Brian Way, owner of Iron City Gym in Houston, TX, spoke with us this month on our Gym Owner’s Podcast. The enlightening conversation revealed just what it takes to turn a hardcore $10,000-a-month bodybuilders’ gym into a $130,000-a-month power center of fitness and energy.
Persistence, Passion, Purpose: The Story of Iron City’s Success
It takes a leap of faith to make change work. And the passion to believe in your decisions. When Brian Way purchased Iron City, he faced the takeover of a gym packed with bodies bigger than he’d ever been in his lifetime.
Could he do it? Could he transform one of Huston’s oldest bodybuilding gyms into a Mecca of fitness for all — without losing the edgy, raw feel members loved?
Most importantly, would these men and women respect him and his vision?
Way decided early to broaden Iron City’s member base, expanding his gym from one catering primarily to elite and pro bodybuilders to a facility welcoming the general public. To make this risky transition succeed he drew on his own experience starting out in Houston’s bodybuilding scene.
Then, he said, he was treated as a newcomer. The “elite people” wouldn’t speak to a lonely soul training at the gym. “I did not want to perpetuate that in my gym,” he explained. “The culture here is a high priority.”
It’s not just a gym … it’s a community.
As he says, culture starts at the top and the vibe goes down. You set the tone for your gym. It’s something magical. To keep it real, he talks to everyone, not just the big guys, but the everyday fitness junkie — and expects everyone else to do the same.
“Arnold didn’t become Arnold by not talking to people who interrupted his workout. He was always charismatic, always smiling, talked to everyone,” recounts Way. There’s no room for an elitist mentality at Iron City.
Leveraging Diverse Skills
Way is the first to admit he is more a visionary than a details-oriented businessman. At Iron City, he’s created a gym where top-tier athletes train in the same space as the general public — without watering down the talent. To do that, he’s followed a few simple rules.
- Hire people smarter than you and put them in the right spot. Admit you don’t know all the answers. Give them boundaries and structure, but expect talents to bloom – personalities sell the product. “I don’t need another me,” asserts Way, “that job is taken.”
- Treat members fairly, speaking with them personally when there’s a problem but remaining firm on the rules: “I meet with that person, tell them it does not happen here, and here is your one warning.”
- Stay true to your feel: Elite and pro bodybuilders alone may not pay the bills, but their “wow” factor drives interest in the gym and creates a buzz that can’t be replicated. For the right ones, he comps memberships, shares apparel, and sponsors their shows.
Way’s approach relies on a gut feel about business: “You got to be real with yourself. If you’re not cool enough to make TikTok videos, find that person who is that cool. My members make all my videos and I repost.”
Welcome Everyone; Make It Your Own — Iron City’s Motto
Way’s stamp is on every inch of Iron Fitness. From the logo featuring a photo of his shoulders to the slicks of competitors and members adorning walls, each element models his gym concept.
To perpetuate this passion for the gym, employees are hired from the member base. Their first interview question: Why do you want to work here? The right answer: “Because I love this gym.”
“Don’t work here if you don’t love it,” he asserts, the money’s not that different from other jobs. You’re here because you want to take care of the house.
Social media, though, is his baby. Always on the search for good talent, he constantly watches out for the best videos promoting his gym and reaches out to those videographers, bringing them inside to tape and produce for him.
It’s a give and take, as organic as it gets. He promotes them. They promote him. But at the end of the day, every social media post Iron City streams goes through his hands. He is the end-decider.
That is probably, Way concludes, what has made him so successful. “I will succeed. I got to have a clear vision, know my business, my people, what speaks to them. I hear what you say, but then, I’ll do it this way. My way. This job is a passion project — a manifestation of what is inside of you.”
Iron City — Scaling Up
Iron City’s future is as branded as the Way-way. This September, he hosts the Iron City Classic bodybuilding show, but he’s rewriting the rules. It’s going to be held in a night club. Competitors will pose before hot stage lights and to grinding, exciting music. For an industry that is, admittedly, a little dull, he’s striving for exciting. It’s more than muscles — it’s exhilarating.
The 20,000-square-foot gym is under expansion, awaiting a new smoothie shop and branded apparel space. And even now, Way’s thinking of ways to grow even bigger.
Remember how he said, you have to look for people who are smarter than you? Well, that’s where he is now, again. Through conversations with Gym Insight’s staff, he knows he’s leaving cash on the table by not controlling more of the personal training space.
Soon, Iron City will provide in-house personal trainers available for hire to the everyday gym goer. Independent personal trainers will be more specialized, focusing on the talent that exists in the gym — the builders and their needs.
By introducing personal training staff to the Sales Guru© method of closing business, he expects to graph the gap and eventually achieve $150,000 per month in sales.
It’s possible, he believes. If he just keeps finding the right people, learning new techniques, and using his Insight gym management software to figure out tomorrow’s numbers, today.
Hey new gym owners, listen up! Here’s how you succeed!
We urge you to visit the original podcast. Brian Way is much cooler on video than in our blog and certainly an exciting listen. In the meantime, check out our website to discover more about our gym management software. With a simple, modern user interface and easy-to-use features that put gym control back in the owner’s hands, Gym Insight provides a comprehensive business management solution at a fraction of the standard cost.