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The Optimistic Outlook

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Industry experts share their biggest takeaways from 2021, how clubs can be successful in 2022 and what they’re optimistic about.

Victor Brick

Victor Brick, the CEO of Planet Fitness Growth Partners, co-founder of Brick Bodies and co-founder of the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation

What was the biggest learning lesson for your facility this year?

As Jim Collins says in “Good to Great,” you must be committed to change while preserving the core. You must be continually evolving your business, like expanding your digital strategy, but must preserve the core, such as great face-to-face programming and customer service.

What are you optimistic about?

I am optimistic about physical fitness. It has finally reached the tipping point — thanks in large part to COVID-19, the great accelerator. The size of the health club market has just gone from 20% to 30-40% of the American population or more.

Do you have any creative revenue-generating ideas for the next year?

We are going to gear our marketing efforts to feeling better and mental well-being as opposed to price.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other operators in the year ahead?

The focus for many seems to be on how we can attract and retain members when, in reality, our biggest challenge in the coming months and years will be how we can attract and retain staff. Just like any team, you are only as good as your weakest team player. In the end, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

amy

Amy Bueme, a co-owner of Catalyst Fitness 

What was the biggest learning lesson for your facilities this year?

We all learned a lesson in empathy, in trying to understand and respect our members’ feelings and opinions when making policy and membership changes.

What are your strategies for having a successful 2022?

Our two main investments will be on staff training and local community support. We are hosting a comprehensive sales training this month. In addition, we are planning to increase our support to the local community as we are locally owned and operated.

What are you optimistic about?

We are optimistic about having a dedicated turf area in all of our clubs, we are excited that basic free weight training is popular and the turf is desirable. Members are looking for a place to do their freestyle workouts.

Do you have any creative revenue generating ideas?

We are creating recovery rooms and adding it to our top-tier membership to encourage our members to upgrade. We are also giving away three-month memberships to all front-line workers in hopes they will convert to a full membership.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other operators in the year ahead?

Do everything you can to buy your building. Rent will be your biggest challenge. 

optimistic

Jeff Linn, the executive director of Weymouth Club

What was the biggest learning lesson for your facility this year?

Consumer confidence and how fear is such a major factor in that confidence. Once vaccines got implemented, you saw the consumer confidence changed dramatically. We went from 45% active memberships to 80% active memberships over the last five months. Watching that take place was a huge learning experience about how the consumers behave and that confidence and fear are big factors. The other big one is how critical pricing plays into your strategy. And then obviously, we’re in the middle of a learning lesson about staff recruitment. That is a huge trend that’s going on right now: the challenge to get particularly the front-line staff recruitment.

What are your strategies for having a successful 2022?

Pricing is going to be a huge factor, which obviously rolls into what the consumers and your clients can handle as it relates to price increases. But that is a driving force based upon where pay is going — not only just minimum wage but what the market is now. And then as you’re building back your business, you still have all your expenses and then some. So, you have to adjust your pricing accordingly. 

Wellness also continues to be a big part of our strategies. We are really delving into the marketplace that needs to be more active — specifically the unreached 80%. We are learning from this pandemic and how responsive members have been to our wellness programming, particularly in the last two or three months. We’re launching a diabetes program, and we’ve launched a Medical Advisory Board. We’re building further relationships with physicians. These are big parts to our strategies.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other operators in the year ahead?

Adjust your membership pricing. Make sure you’ve turned over every stone and members have confidence in you so you’re able to raise your pricing to deal with staffing costs and continued growth in expenses. And don’t be afraid of raising your prices, that’s for sure.

optimistic

Aaron Moore, the director of operations for VIDA Fitness

What was the biggest learning lesson for your facility this year?

People really missed us during the pandemic. Virtual options and at-home equipment exploded in 2020 with much fanfare. With it came many articles about the death of the traditional health club. Turns out, the predictions offered in those articles were categorically false and health clubs, fitness centers and studios are here to stay. True, our industry took a big hit and many facilities closed permanently, but we will inevitably replace them with new facilities. Our members missed us socially and are fully reengaged in our community. We are a destination, a community hub and a third space. We’ve learned our industry will continue to thrive as long as we remain committed to serving people on a higher level and with a higher purpose.

Do you have any creative revenue-generating ideas for the next year?

Our nutrition program has generated record revenue levels for us during the pandemic. We will continue to evolve from the narrow focus on fitness to the much broader concept of wellness. Everyone we engage wants nutritional counseling — individuals, corporations, residential buildings, organizations, primary care providers, you name it. Today’s consumer wants a specific program designed to meet their needs in a way that fits their busy lifestyle. Membership is too nebulous. You need a series of specific programs that are easy to understand and deliver targeted results.  

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to other operators in the year ahead?

As operators, we’ve spent a tremendous amount of time on problem solving, critical thinking and creative innovation. Those things can be stressful, or they can be energizing. It all depends on your perspective and how you choose to approach them. Problem solving can be fun if you choose to approach it with a positive attitude and view it as an opportunity to create. It is negativity that breeds stress and anxiety. Choose to remain positive and improve every life you touch. 

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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