Industry leaders know clubs better than anyone, and over the years have noticed trends in what members search for in a great health club. Cory Brightwell from Chuze Fitness, Chez Misko from Wisconsin Athletic Club, Kristen Green from Aquafit Fitness & Leisure and Joe Cirulli from Gainesville Health and Fitness, recently shared what factors they believe to be most important to having and maintaining a great health club.
Brightwell noted it’s important to ensure your club’s employees are welcoming, kind, supportive and make the club feel like a second home.
Misko agreed that having quality staff is important. “A great health club has great staff and members,” he said. “People connect with people, not treadmills or programs. In order to be a great club, you must get and retain great people.”
“Know the core values of your company and understand the culture of your company,” said Cirulli. “The only way you can develop a strong company is if you know how to hire people, and if you know the core values of your company and understand the culture; then you can develop the hiring process to help you find people who have the same values you have, who will fit into the culture of your company.”
“Keep the place clean,” continued Cirulli. “It’s amazing how if you interview people outside of a health club who are not members of a health club and you ask them, ‘What is the number one thing you look for in a health club?’ most people will say it’s important that it is clean — so keep the place meticulously clean.”
Brightwell agreed and said it’s important to ask yourself, “Are the great staff mentioned above keeping the facility spotless?”
“It seems obvious and simple, but [cleanliness] is often overlooked,” said Green. “When we survey our members, one of the reasons they chose our club is that we have five-star presentation of our facilities, which are kept clean, and equipment is regularly serviced and well-maintained. Have systems and processes in place to support this, such as signs in change rooms to be signed off when last check by staff and have a regularly checked maintenance log where staff or members can report anything out of order or needing repairs. When there is so much choice for consumers, this basic point will make the choice easy, and make the difference between a good and a great facility.”
“Always focus on the member experience,” said Misko. “Great clubs put their member and the experience they have in their clubs first. Everything clubs do should enhance the member experience; whether it be adding programs, new member integration or policies or procedures you create.”
Ask yourself, “Do the amenities offered give members multiple avenues to achieve desired results?” said Brightwell.
Misko added the experience depends on the overall “feel for the club.” “Every club or business for that matter has a distinctive feel when you’re in it,” he said. “A great health club feels good from the moment you enter. In many cases you might not be able to identify exactly what makes you feel that way, but you feel it.”
It’s also important to make sure that the layout and equipment of the club is congruent with your audience’s wants and needs, further bettering their experience.
“Does the club have a good flow and create an atmosphere that can deliver a good experience?” asked Brightwell. “Is the equipment working and well-kept? Are the finishes and design of the club aesthetically and operationally appealing?”
Part of the experience is also making sure that everything is constantly being kept up-to-date and improved, added Cirulli. “You have to know to continuously improve all aspects of your business — everything from the physical plan, to the training programs to the evaluation program, look at ways to improve every component of what you do as a business,” he said.
Green also added she thinks it’s important to engage with members to better connect and benefit from a positive experience.
“It’s critical to have high levels of engagement both between your staff and members, but also to develop and provide opportunity for member-to-member connection,” added Green. “When this is done right, your members feel valued — they will stay longer, and refer more to your club. This can be done through organizing social events at the club, and also through having a highly customer-focused staff who is interested in your members, and takes the time to get to know them and understand their needs.”
“A great health club spends time building their corporate culture,” said Misko. “Members and staff understand what the company stands for and they believe in their mission. Great clubs have strong corporate cultures that attract the right people who create an outstanding experience for their members.”
Cirulli also added it’s important for any company to value integrity. “The number one thing to do is to develop trust, and the way you do that is to always say what you’re going to do — and that falls in the area of integrity… so the top line for me is that you always say what you’re going to do and through that you build trust, and through that you show integrity,” he said.
For Green, a great company culture involves developing community within the club, and outside the walls of the facility. “Sponsor and support events in your local community, and participate as a team,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to make members feel part of something bigger, make a contribution, and also the opportunity to create awareness of your business through community outreach.”
Expert Advice: Always be learning. “As leaders of this company we have to continually be in learning mode — whether it be the industry magazine, books, TED talks, it’s important that we’re always learning, because those are the things we can share with our staff and that’s where members can start seeing improvements,” said Cirulli.