Editor’s Note: Welcome! Here, you’ll find 105 ideas to draw inspiration from on topics ranging from club design and aquatics to leadership and artificial intelligence. This is the fifth year we’ll have published this special issue, and honestly I can’t think of a better time for it to have rolled around — a time when positivity and inspiration are needed more than ever. Although we do talk a bit about COVID-19 and provide tips for how club owners may need to pivot post-pandemic in certain areas, the vast majority of sections focus on tried-and-true best practices. Hopefully, this will serve as a nice reprieve from the uncertainty. Enjoy!
In March, the COVID-19 crisis came to a head with the forced closure of countless health clubs across the U.S. Once gyms are open again, it may still be awhile before things are completely back to business as usual. With this in mind, Wesley King, the owner and founder of Wesley King Consulting, shared what impact the crisis could have on aquatics departments moving forward. Plus, he shares top tips in overall aquatics excellence.
001 • Anticipated Changes in the Aquatics Industry:
Consumer unrest. The core of our “swimmers” will jump right in when we open — the morning lap swimmers, the dedicated water exercise participants, the engaged swim parents, etc. But everyone will want to see how your pool is keeping them safe — and not just in the pool, but in the areas around it. How are you keeping the showers clean? What are you using/not using to disinfect the floors? Is your staff being safe when they do it? How often are they cleaning the drinking fountains? In addition, clubs will need to be diligent on enforcing general hygiene, i.e. requiring members to shower before entering.
General awareness. There will be a drastic increase of awareness, cleanliness and safety. We, the aquatics professionals, must stay vigilant on drowning prevention, active life guarding and emergency response. But now we must equally focus on customer service and public education. When a pool user says “their skin feels itchy” after swimming and “asks you to check the chemicals,” your staff have to be better prepared to respond. When there is a “bodily fluid” clean up issue, we have to be 100% ready to not only clean it up, but also prove we are protected and doing it properly.
The “physical threat” of COVID-19 will ideally subside sooner rather than later, but the fear of ongoing transmissions and the unknown will stay in the consumer’s mind for months to follow. Our teams must be ready to engage with more purpose and compassion, while showcasing their ability to keep the pool safe.
002 • Top Tips in Overall Aquatics Operational Excellence:
Establish clear, defined roles and responsibilities: Not just by title, such as “Manager” or “Head Lifeguard,” — but the expectations of those roles, and their daily and overall tasks and goals. There must be a clearly defined organizational chart that aligns with a standard of work. Then, you create itemized tasks for each staff. Find each person’s strength and give them a task. This could range from having a staff member create motivational artwork in the guard room, to finding someone who loves building and designing and let them help with slide inspections, to someone with a “green thumb” who puts up flowers or plants in the office.
Each staff member needs to feel valued — especially in the dog days of summer. Each employee should have at least one thing that makes them valuable to the team. Something they do well and others can learn from. This also makes end of summer/season award banquets more meaningful. Go to the dollar store and get one item for each staff member that aligns with their strength.
Start with an organizational chart, including basic tasks, then engage with individual staff to help them showcase their personal strengths.
Create a theme, tagline or rallying cry. Many locations may only operate aquatics for “100 days.” Every day is a grind. There needs to be a way to go back to “who we are as a team” when the days get long and crazy things happen — something that galvanizes every staff member, from the person checking in members at the front gate to the lifeguard working 60 hours a week. Determine a catch phrase that can be said each day. Find a way to keep the team working as a team.
The swimmer comes first: Live it, breathe it, accept it. Aquatics staff get very personal and the job can be stressful, emotions can run high and low. Focus on the pool users. Make sure when things get “hot” among staff, the conversation and resolution is steered back to, “How does this make the pool user safer? How does this encourage the consumer to spend their ancillary dollars on our pool and not another family activity?”
Architecture & Design
Great facility design can be the difference between a stellar club, and one that’s subpar. With this in mind, Rick Cruz, the director of facilities at In-Shape Health Clubs located in California, provides tips on club layout and design — and the corresponding management required — from a facilities and construction perspective.
003 • Flexibility: With the emergence of boutique fitness, recovery studios and trends over the past five to seven years, it has become increasingly important for full-service club operators to incorporate new approaches and trends. Designing clubs that have a degree of modularity provides the club operator the ability to adjust their offering to incorporate new pieces or a line of equipment, or additional programming for their members to maintain engagement and stay current on popular trends.
004 • Community: Developing spaces for community and interaction for both your members and staff can really help set your club apart from your competition. Many club operators provide this for their team or their members, but being able to have a shared space between the groups really elevates your offering and environment.
005 • Lifecycle Cost: As you begin to plan for building materials, it is important to consider the ownership group’s strategy and resources for future facility upgrades and remodeling efforts. Factoring in lifecycle cost is appropriate here, especially if the ownership strategy supports 10 to 15 years of maintenance prior to a significant reinvestment of capital. Additionally, care should be taken in the selection of building materials and approach. Pay attention to finish and surface selection if your design approach is on the trendy side.
006 • Functional Approach to Design: It is important to consider how your club will be used by your team members and how it will be maintained by your facility professionals. Designing major systems with access, maintenance and safety in mind helps ensure these systems will receive the attention they require. Take care to provide enough space for repairs to be made, equipment to be pulled off of the floor when possible, and to have ample space in mechanical rooms for your technicians to operate. Factoring in your consumption of materials is especially helpful when designing your storage areas as well.
007 • Culture and Lens: I believe it is important to understand the most important role in your organization: general managers. For In-Shape, we’re aligned that the general managers for each of our 65 clubs play the most important role in our ability to deliver results for our members and team. Our culture in the facilities and construction department is to support our field leaders with a servant’s lens. In doing so, it frames the approach with respect to response time, communication, transparency and collaboration, reinforcing to our general managers and field leaders we are here for them. We put our people first, and through this, we can accomplish anything.
008 • Technology: To improve efficiency of building systems and equipment repair and maintenance, the proper use of technology to deliver the best team member experience by promoting intuitive use and simplification — which lead to productivity — cannot be overstated. Selecting a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) and corresponding vendor that aligns with your cultural and maintenance goals is crucial. We’re advancing our use of technology with QR codes and mobile devices for our club technicians and leadership.
009 • Capital Strategy: Develop a capital strategy that aligns with your ownership group or board of directors. It is important to develop a comprehensive strategy that factors in minimizing and addressing deferred maintenance — along with resources for preventative and reactive maintenance — in addition to efficiency upgrades based on technological advances, i.e. energy initiatives.
010 • System and Process Driven: Having a mindset of systemization is key. Encourage and empower your field facility leaders and everyone on your team to consider new ways to accomplish tasks, solve problems, address pain points or improve experiences. Catalog these ideas, prioritize those which are approved and empower “captains” to develop these approved process developments or SOPs.
011 • The new normal amid the global COVID-19 crisis, cleaning and sanitization have become priority No. 1 for many health clubs. “People are now cleaning as if their business’ life depended on it, because it does,” said Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and a club owner in Washington State, in a recent episode of the Club Solutions Magazine podcast.
012 • As a result, McHaney said cleaning and sanitization have to be core competencies for clubs. It’s the new normal. “Be prepared to never, ever let up on your cleaning and sanitizing practices moving forward,” he said.
Brent Gallagher, an owner of Avenu Fitness in Houston, Texas, shares two examples of how they build a strong community — and how you can do so as well.
013 • Lead with hospitality. Everything is a commodity now. The one thing that can’t be copied is how you make someone feel. At Avenu, we’re leading with authentic connections and emotional comfort that allows each client to feel their training experience is customized to fit them every time. Why? Because more than anything, a client will remember the way you made them feel.
014 • Define the win. It feels great to score in a game. So, we’ve defined what a win is when it comes to building community to help our team feel like, “Yes, we’ve scored.” The “Immediate Win” is to create a training environment so appealing, so engaging, yet so authentic that clients can’t help but re-invest in their training and invite friends to join the fun. The “Sustainable Win” is to curate connections between clients that become catalysts for personal life change and friends that extend beyond the gym.
015 • Is your program actually addressing employees’ needs?
Many businesses understand the value of boasting a corporate wellness program. According to Serena Oppenheim, a contributor to Forbes, “corporate wellness programs have become the norm for many U.S.-based companies with more than 50 employees.”
However, many of these corporate wellness programs are missing the mark. According to Oppenheim, “many corporate well-being programs are not thought through, they are not front and center, and are reaching employees too late in their well-being cycle.”
On the flip side, Oppenheim explained well-planned programs are implemented after careful consideration and boast specific outcomes that showcase a return on investment.
Keep this in mind when approaching a business about your club’s corporate wellness program. Ensure it is meeting the needs of the business’ employees, and that you can track outcomes to showcase the success and value of the program.
The Marketplace: Club Management Software & Tech
016 • Alaris
Alaris provides a kiosk check-in platform for kid’s club, guest registration and group fitness classes. Customized for each club, the system provides a streamlined experience for members and extensive data-tracking for management and staff. Alaris is also integrated with the leading health club management software, including ABC Financial, Motionsoft and Club Automation.
017 • AV Now Fitness Sound
Complete Virtual Content Creator Kit with a wireless mic system — for use with a laptop. This exclusive kit includes everything needed for a high-quality virtual class experience. Go to avnow.com to hear a recording of how you will sound mix voice or music.
018 • CieloIT
CieloIT revolutionizes how multi-unit franchise owners address everyday operational, facilities management and technology issues. Our award-winning CieloCare platform and managed services program provides domestic and international locations with unlimited remote and on-site technical support by trained, multilingual team members, 24/7/365. CieloIT also offers turn-key project management, integration and support services for any IT, AV, communications, network security and structured cabling needs.
019 • Club OS
Founded in 2011, Club OS has emerged as the leading sales, retention and marketing management solution for fitness centers, providing an innovative platform to convert leads, retain customers, and manage email and text marketing campaigns. Developed specifically for fitness businesses, the software includes prospecting tools, marketing automation and club performance analytics.
020 • Easalytics
Easalytics is a data visualization and analytics platform that provides insights into member behaviors, which empowers club owners on ways to improve club engagement, member attrition, revenue performance, new member acquisitions and lifetime membership value across all your locations.
021 • Exerp
Exerp is a global IT specialist in member management software for the health and fitness industry. By focusing on the needs of large enterprises, where streamlining, control and scalability are essential, we have developed a vast knowledge of the business requirements that underlie the operations of some of the world’s largest and most recognized fitness brands.
022 • FitnessEMS
FitnessEMS is software as a service and consulting service specifically for the fitness industry. The solution was born in the fitness industry 25 years ago offering equipment repair, delivery and maintenance. They have carefully curated best practices, creating a template for health club organizations to manage or operate successful, even profitable equipment/facility management departments.
023 • GymSales
Selected by 4,000-plus clubs as the best CRM in the industry. GymSales automation-enhanced lead and sales management software empowers fitness, health and wellness facilities to connect with and engage more customers with less effort. Integrated and bundled with performance monitoring, it’s the club’s complete solution to work smarter and grow faster.
024 • Intelivideo
Stream live studio classes by partnering with Intelivideo’s white-labled OTT platform. Allow all your members who are out of town and traveling to have a studio experience in their own space. Make your workouts digital by launching your own Video On Demand channel and tap into a new audience of users.
025 • Jonas Fitness, Inc.
Jonas Fitness’ club management software provides operators the right tools to attract new members, boost retention and increase collectability. Our intuitive, API-integrated software and payments platform allows you to quickly check in a member, process payments and manage your staff.
026 • Matrix Fitness
Help trainers connect and engage with members using the Personal Trainer Portal — they can assign workouts, check progress and communicate through virtually any internet-connected device to help members stay on track and reach their unique goals. Start forging stronger relationships with personalized training options today, and you’ll build lasting member loyalty.
027 • Motionsoft
Motionsoft is the fitness industry’s most advanced software application, helping health clubs get, know and keep their members. From billing and payment processing to client relationship solutions, we keep your business — and your memberships — going strong.
028 • MXM
What members see and pay attention to has changed forever. The MXM Healthy Club Survey captures member feedback that aligns with the key themes for building trust in a post-shutdown health club world. Member feedback has elevated from important to urgent and important in this new world.
029 • Polar
Polar Club is an all-in-one technology solution that brings heart rate data to group exercise. Polar Club provides a fun, interactive experience that will have members pushing harder, feeling motivated, and wanting more. Coupled with Polar’s gold-standard heart rate sensors, Polar Club is the most accurate and reliable training solution for your members.
030 • ShapeNet Software
ShapeNet provides software to manage and track LIVE and VIRTUAL workouts. LIVE works with ZOOM. VIRTUAL includes library of world-class instructors. Add your own video workouts. Privatize, bundle and create custom video programs that members can purchase directly from your website. Scalable revenue opportunities. Reports to see what videos are watched.
031 • TRX
By performing just three overhead squats, TRX MAPS is able to objectively identify movement inefficiencies across four critical categories: Mobility, Activation, Posture and Symmetry. Results are delivered on-screen and via email with a set of personalized corrective exercises designed to improve inefficiencies. Drive lead gen, sell more memberships and training packages, and increase member engagement with TRX MAPS.
032 • Upper Hand
Upper Hand’s fitness software simplifies the way studios, clubs and gyms manage their operations, and provides a premium online and mobile booking experience for clients. Configure your studio with marketing automations, recurring membership billing, credit packages, automated payroll and staff scheduling. Accept payments from anywhere, manage retail and more. Get started at getupperhand.com/demo.
033 • 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.
034 • Uptivo
The Uptivo Heart Rate telemetry platform integrates to ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart HR monitors to provide accurate effort tracking both for individual and group training sessions, with vertical solutions targeted to indoor biking, fit boxing and combat fitness. Real-time monitoring makes workouts competitive and engaging while building a collaborative environment.
035 • Wattbike
The Wattbike AtomX gives riders a fully connected, immersive indoor cycling experience. Interactive workouts, tests, training plans and climb mode, all accessible from the touchscreen performance monitor, allow riders to automatically change resistance to follow structured workouts, simulate gradient changes and mimic real climbs from around the world.
Continuing education in health clubs is always a top priority, but Melissa Griffin, the regional vice president of O2 Fitness, and Chris Richter, the general manager of O2 Fitness James Island, said initial education is just as important.
036 • Begin with the basics. “Never skip the initial education that begins with a structured onboarding process. The basics of the position are what motivate team members to crave continuing their education,” said Griffin.
037 • “We need to stimulate our team’s desire to learn based on each individual’s needs,” said Richter. “We should fear complacency and remember team member engagement is sparked through opportunity, education and motivation.”
Employee interactions can make or break a member’s experience. Michele Melkerson-Granryd, the general manager of Castle Hill Fitness 360 in Austin, Texas, shares how setting clear expectations can boost member engagement, and create a better overall experience.
038 • “Have possible paths/plans for growth for each position, and what that growth requires from both the staff member and the club,” said Melkerson-Granryd. “Then conduct regular check-ins with each staff member to make sure there is a good understanding of their expectations and the expectations of their supervisors.”
039 • “As much as possible, involve staff in the decisions that affect how they accomplish their work,” said Melkerson-Granryd. “For example, if the front desk needs to be reconfigured, get the front desk staff involved in the planning. They are the ones who have the most realistic perspective on how things happen. They will be able to spot inconveniences, illogical decisions from a practical stance and do so quickly before implementation.”
What’s trending? Here, Mike Feeney, the executive vice president of New Evolution Ventures, explains what to look for in an equipment investment.
040 • “Durability along with service and support,” he said. “All equipment is going to have an issue at some point. You need a company that stands behind their product and when you call, someone answers, not a machine.”
Group X has been a mainstay on the American College of Sports Medicine’s survey predicting the top worldwide fitness trends for years. Janet Warner, the executive director of group fitness at The Alaska Club — with locations throughout the state — shared tips for improving Group X offerings.
041 • Offer monthly pop-up classes to enhance your regularly scheduled classes. Pop-up classes can be formats you currently offer with a fun theme, such as glow cycle, partner yoga, or POUND & Pour. They can also be formats new to your schedule, which gives you a chance to gauge the interest in the class. When creating your schedule, keep a few key spots open for pop-up classes so you have viable days and times that will accommodate the pop-up options. Instructors will love the opportunity to do something playful and your members will look forward to what’s going to pop up on the schedule this month.
042 • Find the sweet spot of how many classes your instructors are teaching each week. If they are only teaching one time per week, they are not connected with the members. If they are teaching the same class format five times per week, they are going to burn out quickly and there is a greater chance of an overuse injury. In general, we look to schedule instructors teaching a class format two or three times per week. This allows great competence in their cueing and delivery skills without getting too much of a great thing within the format. For example, if an instructor teaches MOSSA’s Group Power and yoga, we strive to have them teaching two classes of each format in the week.
Bonus • We do not maintain a sub-only instructor status. We require our instructors to have regularly scheduled classes and cover for each other. Subbing a class is one of the most challenging group fitness scenarios. The instructor is not as familiar with the participants and possibly the specific studio. This calls for an instructor to be on their A-game, confident in their programming and skills, and able to “wow” a group that might have thought this instructor was going to be less qualified than their regular instructor. Members learn our team of instructors are all highly qualified and they are more likely to go to other class formats and times convenient for their schedules and for less instructor-only driven reasons. This improves the value of the class schedule for members and strengthens the unity of the instructor team.
Here, Jason Reinhardt, the owner and founder of Go M.A.D. Fitness and chair of the IHRSA Board of Directors, shares two tips on how to improve leadership at your club.
043 • Cross training employees in different departments can only help build a winning team culture.
044 • As a leader, remember what got you here won’t get you there. Seek out challenges that will make you better.
The best marketing strategy changes year to year. Whether it’s a novel social media platform or running a new commercial, Tiffany Levine, the director of marketing and public relations for Club Greenwood in Greenwood Village, Colorado, explains why looking out ahead is key.
045 • Promote, promote, promote. “Scheduling is everything,” said Levine. “When planning a program, always plan three to four weeks in advance to promote it. Members just need reminders and repeating messages on different channels to stay in the know. Have an early bird registration for camps? In addition to posters and flyers, make three-part social media posts. Post one message about the early bird registration with a picture. A week later, post a fun story with your camp counselors on Instagram and Facebook. Then right before the event, post another reminder to register. Use multiple channels where members view the information. Use Facebook events, Instagram, post-digital messages on your cardio equipment, and make table talkers for café tables and locker rooms.”
Mind-Body: How to Offer Pilates
Pilates consists of low-impact flexibility, strength and endurance with a focus on core strength. It’s also a great way to attract and engage club members. Here, experts share their best tips on making your Pilates programming the best it can be.
Lisa Reynolds, the director of mind-body programs at the East Bank Club in Chicago, Illinois:
046 • Choose the location wisely. Carefully consider space and its proximity to noise and distractions. Concentration and precision are two fundamentals of the workout. Enclosed, sound-proof and low-traffic areas are ideal.
047 • Check credentials. At minimum make sure to request the instructor’s certificate of completion. Even better, look for the initials NCPT after an instructor’s name. This will indicate they completed a reputable, comprehensive certification program, and they care enough about their reputation to sit for the NCPT exam — a third-party seal of approval.
048 • Have high emotional intelligence. Pilates is a sophisticated method that attracts people who are often looking for something profound. Participants and instructors work best with managers who have an evolved ability to comfortably negotiate the emotional lives of clients and instructors in a way that makes them feel clearly seen as humans and not just numbers in a business.
049 • Schedule your equipment maintenance regularly. Pilates equipment, for the most part, is very low tech and often things won’t be addressed until they break. I adhere to the recommended maintenance schedules, give everything in the studio a monthly once over and keep one backup of every small part: straps, ropes, springs, etc.
Erin Lotta, the studio fitness director at Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania:
050 • Offer many options. We hold mat and small group reformer classes at the same time, as well as privates on a Cadillac.
051 • Keep regular intro classes on the schedule.
052 • Encourage new members to start with a solid foundation of skills.
053 • Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate programming. This makes members feel successful and excited to come back.
054 • Market classes to members with video on screens in the club to educate members it is a workout and not just stretching.
Nutrition is a key factor in your members’ fitness journeys. They often need to change their nutrition to get the results they’re working toward. Here, Carolyn Fetters, the founder and CEO of Balanced Habits, shares three tips for offering a successful nutrition program.
055 • Provide a program or plan people can do forever, not just for a limited time. Nutrition customers today are ready to embrace change more than ever before.
056 • Spend time finding out the goal of each customer and support them to reach it. The goal you have for them is irrelevant.
057 • While people may say they want a “magic pill,” the reality is they want a plan that’s super simple and practical but, most importantly, one that makes sense.
The COVID-19 crisis has had, and will continue to have, an unprecedented impact on health clubs — in particular, on how they operate. Below are insights from Vicki Brick, the CEO of Brick Bodies and a recent guest on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast, on how operations may change even when clubs are back up and running.
058 • Social media and virtual programming will now provide increased opportunities for clubs to target consumers not within their normal sphere of influence. “The social media, virtual space is now very noisy,” said Brick. “You have to think about how you can differentiate from the noise. It opens up the marketplace where you’re not just targeting the members within your four walls. You’re now able to expand and develop a much broader reach.”
059 • Start thinking globally. “There’s no limits,” continued Brick. “You’re not limited by your town or your state. Social media is a global network. So it’s time for us to start thinking of ourselves as global players, because through social media, we’re able to reach people all over the world.”
060 • Social distancing will likely continue even months after some businesses can reopen. Think about how your club will have to pivot. “This gives us the opportunity to think, how can we do things in this new normal we now live in?” asked Brick. “I wouldn’t be surprised if even when we reopen we still have usage restrictions. We could be cleared to open but only able to have 10 or 15 people in a studio. We may have to space out equipment and still practice social distancing. From an operational standpoint, it’s important to look at the possibilities and be prepared with a Plan A, B and C depending on what social distancing guidelines are mandated by the CDC and government.”
061 • Members’ mindset toward the importance of cleaning and sanitizing will never be the same. “I think consumer awareness is going to increase and there’s going to be a heightened focus on hygiene and sanitization, and it’s going to be really important for health clubs to utilize their cleaning as part of their marketing,” said Brick. “It’s going to be a huge touchpoint with consumers and our members and it’s something people are going to be concerned about before they enter our clubs. It will be a huge opportunity to share what type of products you’re using, for example. There will be constant education and messaging needed on that to continue to put members at ease.”
Personal training can be a large profit center for your club, so it’s vital to make sure your trainers are educated and personable.
Here, Brandon Daniels, the director of personal training for fitness franchise Workout Anytime, shares tips for offering virtual one-on-one training.
062 • While it’s always important, accountability and consistency are key, now more than ever. We’ve found members need consistent schedules, and accountability is even more important now because so many of us are training our clients remotely — meaning, we’re not physically there to personally stress these important elements. Staying in touch and holding clients accountable to a fitness routine and proper nutrition helps our clients stay healthy with strong immune systems, which together gives them a sense of normalcy in these challenging times. It’s all about how the client feels and the experience they have with their coach or trainer, and accountability and consistency are two of the most important building blocks. Doing this now will create a loyal client for the long term.
063 • During this crisis, we also found videoconferencing is a powerful solution for retention and client engagement. Our feeling is this type of training will be here to stay, long after the storm has subsided. But as part of that, club operators and management must have a way to track those services being completed by the coach or trainer. Failure to do so will create confusion regarding the number of sessions a client has taken, or how many may be remaining, and could cause security issues and slippage in revenue at your club.
Steve Hendry, the personal training manager at Chelsea Piers Fitness, shares what trainers should keep in mind:
064 • Whenever you are on the floor, act like you are being auditioned. Because chances are, someone is watching and deciding if they want to hire you or not.
065 • For most people, any exercise is revolutionary and sexy, because they don’t know any of the “fancy” ones. Master the basics, apply them where needed and your clients will find a lot more success.
When health clubs across the world had to close their doors due to COVID-19 and take all their offerings online, clubs got creative and inventive with virtual programming — making many clubs realize virtual programming can be a great profit center post-coronavirus pandemic. Below are tips from leaders at Active Wellness on virtual programming as a revenue stream.
Bill McBride, the president and CEO of Active Wellness:
066 • “Active Wellness has been talking about virtual programming for a long time, and with this circumstance, it’s amazing how fast you can get things done when there’s clarity and vision,” said McBride, during a virtual roundtable on the pandemic.
067 • “People don’t care about the production value of their favorite instructor filming on an iPhone,” added McBride. “The authenticity and sincerity are much more important in content than the production value.”
Kari Bedgood, the chief marketing officer for Active Wellness:
068 • Think about consumers first. Is your product/program fulfilling a need?
069 • Deliver it how/when they want it. There are many technology platforms that can be utilized to deliver virtual services; offer a variety of virtual programs (on demand, live streaming, app based, web based, one-on-one, group, interactive, etc.) to meet varying preferences, abilities and needs.
070 • Make the emotional connection. It’s particularly important to connect on an emotional level while physically distant and virtual to establish consumer trust and loyalty.
Bonus • Recovery offerings have increasingly become a great profit center for many health clubs. “People are more likely to implement recovery into their fitness routine with the right environment, education and access to reliable products. Creating a convenient space that is focused solely on recovery will allow members to be consistent in addressing their needs, not only after a workout, but before a workout as well. Educating staff and trainers through certification courses and providing members instructional videos on best practices will ensure everyone is using the recovery devices properly and most effectively. Also, recovery should take place at the health club and at home. Providing members with recovery tools in a retail setting will provide members a complete recovery solution.” — Nick Trosko, vice president of global business development, Theragun.
Retaining current members is just as important as getting new ones. Here, glean tips on keeping your members for the long-haul.
Colleen Kennedy, the director of sales at The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas:
071 • Relationships. We build relationships with our members. Many of our employees have worked here for 10 years or more, which has created a unique culture.
072 • Progress. Over the 40 years we have been open, our talented staff is challenged to provide innovative programs while our owner funds significant improvements annually.
Shannon Malooly, the membership sales and marketing director at The Claremont Club in Claremont, California:
073 • Compliment your members. Find something nice to say to five members each day. Chances are, they need to hear it and it will mean a lot to them.
074 • Clean the club at peak times of the day when members will see it. Even if you only have time for the windows, seeing people clean creates a better impression.
The best way to react to accidents is to prevent them in the first place. Learn from experts at East Bank Club, UFC GYM and more on how to mitigate risk in your facility.
Diane Best, the director of club operations at East Bank Club in Chicago:
075 • Use clear and prompt documentation. Be sure to state facts in the reports. Train your team on proper report writing and train multiple managers on seeing risks.
076 • Walk the club with a clear perspective every day, and walk the club with your team so you can learn from each other. Hire a risk management professional occasionally to view risks you may miss.
Shawna Winters, the vice president of operations at UFC GYM:
077 • Have a workplace safety plan in place, and make sure it is updated annually, as laws may change. I would include a safety training checklist for all team members to sign after they have received the training. I also recommend a monthly safety topic to review in your meetings, so it keeps the topic of safety on the forefront for all team members.
Double Bonus • Jay Scott, the national program director of fitness, sports and recreation for The Cincinnati Insurance Company: By integrating safety into the daily activities of your members and employees, you improve the environment and reduce the risk of injury. Make sure the fitness floor, fields and courts are free of hazards and in good condition, and free weights, along with other frequently used equipment, are stored properly — reducing the chances of member or employee injuries.
Brian Rawlings, the practice leader for FITLIFE: Take precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other contagious viruses. We still don’t know the extent of the outbreak in the U.S., but playing it safe is everyone’s responsibility. Staff should pay extra attention to cleaning equipment, have plenty of disinfectant available and convenient for members to use, and stay home if sick. The same goes for members. Encourage them to wipe down equipment thoroughly before and after use, and offer them gentle reminders to stay home if sick, unless cleared by a doctor.
Landing new memberships daily is critical for a club’s growth and sustained success. Learn from Tom Deimler, the senior vice president of sales and marketing at California Family Fitness, about how to empower members and salespeople alike with the right tools to take membership sales to the next level:
078 • Use an automatic signing system, like DocuSign, to allow members to sign up right away. This makes things convenient for staff and members.
079 • Make sure to recognize success often. This helps keep salespeople motivated and performing at a higher level.
To help her salespeople maximize their opportunities and constantly improve, Denise Watkins, the director of membership sales at Newtown Athletic Club, uses the “TGRC” approach:
080 • Talent. Have the right salespeople on board, authentically representing your brand.
081 • Goals. Set goals, but look beyond the units and incentivize revenue, referrals and self-prospecting.
082 • Review. Meet monthly to review sales, productivity and lead management.
083 • Coaching. Provide constructive feedback and support every day.
Small Group Training
Small group training (SGT) programs are growing popular due to their combination of a group setting that also affords personal attention. Here are tips for creating engaging SGT classes that wow members.
Pam Harrison, the SkyCycle team leader at Gainesville Health & Fitness in Gainesville, Florida:
084 • Provide a results-based fitness program with a positive social experience they could never replicate on their own, and you will have a client for life.
Shelly Ward, director of TRIBE and a personal trainer at Gainesville Health & Fitness:
085 • Know your target audience, especially if you’re a small club or have a small program. People will either be drawn to certain workouts or certain personalities. And provide a great experience — give each individual the “wow” factor.
Ann Glor, the group fitness manager at Wisconsin Athletic Club, with eight locations in Wisconsin:
086 • Remember, it’s not about the dollar; it’s about relationships. The power in SGT is creating community; the workout is secondary. Master that and the money will follow.
087 • Every space is programmable and shareable. Multiple small group trainings in the same space or multiple spaces maximizes your resources, especially at high-demand times. Think outside the box or building for new programmable spaces.
Marketing is all about meeting members where they are, and fewer places on the internet are as commonly trafficked as social media platforms. Ben Eld, the director of marketing at EverybodyFights, and Aminta Iriarte, the social media manager of Crunch Fitness, give their tips for successfully executing a social media marketing strategy and engaging with members.
088 • Friction will kill your acquisition efforts. Target your social audience with an easy-to-claim offer, remove as many points of friction as you can, and just get them in the gym. Let the experience do the rest.
089 • Nobody has time. Looking at your social feed should tell your brand story in seconds, so tell a cohesive story post to post. Look at your feed daily and ask yourself if it is accomplishing this
090 • Trainers will have more real influence than your Instagram account ever will. Giving them access to content and helping them tell your brand story is key. You may find it more effective than storytelling through your own channel.
091 • The key to social media is it’s social; it’s a conversation, not a monologue. Always engage with your followers/members.
092 • Your followers are most likely already your members — aim to provide value and don’t try to sell them a membership they already have.
093 • Use social media not only to connect with your members, but also to gain more insight into who they are. Your members are your greatest influencers — nurture those relationships and encourage them to post and tag your location(s) as often as possible.
094 • Pay attention to what’s going on in pop culture and see how you can relate that to your gym — for example, everyone loves a good meme.
095 • Create a collaborative environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their social ideas. Some of our best posts have come from our youngest coordinators.
Technology is the fastest and most constantly evolving area of the fitness industry, and the most prominent development in technology is artificial intelligence (AI). To better understand AI functions and how it can enhance fitness operations, check out these insights from industry veterans.
Ralph Rajs, the COO of Forma Gym:
096 • Business intelligence. Our industry is miles behind in compiling and utilizing data to drive business decisions. Having a tool that automates reporting and combines data sources, and builds out forecasting models for X months in the future, is extremely important. From now [early April], until probably five months after we reopen due to the coronavirus, we will have to reforecast both revenue and expenses depending on how things are playing out. Having a tool that makes that process take minutes and not hours will be key. After we open, we are going to want to see live how check-ins, joins, cancels and freezes, etc. are trending among different age groups, locations and other vital stats like member usage. Knowing this information live will help us all understand staffing needs, marketing allocations and expense budgeting in real time.
097 • Chat bot. I think we are going to have to get comfortable with chat bots simply because of the high cost of labor. We will need to be able to segment our membership and have more customized communication with our members using these chat bots. We will need to understand things like the Facebook Messenger app, and how to utilize chat bots on our website to engage members and prospects on demand.
098 • Virtual memberships. Like many clubs, we are working on a virtual membership — not just for now, but going forward. I think there will be huge expansion in this area on the vendor side to help clubs execute this membership well. People are going to be reluctant to come back to the club at first and I think in a post-coronavirus world this will be an important membership to offer. The win will be when we can create the packages that have the right components that speak to members and support the needs of the business. Products like True Coach, Club Connect and Coach AI will continue to evolve and get better. I am looking at creating a mini studio in the club suitable for filming and being able to conduct virtual personal training sessions and film group fitness classes. Also, wearables like Myzone will be an important part of engagement and creating accountability for members.
Mike Rucker, the VP of technology at Active Wellness:
099 • The easiest way to understand what AI can do for you operationally is to think of AI as a technology that can mimic human output, meaning it can augment or replace elements of your business that would otherwise require human interaction.
100 • Where AI is most effective is areas where human output is a constraint, and AI can pick up the slack. For us, that’s taking over multitudinous sales touchpoints (e.g., automated tailored sales emails) and following up on missed front desk calls (e.g., immediate SMS messages when a call goes to voicemail). In these examples, there is a human constraint, but the member or prospect is still tended to and routed accordingly through AI interactions.
101 • Look at areas where your club operations may have human constraints and evaluate whether AI technology would be a good fit to alleviate the constraint without a significant impact on the member or prospect’s experience.
102 • AI can also be paired with business intelligence (BI) to help you make better business decisions regarding operations. At Active, we use class attendance data paired with instructor profiles to optimize our class schedules, so class placement caters to the highest common denominator of our member base.
Whether you’re entertaining children while their parents are working out or aiming to teach healthy habits at a young age, it’s important to prioritize the youth’s in-club experience.
Tom Hatten, the president and CEO of Mountainside Fitness, shares his best tips for running youth fitness programs:
103 • Childcare is a great place to start for youth fitness. The activities and rooms you have can really jumpstart them.
104 • Try using a kid-sized, full court basketball area that not only allows for some hoops but dodgeball or soccer, too. Bounce houses or obstacle courses are great, as well as kids’ treadmills or bikes.
105 • Keep them moving and entertained — all the while, fitness becomes part of them.