In a town of just over 7,000 people, a health club might not seem like a high priority. However, in Whitefish, Montana, a small community close to Glacier National Park, The Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center has achieved the success of a premier fitness facility.
“The Wave Aquatic and Fitness Center is a non-profit professionally managed by Planetary Fitness,” said Art Krueger, the director of The Wave. “It’s located in the small community of Whitefish, Montana, where learning to swim is at a premium, due to the fact there are 200-plus lakes in the northwest corner of the state.”
In addition to a full slate of aquatic offerings, The Wave features personal and small group training, Pilates, health coaching and even a juice bar. And according to Krueger, it was well worth the wait.
“Over the course of five decades, starting in the mid 1960s, several efforts were made to build a pool [in our community],” said Krueger. “Finally, in the early 2000s, enough energy got behind the idea and through a public-private partnership, The Wave was born.”
Since its construction, The Wave has become a staple of Whitefish, due in large part to the staff’s concentrated focus on member engagement.
“Make interaction with members an expectation and encourage your team to get out in the facility,” said Krueger. “It starts in real time by being aware. I tell my team, ’Antennas up and head on a swivel.’”
The team at The Wave also practices consistent and immediate contact with members and prospects alike. “We’ve adopted our 15/5 rule — after a person takes 15 steps in the door, make eye contact; after five steps, acknowledge them — among others, which are all points on our cultural compass,” said Krueger.
According to Krueger, there are five key components to The Wave’s success outside his staff’s focus on member interaction. Here are his thoughts on each one:
Vision: “Know who you are, stick to your vision and make darn sure everyone on your team understands that vision. Understand who you are and where you want to go.”
People: “Get the best people you can on your team. We have worked hard to find those who want to be part of our culture, serving each other first to bring the best experience we can to our members.”
Daily focus: “We try to keep everyone focused on keeping the backstage in order so that the ‘show’ for our members can be as good as possible. Give them your vision and treat them right, and they will help you deliver the best experience possible.”
Making connections: “The most powerful tool we have in this industry is each other as owners and operators. We’ve worked with industry leaders like Jarod Cogswell, Trina Gray, Bill McBride and others to help our organization improve. This industry has some of the most caring people in the world who are just waiting for an opportunity to share what they know with others. Reach out and get connected.”
Improvement: “We aren’t perfect — not even close. But we always strive to keep getting better at what we do. Invest in new products, programs and equipment to keep your members coming back.“
Even in a small town, however, there are still challenges to overcome. “Like anyone else, we have competition for the dollar and time of our members,” said Krueger. “The largest competitor in our area is Mother Nature.”
And whether or not the great outdoors are still a huge draw for potential members, The Wave will continue treating all of its guests with the best service and experience they can. For staff members, that means keeping their antennas up and heads on a swivel.