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In Print

Women in the Industry


Leading ladies in fitness share their thoughts on the biggest challenges facing leaders today and where the industry is headed.

Francesca Schuler, the CEO of In-Shape Health Clubs

What do you love most about your current role? FS: I love the ability to coach passionate people who are making a difference every day in our members’ lives. At In-Shape we focus on helping our team members build careers in the fitness industry versus just having a job. Working with our team to identify and unleash our team’s potential is incredibly rewarding. 

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? FS: At In-Shape, our leaders are great at coaching and great at being coachable. This ability to take feedback, whether it’s from your manager or someone you manage, and then apply it constructively, is critical to successful leadership.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? FS: In a high-growth category like fitness, and at a high-growth company like In-Shape, I think leaders are challenged to stay connected to their growing team and membership base. At In-Shape, we come back to our mission to create spaces of belonging where our community can live happy, fit and healthy. Connection is key to creating a sense of belonging and community, so we challenge our team of leaders to stay personally connected to our team and to our members. Being in the clubs to interact and learn from our team and our members is the most important thing we can do. Our #oneteam approach is what sets In-Shape apart.

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? FS: I love that the health club industry is growing and constantly changing. This year at In-Shape, we’ve seen an influx in the popularity of our pickleball offering. It’s great to see a new sport take off. We’re also keeping our eye on all the trends around corporate wellness, recovery and stretching. 

Heather Hudson the Co-founder of 9Round

What do you love most about your current role? HH: I’ve always been a huge advocate for people working out, especially women. I love that my current role allows me to help them find their internal power through fitness, just as I personally have. So much of 9Round’s current customer base is comprised of women, and it’s great knowing they are empowered by a brand that I helped create.

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? HH: Every leader should be a good communicator. It’s difficult to get the results you desire if you don’t effectively express your thoughts with others. I also believe part of being a strong communicator is being a good listener. A good leader should always take the time to listen to what their team members have to say in order to help cultivate a stronger and more collaborative business. 

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? HH: For many leaders, the biggest challenge today is finding and retaining the right people to help run their business. Having a strong team leads to the growth and success that a business strives for.

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? HH: One of the biggest trends is personalized fitness programs geared toward each individual consumer. This was something we incorporated into the 9Round workout model since day one by making our trainers a crucial part of the 9Round experience. As individualized training has become more and more desirable among the modern fitness consumer, we’ve continued to emphasize the value our trainers bring to our business, holding them to the highest standards across our 800+ 9Round locations around the world.

Hannah Stael von Holstein, the Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Discover Strength

What do you love most about your current role? HS: It continues to challenge me in both the marketing aspect by keeping up with trends, but also with managing the sales team. Also, I love that I get to create. I create not only marketing messages and collateral, but I also get to be a part of creating the future of Discover Strength.

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? HS: At Discover Strength, we read, study and discuss five characteristics from the book “Leadership Challenge” by Barry Posner and James Kouzes. The five characteristics are: model the way, enable others to act, encourage the heart, inspire a shared vision and challenge the process. Take “inspire a shared vision,” for example. As a leader you are responsible for showing people where the company is going and how they are involved in that future. You cannot get there on your own. You need the right people on your boat, rowing in the right direction with you.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? HS: The biggest thing facing leaders today is not having great managers. Without managers, there is no accountability, and great managers are really the key to employee retention. Hire great managers, educate them on management practices, set clear expectations — and your employees will be retained.

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? HS: Clubs are trying to create a studio feel inside their clubs to compete with the boutique studio market. Discover Strength has been open for 13 years, but with more and more studios popping up, we are always paying attention to competition coming into our market and how we can maintain our differentiation in this saturated marketplace.

Kathy Guibord, the Senior Director of Health and Wellness at The Atlantic Club

What do you love most about your current role? KG: What I love most is the opportunity to work with such an outstanding team that is committed to making a difference in the lives of others. We truly are a “second home” for many of our members. This is something Pat Laus, our owner, has embedded into our minds and culture and is the driving force that establishes who we are and how we execute our daily roles. 

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? KG: I believe every leader benefits from being resilient. Resiliency means knowing how to cope in spite of setbacks, barriers or limited resources. As leaders in a fast-paced world and ever-changing industry, it is important to be able to overcome obstacles in getting the job done. Maintaining a sense of optimism, building a supportive team and possessing personal perseverance are all important in being successful.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? KG: Differentiating ourselves from the competition. We, as leaders, may have a clear understanding of what we are striving for and be so driven that we may not realize others don’t fully understand what makes us different. It is important for us to reinforce to our members and staff the positives that make us their health and wellness solution. 

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? KG: Preventative care. We will not be able to continue the trend we are on in health care — which is basically sick care. We have known for a long time that exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are medicine. The Atlantic Club over the past six years has identified that medical fitness would be a future business driver and has launched several initiatives in this area.  

Kay Yuspeh, the owner of Elite Sports Clubs

What do you love most about your current role? KY: My favorite part is creating new programs and changing the facilities. We are constantly looking at what else can we do to add value for our members.

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? KY: Leaders need to have compassion, vision and energy. I think many people often think a manager is a leader. To me, people follow a leader because they want to and believe in them. People follow a manager because they have to. True leaders lead by example, meaning no job is below them. 

As an example at the club level, I once hired a general manager based on his robust resume. I quickly realized no one respected him. He threw his staff under the bus and never took responsibility, and as a result the morale at that club went down until we let him go. I’ve also had the exact opposite situation occur. A tennis pro proved himself a leader organically. The existing pros started turning to him for advice. He became my tennis director and a friend for 30 years, helping me grow the business. We pooled our passion and energy to inspire the largest tennis program in the state of Wisconsin. 

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? KY: The biggest challenge is the changing rules. Government and licensing keeps changing. Human resources is a new concern where it never was before. As an example, guns and cell phone rules are in constant flux. 

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? KY: One of the new trends is wearables. They are everywhere. Technology is constantly moving our industry with an influx of data. We are always evaluating what we should add and who we should partner with.

Marisa Hoff, the General Manager of Stevenson Fitness

What do you love most about your current role? MH: As the general manager of a small health club, I love that I have learned about so many different aspects of the fitness industry. At Stevenson Fitness I have worn many, many hats. This has really allowed me to have a great sense of the many facets that are involved in running a health club. 

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? MH: I believe having an open mind is critical in leadership. Listening to members, staff and other people in the industry has allowed us to continue growing and evolving. I heard a saying once: “If you aren’t growing, you are dying,” and I believe you can’t grow without an open mind.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? MH: Navigating change. The world in general is rapidly changing. For example, technology is making communication easier and quicker. However, we are starting to see employee burnout due to over-communication. How do we balance the tools we have at our disposal without overburdening our staff? 

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? MH: It seems that as an industry, we have typically been slow to adapt to new technology. We need to get better about getting onboard with technology that will help us continue delivering our mission of helping people get healthy. Technology can help us by allowing us to personalize the experience for members. Whether it is through CRM software or nutrition programs or video, technology can be so helpful. The difficulty lies in not getting too caught up with every technological trend and sticking to the ones that will help us with our core purpose.

Shelli Taylor, the President and COO of United PF Partners

What do you love most about your current role? ST: I work with authentic, smart, supremely funny, family-oriented, mission-driven folks who inspire me to be my best and who hold me accountable when needed. Our team has gracefully sprinted a marathon for the past few years. We have been delivering world-class service, and our outstanding results are unparalleled. Amazingly, work never feels like work.    

What is one characteristic you believe every leader should possess? ST: Strategic curiosity. In this hyper speed digital age, leaders are being challenged to be more dynamic and versatile than ever before. Strategic curiosity prevents succumbing to the shiny bauble syndrome, following the myriad of endless threads. Innovative, focused leaders continually learn, grow and build a community and company where teammates and members thrive. 

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today? ST: Experiential personalization. The speed of demand and change continues to increase regardless of the business’ level of readiness. Most brands think they are facing disruption due to technology, when in reality, most brands are out of touch with what their members want and expect. Companies who are winning are companies obsessed with deepening their relationship and understanding of the members to create cohesive experiences and then leverage technology to meet the demands. 

What trends are you seeing in the health club industry? ST: It is exciting to see the growing awareness and passion for quality of life and health and wellness. We continue to explore and think about how to personalize each member experience. How we connect into their daily life, health and wellness is not an event, it is a lifestyle. 

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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