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The Eight Disciplines of Health Club Success


When you visit dozens of health clubs and see thousands of comments from gym members all over the world, you start to take notice of characteristics from top-performing clubs and form a picture of real excellence. From these observations, here are my eight disciplines that the best of the best do well.

Greeting People:  This one’s obvious, right? But this is an art form when done by the best. There is constant humor, warmth, graciousness, positivity, personality and human connection.

Name Memorization:  There are great ways to teach this. The very first thing to teach is to stop saying, “I am not good at remembering names.” Replace it with “I used to not be good at remembering names.” This sets up the training for success. Try creating a “name memorization” challenge that must be passed to be hired.

Gaining Insight:  Deliberately learn something about each member, no matter how small. Then use that insight to learn more. This “intel” allows for personalizing the member experience.

Offering Information: When we have knowledge of something that could affect the member’s visit, either positively or negatively, be proactive in offering it up. For example, “We had a leaky pipe in the women’s locker room last night. We have it handled, but I apologize that it is still a bit messy.”

Anticipating Needs:  This might be the single biggest differentiator of all. It is one thing to do something for a member when they ask. It is quite another to run and help a member coming in the door with arms full. Or suppose a member comes in and says, “I haven’t been in the club in four months and I got out of my routine. I even forgot my water bottle!” The best of the best will be taking them a bottle of water as soon as they get on the treadmill and will probably say something like, “Welcome home.”

Solving Problems:  Issue resolution is all about personal responsibility and ownership. It’s also about empowering your people to actually resolve issues in creative ways if necessary, without having to escalate. Scary? Fears about real empowerment are almost always unfounded.

Making Introductions: This is what hosts do. Teaching people when to introduce members to one another, as well as to other staff members, will set your team apart and send a strong message of inclusion to your member. Hint: Introduce when it adds value for both parties.

The Fond Farewell: I can’t tell you how many comments I have seen about how dazzled a member is when team members give a fond and personalized farewell.

When excellence is your goal, you must measure, manage, educate and coach. It’s hard work. Which is exactly why it differentiates you.


Blair McHaney owns and operates two health clubs in Washington State. In addition he is a noted CEM Educator, Medallia Institute contributor and the president of ClubWorks, a Medallia Partner Company. He can be reached at blair@medallia.com or visit mxmetrics.com.

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