
Today, Terry Dezzutti is here to discuss his experiences with sales, networking, and the fitness industry.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full conversation by tuning into this week’s podcast.
Terry Blachek: So Terry, welcome to Tuesday with Terry.
Terry Dezzutti: Great to be here. Great to be in Austin.
Yeah. So Terry, you’re a fitness guy, right? Fitness Industry guy, business guy. Ran companies. Tell us a little bit about your background.
I’ve been in the fitness industry for 45 years as a leader, and have been in a best-practices group called Rex for 25 years. Speaker in the club industry, former CEO of Marriott Athletic Clubs for 20 years, worked in the hospital in the food and beverage space leading teams, and have been a VP of American Leisure in New York City where we had, as a company, over 70 locations.
Well, I think that’s probably where I first met you. I was in New York working for a company called The Fitness Company, you were working for American Leisure. And we would both compete for management contracts. Either I would be going in and Terry would be coming out, or Terry would be coming in, I’d be going out – one of us would always be sitting in the lobby at a coffee table. And I used to hate this guy, I couldn’t stand this guy because he was my competitor.
But sure enough, as we went to industry shows, and started getting to know each other – which is a lesson in and of itself, right? What you think about people and what they really are, are really two different things. But how long have you worked for American leisure?
Six years. I always say if you network with your peers, you learn from those who deal with similar problems faster. And that’s what my relationship with Terry has been.
So how have you done that? You know, not just with me, but with other folks? How do you try to network with your peers?
A lot of different ways. Go to networking groups, get involved in the industry, find speeches, and collaboration teams. I think being strategic takes many minds, so in order for the team to make it happen, you have to get team involvement and buy in. And so in order to do that, you have to give them different alternatives to look at. And I think by networking in the industry and finding others who have been through similar growth modes, it just makes everything expedited.
How do you find those people? So one is going to industry trade shows, right? So that’s good, you go to the industry trade show, and you have to do it a while and you become an expert, you become a speaker, and a lot of people want to talk to you. So that’s always a good way. But what are other ways to get connected to folks or find best practices? How do you do that?
Well, for example, I’m in a round table in the industry. And there’s usually 15 to 20 other leaders from around the world. It’s funny how everybody leads in a different fashion. Everybody tries new and entrepreneurial things, and you get to learn from that. And then while you’re learning from that, you make friends, you engage. You talked about things and you share. If they give you something, you give something back.
Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m part of that roundtable too, but you’ve been on it longer than me. I think I’ve been on it for 17 years, how many years have you been on it?
That’s awesome. So network functions, roundtables, you know, they have YPO groups, they have local groups like BNI groups, you know, surely you can get involved in local groups like that. But I mean, this is just kind of an off-the-cuff question, but how do you stay relevant in the industry, the business arena? What do you do?
Well, I use a number of things. I feel like you can never stop learning, and you have to read everything you can get your hands on within that industry – current periodicals, find out who’s doing new and different things and succeeding, and reach out to them. I think also the buddy system of getting referrals, people who know people who can put you in contact with them.
I like to go to a lot of speeches. I like to just find out who, even in my hometown, is successful, and go see what they’re doing that makes a difference in that market.
So you know, in our roundtable, we have those trios, right radios, and then there’s frequency of those calls. Maybe speak a little bit about that, how that works. And maybe how if I was a business person, if I was a sales guy, if I was an up-and-coming mover-shaker, how could I put a trio like that together that could help me start to network? What is the trio first like?
You might get a group of three people in a similar business together and go through similar questions. One of them might be where you’re struggling and in what particular area.
In clubs, there are so many different hats that we wear. You might be in charge of food and beverage one day, and might be in charge of the spa the next day. And so you get a very cross-trained challenge put in front of you, and if people have had those similar problems before, and you can learn from them, you can maybe shortcut some of some of the pain.
So if you have a group of three people, and you start to build relationships, you can start to trust them, and you don’t feel like “Oh my gosh, I’m failing,” you feel like you can trust them and say, “Hey, this is something that didn’t go well.”
Correct. So you’re going to meet with them for maybe 30 minutes to an hour to brainstorm, to work through, to maybe come out with some kind of success plan to whatever it is you’re building. You make that happen faster and better. So they really become your sounding board.
You know, I talk a lot about a personal advisory board. Do you have a personal advisory board outside of work? Or is there a group of people that you go to that you throw ideas around with or issues that you’re struggling with? Do you have a group of people like that? And if so, what’s the framework of that?
Well, I’ve been lucky to have several mentors over time, people who have more experience than me who maybe I’ve worked for or I met through other organizational meetings. I just booked time with them to sit down and talk through how we can both learn from one another and further progress with whatever it is we’re working on.
This sounds like taking a position of humility, looking at somebody else that’s been down that path before and asking them for counsel, advice, or recommendations. Is that fair?
Sure. I always say, listen, learn, and observe from others in the industry. I mean, that’s how you become knowledgeable. And usually, if you’re passionate about what you do, it sparks some kind of entrepreneurial edge in that industry.
That’s awesome. So you know, you’ve held a lot of great positions: vice president positions, CEO positions, you’ve run companies, you’ve helped build companies. You know, leadership, right? It’s a lot about leadership. And so what are a couple things that you think about leadership? What are some principles that you try to construct your business, your professional life around? How do you build dream teams?
I think there’s three or four things that I really tried to focus on my willingness to try something new. There’s no right way to do a good thing. Golden Rule: treat people better than they treat you. And then don’t deal with, you know, bad people. Being strategic; failing to plan is planning to fail. And then I have four E’s that I use: Energy, the ability to cope with change; Edge, the ability to make tough calls; Energize, the ability to excite and promote; and then Execute, the ability to deliver and never disappoint your clientele.
Now, those are awesome. So let’s try to dig into those just a little bit. How can I use energy as a leadership skill?
A lot of times with a problem, it’s something that your people are watching you do. It’s the way you carry yourself. It’s the way you handle it. It’s the way you react because you’re like an image that runs the company. And so if you’re up and you’re happy, the company’s up and the company’s happy. If you’re stressed and you’re down, those same people see that and they’re worried.
So self awareness of your energy level, your poise in the position that you have, I think that’s great. E number two?
Edge. Sometimes you have to make the tough call, you know, everybody’s waiting for you to make the decision. So a lot of times to get buy in, I’ll present the problem, go through the problem, talk about what I’m going to do, ask if anybody has any ideas or other recommendations, and then I’ll make the call. So what I want to do is I want to get the whole team to buy into it, because they’ve had the opportunity to get involved. And if they don’t have anything to add, or they don’t have a point of view that benefits the company, then I need them all to buy into the direction that we’re going to go.
Yeah, so that’s what gives you the edge. So when somebody comes into your office with a problem, one of the quick ways you can handle that in leadership is by saying, “How do you think we should handle that problem?” How do you throw that back? You know, don’t bring me a problem. But bring me a solution along with something like that. And then the other one you mentioned, and I’ve heard this coined this way before is “three before me.” You talk to three people and get their feedback before making the final decision on it. E number three?
Energize, your ability to excite, to kick something off. Either you go big, or you go home. I mean, if you’re going to have a party, don’t throw a small party, throw a big party. If you’re going to kick off a program, don’t shoot for five people – shoot for 50 people. So whatever you do, do it in a way that you’re going to be proud of.
Yeah, you’ve got to think bigger, you’ve got to take the blinders back. Start thinking a little bit bigger, whether it’s number of people, whether it’s number of contacts, whether it’s number of dollars for your business, even your own personal income, right?
And if you go big and you do it right, people are going to talk about it. And that’s going to maximize your community involvement.
Sounds great. And the fourth E?
The fourth E is to execute. So to execute, you have to have a plan. And then you have to work through your plan. So it’s the ability to deliver the results you’re looking for in a timely fashion. Timely is the key.
Listen, everybody’s got a new idea, right? I hear that all the time, “I got an idea about this, oh, I got an idea about that.” I go, “Don’t give me an idea. Tell me a way I can do what we currently do. But get it done. Do it better.” You know, I don’t need a new idea. I need you to deal with the things that we’ve got out here, right? It’s the basic fundamentals of blocking and tackling. Let’s really focus on the fundamentals.
Terry, if I may say so, is the president of Ace of Clubs Consulting, LLC.
Yeah, I just started a month ago, after 45 years of working for the man. I think friends like Terry have convinced me to go out on my own. And I’m very excited.
Yeah, I think that’s awesome. I think it’s hard to go out on your own. And I say this a lot, “I wish that I had done that sooner in my career.” I don’t know how you feel about that, but congratulations on starting Ace of Clubs. So if I was a health club guy or had a single club or a group of clubs, what kind of services would you provide that would help me to run my business better?
Well, I would come in and work with you to audit and see where you’re at and advise and coach you to strategize and train up your people to promote the “why” of your business. Why are we in business? What are we here for? What are we so passionate about? And get everybody to be speaking the same same language and grow their revenues and grow their business.
Now everybody wants to do that, right? Everybody wants to grow the revenue. Everybody wants to have their people say the same things that the owners say. That’s fantastic. And so how can people get a hold of you, Terry, if they needed to reach out and say, “Man, I’d like to hear a little bit more about what you offer or what the ace of clubs is.” How could they get a hold of you?
They can call me directly at (410) 935-1970.
Well, once again, it’s my pleasure to have you on, Ter. You’re a great friend. It’s more important than anything else to me, but you’ve also been successful at business. I know there’s a lot of listeners out there that could take advantage of some of the things that you have to say and some of the wisdom you have to share. Thanks for being on the show. It’s Terry and Terry. This was Tuesday with Terry, thanks for joining us today. And we’ll see you next week.