Trusting your Employees: An Interview with Josh York, CEO and Founder of GYMGUYZ

Josh York, CEO and Founder of GYMGUYZ

Josh York is the Founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ, one of the top 100 fastest growing franchises according to Entrepreneur magazine. He discusses how he’s built his amazing team and company culture on this episode of The Best Team Wins Podcast.





Show notes:

1:08 – Highlights at GYMGUYZ in the last year

2:10 – Josh starts the podcast off on the right foot

4:00 – What is GYMGUYZ?

6:16 – How Josh got his start and his philosophy on stories

8:13 – Where did you learn how to hire?

8:47 – The importance of culture

9:22 – How Josh knows if someone is the right fit for the company and the GYMGUYZ core values

10:33 – Favorite interview question

12:20 – The greatest challenge the leadership team at GYMGUYZ has faced

13:11 – The most important quality for a leader to have: attitude

14:48 – How do you screen for attitude?

16:18 – Where did your core values come from?

18:45 – What happens when you hire for skill over attitude

20:17 – The GYMGUYZ philosophy around rewards and recognition

21:07 – Josh and Adam on trusting your employees

23:02 – What could you improve on the people side of your business?

24:32 –  Josh and Adam discuss the best book they’ve ever read

26:29 – Greatest challenge Josh is facing in the next year




























Welcome to The Best Team Wins Podcast, where we feature entrepreneurs and business leaders whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. My name is Adam Robinson and, for the next 25 minutes, I’ll be your host as we explore how to build your business through better hiring. Today on the program, Josh York is the Founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ franchise. He’s boot-strapping it. He’s based out of Plainview, New York. It was founded in 2008 and has grown to 300 employees across the franchise network. The best learning happens through the real experience is shared by fellow entrepreneurs and, Josh, today we are excited to learn from you, sir. Welcome to the show.





Thank you so much, Adam. I appreciate it. I’m really looking forward to sharing some best practices and giving everyone some insight, so definitely excited.


Adam: Let’s jump right in. Josh, you guys are just killing it right now. Tell us about the year you’re having so far.






Absolutely. We’re all about crushing it, so I always like to say, “We’re not here to compete. We’re here to win. We will win.” In 15 years, there’s no ifs, ands, or buts. We will be the largest fitness brand on this planet. That is a guarantee. About a year ago, we had 20 locations in three states. As of right now, we just hit 100. We’re in 19 states. We just entered into Hawaii. We started our international expansion into Canada.


Recently, in Just Entrepreneur as the top 100 fastest-growing franchise brands that are out in the world, which is really, really exciting. The great thing about that is the majority of that list, 95% of that list, actually, have been franchising 20+ years. We’ve just started our third year franchising, so we really got the secret sauce, and we’re really excited about it.





That’s pretty awesome. I love the tenacity, man. It’s great. We have a tradition here on the podcast. We always start off on the right foot. That’s the best news going on in your life and mine in the last seven days. Share with us your right foot. What’s going on that’s good in the last week?


Josh: There’s always something good happening. I’m all about positivity, so everything’s really good every day, but we have a lot of great things happening. You’re referring to just the business or personal or …?


Adam: Whatever’s on your mind.





I had surgery a week ago, and I just the clear that I can go back into the gym, so I’m very happy about that.


Adam: Congratulations.







That was really killing me because working out’s really a part of my life, and I like to get up very early and get that done. I got the clear also I can get back on the ice. I’m a big hockey player, so I’m looking forward to that. As far as on the business side, we just brought in a couple brand new franchise family members. We just signed on three locations in Seattle, three in Denver, Colorado, three in Oregon. We brought on three more in California. We have a couple other deals we’re about to close and looking at now opening up Toronto, Ottawa, and possibly in Vancouver, as well, so we’re very excited.


Every week, we have great news. We just got Entrepreneur Magazine for this month. We’re in it again. We just made the top hundred hotness list at number 64. We’re very excited about that, as well. There’s a lot of great things happening here. We’ll also be going on CNBC next month, so we’re excited about that.





That’s all in a week, man. That’s pretty good. From my side, listeners will know this. The book, The Best Team Wins: Build Your Business Through Predictive Hiring, had its official publication date last Tuesday on the 22nd, so pretty cool. We were glad to have given birth to that. It was a long process, a lot of fun, and so far, so good. We’re feeling good that we got that out the door and that the engagement’s been pretty high.


Josh: Excellent. That’s awesome. Congratulations on that [crosstalk 00:04:28].





It’s been fun. Thank you. We’re glad to have you here. Thirty seconds, GYMGUYZ. Tell me about the concept.








We’re an on-demand personal training service. Number one in home personal training. We come in our fully-wrapped Van. You can’t miss it, GYMGUYZ. GUYZ is an acronym. It stands for genuine, unique, you-can-do-it, zero excuses. We service customers anywhere from your home, office, pool, park, place of worship, hospital, senior homes, assisted living facilities, corporations. The scalability is endless. Our core competencies we focus on are our three C’s, convenient, customize, and creative workouts. As I like to always say, we are in the business of fitness, but we’re really in the business of changing people’s lives.


Adam: If listeners want to learn more about their local options to work with you or about becoming a franchisee, what’s the best way to reach you guys?





You can visit our website at That’s gymguyz with a z, but if you hit the s, it’s going to go there, as well, too. You can visit our website. There’s information regarding franchising, information regarding our services, so that’s where you can really find out the majority of information.


Adam: Let’s talk about the people side of your business. You guys have exploded as you’ve documented here for us in the first few minutes. I want to go all the way back to when you started this thing. Talk about the first person you had on your team. You don’t have to name them. You can if you want, but how did you find your first employee?












I’m all about stories. I like to be a good storyteller because you can’t be successful if you can’t tell a good story. I don’t really care what kind of business you have. If I was selling screws, trust me, you’re going to hear the most amazing stories with screws but, obviously, I sell fitness. I sell lifestyle. I sell helping people. I started this in my parents’ dining room back in 2008 with $15,000 and literally left myself with $1,000 for two weeks to make it happen. I had two weeks to cover all my expenses and, obviously, I crushed it because every no gets me closer to a yes. I can’t stop, and you’re not going to stop us because we’re going to win, like I said earlier.







After leaving my parents’ dining room, obviously, I figured out what I really needed to start scaling the business and how much money I needed to get an office and start expanding. I met with Nina Marcus, and she just got a real huge reward which I’ll share in a second. I met her in a Starbucks at the time. She was actually interested in becoming a trainer. I tell everyone you have to be able to be a good painter. If you can’t be a painter to paint a vision, you’re not going to have success. I’m all about painting that vision. I’m all about firing people up. I’m about that energy, that pure, pure energy and, FYI, I do not drink coffee. I’ve been up since 3 o’clock. I will go to bed at 11 o’clock, midnight tonight, then I’ll do it all over again.





Nina came on board as the operations person at the time, and we shared one little desk in a small little office with one phone. We didn’t even have call waiting at the time. We had a very long extension cord that we would share back and forth. To have a little bit of privacy, we could go in the corner of the room. Originally, the logo, and this ties into having a good story, the logo was after myself and my brother, not someone ever involved in the business, but someone I’m very close with.






GUYZ represents everyone so, obviously, back to the story and evolving as a brand, we just added a female that we’re literally just launching, so you’re getting some inside information. It’s launching April 1st, which is right here, and that female is Nina because that’s part of the story. It’s all about telling a story and painting that picture, but it’s quite crazy because I painted this vision to Nina of us being the largest fitness plan in this world, and she believed everything I said. Sometimes, she tells me she has to pinch herself because it’s crazy what we’ve done so far. We’re continuing to scale, and all this comes with rewards, as well, so that was not only very special to me, but very special to her.


Adam: Did you know her previously? How did you connect?





I connected with her through someone I knew, just a referral.


Adam: Now you’ve got a team at the home office that’s big and growing. How or where did you learn how to hire people? Talk us through your experience and how that’s developed over the years as you’ve grown the company.









To be quite honest with you, it’s self-taught. I’ve never had anyone teach me how to do it. I’ve always used the philosophy of really putting myself in the perspective of other people and how other people think. I don’t do things typical here, I’ll tell you that right now. I’m not your suit-and-tie kind of guy. I wear shorts to work every day, whether it’s 10 degrees or 100. As we have meetings and family members come in, obviously, I get dressed up but, other than that, I really strive of culture. Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Teamwork makes the dream work. Without teamwork, there is no work. You need to work as a team. I really like to think outside the box. That’s really how I like to operate and think.






What informs your hiring decisions then? If you’re feeling this out, you’ve developed this over the years, and have a successful process for doing that. What are the things that, for you, make somebody the right fit, and what approach do you use to suss that out in your interviews?









The first thing I ask myself is, when I have this person over to my house for a barbecue, for dinner, for breakfast, whatever, if he answers no, I won’t even move forward because that’s where it starts. We judge our success, and really attribute our success to … We’re very big on acronyms here. It’s called fuel. Our core values is DRIVE, determination, respect, integrity, versatility, and excellence. In order to drive, you need fuel, right? FUEL is what four components of every business model should have, fun, unity, earnings, and leadership. If you look at those four components, every business has to have them. You’re not going to run a successful business without it.









If you look at the first one, fun, right? If you’re not going to have a lot of fun and you’re not going to build a great culture, no one’s going to want to work there, can you run a business? Absolutely, you can, but it’s not going to be very successful. Unity, teamwork makes the dream work. If there is no teamwork, it will not work. Earnings, if you’re not making money, that’s not going to work. The last one, leadership, if you don’t have a purpose, if you’re not leading by example, it will never work. That’s how I like to take a gauge and look at things.


Adam: Tell me how you do that. If I’m sitting in front of you, what do you want to know about me to peg me as do I have what it takes to be successful at GYMGUYZ?






The first question I would really ask, an interview question I like to ask … I’m giving some of my top secrets away here. People have helped me, so I like to give back, as well. I ask the person, after talking for a little bit, just basic talk, what do you like to do? I like to learn about them, what do they do in their free time. I’m not the type of person sitting here, so tell me, if you were in a situation in your office and you had a problem and you were working on a project … I’m not that person. I’m the kind of person where, after we’re talking and we’re communicating, would you have me over your house for dinner? Believe it or not, someone once said no, and that was the end of that. Everyone says yes.


Adam: I love it! What’s your reaction to that?











I was just actually laughing. I was, “Wow! I’m insulted. Why not?” The answer is always yes, and I say, “Well, why? Tell me why. I want you to walk me through that process,” and they’ll tell me why. I’m friendly, and they feel like a warm feeling towards me. That’s what I’m looking for, but I want them to see it, too, because the vision that I see, they’re not going to see all the time. My job as a leader is to really let them see that vision because everyone who’s been on board within our family has always thought differently until they get a chance to meet me and spend some time with us, and then everyone thinks differently. The problem is, people don’t dream big. You have to dream big.


Adam: You mentioned leadership there in setting the vision, and helping people dream big is a big part of that. As you’ve grown the company, the leadership team, I’m sure, is changed either in terms of who’s around the table or what you’re talking about. What’s been one of the greatest challenges the leadership team has faced as you’ve scaled the company as fast as you have?





I’m the Founder and CEO. To me, that means nothing. Title’s really are not a big thing to me. Everyone has the same amount of say. I like to always say we are and we will always be a listening organization. That’s very important to me. Everyone’s got to be able to feel challenged. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not the smartest out there. We have to work together. It’s about surrounding yourself around great people, and that’s what we do, but I wouldn’t really say we’ve had too many challenges.


[00:13:30] If you want to say, give an example of a challenge, it’s really just the fact that making sure we’re all taking on our roles to the right extent because everyone’s wearing multiple hats still. That’s part of scaling and growing as you obviously continue to expand, so that could be a little bit of a challenge, but we all handle it really well because we have very good communication.


Adam: What quality do you think is the most important quality for a leader on your team?


Josh: Attitude.


Adam: Tell me more.











Attitude is everything. I would hire someone with a better attitude over someone with a skill because attitude is very important to me. You can always train skill. I just always hire attitude over skill, and that’s something that’s very important to me. When you’re building something large, and you’re looking giant, you want to be able to surround yourself with people who are going to, not only share that same vision and passion, but who wins? People who are hungry. Everyone wants to be rich, right? Everyone wants to be a millionaire. Everyone wants to drive a nice car, have a nice house, money in the bank, but the problem is, people don’t execute.








Everyone talks big, but they don’t back it up. That’s the problem. I’ll give you a perfect example. I speak at a lot of different engagements. I spoke at a pretty big conference, about 600 to 700 people there. At the end of my session, people are waiting to speak to me. I was talking to them and, “Can I talk to you? Would you mentor me? Can I call you?” I’m open with everyone. Absolutely email me, call me, whatever you want to do. You know how many people got back to me? Zero, because people don’t follow through. That’s the problem.


If a lion’s in the jungle and he or she has to eat, they’re going to find their meal because they’re beasts, and that’s what beasts do. The problem is, what it comes down to is people don’t execute. You got to be a driver. The hungriest person wins. I’m looking for people who are hungry, people who want it.


Adam: How are you finding out whether they have that drive? What do you look for?












Going back and tying into it, I look for attitude. I look for people who really see that. I look where, when I ask a question, what does it look like, so you get a phone call on a Sunday night. Work/life balance is very important to me but, to be extraordinary, you can’t live ordinary. That’s it, bottom line. There’s nothing wrong with … I have friends that make 40-50 thousand dollars a year, and they’re very happy. They watch every TV show on the networks. They have plenty of great time with their friends, their family. They could scrap up just enough money to go on vacation a couple times a year. That’s great! There’s nothing wrong with that, but I want people who are hungry, who share the vision.








I need to feel it, and that’s really not something I can really dial in on, something I feel inside me. It’s just a feeling I always have when I’m connecting with a person, but it’s all about connection. It’s like going on a date with somebody. You feel the chemistry. Is the chemistry there? You have to first feel it, and then you take the next step. Just like marriage or anything else, it’s still work. If someone tells you you have the perfect marriage, they’re lying to you because you’re always going to have challenges. You got to work. You got to be a partner. You got to be a group. Just as a team and a family, you got to work together, too, to become better and stronger, and that’s where the leadership role takes place.


Adam: You talked to us earlier about your core values, and you had an acronym, DRIVE, for that. I just love the way you had that at the ready. Where did that come from? Was that developed after you started or was that developed as or before you started?





I created that about a year and a half in. Two years in, I created that.


Adam: Was there a driver for that, a catalyst that you said, “I need to do this.”? What was that moment?







It was just really defining culture, defining what our values are. It’s very important. The problem is, a lot of people say they have values, but they don’t execute them. The problem is, people don’t execute. People tell me all the time, and back then, everyone used to doubt me. Everyone, “Good luck with that. You’re going to build a worldwide brand. You’re going to franchise it. Great.” I don’t feed into that negativity. I fall forward. I never look backwards. I never fall backwards. I move forward but, at the time, it was, I really want to change the game. I don’t want to play the game the same way everyone else plays it. I want to change it. In order to do that, you have to follow a set of values. You have to make sure everyone is in line.











Respect. I’m going to respect you just like you’re going to respect me because I want you to be treated how I want to be treated, but people don’t understand that. I observe these things all the time every day, wherever I am. I was in a yoga shop the other day, and one of the employees there made a mistake. The owner actually said, “What is the matter with you? What’s wrong with you? You don’t do it like that!” I felt so bad for this person. That’s not how you operate a business. You made them feel, number one, very unhappy. You embarrassed them in front of the customers. You make yourself not look like a leader because that’s not what leaders do. That’s incorrect, but some people …


That’s why I like to put employers and bosses in one category and leaders in another. I’m a leader. People call me the boss, to be quite honest with you, I cringe. I tell everyone, “You never call me the boss.” It’s like, “What do we call you?” I said, “I don’t know. Call me your fearless leader.” I don’t like being called the boss. I don’t, but people need to understand that, but that’s what it takes to really surround yourself with great people.




I love what you’re saying. You’ve got a defined philosophy on leadership, on values, on operating. You’ve got a clear vision for the business. You’re either in your paradigm or you’re not. Tell us about a time when someone wasn’t … You thought they were fit, but they weren’t. What do you do? How do you handle that because your culture is so buttoned up? You know exactly what works. Tell me what happens when it’s not working.




That happened one time. I hired someone for a skill over attitude. I was, “Maybe I can change that person.” You can’t change the stripes on a zebra. It’s just not going to work. We just had to remove that person. That’s it. We had to remove that person.


Adam: You know this. So many entrepreneurs struggle with hire slow, fire fast. People often do it in reverse. They hire quick to fill a job and then they wait it out for months or years and just take the headaches. How did you approach that?





I know fire fast, hire slow. That’s not my motto. My motto is, “Make sure it works,” because if you’re going to get rid of someone because they’re not the right fit, that’s great, but you got to make sure you’re strategic enough where you’re not going to hurt yourself. I make sure, obviously, I have everything covered and then I move big.






It’s like if an animal’s trying to kill their prey, right? Let’s say that animal’s a fast animal. You got to be strategic about it. You’re not going to attack that animal because that animal’s going to take off. If it’s a cheetah, you’re not going to catch it. “Take care. See you.” You have to really be strategic with it and make sure you’re going to do it at the right time where you’re not going to hurt yourself or hurt anyone else. That’s how I did it.


Adam: What’s your philosophy around rewarding employees, either financially or not? What do you think they value, and what are you doing to give attaboys to people who are getting it done?











I really think I reward everyone every day because the culture we have here is indescribable. That’s number one. We’re still growing and scaling very fast so, on the financial side, I like to do whatever I can do but, still, it’s tough, and everyone understands it. You got to be able to share everything. If you want to keep things in the closet, it’s not going to work. Everyone knows the deal. Everyone knows what we’re doing. Everyone sees the big picture. Everyone’s visioning it. You got to be able to vision and see. You got to understand that. Whether we’re playing volleyball outside, literally, outside our office building, people just look at us all the time like, “What are these guys doing? They’re playing volleyball.” We have fun.








I took everyone a couple of weeks ago to see the story on McDonald’s. We went to the movies. Whether we’re just getting together, we’re having a party, we’re on the beach, whatever it is, we have a lot of fun, and we do it all the time. There’s one thing that I heard a long time ago, and it’s really true. When you look at a P&L, there’s one thing that people don’t look at, and it’s called undertime. What’s undertime? It’s pretty simple. Undertime is that people report that 80% of people spent 50% of their workday working on non-work-related tasks. Why? Because things are too buttoned up.







It needs to be a little bit more relaxed. You can’t micromanage people. You got to make sure you have the right people in place and let them execute, but so what? Someone’s at work texting. If you say no phone policy, like that’s really going to work, the people are going to be sneaking at it anyway. You need to think smart. If they’re not held accountable, then they’re not going to be here anymore, and they don’t want to lose their jobs.


Adam: I find, just in my experience, policies like no cell phones, policies really buttoned up, time off, and clock-in/clock-out policies, what that basically communicates is that we don’t trust you.


Josh: Exactly.


Adam: We don’t trust you to do the job. We don’t trust you to achieve the outcome we hired you to achieve. I’m, like you, not for those kinds of policies because they don’t work, and all it does is communicate to people that you don’t have their back.





To be quite honest with you, you got to have a policy book, right? Everyone has to have it. It’s required.


Adam: Indeed.


Josh: I’ve never even read mine, and that is the honest truth because I don’t even care. I’m not going to make a policy over something that I don’t believe in. You got to have the basics and, obviously, I understand what the basics are but, if someone has X amount of days and they ask for one more day, are you really going to dock that person? If someone puts in the work, and they ask for a day off, are you really going to dock them when they’re putting the work in? To me, that’s just crazy.





As we round third here, what’s one thing you think you could improve on or one thing in your mind that you want to do differently on the people side of your business?






I would think the best way to really break this down is, I like to always be better than I was yesterday, so I’m always continuing to educate myself and surround myself around great people. I’ve been mentored by some of the best in the industry, people who run billion dollar companies, not million dollar companies, billion dollar companies. I try to crush a book a month. I’m actually in the works of writing my book right now, which is going to be a great story.


Adam: All right. Congratulations.







Thank you. I try to crush a book a month. If I can get one nugget out of it, I’m happy. I just try to continue to surround myself around educating myself to be better. In order to be the best, you have to continue to practice, continue to get better. Everyone always says practice makes perfect. It doesn’t. Practice makes permanence, but you got to continue to perfect your craft. You got to continue to have the edge to be better than everyone else.








Someone wants to beat me, they need to wake up seven days a week at 2:30 in the morning, and then you deserve to beat me, but that’s not going to happen. It’s not very easy to do, but that’s how I look at it, and I could always be better. That’s why I always have open policies, and I always want to make sure I hear from everyone. I always want to hear from our franchise family members because everyone adds value. People look at Board of Advisor teams. Why build a Board of Advisors when you can build an empire of just smart people? That’s what it’s about.


Adam: You mentioned books, what book are you reading right now and would you recommend it to our audience?


Josh: Yes, I just finished … It’s the greatest book I’ve ever read in my life, Shoe Dog. It’s the story of Nike. It is the most amazing book ever.


Adam: I say this exact same thing. That book is absolutely the best entrepreneurship story I have ever read.




You want to talk about crazy, you want to talk about risks … Listen, if I could sit down and have dinner with one person, I’d love to sit down with Phil Knight. I would be honored to have dinner with that guy.


Adam: For listeners, Shoe Dog is Phil Knight, Founder of Nike’s autobiography. I, along with Josh it sounds like, would highly recommend this. If everybody knew what that man went through to get that company launched, I’d buy and wear nothing but Nikes. It’s just unbelievable.










The crazy thing is, though, perception’s everything, right? People always perceive things differently when people think they see success, but they don’t ever understand what it takes to get to where you want to go. People always judge success on the present. They never look at the past. They never look about all those flights that were missed and all those … I used to literally eat tuna fish and peanut butter and jelly for almost a year of my life just to save money. People never look back and see that and, when you really read that book and hear the struggles and the crazy things this man did and always made it work because he was positive, he almost went every single payroll for ten years figuring out how he was going to make payroll. That’s awesome!


Adam: It’s amazing.


Josh: People who are entrepreneurs can really appreciate that, but entrepreneurship is living a couple of years of your life like most people won’t so you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.




Well said. Final question here. If you were to come back on this show a year from now and tell us whether or not you successfully tackled the single biggest issue or opportunity you have in front of you in your business today, what would you be telling us?







That’s a good question. I would say if I had to come back in a year and talk about an issue, I would just say keeping up with our growing demand. People always say, “Don’t grow too fast. Don’t skip.” You always got to be a step ahead. I would just say making sure we continue with the infrastructure, continue making sure we’re strong, continue surrounding ourselves around great people, and never lose the culture ever. I’m never going to turn into a corporate environment. It’s just not going to happen. We’re going to always keep this culture. I’m going to follow other great companies that have done it. Apple started out of a garage, and look at them today. I started out of my parents’ dining room and, in 15 years, every single person will know of the GYMGUYZ brand. That is a guarantee. You mark my words.


Adam: That’s the final word. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve been hearing from Josh York, Founder and CEO of the GYMGUYZ. Josh, thank you for being with us on the program, man. I appreciate it.


Josh: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Adam.





That’s a wrap for this episode of The Best Team Wins podcast. We’re featuring entrepreneurs whose exceptional approach to the people side of their business has led to incredible results. I’m Adam Robinson, author of the book, The Best Team Wins, which you can find online at or on Amazon. We will see you next week. Thanks for listening.