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Features In Print

103 Health Club Industry Tips, Tricks & Ideas

103 health club industry tips

Welcome to Club Solutions Magazine’s 103 Health Club Industry Tips, Tricks and Ideas issue! Inside, you’ll find 103 profiles, facts, takeaways and pieces of advice (with a few bonuses) spanning 23 categories. Enjoy! 

Award-Winning Aquatics

Boasting an award-winning aquatics facility requires a lot more than just trendy programming and top-notch instructors. Your aquatics facility must also be clean, safe and maintained properly.

With this in mind, lean on the following tips from Mike Fowler, the commercial marketing and sales manager for Pentair Commercial Aquatics Systems.

001 • Test

Equipment Inspections. “Inspect all equipment before busy summer months. A pump or filter that fails in season could cause a shutdown. Be proactive and have extra pump motors and extra filter media (such as sand) on hand. Also be sure all baskets and filters are clean and free of debris.”

002  Treat

Air & Water Quality. “Aquatic safety begins with water clarity — be sure the main drain is clearly visible from the pool deck. Allow time for seasonal shock treatments to remove bacteria. Install a UV unit — recommended by MAHC — as an extra layer of protection against E.Coli and Cryptosporidium. UV also improves air quality by removing odors caused by chloramines.”

003  Maintain

Control & Maintain Water Balance. “Maintain proper water balance using an automatic chemical controller to maintain proper pH, ORP, temperature and flow. Check the system frequently during high-bather loads, especially the circulation and flow rate. Chemical controllers monitor and adjust chemicals as needed to maintain proper and safe water balance.”

004 • Make a Splash

Of course, programming plays a key role in boasting an award-winning aquatics facility as well. So what’s currently trending in aquatics programming?

According to Mary Duke Connell, the aquatics director for Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, barre-inspired aquatic classes are making a splash at their fitness center. In addition, aqua yoga has proved popular, which allows participants “to experience a traditional yoga class without the fear of falling,” said Connell.


Architecture & Design: Built from Scratch

Designing a new gym — whether it’s your first, second or 100th location — can be an exciting project. It can also be extremely stressful. Especially in the early stages of club design, there are a lot of unknowns, and one small mistake can lead to major issues down the road.

STUDIO Fitness recently made it through the ups and downs that come with designing and launching a second location in Houston, Texas. Layn Chess, the co-owner of STUDIO Fitness, shared their tricks of the trade gleaned from the project.

005  Measure

“Make sure to measure twice, buy once. Get the measurements of all your equipment and walk your space to see how it will fit. Open floor space can be deceiving.”

006  Organize

“Your space can look bigger and more organized when you have your equipment lined correctly with traffic. Consider the shape of your space and how people will travel through it for optimal equipment placement.” 

007  Blend In

“When it comes to the design or theme of your facility, consider the existing architecture in the surrounding area. Utilize some of the natural history of the neighborhood to accentuate the character of your space.”

008 • Lock It Up

Of all the areas in your health club, the space that requires careful architecture and design is your locker room. It is the one area most members who walk into your gym see. With this in mind, Suzanne Lee of Digilock shared a simple trick for creating a locker room experience your members will love.

“Go back to basics. What is your ideal member experience, and what do you need — not want — to accomplish with your locker room? Durable shared-use electronic locks ease management pains and provide an elevated experience for members.”

Group Effort Cleaning

009 • It Takes a Village

According to Jeff Stripp, the vice president of marketing and sales at Zogics, it takes a village to keep a fitness facility clean. “The pursuit of cleanliness doesn’t stop at a few cleaning products or hiring a cleaning service,” he said. “It takes a supportive staff and most importantly, engaged members, to maintain a clean facility. Gyms that create an environment that encourages everyone to play a role in cleaning benefit from happier members, enhanced safety, longer-lasting equipment and a healthier bottom line.”

Standing Out in Your Community

Having a great reputation in your community leads to greater success for your business, allowing you to attract more members and retain them for longer periods of time.

Jeff Riney, the vice president of operations for Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC) in Chicago, shared three tricks for positioning your health club well in your local community.

010  Be the Expert

“Many more people are interested in health and fitness lately, so individuals in charge of communicating to an audience are looking for relevant content. Human resource directors, building managers and other groups that distribute newsletters would definitely be interested in free expert content from trainers and registered dietitians on your team. Don’t rely on the guest pass as your sole offering — give your expert knowledge and be known as the place to go for answers.”

011  Respect Your Competition

“Your competitor is not other clubs, gyms or studios in the market. It’s the places your members spend time at instead of spending it with you. What are the stores, shops, bars, cafés that your potential members are spending time at? Figure out how to get your message there.”

012  Be Part of the Human Community

“We often think of ‘outreach’ as setting up a table and handing out passes, but humanizing your team will make your club more relevant. One of our membership directors saw a flyer about a block party last summer and offered to have the staff run the grill. We flipped burgers for them so they could enjoy the party and built tremendous goodwill and trust — and got 11 memberships within two weeks organically.”

Bonus Tricks

Kristen Green, the executive general manager of AquaFit:

  • Fundraise for a common cause. “Choose a cause your members are passionate about and run a series of fundraising events in club. This is a great win-win opportunity to be a part of something bigger.”
  • Support events in your community. “Get a team together of staff and members to participate in an event and have them wear your club T-shirts and apparel. This is a great, fun way to build a ‘tribe’ of ambassadors.”



Corporate Wellness: The Corporate Opportunity

Melanie Algermissen, the vice president of operations for Cooper Wellness Strategies at Cooper Aerobics, shares corporate wellness program tips.

013  Measure Cardiovascular Fitness

“When creating a corporate wellness program to present to employers, it’s important to define how participant success will be measured. Measuring VO2, or cardiovascular fitness level, is a critical biometric value missing in the majority of today’s corporate wellness programs. Research from The Cooper Institute shows improving one’s fitness level just a little bit from ‘very poor’ to ‘poor’ can reduce an individual’s risk of death from all causes by 58 percent and add six to nine years to their life.”

014  Individualize the Participant Experience

“Use technology to meet corporate wellness participants where they are on their wellness journey. They’re demanding an individualized wellness experience, which technology can help you deliver.”

015  Identify “Why” an Employer Wants to Implement a Corporate Wellness Program

“When working with an employer, it’s important to understand what the goals are for the corporate wellness program. Ask companies to identify why wellness is important to their organization and what change(s) they hope to affect overall. This should then be used to align leadership, key performance indicators, communications and programs. Intentional focus allows organizations to avoid falling into a low-impact, check-the-box type of wellness program.”

The Marketplace: Club Management Software

016  ABC Financial

ABC Financial is the nation’s leading software and billing provider for the health and fitness industry. Its comprehensive services include payment processing and health club management tools, such as DataTrak, which allows gym owners and managers the ability to track and manage memberships, member and employee schedules, other human resource functions and inventory control.

800.551.9733abcfinancial.com sales@abcfinancial.com


017  ASF Payment Solutions

ASF Payment Solutions recently updated its gym management software, My Club Business, with new robust report formats, increased security role management, easier scheduling and simplified purchase tracking, which allows gyms, martial arts studios and fitness clubs more time with members and students.

800.227.3859asfpaymentsolutions.com • sales@asfpaymentsolutions.com


018  Club Automation

Club Automation is the leading club management software for health and athletic clubs and medical wellness centers. Club Automation’s comprehensive web-based solution currently serves over 400 enterprise-grade facilities nationwide. Increase revenue, reduce cost and engage customers with the sophisticated, intuitive system backed by a team of industry experts.



019  Club OS

Club OS is the leading fitness sales automation software in the health club industry. With features including automated follow-up, texting, scheduling, reporting and more, you spend less time doing groundwork and more time with your members. Contact Club OS today to learn more about how to integrate the software into your business.

club-os.com hello@club-os.com



020    FitnessEMS

FitnessEMS helps club operators know things about their equipment and the people responsible for repairing and maintaining it. The platform is used to store and communicate equipment data through filtered logins that focus the user on their specific part in the fitness equipment repair lifecycle. Call FitnessEMS today and schedule a 15-minute demo.



021    GroupEx PRO

GroupEx PRO (GXP) is a web-based solution for managing group fitness departments. Created by fitness business veteran Shannon Fable and her web-developer husband John, GXP’s mission is to help group fitness managers “get back to the good stuff.” GXP provides an affordable system for streamlined communication solutions, quick sub coordination, real-time schedule updates and a robust engine for tracking performance data.



022  GymSales

Many gyms rely on manual systems and inefficient technology to manage their sales process. Leads are easily lost and neglected, and performance is not tracked or measured. But thankfully, there’s a better way. Introducing GymSales — the smart lead management tool for growing fitness clubs. Growing your member base will be easier than ever before.

855.855.2977gymsales.net • info@gymsales.net


023  Jonas Fitness

Empower M.E. truly empowers your members in all areas of membership management — making your job as an operator that much easier. With an innovative, mobile-responsive design, comprehensive family profile management and enhanced form of payment functionality, Empower M.E. provides an immersive user experience with a focus on an improved “member journey.”




Strengthen your business with MINDBODY business management software. From booking and check-ins to point of sale and analytics — your business is fit to run. Visit mindbodyonline.com or call 877.755.4279 to book a free demo.



025  Motionsoft

Does your club management software feel extinct? If you want your club software running in the cloud and not in a museum, talk to Motionsoft about modern club management software.

800.323.1005motionsoft.net • sales@motionsoft.net



026  Paramount Acceptance

Paramount’s Dashboard Reporting Tool is what every club owner needs to efficiently run their business. The dashboard helps you make quick decisions with the most current and accurate information. Interactive reports allow you to view all of your club’s data in one easy-to-use solution. Call Paramount Acceptance today for a free demo.



027  TSG

A global leader in revenue management solutions, TSG offers a complete club management software and billing and payments processing service. TSG has been delivering its innovative products and services for more than 20 years. TSG’s solutions are utilized by thousands of businesses, both large and small, in more than 20 countries.

855.202.2932  transactionservices.global  mary.p@transactionservices.global

Education: The Backbone of Your Fitness Department

Jared Deptula, the vice president and general manager of the Chelsea Piers Sports Center in New York City, weighs in on why continuing education is so important for club employees — especially fitness staff.

028  Why is continuing education important for club staff?

Our industry moves and evolves at such a rapid pace that it is critical for our staff — more specifically our personal training team — to stay engaged on what they currently know, including their credentials, education, certifications and work experience, and continuously refine those skills. Continuing education is the backbone of any great fitness department. It creates an environment of collective development with a “growth mindset” so that sharing, peer development and collective wisdom become daily practices.

029  How does Chelsea Piers invest in employee education?

We hold continuing education as one of our most valued practices and it has three main categories:

1. In-House Curriculum (including roundtable discussions, practical work, film viewing, book and article sharing). With the help of our incredible leadership team we have developed an extensive in-house curriculum for our training staff that covers all topics including technical proficiency, anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, movement assessment, program design, customer service, sales and more.

2. Guest Lectures (from industry experts, doctors and practitioners). We most recently hosted a group of surgeons who specialize in sports injuries from a medical group we partner with. Guest lectures also include high-level coaches.

3. Hosted Specialists (for weekend workshops and certifications). This year alone we are a host site for Stop Chasing Pain, Stick Mobility, TRX, Art of Breath and possibly FRC. This allows for us to open our doors to outside trainers and be a hub of education for New York City.

030  What trainings or certifications have you found to be extremely valuable?

In terms of certifications, our experience has led us to develop the unique differences among our training staff. Our trainers must have one of the major certifications as a baseline standard (ACSM, NSCA, NASM or ACE), but when it comes to specialty certifications, we really encourage trainers to follow their passions. Some of our favorite certifications and workshops are: CSCS, FRC, Stick Mobility, Art of Breath, Precision Nutrition, Strong First and Stop Chasing Pain.

BONUS IDEA: FitFam Friday

In October 2017, fitness professionals in Chicago gathered for the first FitFam Friday event, created by Fitness Formula Clubs as a way to foster a sense of community among the fitness industry in the Windy City.

FitFam Friday occurs the first Friday of every month, and is a mix of education, camaraderie and fun. The event kicks off with a panel discussion, followed by a Q&A, workout and then networking hour.

“It was born out of the spirit of inclusion,” said Jeff Riney, the vice president of operations for Fitness Formula Clubs. “We don’t look at other operators as competition in the market, but rather other members of the fitness family. We’re all in this thing together. Eighty percent of the market doesn’t workout, only 20 percent does, so there’s plenty of business to go around. We wanted to figure out a way to get together. It’s essentially industry night for the fitness industry.”

Employee Engagement

Employee turnover is costly to your bottom line. As a result, it’s vital clubs do what they can to ensure their staff are engaged in what they do and happy in their roles. Here, Tracy Stepp, the director of human possibilities for The Claremont Club, shares how they engage employees from the ground up.

031  How does The Claremont Club make employees feel valued?

We listen to what’s important to our people. We also encourage and support their talents, skills and desired outcomes to make a difference for the people we serve.

032  Why is it important for clubs to make their employees feel valued?

People are our greatest asset. Happy and engaged employees are loyal, committed and passionate about the work they do, resulting in higher performance and lower turnover. It benefits your club. Happy employees are good advocates, and they also create your brand.

033  Are there any team building activities you do and what are the benefits of those activities?

Starting at the top, our management team has been going away together for the past 18 years on a three to four day manager retreat. We basically eat, sleep and work through our issues together. I believe this has created a deep level of understanding, trust and compassion for each other. We love each other like a family.

The Latest Trends: Equipment, Asset Management & Technology

Mike Feeney, the executive vice president of New Evolution Ventures (NeV), shares his insights on the latest equipment, asset management and technology trends. 

034  Taking the Emotion out of Buying

When it comes to equipment trends, Feeney said not much has changed in terms of the nuts and bolts of most equipment pieces. However, technology is influencing how club operators manage their equipment utilization and maintenance.

“The bigger players are trying to use technology to determine what equipment is getting used in a club and how often it’s getting used, and I think that’s allowing buyers to remove emotional decision making, by using data to support their purchasing decisions,” said Feeney. “Whether that’s more treadmills and less ellipticals or more stepmills and fewer steppers, technology takes a lot of emotion out of [buying] and it just becomes based on data. I think for me, that’s the biggest thing we’re seeing.”

035  Data-Based Management

What technologies are helpful with data-based management? ECOFIT and GYMTRACK are the two products Feeney uses to manage the equipment assets at NeV’s portfolio of clubs. “I want to be able to know when a product has reached the end of its life,” he said. “Having data that supports those decisions makes it easier for operators to back their decisions and explain them to others in the company who aren’t focused on equipment all the time.”

036  Technology as an Assistant

In what other ways do technologies like ECOFIT and GYMTRACK assist Feeney? “They also help with equipment rotation — the ability to see that I get higher traffic on the left side of the cardio floor than the right side,” he explained. “With this information I’ll rotate equipment so I can increase my usage on my products that have had low usage for the last year. That’s a big benefit. In addition, the next step is really managing your assets from a repair and maintenance standpoint. These technologies provide warnings when a weight stack or treadmill hasn’t moved in 24 hours. This signals there’s something wrong with the equipment that you might otherwise not discover right away.”

037  Ensuring the Right Fit

Whether you’re investing in a new piece of tech or the latest bike, Feeney said nowadays club operators must be wary of implementing trends just because everyone else is.

“Just doing what I call doing a ‘me too’ addition doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful with it,” said Feeney. “Anybody can build a club, and anybody can go copy what someone else is doing, but it’s really about the execution inside the box. Make sure you have strategies around purchases that support the overall direction of your club.”

038  Support New Additions with Programming

In fact, Feeney explained programming is key, stating that any new piece of equipment or offering you bring into your club must be supported by a program. “Everyone wants to put a rack in, and everyone wants to put turf in, but you need to make sure you’re doing it based on the training and protocol that you’re going to teach and implement in your club,” he said. “Otherwise you’re going to end up with just a big storage rack.” 

039  Eye-Catching Products

“At the IHRSA show there were a number of pieces on the virtual reality side I thought were fun and cool,” said Feeney. “Also, glute machines have become a hotter requested item, and I saw a couple manufacturers had new styles of glute machines that offer different movements. And then just the increased connection with cardio equipment — having the ability to connect to an Apple Watch or other data sources. The big question with this is: Do people want that or are we just going to create something people aren’t going to use? The verdict is still out for me.”


Feeney’s final piece of advice when it comes to the latest equipment, asset management and technology trends? Ensure you’re plugged in with your membership and use that as your guiding light.

“I think the best thing I could tell anybody is to focus on what’s going on in the club — what are members using or not using? Go workout with your members. Be a part of what you’re creating. I think that’s the biggest learning lesson. If you workout in your clubs and listen to what people are saying, they’re going to give you good direction.”

Trending in Group X

040 • Trends

Group exercise has been a staple in most health clubs for more than 30 years. But over that time, a variety of trends have come in and out of style.

Here, Donna Cyrus of NeV shares the trends she’s witnessed that have proved successful at engaging members. “The two trends I see right now are HIIT programming and boxing,” she said. “Gyms and boutiques are popping up all over with these classes. If you don’t have access to boxing bags, launch a kickboxing class. Setting up a high intensity circuit program is another option for your facility. It will be packed.”

Virtual fitness is another hot trend in group exercise in 2018. But what do operators need to know about the offering in order to make it successful?

041  On the Rise

According to Les Mills, virtual group exercise has grown exponentially. According to the brand, “More than 12,000 clubs around the world now offer some sort of virtual offering. But for many clubs it’s an offering, not a solution. It’s virtual fitness in nascent form, with many clubs struggling with technological aspects — projectors, screens, set-up and scheduling. Netflix streamlined the convenience and ease of watching TV. Spotify did the same for music. Where’s the virtual fitness version?”

042  Content is Key

In a recent article titled “The Entertainment Economy Meets Experiential Fitness,” Les Mills shared the opinion of Victor Brick, one of Planet Fitness’ biggest franchisees and chairman of the board of Brick Bodies. “Content is key and so is the experience,” he said. “It’s still about the experience. Most people could workout at home, stick a video in, do it on a computer if it is just about the movements. But it is about the experience. You want to feel motivated, you want to feel excited, and you want to look forward to doing the activity. Virtual allows you to do that by recreating the experience of a class in a virtual setting.” 

043  Quality

Les Mills’ advice? “Content is key, but quality of content is king. In a fast-changing world, people subscribe to the best and most entertaining content. In the world of fitness, they seek out classes and programs that provide real results.”

Selfless Leadership

American five-star general Douglas MacArthur once said, “A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

This quote sums up well the complexities that come with being a leader, a truth that is ever present whether you’re leading a group of soldiers on the battlefield, or a team of fitness staff on the gym floor.

Here, two leaders in the fitness industry share their ideas and sources of inspiration for leadership at their organizations.

Words of Wisdom by Debra Siena, the president of Midtown Health:

044  Empower Others

“Leaders abandon themselves to the strengths of others. They surround themselves with the brightest, most enthusiastic people possible, and give them the tools and resources to succeed.”

045  Time Management

“Manage your time better than you manage your money. You can always get money back, but you can never recover wasted time.”

Inspirational Leadership Books, courtesy of Kevin McHugh, the COO of The Atlantic Club:

046 • “The Primes: How Any Group Can Solve Any Problem” by Chris McGoff

“In this book, McGoff explains that ‘great leaders bring just enough vision to move and inspire people. They present their vision and invite others to contribute their ideas to fill in the gaps.’ This is also known as the Swiss Cheese Rule, where the leader of a project lets their team and peers work together to fill in all the holes for better results. Sometimes it’s good to have holes to fill, that way everyone has a chance to contribute, which can make the end result better.”

047 • “The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues” by Patrick M. Lencioni

“In this book, the author emphasizes three virtues to manage and live by. They are simply to be hungry, smart and humble. If you possess these virtues, then people want to work for you. The book is great for providing insight into identifying, hiring and developing team players, or personally becoming a better team player.”

Marketing Trends to Keep on Your Radar

Marketing is the lifeblood of your facility. As a result, it’s vital to stay on top of the latest trends in marketing to ensure you keep an edge up on the competition and continue driving customers through your doors. With this in mind, here in an overview of the latest marketing trends to keep on your radar and consider implementing.


Augmented or Virtual Reality

048 According to Entrepreneur contributor Deep Patel, “With the release of the iPhone eight and iPhone X, Apple has made it clear that they are betting on augmented reality (AR). As these new devices go mainstream, brands will begin experimenting with AR-sponsored and branded content.”

049 Although this may seem far fetched, forward-thinking club operators are already using augmented or virtual reality to their benefit. Take Midtown Athletic Clubs as an example. Prior to launching its new location in Chicago, the brand attracted new customers using virtual reality technology, by creating nine unique virtual walk-through experiences of the club.

Steven Schwartz, the CEO of Midtown Athletic Clubs, explained the virtual reality technology was incredibly realistic, and proved to be the best way to showcase the club’s unique features before it was even finished being built. “We visited local farmers markets and popular outdoor spaces in key Chicago neighborhoods and invited people to try on the virtual reality headsets,” he said. “This really brought to life the magnitude of the project and drove new membership from those who wanted to become a part of it.”

Video On Demand

050 In addition to augmented or virtual reality, another trend in marketing is using a Video On Demand (VOD) platform to expand the reach of your club’s trainers, instructors, programming and brand as a whole.

According to Matt Given, the CEO of Intelivideo, VOD is experiencing explosive growth, fueled by the success of VOD platforms like Netflix or Hulu in the consumer space. “Bigger picture, you see companies like Hulu and Netflix responding to this consumer-driven way people are consuming content,” he said. “People are cutting cords … and going directly to the content and brands they want to subscribe to.”

051 VOD channels can provide a ton of branding power and expand a club’s reach, bringing in clients who may never have otherwise experienced your programming.

There are a number of early adopters that have already launched VOD channels, including: Pure Barre, which has 500 brick-and-mortar locations and launched a VOD platform last June; and BeachBody, which launched a VOD channel and earned 400,000 subscribers within the first 30 days.

Implementing Medical Fitness

Learn the best practices for implementing and training your staff for medical fitness programming from Kate Golden, the director of people and fitness operations at Newtown Athletic Club.

052 • Be proactively inclusive

“Ensure your facility is inviting for all abilities and fitness levels. From marketing graphics to the equipment purchased and its placement — always question if it will attract and retain special populations.”

053 • Show your value and expertise

“Build relationships with physicians by tracking outcomes and communicating progress regularly.”

054 • Have a proven concept

“Providing quicker improvement in your specialized programs can help increase your referrals from local orthopedic practices.”

The Missing Link: Nutrition

Anyone who’s ever tried getting in shape knows exercising is a moot point if you don’t eat right. Nutrition programs give your club more offerings to help members reach their fitness goals. Jonathan Aluzas, the membership director at Arena Fitness in California, shares what to keep in mind when it comes to running effective nutrition programs.

055  Evidence-Based

“Don’t reinvent the wheel. Find an evidence-based program like Balanced Habits you can implement immediately and make a big impact on clients through.”

056  Reinforce

“Drive home the importance of nutrition relentlessly with workshops and content so you create a culture and mindset around it. Consistency is critical.”

057  Educate

“Make sure everyone on the staff is educated about your nutrition program so you speak a common language. A cohesive message is powerful.”

Bonus Trick

“Don’t treat nutrition as a secondary program. Treat it with the same respect as your training programs, and you’ll see revenue and client success explode.”

Operations: Enhancing the Member Experience

Ramak Safi, the general manager of Pulse Fitness Center in Jacksonville, Florida, believes the foundation of your club’s operations is your mission. Communicating that mission to staff and members will go a long way in enhancing the member experience.

058  Be Helpful

“Your staff’s first couple of interactions with members are the most important. Teach your staff to approach members in a manner that shows you genuinely want to help without an ulterior motive.”

059  Show Concern

“Everything starts with your attitude. You have to genuinely want to help people — when you genuinely want to help people, you end up making more money by members wanting to sign up their friends.”

Marshal Stich, a personal trainer at Elite Sports Clubs, knows personally engaging members is one of the best practices for a health club, especially during personal training. This is why it’s important to set standards for training sessions.

060  Converse

“Create opportunities for one-on-one connections. Taking the time to have a conversation can help foster positive relationships and a welcoming atmosphere.”

061  Get Feedback

“Be open to suggestions. Often, people will ask to do something you didn’t have planned. Stay the course this time, but if the suggestion matches the goals of the coach, adding it later may increase participant enjoyment.”

Personal Training: Winning Clients and Influencing Members

For many clubs, personal training is one of the most profitable services outside of membership dues. As a result, it’s vital operators learn how to attract and retain clients and streamline operations to maximize profits. With this in mind, two personal training managers — Vic Spatola of Greenwood Athletic & Tennis Club and Brandon Yates of Chicago Athletic Clubs — share how they each set up their personal trainers for success.

062  Time is Money

VS: Personal trainers need to be taught how to make their time a premium. Time and knowledge are the two products a trainer sells to clients. Having a strong grasp on how that time is a premium and a limited commodity is key to a trainer’s success. By setting a schedule when you can train people, filling that schedule with clients, and holding clients accountable when they miss a session, a trainer begins to understand how valuable and precious their time is. Blocking out time for personal workouts, food breaks and business maintenance — confirming appointments, lead follow ups, writing exercise programs — are also important activities. So when all those things are considered, a trainer has to be very diligent on sticking to their schedule and making their time a premium.


063 • Bare Minimum

VS: Have a minimum amount of training sessions that trainers have to hit for employment. This is an important expectation to set during the hiring process. This expectation tells trainers that everyone on the team must contribute so the department can stay profitable. This makes each trainer accountable to not only their financial wellbeing, but that of the clubs.

064  Results

BY: Limit as much of the sales process that is required by the trainers as you can. Trainers did not get into the business because they love to sell. Rather, have all communication and metrics that you evaluate trainers on based on client results. Having the trainers focus on results and not solely on revenue metrics will in turn lead to happier clients and more revenue in the long run.

065  Continuing Education

BY: Education, education, education. Trainers crave new information. Trainers get excited about having new tools to use with their clients. Both the trainers and their clients win if easily accessible, new education is provided for them.

Profit Centers: Mind-Body for Profit

There are other ways health clubs can generate revenue outside personal training. Mind-body classes like yoga, Pilates and barre are becoming valuable profit centers for clubs as well.

Lisa Reynolds, the director of Pilates and GYROTONIC method at East Bank Club in Chicago, shares how her club uses mind-body programs to engage members and add to the bottom line.

066  Foster Community

“Create opportunities for the instructors and clients to feel connected to the studio. Rule No. 1 in our studio is: No one ‘owns’ their clients. Certainly, every member will have one instructor that is primary, but every person that walks in the door belongs to everyone. That means members engage with up to eight instructors and seven other members every time they come into the studio. Celebrate successes like birthdays, weddings and promotions in addition to accomplishing a challenging exercise. This sense of community also helps us keep our numbers when an instructor goes on vacation or leaves the club. Members are familiar with the training styles and personalities of the staff, so they are very comfortable moving on with someone else. In our group classes, we do not offer drop-ins and require an eight-week commitment so students in each class get used to the dynamic of the group. They will stick with the same instructor and same group of people for years.”

067  Have Strong and Creative Leaders

“It takes a special touch to effectively manage practitioners of mind-body disciplines. Most of us get into these fields for altruistic reasons, so money is rarely an effective motivator. Pilates, yoga and GYROTONIC instructors also tend to be on the creative side of things and find the corporate structure unnatural to them. Managing a large group of creative, out-of-the-box thinkers can be a lot like herding cats. The right leader in this field will have a similar skillset to a creative director and can easily live on both sides of the fence. They can empower a team to support the club’s mission by introducing it to them in a vernacular that resonates and inspires their instructors.”

068  Educate and be Educated

“When you look closely at the best in the mind-body industry, they have one thing in common: they are eternal students. Eternal students inspire their clients to join them on that endless journey of knowledge and exploration. Members are less likely to burn out and move on to the next fad if they can see there is continually a next level. Being an eternal student and inspiring your clients to be eternal students is client retention at its finest.

Bonus: Fee-Based

Aida Johnson-Rapp of East Bank Club provides an overview of fee-based, mind-body programming offered at the club.

In 2014 we began offering private yoga sessions in a couple of our studios during non-prime time hours when no regular classes were scheduled. The response was greater than expected, so in late 2015 we decided to repurpose a seldom-used fitness space and created a designated private yoga studio. We now have a staff of 15 yoga instructors who offer private sessions to our members. The instructors must have completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training recognized by Yoga Alliance (YA). They must be registered with YA and have at least one year of teaching experience. The session options for members are: Private, semi-private and private groups of up to five people, 60 or 75 minutes in length. The rate range for a session is $80 to $150. Additionally, we periodically offer the following fee-based specialty small group yoga classes (three to eight participants): Pre-Natal yoga, Chair Yoga, Yoga Quick Start, Yoga Nidra, Yoga Rope Wall and more at a cost of $15 to $25 per class.

In July, we present a two-hour “Yoga Rave” at a cost of $15 for members and $20 for non-members. This event is held on our roof deck and features a live DJ, three instructors, glow paint, jewelry, decorations and light refreshments. We have done this event for the past three summers with great success.

Safety First: Enhancing Risk Management

An integral part of the member experience is the safety of your club. Maintaining a safe environment and training your staff in risk management protocols is vital to your club’s long-term success. With this in mind, here are some risk management and safety strategies from three experts.

069  Be Proactive

According to Scott Draper, the general manager of Club Northwest, the No. 1 rule with risk management is to be proactive. “To manage risk, we’ve found that the best strategy is to play offense,” he said. “For example, we have a People Person that takes care of our team. A team well taken care of not only reduces the potential risks of employing people, but having a happy staff goes a long way to having happy members. We find that by focusing on practices that take care of our team by creating a dynamic, enjoyable and safe environment for them, they in turn create and maintain protocols and practices that take care of our members’ and guests’ entire experience in the club. Safety becomes an important byproduct of our focus on the overall wellness experience.”

070  Reevaluate Often

According to Mary Frank, the sales and marketing manager for Cincinnati Sports Club, clubs should evaluate their risk management and safety protocols multiple times throughout the year. “Analyze all claims and incident reports with your insurance provider at least two times annually, examining existing and potential claim trends,” she said.

071  Get Rid of Gaps

Brian Rawlings, the practice leader for Venture Programs and leader of the new FITLIFE insurance program, also argued clubs should revisit their insurance policies often, especially if a new amenity has been added to the club. “Independent clubs are adding many amenities and services to attract and retain members and guests,” he said. “New water features such as slides, splash pads and aqua-rock walls, indoor climbing walls, additional spa services and partnerships with medical outlets for services are often added to existing operations. This makes it vital to reassess protocols, take a look at your waivers and contracts to make sure they address the current liability landscape of your operations and double check your insurance language to make sure there are no gaps in coverage.”

Bonus Tip from Brian Rawlings

What’s a common mistake you see a lot of clubs making with risk management?

“Honestly, I think many club owners and operators underestimate the potential financial impact that poor risk management can have on their clubs. Unfortunately, the up-front costs can serve as a deterrent for business-critical items like legal fees for a waiver or contract review or the implementation of a vendor to regularly inspect equipment. However, increased insurance costs and expensive repairs that could have been prevented, or lower retention rates of new members based on perception that a gym is not safe or clean, can be costlier.”

Building Retention

Kristin McConnell, the marketing director at The Atlantic Club, believes building strong retention is simple: focus completely on each member as an individual. Here she shares her simple tricks for doing so.

072  Be Friendly

“Being nice, kind, helpful and having a smile is a huge retention tool that doesn’t cost anything.”

073  Be Welcoming

“Make the member feel like they are family or a friend, rather than a number that scans in. Address them by name.”

074  Be Helpful

“Take the moment to look for the answer rather than tell the person, ‘I don’t know.’”

Tate Metcalf, the owner of Sisters Athletic Club in Sisters, Oregon, uses this easy trick to help his staff develop personal relationships with members.

075 • Be Consistent

“Keep the staff schedule consistent by day and time of day. This allows them to not only learn the members by name, but also get to know them on a personal level.”

Retention starts and ends with the quality of your staff. That’s why Judi Edelman, the director of culture and customer experience at O2 Fitness, is very purposeful in how she hires employees, looking for the ones who best buy-in to the club’s mission.

076  Reinvest

“Everything we do at O2 Fitness starts with our people. We continuously reinvest in our team with events such as monthly rewards and recognition programs.”

077  Hire Right

“Aim to hire people who focus on customer service, and aspire for all team members to help build a community within your clubs.”

Top Strategies for Sales

Alan Leach, the group general manager and director of sales and marketing at West Wood Club, advises clubs use top-of-the-line sales systems and training to drive success.

078 Be Professional

“Implement a professional selling fitness sales system. Don’t just wing it. Make the decision to use a proven sales system and then internalize that system into your business model.”

079  Invest in Training

“Invest in professional and constant sales training. In the best sales companies, sales training never ends. I have been involved in sales for over 30 years. I still attend sales training seminars.”

Don Suarez, the manager of The HitFit Gym, emphasizes how his staff interact with members to boost sales.

080   No Pressure

“Put the needs of the consumer above your own. Too often, sales consultants or personal trainers sit with a prospect and immediately put this immense pressure on themselves that they must make the sale. The prospect feels it and the entire experience is altered negatively.”

081  Reinforce

“Don’t stop routine meetings. In the past we’ve gotten complacent with our staff and saw our numbers suffer as a result. Your staff needs to constantly be reminded of proper sales protocols you have in place. Even though they’ve heard the information, it’s a good idea to have them brush up on it to avoid bad habits from forming.”

For Jeff Halevy, the founder of Halevy Life, the secret to landing more sales is to talk less and listen more.

082  Ask Questions

“Stop trying to sell — start asking questions. Most salespeople don’t spend the time to understand why someone is coming to them in the first place.”

083  Listen

“Let the other person talk  — you want to know what they’re looking for, what their decision-making criteria are, what their key initiative is and why they think you’re a solution to their problem.”

Bonus Tip

“Pay your top sales performers properly,” said Leach. “If you don’t, someone else will. I believe the best sales people should be earning a higher salary than the general manager.”

Small Group Training: Setting and Meeting Goals

Jon Baraglia, the senior fitness director at Fitness Formula Clubs, shares how the brand created a personalized small group training experience in 11 clubs in the greater Chicago area.

084  Goal Setting

“One of the most important things we have done to drive retention and create community in our small group training programs is to have specific measurable goals each month that we test and show improvement on over the course of that month. The ‘group’ rallies behind these goals and it creates motivation and camaraderie. After all, showing results is one of the best retention tools.”

085  Wow Factor

“We have really differentiated our small group training, creating a big ‘wow’ factor by facilitating our workouts on a turf area, and utilizing Myzone to show real-time effort on the screens, along with performance tracking.”

Carmen Sturniolo, the owner of Ambitious Athletics in Washington, D.C., shares his secrets for developing a strong small group training program in an individually-owned gym.

086  Teach a Man to Fish

“Educate, educate, educate. Education lasts forever. Education drives compliance.”

087  Be Joyful

“Have fun. There is more to life than sets, reps and intervals — make sure you’re contributing to your clients beyond the walls of the gym.”

Bonus Idea

“Know your ‘why,’” said Carmen Sturniolo. “Why are you doing that exercise in that workout, in that order? What purpose does it serve toward the final result for clients?”

The Constant Connection of Social Media

For Dayna Ashame, the digital marketing specialist at GoodLife Fitness, the key to successful social media marketing is understanding your club’s audience and how they consume content.

088  Define Your Audience

“Know your existing audience, define the audience you want, then work to understand them both — particularly how they use technology.”

089  Stop the Scroll

“Show, don’t tell — create visual experiences that stop the scroll and make people care.”

Taylor Antolino, the marketing director at Newtown Athletic Club, shares insights on how to use social media campaigns to drive new memberships.

090  Caught by Surprise

“Take your message and present it in an unexpected way. While scrolling on social media, something unexpected needs to catch your eye to stop you in your tracks. For example, how could we promote a virtual reality (VR) tour through VR goggles to get members excited? We had employees wear the goggles (briefly) while doing their jobs — personal training, greeting members, etc. But most importantly, how quirky did that look on a social news feed? Briefly document the unexpected with pictures and video and don’t be afraid to share.”

091  Put on a Show

“Entertain. It’s another way to tell your story. First, define your emotional intent — motivation, laughter and excitement. Utilize video when you can. Don’t be intimidated by what you see as perceived production. An Instagram story take over, for example, by new personal trainers is an entertaining way for them to market themselves.”

TJ Wardell, the vice president of marketing at VASA Fitness, advises clubs to use the constancy of social media to reach vast numbers of prospects.

092  On-Deck

“Have someone in-house to do the work. Having someone in-house who can promote those member stories and create that engagement online is crucial.”

093  Mirror Image

“Facebook has great data on its users — use it to your advantage. Create custom look-alike audiences against your current membership database. Serve ads to those prospects who have a higher propensity to join.”

094  Post Away

“Social media is endless — you can never have too much content.”

Adopting New Tech

Here, Mike Rucker, the vice president of technology at Active Wellness, shares his best practices for implementing new technology to better engage members.

095  Touchpoint

“Identify a critical touchpoint in your customer’s journey and an effective way to measure it, and only then seek out the most appropriate technology to improve this metric. Although great design is about process, process should almost always subordinate to results.”

096  Empathy

“Empathy for our members is foundational to making sound decisions about technology, especially when it comes to improving the member experience.”

097  Flawed

“If there is dysfunction in your club’s ability to listen and understand the feelings of its members, in most cases technology will only make things worse.”

098  Habit

“For many of our members, maintaining a habitual fitness regimen requires significant effort. When our members have to adopt and learn new technology to use our offering, it inherently increases that effort.”

099  Reward

“As operators, we need to ensure the psychological cost of additional efforts is less than the gain in utility and efficacy the member receives from using any tech we throw at them.”

Time for Recess: Developing Youth Fitness

Several trainers at Elite Sports Clubs face the unique challenge every day of keeping children engaged in a fitness setting. While their parents are working out, kids are learning the basics of fitness and wellness in a fun way. Below are tips from Elite Sports Clubs trainers on how to create engaging programming for youth fitness.

100  Entertain

Taylor Thompson: “Make it fun. Children get bored easily, so you have to keep them moving and interactive.”

101  Mix it Up

Taylor Thompson: “Plan a few one-time workshops that are different styles to see what kids like — get the kids’ and parents’ feedback. Gather the most information about your already present family base to see what works for them.”

102  Make it a Competition

Eric Wahl: “At the end of each class, I implemented a game called ‘Beat the Trainer.’ Essentially, I let the kids pick one exercise to try and ‘Beat the Trainer’ at. For example, it might be who can hold a plank the longest, or who can hold a wall sit the longest.”

103  Be Strategic

Taylor Thompson: “Research the best days and times for programs and activities based on local school end times and sports. This should help increase attendance.”

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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