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Craig Cote: The Bottom Line

Craig Cote

Every month, Club Solutions sits down with an industry expert to share in their wealth of knowledge. In the November issue, we sat down with Craig Cote, the president of Mountainside Fitness.

1. How did you get started in the fitness industry? 

I began my position as president at Mountainside after a 10-year working relationship with its owner, Tom Hatten. Throughout those 10 years, we had developed adjacent real estate projects, and most recently I had provided Mountainside with sale-leaseback and new club construction financing.

2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success?

Consistently promoting what we believe to be the best value in fitness within our communities: childcare, group fitness, towel service, locker rooms and well-staffed facilities. I’m most proud of Mountainside University, which allows for the training and onboarding of our staff. The fitness industry attracts many friendly and energetic employees; however, we found many of them need or want training to improve their interpersonal skills, selling skills, etc. Many of us can recognize Chick-Fil-A as a game-changer within the fast food industry, an industry not known to always have the most friendly or engaging employees. However, we followed their lead and introduced proper training, and more importantly, proper phrasing, such as, “That’s a great question,” “Thank you for coming in,” “Enjoy your workout,” or “What are your thoughts?”

3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career? 

Great question, but I don’t believe I am quite there. I do have great belief our biggest accomplishments are still ahead of us.

4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? 

The Great Recession shut down real estate finance, which was my entire career at that point. I overcame this by taking a new position within sale-leaseback financing. I essentially “went back to school,” as I realized I needed to refine my selling and presentation skills. Finance is a commodity, similar to fitness, and one of the simpler ways to separate from the pack is engagement and influence, which requires consistent phrasing during the selling process. I came to realize our words truly do matter.

5. What is one lesson you have learned that other fitness professionals can learn from? 

The most important word in our industry might be “help,” as we should all be humble enough to ask for help from others, including our members and coworkers, in order to better understand or make progress. We should also change our thinking from transforming our members to better helping them — no longer “showing” members how to do an exercise but “sharing” how to do an exercise.

6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know. 

My adult life and its path were re-shaped at the age of 28 due to the death of my best friend at the time. Career paths such as law school and my current banking career were set aside, and I took an opportunity to push some limits and take risks within my career instead of the safer route. 

To learn more about Craig Cote’s journey as a fitness industry leader, connect with him on LinkedIn.

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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