July 2021 Club of the Month, presented by ABC Fitness Solutions:
CFX (formerly Charter Fitness), est. 2000
Charter Fitness is located in the Chicago area with 16 locations. Coming out of COVID, the company is reinventing itself and rebranding as CFX in a strategic move to better serve its members. The change will include the addition of new programs to drive engagement and new members to the clubs’ locations.
Here, Kevin Foran, the executive vice president of operations at CFX, shares what is driving the name change and reinvention, learning lessons from the pandemic, and much more.
What were your biggest learning lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the most important things we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic was that socialization is often an overlooked, critical element that is necessary for happiness in one’s day-to-day life. As businesses were forced to shut down, people found themselves with a scarcity of social outlets, including the gym. Without this resource, people were forced to work out from home, although many found this especially challenging if not impossible without the community of their peers from their local gyms.
It is our goal to provide a community environment where people can come together to workout and socialize as they train and stay healthy. We want to promote a positive morale within our clubs to enhance the welfare of all our members.
What is CFX’s strategy coming out of the pandemic with reinventing the brand and re-branding?
Founded in 2000, we started out as Cardinal Fitness. We rebranded in 2008 to become Charter Fitness and changed our business model to include more cooperative training methods, such as personal and small group training. Most recently, in 2021, we have begun to rebrand our clubs once again in the hopes of creating an even better experience for our members. We are in the process of rebranding our clubs to CFX, which is a business model that better caters to our members’ needs, including those who have grown accustomed to working out with equipment at their home. During this transition to CFX, we have implemented turf and virtual training among our many additions, and have simplified our memberships to make joining more seamless than ever before.
What are some of the new programs you’ll be offering post-COVID at CFX?
Our virtual training studio has been perhaps our most significant addition, as it includes state-of-the-art, computerized equipment that allows our members to track their heart rate and interact with a terrain on a screen that best matches their movements as well as their mood. We wanted to bring their home workouts to the gym so that everyone can do what they’re most comfortable with, but in a group setting.
How are you driving new members to the club?
While many people chose to workout from home during COVID, many more did not. What lacked for most was motivation and accountability. We were able to recognize that simply opening our doors and implementing our virtual training program, as well as our other additions, was not going to be sufficient to keep members engaged. We needed to incentivize our members, but with morale, not results. Certainly, we continue to provide personal and small group training programs to help our members reach their goals, but we understood that before people could get motivated about health and their personal fitness goals, they first needed an adequate support system.
To cater to this need, we rolled out our membership add-ons, which can be likened to a family plan. Add-ons allow each member to add up to five friends or family members to their account for a nominal fee. Our hope was that by offering a discounted membership to our existing members’ friends and family, we would boost club morale by providing a seamless path for them to join. This has proven to be successful, and many of our members have taken advantage of this feature and have been frequenting our clubs more often as a result.
Beyond this, what else is key to CFX’s success?
From the outside looking in, it would be easy to identify the many features of our clubs and the services we provide, as well as the positive morale that pervades the environment at each of our locations. And while our managers at each location do an outstanding job of maintaining the integrity of such morale, it isn’t immediately apparent they are also the ones who have made the greatest contributions to the insight that inspired us to become what we are today. Each of the implementations and ideas our company has had comes from the talent within our organization. Rather than outsource many of the responsibilities our company undertakes, we utilize our assets — our people — from within. After all, our people are the ones who are on the front lines interacting with our members every day, so who better to help develop a vision for future growth to benefit our local communities than them?
What’s the best piece of leadership advice you could give to other operators?
If we are to offer just one piece of advice, whether you’re operating a gym or any other organization, it’s this: Utilize your assets from within. Listen to your employees and collaborate with them before making any changes. Realize that when you take the time to listen to them you will empower them. You will empower them to feel like the valuable assets they truly are.
Created in partnership with ABC Fitness Solutions. Visit abcfitness.com for more information on how they can help your fitness business.