Every month, Club Solutions sits down with an industry expert to share in their wealth of knowledge. In the July issue, we sat down with Mary Thomas, the general manager at Western Racquet & Fitness Club.
1. How did you get started in the fitness industry?
I was basically born into the industry. My family opened Western in 1974 and this club has been part of my life ever since I was a child. I spent much of my time growing up at the club which gave me a firsthand experience in learning about the tennis and fitness industry. Then in 2004, I moved back to Green Bay and served as the club’s marketing director and was given the opportunity to take the reins in 2016.
2. What’s been a key to your organization’s success? What are you most proud of?
Key to our success has been a commitment to our mission and community, a willingness to adapt with the changing fitness industry and a growth mindset. However, the biggest thing is the people behind the scenes making it all work. Western is so fortunate to have a close-knit, passionate staff that feels like family. Everyone brings something different to the table and works hard to bring Western to life. I’m proud I have been able to provide the leadership and resources to be able to harness that energy and put it into innovating new ways to improve the lives of our members.
3. What has been one of the biggest accomplishments of your career?
My biggest accomplishment may sound cheesy, but it really is being able to come into work every day and see the impact Western has on the lives of the members and staff. It is my honor and privilege to be responsible for a group of people who count on me to lead the way, and build a business together with them in a way that allows us all to grow and thrive.
4. What has been one of the biggest challenges you have faced in your career? And how did you overcome it?
The COVID-19 pandemic by far has been the biggest challenge. Navigating lockdowns, mask mandates and the virtual world were huge challenges we had to work through one step at a time. If we look beyond that though, we experienced another enormous challenge when we finished our largest multi-million-dollar remodel right as the 2008 recession was taking hold. Navigating the changing economic landscape at the same time as this massive, planned growth was a big hurdle, but we persevered by having a strong mission and vision for the type of community and facility we were trying to build. I really believe with a passionate and creative staff who supports each other and the mission of Western, any obstacle can be overcome.
5. What is one lesson you have learned that other fitness professionals can learn from?
Collaboration is everything and you can never be afraid to ask for help. Surround yourself with different types of people who you can learn from and grow with. Be willing to take a chance on new ideas.
6. Tell us one fact about yourself others may not know.
Before I took on a leadership position at Western, I worked at the corporate offices of Harley Davidson as a supply chain analyst.
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