Ask an Expert: Tim Bainton on Data Management
You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Tim Bainton, the founder and managing director of business development of Mount Vernon Athletic Club and Blue Chip Sports Management, about data management.
Data is a buzzword in the industry — but what exactly does “data” mean? How do you define it?
TB: Data is simply a record of events, ideas, descriptions or characteristics. It allows you to measure just about anything, from ephemeral concepts like trust and happiness to well-defined actions and their impacts, such as what advertising you should use to maximize dollars per hour for each amenity.
Why are you so passionate about data?
TB: People do a lot of things emotionally, but that’s not often the best way to run a business. Data helps us spend our time more efficiently, make more money with the same or even less effort than we’d expended before, and all of this ultimately helps us have a higher quality of life. It’s not the data itself that interests me, and I don’t think “data” on its own means anything to anybody. When we talk about data, what we’re really interested in is how we can learn something from those thousands or millions or billions of collected points of information, and use our new knowledge to create strategies, systems, processes and improvements that will better our businesses and our lives.
Why is data so important to the club industry, and why should clubs be paying attention to data?
TB: Health clubs can use data to optimize everything they do. Data helps select the best-selling and highest-margin merchandise for club stores, helps target and refine club marketing efforts, and can certainly improve the ROI of a club’s classes and training packages. The fitness industry competes not just within itself, but also with other entertainment media and recreational offerings. We need to understand our customers intimately and provide outsized value in order to grow. Health clubs can only do that effectively if they can understand who their members are and what they want, and that simply can’t be accomplished without data and the insights you can get from studying it.
In what ways do you see clubs struggling with data?
TB: Not knowing what information to collect, or how to collect, store and analyze it. The first step is helping ownership and management understand what better data can do for their business. The second step is generating awareness and appreciation for data throughout the organization. Execution is always the hardest part. We’ve got to ensure the right data is collected in a valid and accurate way, it’s analyzed properly, and the insights can be used to drive action.