Welcome to this special 104 Industry Tips, Tricks and Ideas issue from Club Solutions Magazine! Inside this special issue, you can comb through 104 facts, lessons learned, pieces of advice and much more, covering 23 categories.
From youth fitness to nutrition to design to small group training, we handpicked each category to reflect what areas can take any club’s performance to the next level. We hope you’ll find some best practices you can put into place at your own club, or at the very least, learn something new you’ll want to talk about at parties. Enjoy!
Here, Richard Earney, the national program director for Midtown Athletic Clubs, shares examples of popular aquatics programs, best practices for running an aquatics department, and more.
001 • What are some examples of popular or unique aquatics programs at Midtown Athletic Clubs? Currently popular at Midtown is our H20HIT program. This program is not your traditional aquatics class, and is quickly changing the way members view aquatics classes, skewing the usage to younger members. It’s a 45-minute high intensity class that uses nontraditional tools and edgy, upbeat music, with land-based vernacular and coaching cues normally reserved for bootcamp-based classes, with rock-star instructors. We’ve also rolled out Tidal, a bootcamp-based program using the BOGA boards in our Florida club. This program is taking off and we’re excited about adding this to the other club schedules.
002 • Is there anything unique Midtown Athletic Clubs does with its pools that other health clubs can learn from? Aquatics based programming is due for a face-lift — an image change — and we’re focusing on this. There are so many benefits to training in the water — there is no need for it to be boring or reserved for the injured or elderly. This requires a culture shift, a change in marketing approach, and getting the right instructors leading these programs.
003 • What’s a best practice you can share with other operators in terms of running a great aquatics department? Pools are the most complicated space to program — there is so much going on in one space. When building our schedule, we look to see what our biggest demands are based on our member population, and what schedules typically look like based on age brackets and seasons. We gather feedback and make sure we stick to what we do best, which is programming. There will always be a pinch point, so ensure you are communicating very clearly with the members. Having someone on duty to guide the traffic during busy times helps.
Architecture & Design
Q&A with Bryan Green, president and CEO of Aktiv Solutions:
004 • What are common mistakes you see clubs making with club design or facility program layout? The environment is changing so rapidly, I feel for operators who must adapt their floor plans far more frequently and substantially than ever before. Solving for trend adaptation primarily with equipment as the solution will not suffice. New tools and toys are part of the equation, but space reclamation for free-movement based modalities and variability in program offering are the keys. Simply adding a “rig” doesn’t optimize your environment for functional training. Creating spaces that are energized, approachable, smartly planned and driven by the right human or virtual guidance are the fundamental elements. And don’t try to build a nightclub. Low lighting, excessively loud music, and unyielding energy levels have limited appeal and at best are only one way to deliver an experience, and often not to the masses on a prolonged basis.
005 • What are some trends in architecture and design you’re seeing in health clubs? Certainly the incorporation of multiple studios or spaces within facilities dedicated to particular training methodologies is on the rise. Specialization helps better define the intent of the exercise to be performed and theming a space to be more specific — such as boxing versus aerial yoga — has a massive impact on the feel of the space and setting the tone. One-size-fits-all is no longer a defendable option for the operator. It’s also incredibly important to understand the balance and placement of higher energy zones versus those that support training recovery or restoration. This requires more planning and design intent at a time when real-estate remains a premium.
006 • Are there any tips on design or facility layout you could share with club operators? The client expectation today has become significantly heightened. Demonstrating depth in a broader wellness-based offering, versus simply all things HIIT training, for example, provides much needed diversity and differentiation from others who have yet to take the leap. Exercise must be delivered as an experience. Otherwise, everyone has an app today and can accomplish quite a bit at home. Create impact in your facility design that in most cases is not easily replicable. Understand the right allocation of square footage per user and how significantly that needs to flex depending upon the modality being trained. Craft zones or areas within greater spaces to drive awareness around the specific outcomes you intend to deliver. All of this will lead to setting expectations for members that you are more likely to meet or exceed.
Q&A with Bryan Dunkelberger, principal at S3 Design:
007 • What should clubs keep in mind or think about before starting a renovation project? Things to consider before renovating include clearly identifying why you are renovating. Is it an aesthetic upgrade? Are you creating more utilizable space from underutilized space? Are you adding new program elements? Are you fixing facility flow and circulation? Or are you striving to entice new members or retain members? In addition, if you need to stay open during the renovation, develop a clear plan for phasing the construction with your operations team, contractor and architect. Lastly, understand that the area you renovate is going to look new and shiny. You may want to have a plan for the rest of your facility, because it may be more tired looking than you anticipated.
008 • Are there any other tips on architecture and design you can share? Spend money where members can touch it and appreciate it. For example, your general locker room tile would want to be very cost effective since you have lots of it. Accent tile walls like those in showers or sink areas could be more expensive, since they are smaller areas that have a large impact on the members. In addition, you can never have enough open and flexible areas for personal training, functional training and small group training.
Here, discover tips for cleanliness in a gym setting, from Bruce A. Sherman, the president of GymValet.
009 • Effective, safe, equipment cleaning and sanitizing should be seen as an on-going “team sport” between members and staff. Members should clean the surfaces of just-used equipment, sweat-wet or not, immediately after each use. You use it, you clean it. Staff should routinely make the rounds looking for spots missed by the members, as well as be scheduled to perform thorough top-to-bottom and underneath cleaning of each piece of equipment on a regular basis.
010 • Keeping equipment clean and safe for every user is not hard. Effective cleaning always comes down to the location of the equipment cleaning supplies. If the cleaning supplies are convenient — within arm’s reach — of every piece of equipment, members will clean their just-used piece, guaranteed.
Bonus • According to Anton Conlon, the COO of Gold’s Gym El Paso, it’s important for club operators to invest in a dedicated housekeeping staff, versus divvying up cleaning responsibilities among everyone. “If my front desk staff are walking around cleaning, then they’re not greeting members or taking care of billing issues,” he said. “If you take them away from one role to do another, then one role suffers.”
Here, Stephanie Coulon, the member services and marketing manager at Stone Creek Club & Spa, shares two ways they establish a strong community.
011 • Give Back. People want to do business with businesses that “do good.” Our commitments to making a positive difference in our community create a common goal our members support, and that brings our membership closer together.
012 • Make Your Gym a Second Home. We believe Stone Creek is so much more than just a health club. From our social areas, to our many events and activities, to our welcoming staff, we want Stone Creek to be an integral part of our members’ lives. It’s a place they look forward to visiting, and a place that feels like home to them.
For some clubs, creating a corporate wellness program is a great way to bring in additional revenue and expose the gym to more people. With this in mind, Matt Parrott, the assistant vice president of business development for Corporate Fitness Works, shares tips for creating a corporate wellness program.
013 • Programs should address challenges for working populations. Stress reduction, lower back health and nutritional education are examples of programs that address common pain points.
014 • Make sure results are measurable. Corporations make decisions by leveraging business intelligence, and they approach employee health the same way. Prove program effectiveness with data.
015 • Tie pricing to active utilization. One hundred inactive members at half price doesn’t impress Fortune 500 companies. They’d rather pay full price for 25 employees who use it.
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.
017 • ASF Payment Solutions
ASF Payment Solutions is a leading technology company founded in 1973 that provides software, complete payment solutions and customer support to the fitness industry. Offering integrated software services, as well as flexible payment options, ASF Payment Solutions gives clients the ability to generate more revenue through member engagement and business growth.
018 • AV Now Fitness Sound
The popular Fit 1010 all-in-one portable sound system features an E-mic fitness headset microphone, built-in UHF wireless receiver, Bluetooth streaming music player, 150 watts powering a 10-inch woofer and 1-inch horn, retractable handle and wheels for easy mobility. Included protective cover has large pockets for mic system and other storage.
019 • Club Automation
Club Automation is reinventing health club management. Our goal is to help customers connect to their members. We’re accomplishing this through partnerships, acquisitions, product feature enhancements and industry connections. From front-of-the-house operations to back-office management, Club Automation connects you to what matters most, your members.
020 • Exerp – BI Data Warehouse
How effective was that last marketing campaign? How can I optimize staffing during opening hours? The answers are in the data. Exerp’s data warehouse helps you make strategic, data-based decisions on how to optimize and grow your business. Our data warehouse can easily analyze millions of data points simultaneously, giving you time to focus on your decisions, rather than your technology.
021 • FitMetrix by MINDBODY
Change the way members take classes. With heart rate tracking and live leaderboards, you can show your clients exactly where they are in class — and how they can push themselves to be better next class. And, you can create a cohesive experience for your customers and staff with a branded mobile app, personal training dashboards and more. Take your customer’s training to the next level.
022 • FitnessOnDemand™
GROUP™ by FitnessOnDemand™ is designed for studios and functional zones to optimize their fitness offerings by instantly injecting hundreds of premium digital workouts into otherwise moderately utilized spaces. GROUP gives your members access to the world’s most renowned instructors and recognized content, available on their schedule.
023 • Intelivideo
Intelivideo understands how important it is to deliver a premium fitness video experience to your subscribers. That’s why we crafted a white-label platform and a full suite of apps designed specifically to engage your viewers, developing them into loyal subscribers. See the power of what video apps can do for you.
024 • Jonas Fitness
With over 30 years of experience and a family of over 6,000 health clubs, Jonas Fitness is the industry’s global leader in club management software and billing services. Jonas Fitness provides software and billing solutions aimed at improving the operational efficiency of your club, all while collecting more of your money.
025 • KORR
Put VO2 Max results into action with KORR’s CardioCoach mobile app. Send your client into their individual workouts with an app that verbally coaches them through their unique heart-rate zones, displays calories burned in fats versus carbs, and allows you to create your own custom workouts to match your clients’ needs. You can also keep them accountable by checking their workouts every training session to make sure they are staying in their heart-rate zones.
026 • Matrix Fitness
You want to deliver an unmatched fitness experience, and Matrix Connected Solutions give you the powerful tools you need to do it your way. Discover how our ecosystem of connected digital solutions can help you bring your vision of fitness to life in bigger, bolder, brighter ways than ever before.
027 • Member Solutions
Make smart money choices effortless. Improving your business’ financial health is easy when you partner with experts who care about your success. Get up to 15 percent more revenue with automated member billing, missing payment collections, and personalized support for you and your members. More time. More money. More growth.
028 • MXM
MXM gives clubs the tools to anticipate their customer needs. Our customer engagement solutions help you to know what customers think and what to work on.
029 • Myzone
MZ-Bodyscan is a revolutionary feature that takes a 360-degree view, creating a 3D avatar of the user, and is a sophisticated way to view before and after images of your customer’s progression, with visually stimulating results. MZ-Bodyscan is designed to help clubs keep track of their users’ development and is ideal for trainers to help visually motivate clients, providing a rewarding and feel-good fitness experience.
030 • ShapeLog
Start tracking strength workouts automatically without buying any new equipment. Winner of the CES Innovation Award, ShapeLog’s strength tracking devices generate new revenue for your club in the form of group strength classes, digital coaching, asset management, member onboarding and more. Includes API to connect all of your data.
833.742.7356 • shapelog.com
031 • TRUE
Compass helps you get the very best from your TRUE equipment. Our upgraded software boasts capabilities like asset management and user workout profiles. It’s now easier than ever for everyone to reach their goals with Compass’ premium networked fitness solutions. Available on TRUE’s Envision Touchscreen Console, Compass brings out the potential for your equipment and facility.
032 • TRX MAPS
TRX MAPS performs a body movement scan in under 30 seconds, based on Mobility, Activation, Posture and Symmetry. Results are delivered with targeted exercise plans that address areas of weakness. TRX MAPS will arm trainers with valuable leads and information and engage members in a whole new way.
033 • TSG
TSG, a global leader in revenue management solutions, offers intuitive software, integrated payments, valuable services and support, with intelligent insight so clients can master their business management processes and complete their customer experience. Our unique approach ensures we deliver customized solutions that provide the optimal impact for our clients’ business.
034 • Twin Oaks
Twin Oaks’ web-based online software product delivers essential tools to generate and maximize revenue, save on costs, and directly improve efficiency. Bottom-line boosting features include real-time reporting, online join, a complete member portal and returns management — all designed by club owners for club owners. Please see our ad on the back cover.
866.278.6750 • healthclubsoftware.com
035 • UPshow
UPshow’s member engagement platform will transform the TVs in your club into your top marketing and lead-generating assets. From the social media showcase to digital signage to hyperlocal entertainment channels, you can fully customize your social TV to fit your brand and wow your members.
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
036 • Continuing education is a top priority at VIDA Fitness. Aaron Moore, the brand’s director of operations, explained they look to businesses both inside and outside the industry for inspiration, and reinvest in their staff through certifications and trainings. In addition, each club has its own library filled with books on topics like leadership and teamwork.
“We’re trying to learn as much as we can, wherever we can, and we take as many trips to other companies inside our geographic area as possible,” said Moore. “We like to learn, we like to pay attention, and we always question what we’re doing.”
037 • In addition, Moore recommended club operators learn to lean on others in the industry for continuing education through networking. “We’re in an industry where people are very gracious with their time and are always willing to share, so sometimes it’s just a matter of defining your challenge or problem, figuring out who in your local area might be doing it better, and just approaching them,” he said. “Because 99 times out of a hundred, if it’s not a publicly-held company, they’re going to be pretty willing to share information with you.”
Bonus • Lastly, Moore explained they incentivize continuing education for personal trainers through a unique program. “We have continuing education programs for our personal trainers where as they continue to train sessions at VIDA, they earn a bank of continuing education credits they can use to go to any conference, seminar or convention,” he said. “Once they return, we ask them to share what they learned.”
Many fitness leaders consider their employees to be the gym’s greatest asset. As a result, the more engaged your employees are, the more successful your business is likely to be. Here, Herb Lipsman, a general manager at VillaSport Athletic Club and Spa, shares three examples of ways they engage employees.
038 • VillaSport has a Five-Star Employee Recognition program that is totally based upon member feedback. Five-Star compliment cards and boxes are located throughout the club, allowing members to recognize their favorite employees. We also receive compliments about employees through our Medallia surveys, website and regular comment cards. Employees receive one Five-Star point for every compliment naming them, and a bonus point for personally thanking the member who mentioned them. For every 25 points earned, they receive a $25 gift card. Our employees are actively engaged with this program and work hard to serve our members and earn Five-Star points.
039 • VillaSport’s home office conducts a quarterly all-employee video conference covering highlights of the most recent quarter; recognizing top-performing clubs, departments and employees; sharing inspirational stories about magic moments and member achievements; offering a culture topic; and noting any major company developments. It brings all employees across four states together four times a year to all hear the same message and participate in the company’s successes and growth.
Bonus • “VillaSport uses the acronym WE SERVE as a way to clearly convey what matters most to our company in terms of what we are all about and how we conduct ourselves,” said Lipsman. “Every employee goes through WE SERVE training upon being hired, and all director and staff meetings and daily huddles cover a WE SERVE topic to strengthen our desired culture and keep it alive.”
We spoke with Andrew Kolman, the senior director of technology and business development at Matrix Fitness, about the equipment trends they’ve noticed with customers.
040 • “We are seeing a trend in products being utilized for HIIT,” said Kolman. “Due to requests from our customers and users, our entire cardio portfolio has been modified in a way to offer HIIT-style programming on the cardio floor, and in large and small group training environments. In addition, group training of all varieties continues to be popular in mainline facilities, as well as boutiques. Specialized variations of cardio equipment meant for instructor-led experiences, as well as multi-modality training aimed at small group training environments, is a topic of discussion with most of our customers.”
Humans are social creatures — making Group X a mainstay in clubs across the U.S. Here, Amanda Tjarks, a marketing specialist at Les Mills, shares the top trends in group exercise programming club operators should be aware of.
041 • Studio design: Mainstream and budget operators are upping their studio design game to remain more competitive with high-end clubs, creating experiential workout spaces that appeal to younger members.
Online/apps: Clubs are increasing their value propositions by offering members online and club app-based workouts that ensure their workout needs are met even when they’re not in the gym.
042 • Virtual: Virtual group exercise continues to enjoy significant growth as club operators embrace digital solutions to maximize their studio usage and offer members more options to stay fit.
HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) remains a top fitness trend, with 62 percent of all fitness facilities globally offering HIIT group fitness classes that appeal to Millennials and Gen Z exercisers.
Leading the Way
Unique thoughts on leadership from experts setting the example.
043 • “Start with the end in mind.”
According to Lynne and Victor Brick, the owners of Planet Fitness Growth Partners and Brick Bodies, as leaders it’s important to “start with the end in mind.” As an example, they shared that when they first became Planet Fitness franchisees, they bought the rights to the entire state of Maryland to ensure they had room for growth.
“We bought the rights to develop 32 clubs in Maryland,” explained Victor. “We didn’t realize it, but at the time it was the largest ADA in the country. We don’t look at what others are doing, we don’t limit ourselves — we start with the end in mind.”
044 • “You can’t manage from 10,000 feet at a club.”
According to Marvin Gresse, the assistant general manager of Stone Creek Club & Spa, it’s important for club operators to walk the walk and talk the talk — setting the example for the organization.
And Gresse explained a great example of this is Larry Conner, Stone Creek’s president. “He’s a hands-on guy that’s always in the trenches,” said Gresse. “He’s starting every morning with a walk around the club. He’s hands on. You’re not going to find him in his office for an eight-hour day. He’ll do any job in the club and exhibit that on a daily basis. Our employees see it and our members see it. If something needs to be done, Larry’s going to be the first to do it. It’s hands-on leadership, it’s walking the walk, it’s really being entrenched with your people. You can’t manage from 10,000 feet at a club. The tone is set by Larry.”
Marketing Fun Facts
Marketing is complex, and trends change from year to year. To help you keep up, following are a few stats and fun facts surrounding marketing to add to your arsenal.
045 • According to Wordstream, “Using videos on landing pages will increase conversions by 86 percent.”
According to Google, “Over 51 percent of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone.”
According to HubSpot, “Companies that published 16-plus blog posts per month got almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.”
According to Campaign Monitor, “52 percent of customers are less likely to engage with a company because of a bad mobile experience.”
Over the past few years, mind-body programming has increased in popularity among exercisers. Discover tips for offering Pilates, yoga and barre.
Pilates was founded by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s, and according to TIME Magazine, focuses on strengthening the core through hundreds of very specific movements. Here, Alicia Whitis, the east region studio fitness manager for Wellbridge, shares tips for offering outstanding Pilates classes.
046 • Hire and train for charisma. Certifications and experience aside, members want an experience that will keep them coming back. Start with an engaging and inspiring instructor and you will build the next three keys to a successful Pilates department.
047 • Create a sense of community. This is crucial for every fitness modality, especially Pilates. Community is absolutely the thing that creates a great experience, but it is also another way to stay accountable. We know your members want and need it, but let’s translate it to a great community.
048 • Surprise your participants. Offer variety that gets talked about by making sure there is a new variation or a new way to use an apparatus each time a participant walks into the room.
049 • Ensure all participants feel both successful and challenged. Instructors should offer multiple variations — progressions and regressions — for exercises to accommodate all levels and injuries.
According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, “The number of U.S. yoga practitioners has increased to more than 36 million, up from 20.4 million in 2012.” As a result, it’s a good bet that yoga will be embraced at your club, as well. With this in mind, Joyce Wong, a group fitness instructor at Crunch, shared her tips for offering yoga within a health club setting.
050 • Yoga for All. Have multiple offerings at different times and days to accommodate all levels. You can schedule according to who comes in the morning, versus lunchtime, versus evening, but don’t be afraid to mix it up.
051 • Set the Tone. A yoga room should be warm with dimmable lights. Is there distracting music coming from the gym floor or neighboring group fitness studio? Schedule classes in a way that minimizes disturbances during the last 10 minutes of yoga for a peaceful savasana.
052 • Prop Them Up. Have enough props for the capacity of the space. Blocks are a must. Straps require minimal storage. Blankets and bolsters are a wonderful bonus, especially for restorative yoga.
Like yoga and Pilates, barre is another modality that’s rising in popularity and seeing continued success within health clubs. Here, Ann Marie Barbour, the co-founder of SoulBody, shares tips for running a successful barre program.
053 • Hire accredited instructors. Club operators should do a few things when building a strong barre team. The first thing is to make sure these teachers are coming into the studio with an accredited and comprehensive barre training. Whether it’s a pre-choreographed format or not, strong barre instructors need to have a substantial understanding of not only proper form, knowledge of coaching and cueing proper body alignment, but also be prepared with well-thought-out classes that offer a smart flow, effective moves, great music and a fun experience for all fitness levels.
054 • Attract all-stars. Another key factor is pure passion and desire of these instructors to want to connect with and inspire their participants. The buzzword in the group fitness or mind-body studio is the “club within the club.” This is where community happens. There is a lot of competition out there from boutique studios to virtual offerings, so clubs need to level up and bring on their A-team when it comes to group fitness. Take the time to really interview candidates, check out their social media channels, call their referrals, and make it a priority to onboard only those who will add value to your brand. The playing field is high, so bringing on talent that is prepared and passionate is the key to success.
As the saying goes, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” As a result, it’s important for club operators to consider offering nutrition programming or guidance, to ensure members have a complete solution to meet their health and wellness goals. Here, Karen Blazaitis, the owner of Mid American Fitness, shares tips for offering a successful nutrition program.
055 • Make sure the program is easy-to-follow. People are more likely to stick with a nutrition program if it’s simple enough to seamlessly incorporate into their daily lives.
056 • Cater to various dietary needs. From gluten-free to lactose intolerance and veganism, there are many dietary choices and restrictions, so it’s ideal to offer a nutrition program that’s versatile enough to cater to everyone.
057 • Stress that it’s about more than weight loss. While losing weight is often at the forefront of nutrition programs, it’s important to remind people that eating right improves their overall health, not just their waistline.
Operations & Organization
“Operating clubs and systems today needs to be simple and frictionless,” said Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs. “One way to ensure you’re working most efficiently is to map your operational journey, then address gaps and friction points.” Here, Miller shares his top insights on maximizing club operations.
058 • Training and development are key. As leaders, you must “show, tell, do” and review. Like in sports, constantly coach and develop your staff.
059 • Hire the right team members up front — it’s people that make the systems and clubs go. Great people make everything else easy.
According to Bryan Lennon, the general manager for Cooper Fitness Center, great club operations is all about prevention. Here, he shares his ideas for creating systems and processes that are proactive.
060 • Take pride in the quality of your equipment and facility. Create a process for performing a detailed inspection of your equipment in all areas of your club, including an inventory list of what is in use and what is in stock. The small details including wear and tear of your equipment is what members notice. Taking a preventive approach to replacing equipment before a member has a negative experience will help you maintain a reputation of a professionally-operated facility. Do whatever it takes to never let a piece of equipment be out of order for more than a few days if necessary. Place professionally written signage on equipment that is out of order to eliminate frustration from a member or guest.
061 • Face time matters. Make sure to schedule time out in your facility to get to know your members and employees. As operators we all have full plates and spending time socializing with members and employees is extremely valuable. Not only will members appreciate it, but your staff will as well. Your personal relationship helps them feel connected to your brand.
Bonus • Miller said operators should ask: “What is the one thing I could do right now that would have the greatest impact on my clubs?” Then go do that. Also, be flexible so you can adapt and innovate.
For many health club operators, personal training is the top-driver of revenue outside of membership dues. Here, experts share their tips for maximizing personal training.
Dustin Blackwell, personal training director, Brick Bodies:
062 • Having a strong member onboarding process that allows you to introduce your members to the programming that is most pertinent to them — such as personal training — is critical. Guide the member to the right offerings.
063 • Utilizing a movement screen can enable your trainers to program their client sessions much more effectively, leading to greater, more impactful results and longer retention.
Ethan Smoorenburg, manager, Anytime Fitness Upper Lafayette:
064 • Consistently collaborating as a team for the heartbeat of your program is a must. Collectively raising awareness of how to serve new clients, existing ones, and people with potential to purchase training are essential for reaching both the goals of those you train and your business goals.
065 • Let your program be more than training sessions. Keep clients for the long term by having additional layers of interaction to show your commitment to their health matches their commitment to your product. Schedule monthly check-ins for clients to update stats, create additional homework for their routines, and be mindful to celebrate them.
For all clubs, it’s important to identify potential profit centers that can add dollars to the bottom line. Glean tips from Chez Misko, the COO of Wisconsin Athletic Club, and Cher Harris, the general manager of The Houstonian Club, on creating successful profit centers within a gym setting.
066 • Find a champion. Finding a passionate person to lead and manage a program or profit center is the most significant factor to your success.
067 • Clarity. What the program or profit center is and why you should participate or use it should be clearly understood by members and staff.
068 • FOMO. “Fear of Missing Out” should be a byproduct of a successful program or profit center. Create something people don’t want to miss.
069 • Analyze what your members purchase outside of your club and figure out ways to bring those items and services into your facility.
070 • Partner with your healthcare providers, doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors outside of your club so you can receive profits for your member referrals.
Bonus • “Look for creative ways to add retail products to the services you already offer,” said Harris.
According to Outbound Engine, “Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer.” In addition, “Increasing customer retention by 5 percent can increase profits from 25 to 95 percent.” Therefore, it’s important for club operators to prioritize the retention of customers to increase profitability.
Mel Tempest, owner of Genesis Health & Fitness:
071 • Encourage social networking. Get your members to introduce themselves to another member they don’t know at the end of a class. We do this monthly instead of the cool down.
072 • Build a culture. We have a dress code for our team — this encourages our community to follow suit and reflects that we are a non-intimidating environment.
Tim Forrest, owner, Zone Fitness:
073 • To sell value to the average member, you must create a “wow” fitness experience in your club and offer solutions that enable members to reach their goals to create raving fans.
074 • In order to create a club culture of excellent customer service, your team needs to understand what your purpose is and why your fitness company operates according to your mission statement.
Tips for managing your gym’s risk and liability, and creating a safe environment.
Eric Hoffman, the director of corporate insurance and risk management for XSport, shares tips on minimizing your health club’s risk.
075 • Track your trends and cause of losses. Tracking them as they come in will help you address any areas of concern in real-time, instead of just reviewing at the end of the year. This will help you correct issues immediately and prevent repetitive incidents.
076 • Review your policies and procedures regularly. Laws may change or you may have new insight to help improve old policies. This should include a review of your gym waivers.
077 • Take pride in a clean and well-maintained gym. Members and guests sometimes leave weights, water bottles or clamps behind after their workouts. These items are small enough that people may not see them when walking, creating trip hazards. We do “Five Minutes of Pride” throughout the day, where all employees who are not interacting with a member or guest walk around and pick up loose items around the gym. Also ensure that your equipment is functioning properly each and every week. It’s better to be proactive in having a maintenance program instead of waiting for your members or guests to tell you items need repair. Stay ahead of it.
Insights from Brian Rawlings of Venture Insurance Programs:
Bonus • Have a business continuity plan. According to the Red Cross, 94 percent of business owners know a disaster could hurt their business, but only one-third of them have a plan. Being prepared can mitigate against these devastating losses.
Inspect and maintain equipment regularly. Many injuries in clubs occur from faulty or compromised equipment. Keep a checklist for inspecting equipment and have it maintained on an ongoing basis.
According to HubSpot, “Only 39 percent of salespeople intended to go into sales.” As a result, it’s important to establish a sales culture that encourages training and education, supported by proper systems and procedures. Here, sales experts weigh in on their ideas surrounding gym sales.
Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness:
078 • Modern sales is really about building a relationship, uncovering a prospect’s real problem, and then showing them how you are the best solution.
079 • The power has shifted from the salesperson to the consumer. It is important to understand that and approach sales from that point of view.
Tiffany Levine, director of marketing and PR, Club Greenwood:
080 • Know your personal closing ratio. Knowing that it may take seeing five prospects to enroll two or three people helps you to plan in achieving your goal.
081 • Nurture corporate relationships with the goal of hosting a corporate open house the first week of the month, every month, so you have fresh new leads at the beginning of each cycle.
Daniela Spaid, director of sales and community relations, Fitness Formula Clubs:
082 • Hire the right talent with the right skillset to get the job done. Are you looking for more customer service focused players, or do you need reps with a prospecting hunter mentality?
083 • Inspect what you expect and make sure you have a great software system to measure your key sales metrics.
Bonus • “Establish an exceptional first impression,” said Sheri Warren, the director of sales and retention at Club Greenwood. “Greet all walk-in prospects with direct eye contact, an authentic smile, personal handshake and name introduction, a welcoming and enthusiastic tone and comment like, ‘Fantastic, I’m happy to help you, welcome to our club.’ In addition, use a unique and personal follow-up to solidify a strong connection to the client. Ask questions that help you identify specific interests of the prospect, then set yourself apart by sending a comment, article or program they would appreciate.”
Small Group Training
For many gyms, small group training is a great way to not only create additional profit, but also offer engaging programming that produces results. Glean tricks of the trade from two club operators on how they’ve found success with small group training.
Darby Brender, owner of Fusion Fitness:
084 • Don’t be afraid of niche market classes. Make your classes unique enough that they speak to a specific clientele.
085 • Occasionally add in new equipment pieces to classes. This keeps class fresh and challenging.
Danielle Bordenave, owner of SPARK45:
086 • We create community in our small group classes. When each client enters a class at our gym, they draw a positive word from our “Jar of Positivity.” Then clients place their word on the board and write their name. This allows our clients to get to know each other without the embarrassment when someone forgets a fellow clients’ name.
087 • During 10-week group challenges, we match clients together as buddies for one to two weeks. This provides them additional support and accountability to attend class, create new relationships and get their 10,000 steps.
Social Media Savvy
In today’s day and age, having a social media presence is a must, when you consider the fact that, “Nearly one-third of the world uses social networks regularly,” according to eMarketer.
“Social media is an integral channel to every marketing campaign at In-Shape,” said Samantha Lemmon, the digital producer at In-Shape Health Clubs in California. “We use it every day to engage our current members and prospects with motivating messages, workouts, nutrition tips, recipes and events.”
Here, glean social media tips from Lemmon and other gym marketing experts.
088 • Build Brand Loyalty: Use social media to engage members with interesting, educational, inspirational and fun content that aims to build brand loyalty rather than only push promotions or sales.
089 • Create a Distinctive Look and Feel for Your Page: At In-Shape, we follow our brand guidelines with social just like with all of our other marketing channels, to create a cohesive look and feel.
090 • Plan Ahead, but Leave Room for Flexibility: At In-Shape, our social team plans months in advance, but we always reassess each week to either tap into trends or support new marketing initiatives.
Debbie Lee, senior director of marketing, Gainesville Health & Fitness:
091 • Post “slice of life” photos and videos, and include images or video in every post. Our best engagement topics include:
- Anything about our owner, Joe Cirulli: Because he is such a pillar of the community, people want to know what he’s doing, thinking and reading.
- Staff photos: Share personal photos that provide a glimpse into your staff’s personal successes, like having babies or getting engaged. In addition, share work-oriented wins, like doing their jobs or “being found” in a different department doing someone else’s job, or recognitions earned, like through our Eagle Program.
- Member videos and stories.
092 • Use UPshow, a customer engagement platform that allows members’ Instagram posts with your club’s hashtag to show on in-club TVs. We put our marketing messages here too so more people will see them — since we are hoping they look at the screens more with the photos. We also share some of these photos in our member newsletter called “GHF Life.”
Jake McCabe, vice president of marketing, Genesis Health Clubs:
093 • Social media makes it much easier to communicate with members. Whether it’s new class launches, schedule changes or events, social platforms make communication much more direct.
Tiffany Hock, marketing director, Elite Sports Clubs:
094 • We all know video is important, along with posting consistently. To accomplish this, we post a “minute news” video every Monday showcasing upcoming events and programs happening at the clubs that week.
095 • Instagram is our fastest growing platform and that is due, in part, to putting more of an emphasis on utilizing the Stories feature.
Bonus • “Have fun, be yourself, and connect with the comments,” said Lemmon. “Your engagement score is more important than the number of followers — engaged followers are brand advocates, and that’s the goal of our social media.”
In many ways, a gym’s technology can be one of its greatest assets. Here, learn how gym operators get the most of their technology, and where they place value.
Jeff Helfgott, director of strategy and business development, Excel Fitness Holdings:
096 • Omnichannel means all channels — don’t forget the phones. SaaS-style call center solutions are cheap, scalable and can provide great data on customer behavior.
097 • Stop guessing and learn from your current and former members with survey tools (SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics) which amenities create the most value or what offer would drive former members back.
Kate Golden, director of health and wellness operations, Newtown Athletic Club:
098 • Incorporate virtual training and health coaching, on-demand and live stream group fitness to engage with members outside of your four walls or even create a new revenue stream.
099 • Biometric data can help with safety, access and frictionless transactions, but is a game changer for managing programs, maximizing space and delivering content based on members’ interests and activities.
“If you want kids flocking to your youth program, you need to think like a kid,” said Sandy Franco, the owner of Franco’s Athletic Club. “Do your homework and find out what the new hot thing is that kids are into. Your main focus should be on creating a program that is fun, exciting and safe.”
Here, glean additional tips from Franco on youth fitness.
100 • Figuring out what kids want is easy — all you have to do is ask. Conduct a survey or select a group of kids to give you feedback on what they like to do. Challenge them to come up with activities, games and events.
101 • To keep them coming back, build a tiered program with different levels for them to graduate or move up. Similar to the black belt concept used in karate, your program should allow kids to graduate based on different variables, such as completing the skill requirements or points based on something as simple as participation or completion of the course.
102 • Let them bring their friends. Give out guest passes for kids to give their friends because they all want to be where their friends are.
103 • Create a social media photo backdrop that is fun, colorful and has your logo or program name on it. Use the backdrop for kids to take pictures when they reach a new level or complete the program. Encourage them to post their successes and accomplishments to share with their friends and families. And of course, remember to get parental permission and have parents sign waivers for the kids.
104 • You can build the most expensive themed facility or have the coolest program, but if you don’t have the right people running your kids program, you’re wasting your time and money. Hire people who are happy, fun, full of energy, encouraging and most importantly, passionate — who love working with kids.