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Treat employees well for good service

Many business owners will tell you that a company is only as good as its employees. That seems to hold true in the fitness industry. Three industry experts - Ágústa Johnson, Darren Kanwischer and Bill Brackman - explain how they treat their employees, and thus get exception returns.

Q: Besides paying them well, what do you do to make employees feel valued by your club?

A: The quality of any club’s performance is directly related to how the employees are treated every day. When Golf World Magazine named ours the “Best Private Club in the U.S.” in 2010, we made it clear that this was due to our exceptional staff. We also invited staff and their guests to an open-bar dinner party in our clubhouse. We offer “Quality Service Employees of the Year” awards, the winners of which receive generous bonuses or trips, and are chosen by our members. Our annual staff appreciation events include a poolside barbeque and a very nice holiday party. Our general manager makes it a point to personally and quickly congratulate individual successes.

Bill Brackmann
Sports Manager
Oak Hill Country Club
Rochester, N.Y.



A: We give positive feedback and continuously emphasize that every employee has an important role in creating the best member experience. We share with them information on how the club is doing, as they are part of the success. Every employee receives a hand-written birthday card from the managing director. Last year, we invited all staff on a secret trip. A bus picked up the group at the club and drove to a shopping mall. Everyone was given a $70 gift card and 30 minutes to spend it. Then they were taken to a fun party with food, drinks, and entertainment by a local pop star. We have done this three times in 10 years and the staff raves about it for years afterwards.

Ágústa Johnson
Managing Director
Reykjavik Iceland



A: Our members don’t come first – our employees do. This is documented as one of our core values, so employees know – even before they’re hired – that they are our priority in terms of time, attention, and care. We uphold another core value by placing the importance of personal lives above that of the business. In what I term an “end of life test,” one’s family is ultimately much more important than any business. We support decisions that are in staff members’ personal best interest – even if that means seeing them leave. Finally, we take a group of six to eight staff to the IHRSA convention each year. It’s fantastic in terms of professional development, team-building, energy, and just plain fun!

Darren Kanwischer 
Fifth Avenue Club
Calgary, Alberta, Canada


Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices.

Check them out here.

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