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Ask an Expert In Print

Ask an Expert: Michael Mahoney on New Year Prep

Michael Mahoney

You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Michael Mahoney, SVP and GM at Midtown Athletic Clubs, about New Year prep.

How does Midtown Athletic Clubs prep its gyms for the New Year’s rush?

MM: Prep personnel in advance of the New Year to ready them for increased club usage. Ensure you have the appropriate staffing level. Remind personnel of the anticipated increased usage and an awareness to listen thoughtfully, and to be patient answering new members’ questions. Communicate and remind the team of the month’s events and activities to assure accuracy. Make any necessary modifications to the fitness floor in advance of the New Year and make sure all equipment is functioning properly. Postpone any club renovations or construction to eliminate potential member disruption.

Can you share an example of a strategy you use to retain members earned during the New Year’s rush? 

MM: We all benefit by the start of the New Year; prospective members and members alike are inspired to start or rekindle healthy exercise habits. We treat January like any other month of the year as it relates to member retention. For newcomers, our sales teams and coaches focus attention on new members’ initial club engagement. We have learned the better the start, the more likely a new member will become a long-term member. For existing members, particularly with respect to January, we recognize the club will be busier than other months of the year. We appropriately schedule staff to assure we provide the personal attention members are accustomed to receiving.

How can clubs ensure existing members don’t get upset by the increased club usage in the New Year?

MM: We’re all aware the New Year triggers increased interest in healthier routines and exercise. Members do not live under a rock; they’re aware too. Use the increased club usage to your advantage. New members means new friends, exercise partners and additions to your club communities. The energy in the club in January is inspiring and exciting. We stay the course and stay on brand with regard to new membership promotions. Members get upset if they feel they are being displaced by guest non-payers with the hope of joining. 

What lessons did your club learn in 2018?

MM: We try to be great students as well as inspiring leaders. We try to get to the root of why a new member joins beyond the “want to lose weight or learn a new exercise activity.” Hospitality expectations today are higher than ever. We focus energy and attention daily on improving club service. Make it simple for members; offer convenient ways such as mobile options to enroll in club programs, events and activities. Every day we attempt to create memorable club experiences.

What trends do you expect will be paramount in 2019 in the industry, or that you’ll be keeping an eye on?

MM: Investment in the totality of the senses, procuring visual and acoustic systems to create immersive and unique experiences; group programming, boxing, edgy dance-based formats and high intensity programs performed in the pool to encourage more athletic conditioning. We’ll continue to experiment and offer virtual programming to make use of studios throughout the entire day. We’re giving emphasis to recovery based programming. We’ll continue to make use of automated data collection in studios to help evaluate class and instructor participation and member habits to drive class schedules. 

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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