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Industry Buzz: Key Insights from the 2017 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat

CS Leadership Retreat

From September 11-13, health club operators from across the U.S. gathered in sunny San Antonio, Texas for the 2017 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat. Over the span of 2.5 days, attendees participated in roundtable discussions on topics such as navigating technology disruption, being change agents, metric madness and more.

Highlights included the “Build a Boat and Hope it Floats” challenge, which saw club operators and sponsors attempt to build a boat out of cardboard and other materials, and then test the final product (a lot failed).

And of course, the roundtables were a key attraction, moderated by industry veteran Allison Flately. Here are some of the key insights from each of the six roundtables for you to consider.


Topic: Navigating Technology Disruption

Discussion: Our industry is facing an unprecedented period of technology disruption and innovation. Innovations in cloud computing and smart mobility are creating change faster than most of us can keep up with. A lot of clubs use technology, whether it’s CMS or mobile apps, but most club owners describe their technology solutions with a “best of the worst” mentality.

Key Insights:

  • The biggest challenge with technology is implementation. It’s important to train your employees on technology, and make sure they understand the technology’s value, so that roll-out goes much more smoothly. Don’t roll out too many technologies at once, or your members and your staff will get overwhelmed.
  • Make sure any software system you invest in has an open API, so that other technologies can integrate with it. That’s really important.
  • Make sure you’re looking at other industries outside of the fitness for technology inspiration. Be aware of what your customers are using outside your club.


Topic: Being Change Agents

Discussion: Like all industries, the health and fitness industry changes year over year, sometimes month by month. Health clubs need to be agile and adapt in order to stay competitive. Health club leaders need to have a strategy for change, a clear understanding of where they want their business to go, how they want to develop their employees and customers, and the plan to achieve these goals.

Key Insights:

  • How do you recognize a trend? Get out in the community — go see what other clubs are doing. Act like a customer in another gym.
  • Talk to vendors — they know everything that’s going on. They’re always traveling and talking to people who know the latest trends in the industry. Talk to them and get their ideas.
  • Before investing in a trend, ask if a trend fits your core values. Is it going to take a huge change in your business to implement? If so,  you may want to pass.
  • Set a budget for smaller innovations. If it’s under $5,000 — go for it. Give your staff an innovation budget. Make your staff be your business planners. You can have a lot of innovation just by listening to your employees and empowering them.


Topic: Metric Madness

Discussion: From your club management software you can pull a wide number of reports to measure success. These reports can identify a variety of Key Performance Indicators to let you know if your gym is running effectively and efficiently, or if there are red flags that need your attention.

Key Insights:

  • You can run a report for anything. But that’s not necessarily a good thing — find the three to five reports that are the most valuable, and stick to those. Take the time to find out what you need. Sometimes simple is better.
  • What metrics do your customers use to measure your success? Cleanliness and friendliness are key. Is the general manager or owner OK with putting their cell phone on a negative Yelp! review?
  • Employee turnover is another key measure to success. The higher the turnover, the more likely you have issues you need to address.


Topic: Service and Retention Initiatives

Discussion: Your club’s No. 1 priority is its customers. We’re in a customer service industry. When clubs forget that, they lose relevancy. Our expertise sometimes gets in the way of meeting our customers/members where they are on their fitness and wellness journey. Knowing your customers and identifying what motivates them is critical.

Key Insights:

  • At staff meetings, considering going over all new members and giving key insights into who they are — their name, why they joined, their goals, etc., so all employees are familiar with the new member and can service them better.
  • Give members ways to express their opinions — Survey Monkey, Medallia, Happy or Not.
  • How can you break down barriers for people who are afraid to try things that would be beneficial to them? Do intro/easy classes to lower that barrier to entry.
  • Cultivate a personal connection with members — listen to their problems, greet them, shake their hand, look them in the eye. Technology can’t be a substitute for face to face. Thank them for voicing their concerns. The main goal is that the member be heard.


Topic: Maximizing Personal Training Profit

Discussion: The health and fitness industry is evolving toward a training-centered model that is based on achieving maximum results for both our clubs and members. Personal training remains a top profit center, but are we maximizing all the revenue opportunities? If not, you could be leaving dollars on the table.

Key Insights:

  • The most critical training skill is the emotional/personal connection, and that the trainer is really relatable to the client. The trainer should be similar or relatable to the client.
  • EFT model is praised as a savior to the personal training business. You can also consider offering 30-minute sessions at a lower price point, to provide a lower point of entry.
  • Have you considered ongoing personal training and adding it into a package — weight loss packages, endurance packages? The package is about the results.
  • Make personal training a part of the price presentation as a different option for the membership. Educate the membership reps on how to represent the features/benefits of personal training.  
  • New training hires should work at the front desk to get their face time in and get to know members.


Topic: Health Clubs — The Final Frontier

Discussion: Your health club has penetrated its target audience and growth has become stagnant. You realize you need to seek out new opportunities, additional sales/services, and identify new audiences to continually grow your business.

Key Insights:

  • Be an educational resource in your community, so that when your community is thinking of a club membership, they’ll think of you first.
  • Spend more time on the deconditioned population. Figure out how to get doctor referrals — get doctors to recommend exercise. To get referrals, additional trained staff is necessary, in addition to measurable outcomes.
  • Virtual training — considering offering a mobile or virtual workout option for people who are traveling, or someone who is intimidated to come in, and wants to workout at home before coming to the gym regularly.

Stay tuned for more insight from the 2017 Club Solutions Leadership Retreat. A full recap will appear in the November 2017 issue. A huge thanks to our sponsors for making this event possible: ABC Financial, Clubware/Debitsuccess, The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Styku, Epsilon, FitnessEMS, Octane Fitness, Matrix Fitness, National Gym Supply, HYPOXI, Aktiv Solutions and TRX. 

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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