How Village Health Clubs & Spas’ culture permeates four high-end Arizona facilities.
Village Health Clubs & Spas boasts four stunning, expansive facilities based in Arizona that rival the best of the best in the fitness industry.
Take the DC Ranch location for example. It’s tucked into the mountain foothills of North Scottsdale and has a $3 million dollar 10-court tennis center, a resort-style spa, basketball, squash and racquetball courts, expansive fitness facilities, traditional and hot yoga studios, a Pilates reformer studio, two conference rooms, and more.
Then there is the newest club, Ocotillo Village. It’s the result of a $25 million-dollar project located alongside a lake and features a large kids club, café and hundreds of group fitness classes per week, among countless other amenities.
However, these high-end facilities are not the draw for the majority of members. Instead, it’s the social element and the culture of Village Health Clubs & Spas that makes it so special.
“We have invested and built beautiful clubs with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, but the people are what make the Village strong and unique,” said Carol Nalevanko, the president of Village Health Clubs & Spas. “We put a high focus on the social element. Here at the Village, we treat our members like family, and that is what supports our core values and keeps both our members and employees happy and engaged.”
This sentiment is showcased in a variety of ways, with the brand being known for its fun social activities and parties that bring people together, from monthly happy hours and birthday parties to local hikes and cooking classes. If a member is going on a trip, staff will even throw a “Bon Voyage” party to celebrate their sabbatical.
In addition, staff are encouraged to get to know, mingle and spend time with members in an effort to form relationships that in some instances span four decades or more.
“We are friends with all our members, and there are members who have been a part of the clubs for more than 40 years and have continued because they are part of a family,” said Rick Erdenberger, the vice president of operations and golf programs at Village Health Clubs & Spas. “That is our culture, and we encourage staff to get involved and develop relationships with groups of members.”
However, this family feeling doesn’t come by accident. It takes intentional effort on the part of Village Health Clubs & Spas, starting with the front-line staff.
For example, front desk employees are trained to warmly greet members just like they’d greet family or friends who were coming over for dinner or drinks.
In addition, all incoming employees go through a new-hire orientation program that educates them from Day One about the company’s culture and philosophy. They then go through a comprehensive onboarding program that includes peer shadowing, job fundamentals and job-specific training.
Those in leadership positions receive extensive training as well, with all new managers attending a “Manager Essentials” program that focuses on leadership skills.
“We also produce an annual professional development program for department managers and front-line staff that includes guest speakers, interactive learning and management best practices,” added Nalevanko.
All training and education is centered around the “Village Standards,” which were created by the brand’s employees to support company ethics carried throughout the company.
These standards are extensive but include statements such as:
“We are the very best face of the Village.”
“We create a caring and warm environment.”
“We are proud of our professional appearance, language and behavior.”
“We value fun and humor in our daily work.”
“We keep the Village clean, neat and safe.”
These standards are supported through the “VR3: Reinforce, Recognize and Reward” employee recognition program, which highlights a specific standard and key behaviors each month. Employees can nominate each other for displaying behaviors that support that month’s standard.
“Continuously educating our employees and rewarding them for this behavior drives the quality experience we want all our members and staff to have at the Village,” said Nalevanko.
Employee buy-in to the “Village Standards” stems from a family feel between employees and leadership as well. Just like many members have been with the club for four-plus decades, employee retention is also high.
“We have many life-long employees who have built their career at the Village, and their experience and loyalty makes us who we are today,” said Meredith DeAngelis, the chief marketing officer of Village Health Clubs & Spas. “I have learned so much about the fitness industry from my peers and I can see why our employees never want to leave, just like our members. All of our employees have memberships at the club. It’s so great to see them living a healthy lifestyle and at the same time getting to know our members.”
Nalevanko herself is also a shining light for the brand’s members and employees, setting the example as the harbinger of the Village culture.
“Carol makes you laugh, she works hard and she supports her employees,” explained DeAngelis. “She clearly loves what she does, and each Village Club reflects her personality. She is dedicated to keeping the Village Clubs the most exclusive clubs in Arizona and focuses on making sure we are always improving. She seeks feedback from members and employees to be able to exceed their expectations.”
Nalevanko is also known for setting the example for one of Village Health Clubs & Spas’ core values — fun. In fact, the company’s culture statement is, “As one, we have fun and get it done.”
“The fun side of Carol’s personality is what makes the Village culture so strong,” added DeAngelis. “We create experiences for members and employees to have fun and develop lasting relationships. This keeps our member and employee retention high. Nobody leaves a place they love.”
Of course, this does not mean Village Health Clubs & Spas is immune to the many challenges facing fitness clubs across the U.S. in the current times — such as finding talent and navigating changes in consumer expectations.
With this in mind, Nalevanko and her team have identified a number of areas they feel are important to invest in to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for Village Health Clubs & Spas.
The first is technology, with the company recently updating its club management software to Club Automation to provide members with a more user-friendly experience for account management; and an investment in Forte to provide livestreaming and on-demand fitness content for when members are on-the-go.
Nalevanko shared the fitness industry is far behind when it comes to providing members with technology that meets their expectations, so this is still an area of improvement.
“Our goal is to have our members be able to do anything they can do on their computer on their mobile phone,” said Nalevanko. “We have to be able to give them that. The other thing we’re looking at is making sure we have a strong customer relationship management software. You have to really personalize your services now, because that’s what people are looking for. They’re not looking for one size fits all. We have to deliver that.”
In addition, Nalevanko shared Village Health Clubs & Spas has put more focus on the complete health continuum — recognizing that not just physical but mental wellness as well will be important to prospects, members and employees.
“Coming out of the pandemic people came to the realization of how important it is to be healthy,” said Nalevanko. “Not just physically but mentally, too. I mean the pandemic took a toll on all of us. There was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear and just a lot of stress on people overall.”
As a result, Nalevanko shared they are putting an increased focus on marketing all the mental health and wellness services the clubs provide — something they didn’t do as well at in the past.
“I actually Googled ‘best wellness centers’ in Maricopa County, Arizona, and I started seeing we have all this stuff, and all under one roof, but we didn’t market it right,” explained Nalevanko. “We didn’t package it right. The members don’t always know we have all these things like yoga, meditation, nutritionists, physical therapists, chiropractic services and med spas all under our one roof. So, we’ve started to really repackage it.”
Village Health Clubs & Spas’ tagline used to be “Life’s better at the Village,” and it’s since been changed to “Life’s healthier at the Village” because of this mindset shift.
“The other thing I feel with the fitness industry is we have to stop discounting our product,” added Nalevanko. “Our product is health. We’ve got to stop discounting it, because then it devalues what we do. We are helping people get and stay healthy, mentally and physically. And that is not something that should be sold cheaply.”
No matter what lies ahead, a couple things will not change. That includes the brand’s commitment to its core values and recognizing the importance of people.
By staying true to those, Nalevanko believes Village Health Clubs & Spas can navigate most anything.
“Staying true to our business model, which puts people first, has allowed Village Health Clubs & Spas to endure recessions, pandemics and new competition,” said Nalevanko. “We stayed the course and did not allow challenges to derail us, but instead, have spent our time and energy strengthening our model. You have to stay true to who you are and what you’re all about.”