‘Take Care’ at Stone Creek Club & Spa
For many people, this positive sentiment is often used in passing, when saying goodbye to a close friend, family member or acquaintance.
But at Stone Creek Club & Spa in Covington, Louisiana, the phrase has greater meaning — serving as an acronym for the organization’s service principle.
“It’s inherent in everything we do,” said Larry Conner, the president of Stone Creek. “It serves as a reminder that we take care of our business, we take care of each other, and we take care of the members. And that’s what it’s all about.”
Stone Creek’s “Take Care” service principle has been the main driver for the club since its inception in 2009. At the time, the club’s founders had set out to create a club focused on service and individual attention, with world-class design and facilities.
To achieve this goal, the owners assembled a dream team of experienced club operators to spearhead the club’s launch. This included Conner, in addition to assistant general manager Marvin Gresse, and membership and marketing manager Stephanie Coulon.
From the start, the focus was on serving a smaller number of members and delivering a high-end, resort-style experience, with a sharp focus on the details that would make Stone Creek unique.
“Just as we wanted to highlight all of the positive things we’d experienced in health clubs and resorts, we also wanted to eliminate as many pain points or frustrations as possible,” explained Conner. “The member experience was at the forefront of every decision throughout the process — from building design and amenities to staffing and member policies.”
For example, the leadership team took a different approach to the club’s member policies — setting a membership cap, and offering month-to-month memberships and a 30-day money back guarantee.
“With the promise of a limited enrollment, we committed to our members that we would not offer special discounts or seasonal promotions on dues or enrollment fees, ensuring fair pricing and preserving the value of the membership,” said Conner.
In addition, they chose not to offer programs that could interfere with a member’s enjoyment of the club — such as swim teams, all-day summer camps and parties during club hours.
The result was a one-of-a-kind, 25-acre fitness oasis featuring spacious weight and cardio areas, 15 tournament quality tennis courts, salt-water pools, a resort-style spa, five group fitness studios, childcare with an outdoor playground, lush landscaping and more.
But as Conner explained, because of the timing of the club’s opening — just after the 2008 financial crisis — and an already saturated market, Stone Creek was a very costly gamble for its owners and opening management team.
“Fortunately, the owners committed to their vision and had the necessary patience to allow the club to grow without compromising its vision,” said Conner.
From the beginning, the club was staffed as if it were at peak membership capacity so that service and cleanliness would be guaranteed from the get-go.
“It was expensive, but if we missed the mark on providing the best experience from the start, we would never be able to get that momentum back,” explained Conner. “During those first couple of years it was very tempting to slash enrollment fees or offer discounts to fill the club more quickly, but we stayed true to our vision.”
In addition, the club’s leadership had to convince potential members that the Stone Creek experience would be worth their investment, as its enrollment fees and dues were substantially higher than the surrounding competition.
“Because of our fees, we had to battle the misconception that Stone Creek would be an overly exclusive, elitist club,” said Conner.
It took a little over two years for Stone Creek to reach profitability, but patience was ultimately a virtue — showcased through its subsequent success over the past 10 years.
In 2017, Stone Creek reported $7.4 million in revenue, with departmental revenues making up roughly 45 percent of that total. That same year, the club was chosen by the local Chamber of Commerce as “Business of the Year,” recognized for its financial success, impact on the local economy and contributions to the health and well-being of its members.
In addition, Stone Creek has become a true cornerstone of the community, through various fundraisers and a relentless commitment to giving back. “Community involvement is really important to us, and a key factor that allows us to shine,” said Gresse.
Central to Stone Creek’s past and current success is its people. According to Gresse, the club’s staff are its greatest asset, and set the tone of the organization as a whole.
“Our team members — we certainly cannot do [what we do] without them,” explained Gresse. “They help bring our club to life, and deliver on the service and atmosphere that is promised by our club. The work they do everyday by interacting and helping our members is what really makes us the club we are. They live and carry out our ‘Take Care’ service principle.”
Stone Creek’s staff is treated as its greatest asset in a number of ways, starting with a competitive payscale and robust benefits package. In addition, the club invests heavily into hiring and training.
For example, everyone who applies to work at Stone Creek is granted an interview. As Gresse explained, this safeguards the organization from missing out on people who don’t look great on paper, but whose personalities are a home-run.
“If we find an all-star, we’ll find a way to give them some hours, because we don’t want to lose those types of people,” added Gresse. “That’s really the backbone of what we do — the front-line worker who’s assisting us and living out our mission.”
Because their roles are so central to the club’s success, employees are given decision-making authority on the front lines.
“They’re the ones who run their areas,” explained Conner. “The managers lead them, the managers coach them and stay by them, but the employees know what to do. They take care of it and they have the ability to make changes on the line — and we will back them.”
In addition, Stone Creek strives to foster a team-oriented environment — reflected by the club’s compensation model. For example, the sales team’s compensation is 95 percent hourly pay and 5 percent bonus.
“The bonus is a team bonus based on member sales as a group, and retention,” said Conner. “Our entire team is focused not on ‘getting the sale,’ but on delivering the service and value we promise to our members.”
According to Coulon, these practices have resulted in a positive culture that’s immediately felt upon setting foot in the club.
“You can see the wow factor in a person’s eyes when they come in for the first time,” explained Coulon. “You know you’re at someplace special, where the employees are enjoying their work and the members are happy to be there. It really creates a pretty cool atmosphere all the way around.”
This culture is established from the top-down — beginning with Conner, who Coulon said is a true servant leader who sets the example for Stone Creek’s staff.
“As a leader, Larry has demonstrated his own work ethic and would never ask someone to do something he’s unwilling to do himself,” she said. “He truly walks the talk every single day and makes us feel like valued members of the team.”
And Conner feels the same mutual respect for his staff — who have taken Stone Creek’s founding service principle of “Take Care” to heart, implementing it day in, and day out.
As Stone Creek celebrates its 10-year anniversary, it’s this fact that makes Conner the most proud looking back on how far the club has come.
“Sometimes it gives me the chills just thinking about how special our team is,” added Conner. “They care. They do it right. It’s a true team effort.”