The Industry’s Achilles’ Heel

Retention is the ongoing Achilles’ heel for all club operators. We all know the importance of retention, and yet we haven’t found a standard unit for defining or measuring it. We all take steps to improve retention, and yet none of us has found the magic pill for doing so.

I’d like to challenge us all to start thinking differently when it comes to retention. Why do we continue to operate the way we currently do? What can we do differently to impact the greater good? Are there things we could be doing differently today, that if changed, could impact the retention formula?

Molly Kemmer, the regional director of MediFit Community Services and the chairperson of IHRSA, recently stated that the value equation equals quality divided by cost, plus an intangible experience. My first challenge is: What is the experience — not that we create — but that we deliver? Intentions are good, but what’s the true impact?

Challenge two: Stop measuring and start impacting. The numbers will take care of themselves so we need to start driving the actions.

We need to actually execute on the fundamentals, which include having the greatest programs and designing the greatest buildings. We must become masterful at the basics and desired service levels that our members want and need. Then we need to foster and create an empowering environment that allows our teams to create surprising and unbelievable experiences on a regular recurring basis.

Challenge three: We must understand that retention starts at the top and that retention is a mindset. It is a culture. It is a way we operate. Step back and really view how you truly behave, what you truly drive on a daily basis. Is it just sales focused? Is it bottom line focused? Is it growth? Is it employee centric or customer centric? How do you truly behave, for that is what you truly drive?

Solve these challenges, and your Achilles’ heel may be no more.


Mark Miller is the vice president of Merritt Athletic Clubs. For questions on retention, he can be reached at

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