In mid-2016, Genesis Health Clubs doubled in size from 20 clubs to 40 essentially overnight — and has strategically added locations, additional markets, and new revenue streams ever since.
Today, the fitness brand — which began with one location in Wichita, Kansas — has grown to 46 clubs in five states serving 211,327 members and employing 3,574 staff.
Much of this growth has been the result of acquisition, presenting unique challenges for Rodney Steven II, the owner of Genesis Health Clubs — the first of which is ensuring acquired locations meet the culture and brand standards the fitness chain has become known for.
“It’s difficult to scale culture and brand consistency when you grow fast,” explained Steven. “Thankfully, we have a team of incredibly dedicated employees. Staff is family at Genesis, which helps that culture spread so much more easily than it would otherwise.”
In fact, Genesis Health Clubs’ staff has been key to the brand’s growth, said Steven. Over the years, he’s learned it’s hard to grow successfully without a team of strong leaders who share his vision and core values, and trickle that down at the club level.
“You really can’t outgrow your people,” said Steven. “When you’re running a few clubs, one or two great leaders can share that culture. But with growth, that culture has to be delivered by many more levels — not just myself and a couple of executive vice presidents. It has to go down further in the chain. So it takes time for these people to truly become a product of your environment.”
One of the leaders Steven has empowered to cultivate culture is Preston Peterson, the vice president of fitness at Genesis Health Clubs. Peterson came on board 16 years ago as a personal trainer, and has grown alongside the company.
Peterson echoed Steven in expressing the challenges of acquiring existing locations, each of which already have an established culture, systems and processes.
“I use the term a lot that we are the ‘Melting Pot’ of health clubs, because we’ve done so many acquisitions,” explained Peterson. “That’s the biggest challenge — people are resistant to change and oftentimes when you’re doing an acquisition they’re very fearful of the unknown. And so being able to work with them through that and integrate them into our culture has been challenging, but it’s also been a great learning experience.”
According to Peterson, the key to overcoming this challenge is making clear that at the end of the day, although an acquired location’s name may change, the overarching mission does not.
“It’s about sending the message that we’re all trying to go to the same place,” shared Peterson. “When it comes to health and fitness, we want to change people’s lives, create behavior change and instill a healthy lifestyle in our customers, members and clients. And so if we’re all going to the same place, I think that comforts acquired staff a little bit, to know we have the same beliefs.”
In fact, creating behavior change and instilling a healthy lifestyle in its customers is at the very core of Genesis Health Clubs — with the brand being guided by the motto “Results for Life.”
“A lot of clubs are happy to sign members up and just turn them loose,” said Steven. “We’re obsessed with our members’ results.”
This obsession is exemplified at Genesis Health Clubs in a number of ways, such as the brand’s emphasis on member onboarding. According to Steven, they closely track usage over the course of a member’s first 30 and 60 days, and strive to ensure new customers meet with a fitness manager to clearly define their goals. Then, the fitness manager pairs them with products and services that will help them get the results they’re looking for.
“Our onboarding is really important to me,” added Steven. “I think it’s vital to success. So we really track the usage, because we know how important the first 30, 60 days are. We have measurements and our KPIs that are important to us that we really measure in the first 30, 60 days of membership.”
An obsession with member results is also exemplified in Genesis Health Clubs’ offerings, such as the recently developed All-American Training program. The HIIT-based program combines strength, endurance and power training paired with heart rate tracking, allowing members to blast up to 1,000 calories in the span of 60 minutes.
“People really want to be involved in a niche program, and they want to get more attention,” added Steven. “So we came up with the idea for the All-American Training program to meet those needs.”
In addition, although some clubs have moved away from racquet sports like tennis over the years, Genesis Health Clubs is continuing to invest in its tennis offerings due to the activity’s ability to engage members of the community and provide them with results.
For evidence of this, look no further than the company’s acquisition of Mike Woody, who joined the executive team in late 2015. A storied tennis professional and member of the Midwest USPTA Hall of Fame, Woody explained he was drawn to Genesis Health Clubs due to its history with tennis.
“Rodney is a great visionary,” said Woody. “He’s passionate, and his whole family plays tennis. Rodney was a college player. So I was coming into an organization that had a lot of tennis DNA.”
Since coming onboard, Woody has helped the brand grow from 40 tennis courts across four locations to 96 tennis courts across 11 locations — with no plans of slowing down. “Every community we’re in we’re growing tennis, and Rodney has empowered us and led us to make a difference within the game of tennis because of everything he believes it does for an organization.”
According to Woody, the positives of tennis are two-fold, starting with its ability to bring together families and communities.
“First of all, the tennis member is long-term,” explained Woody. “It’s also not just one person. It’s generally a family. It’s the kids. It’s the moms and dads. It’s the neighbors. They bring their friends. Tennis is an instant networker. Let’s say a young professional comes to the club and they play tennis — they’re going to quickly get into a community or tribe of people who like tennis as well.”
In addition, Woody explained that for clubs that do it right, tennis can be an extremely beneficial profit center outside of membership dues. However, “doing it right” takes effort, requiring Genesis Health Clubs to draw its communities into tennis, versus expecting them to come on their own.
“I think sometimes why tennis isn’t as successful at other clubs is because they just kind of let it go,” said Woody. “It’s like a lawn — if you really keep your lawn up and you fertilize it and you’re always taking care of it, it continues to grow and it stays green. Tennis is like that — you have to care for it and you can’t just go, ‘Oh we have tennis and we have pros and they just kind of go out and teach.’ We actively draw participants into the program.”
For example, Woody shared it’s important to carefully develop tennis programming that speaks to all levels and ages, and pair it with events that engage the community as a whole.
“You have to have full programming and events,” added Woody. “That’s everything from tennis mixers to special tennis events, themed events, kids events, family events — be creative with it. You have to cater to all the different levels of players, not just the players who have been playing for a long time. Cater to the players who just started a month ago, and you’ll have success.”
Ultimately, tennis is just another example of ways Steven is striving to make a positive impact on the health and fitness of the communities in which his clubs reside in.
And with more growth looming, that involves continuing to invest in professionals like Peterson and Woody, who are invested in member success and believe in the brand’s core values and mission.
“My goals right now are to develop my team,” said Steven. “It’s all about building our people today. No matter how big you get, I feel it has to go back to the same principles — and that is to take care of your people. If your staff doesn’t love working for you, I’m not doing my job.”
Wonderful to see a leader/owner who is this dedicated to his staff create success by investing in his teams…and can’t wait to see where they go next!
Very well-deserved recognition. Thank you, Mr. Steven, as well as the leaders of our executive team, for everything you’ve done and continue to do in our communities and the fitness industry. I’m very fortunate and blessed to be a part of this team / culture, and play a small role in carrying out our mission and vision.
Not very many people can say they love what they do, where they do it, and who they do it with. I’m grateful I can say yes to all 3 of those things every day.