The Siena Difference
Every company has a value proposition. According to Debra Siena, the president of Midtown Health, theirs is a proven track record of success in both owning and managing fitness facilities.
In 2009, Mercy Health sent out a request for proposal (RFP). It stated that the health care system, with locations throughout Ohio and Kentucky, was looking for a fitness management firm to help run its Mercy HealthPlex fitness centers.
At the time, the Mercy HealthPlex’s three locations were struggling financially, losing about $3 million per year. Several companies responded to the RFP, making the case that they were the company that could help Mercy Health turn these struggling fitness facilities into thriving profit centers.
Of those companies, one stood out, said Mike Combes, the former vice president of the Mercy HealthPlex centers. “We looked at several companies and ended up picking Tennis Corporation of America (TCA)’s management division, which today is Midtown Health,” he recalled. “At that point I became an employee of Midtown Health, working under their president, Debra Siena.”
Combes, now the vice president of operations for Midtown Health, explained Mercy Health chose Midtown Health due to the fact it doesn’t just manage fitness facilities — it also owns them. Founded in 1969 (then known as TCA), Midtown built a strong foundation owning and operating the Midtown Athletic Clubs, before Midtown Health, the managed club division, added corporate fitness centers and hospital-integrated club management to its offerings. “Far and away, the reason we chose Midtown Health was its owner’s mentality,” he said.
Secondly, they chose Midtown Health due to something Combes called The Siena Difference. “The biggest thing that Debra does, as the president of Midtown Health, is she’s developed a positive culture based on excellence, innovation, growth and tenacity,” said Combes. “And along the way to have fun and laugh. I think that culture has been the key to her success, and Midtown Health’s success.”
Siena began working for Midtown in 1986 as the aerobics director of a 15,000-square-foot club in downtown Chicago. In addition to managing the Group X department and teaching classes, she also worked the front desk, cleaned the locker rooms, supervised the fitness floor and did personal training.
Two months after joining the company, the club’s manager quit, and Siena landed the job. Over the years, she continued to take on more responsibility for the growing company, becoming president of Midtown Health in 2010.
Today, Midtown is the 13th largest health club operator in the U.S., with eight owned Midtown Athletic Clubs and 22 managed fitness facilities by Midtown Health in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio. It employs 2,200 employees company-wide, and boasts 70,000 members.
“We are the only management company that combines experience in owning high-retail health clubs with managing corporate and medically-based fitness and wellness centers,” said Siena. “This gives us the advantage to leverage all of our resources, best practices and learnings for our managed fitness center partners.”
In addition to Mercy Health, Midtown Health’s partners include McDonald’s, Kraft-Heinz and General Motors. For each of its partners, Siena said they have a terrific track record of seeing significant membership and non-dues revenue growth, in addition to increases in member satisfaction and retention.
This was even the case for Mercy Health. After taking over, Midtown Health was able to turn the centers’ $3 million deficit into profit. “I love the opportunity to go in and turn around a troubled club,” said Siena.
According to Siena, Midtown Health is able to see positive change in the companies it partners with due to the fact they truly care about the member experience. “If you take care of the members, then they take care of the business,” she said. “It’s not just changing the facility or the programs. It’s not just improving the service. It’s having all of the moving parts snap together and having that big-picture vision, and then knowing each of the actionable items that needs to be put in place in order to make it happen.”
To accomplish this, Midtown Health takes a tailored approach to each of its partners’ needs, evaluating their corporate culture, mission, values and goals, which most of the time include a return on investment.
“This is where it really behooves our clients that Midtown Health has that commercial aspect of Midtown Athletic Clubs, because we can use their best practices to generate a return on investment, while still maintaining our partner’s culture,” said Siena.
Under Siena’s leadership, Midtown Health today boasts a proven track record as a leader in customized fitness center management and employee wellness solutions for health systems and corporations. But even just a few years ago, the company’s value proposition was a tougher sell.
“One of the biggest challenges was having us be recognized as a player or as a participant in the managed-club field,” recalled Siena. “I think we were probably more well known for our Midtown Athletic Clubs than we were known for our management division. Even initially our name, TCA, didn’t work in our favor when it came to fitness and wellness.”
They overcame that challenge by transitioning the name to Midtown Health. Plus, Siena’s hustle helped. “My mission is continuing to grow,” she said. “I am singularly focused on making that happen. I don’t believe in a cold prospect.”
At the moment, growth involves Midtown Health’s continued partnership with Mercy Health, as the two companies collaborate on the sixth Mercy HealthPlex location in West Clermont, Cincinnati. “It’s been an amazing turn around, which as you can imagine, the health system is just thrilled about, to go from losing $3 million per year to now turning a small profit,” said Combes. “Mercy Health couldn’t be happier.”
Neither could Siena. She explained the thing she’s most proud of is the longevity of Midtown Health’s clients, and the fact she feels they’ve truly helped each one of their partners. “I feel good about picking up the phone right now and talking to any of those clients about what we can do to continue to progress their success,” she said.
That is The Siena Difference.