January 2023 Club of the Month, presented by ABC Fitness Solutions:
Saco Sport & Fitness, est. 1993
Located in Saco, Maine, Saco Sport & Fitness is a multi-generational, outcome-driven health club specializing in guiding members into programs that support healthy habit adoption to improve their lives.
Below, Scott Gillespie, the owner and general manager of Saco Sport & Fitness, shares more on the club’s beginnings, what sets it apart from other gyms and how other owners can experience similar success.
What made you start a company in the fitness industry/how did Saco Sport & Fitness come about?
I was an exercise physiologist and a fitness technician in a Nautilus center in 1982 before the term personal trainer had been coined. The first ten years of my career was with a management company learning the ropes. I spent a few years in sales, then sales management and marketing, then general management. I worked in six different clubs and evolved to become a turnaround specialist.
In 1990 I was sent to Saco, Maine to fix a struggling club. Ultimately, the market could not support the mousetrap and the bank foreclosed, asking me to manage it while they sold it. I loved the area and believed I knew how to change the model to work in that market. When they could not sell it for the price they wanted, I offered to buy it from them. And so, it began.
What is the mission of Saco Sport & Fitness?
We exist to help people in our community overcome the obstacles to healthy living so they can enjoy a sense of well-being and live happier, healthier, more fulfilling lives.
What is unique about Saco Sport & Fitness?
We do not have a commissioned membership sales staff. Instead, we have a team of salaried certified health coaches (think Apple Genius) who not only sell memberships, but they also successfully engage new members into guided programming from our extensive menu of services. They work with these Members for 90 days to ensure a successful launch and intervene if the plan needs adjustment.
Our fitness programs include group exercise, small group training, personal training, and equipment instruction — all of which can be delivered in-person or virtually. We believe in the importance of including nutrition guidance to accelerate and expand member results. We employ full-time registered dietitians who serve clients individually and in groups, billing insurance directly for most of their services reducing members’ out of pocket costs.
Outcomes are our measure of success, so we measure BMI, body composition, circumferences, blood pressure, RHR, fasting blood glucose and cholesterol at the start and after 90 days. We use the results to adjust programs and share these outcomes with doctors of members to build relationships and credibility in the medical community. We also serve corporations seeking to reduce their health insurance costs by improving employee health.
What excites you most about the fitness industry in 2023?
The enormous potential to improve our community’s health. Sadly, the country just exceeded 40% of our population being obese. Another 30% is overweight, making about three-fourths of Americans unhealthy. Add to that the increased awareness of the importance of physical and mental health gained during the pandemic, and the roles exercise and community play in being healthy. I believe more Americans than ever acknowledge they should be more active, yet the majority struggle to find a way that works for them. If we evolve and find new and improved ways to serve that population’s desire to be healthier, we truly can change the world.
How are you engaging with your members when they are not working out physically?
We believe proper nutrition contributes at least 50% of the potential results our members can see, so we urge proper eating through our dietitians. We offer free healthy eating talks and share nutrition content and advice through social media and email. We also see our role as educators of health and fitness strategies and benefits. So, we share a variety of scientific findings with our members through social media and email.
What’s a trend you’re seeing in the fitness industry that other operators should keep on their radar?
There are a few we’re watching, but the one I’m most interested in is mental health. The pandemic and resulting isolation had a devastating effect on many people’s mental health. The explosion of laptop jobs has decreased workplace communities, robbing many of important social interaction.
We’re seeing hospitals behavioral health units overwhelmed and many people in unhealthy habit loops of isolation and inactivity. The combination of exercise and community are a very powerful means of meeting those basic human needs. We are perfectly poised to help improve mental health through guided movement and community development.
If you could give one piece of advice to other gym operators, what would it be?
Consider the difference between simply selling access to equipment as a commodity supplier competing on price and being a solutions provider offering turnkey programs helping people overcome the obstacles to healthy living. Imagine how many more people you could serve who would value that. Think about the increased retention, improved profit center income and greater lifetime value per member.
We believe that market is bigger, and we are willing to invest more than those simply looking for a gym. Consider how difficult that would be to compete against. Get that right, and you’re untouchable with much less turnover, a broader income stream and a much larger market to serve.
Created in partnership with ABC Fitness Solutions. Visit abcfitness.com for more information on how they can help your fitness business.
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