The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Connect with the Bigger Picture ‘Outside Your Box’

The Lessons in Fitness Leadership series highlights IHRSA’s industry leaders and thanks them for their continued commitment to growing, promoting, and protecting the health club industry. By sharing their business expertise, we hope that you will get to know them, what they've learned along the way, and how they view leadership. 

Scott Gillespie
Saco Sport & Fitness
Saco, ME

What is the most fulfilling part of being a business leader in the fitness industry?

I love seeing the incredible evolution in our industry. Much of this is due to the many bright and giving leaders who are willing to share their best practices, allowing us all to build on their thoughts and experiences. 

In a world of proprietary this and protected that, our industry is a rare example of one where people come together to help each other become better. This voluntary collaboration helps build our industry’s positive impact on the world. We are so fortunate to have so many contributing leaders paving the way to a brighter future for all of us. A rising tide truly does elevate all the boats in the harbor!  

If you were able to go back in time, what is one piece of leadership advice you would have given your younger-self about working in the fitness industry?  

Never lose the very special connection you have with the market you choose to serve, but get outside of your box! Get and stay connected to the ever-evolving bigger picture through industry associations and groups—like IHRSA and the ILC. Lastly, be sure to balance what you get from this industry with what you give back to it.  

What prompted you to join the Industry Leadership Council (ILC)? 

It started with defensive objectives. I had to face a Greenfield YMCA being built very close to my club. This YMCA was not built as the traditional charitable YMCA. It was built to serve the adult fitness market and was to be a direct competitor. The challenge was that, as a non-profit, it would enjoy many financial advantages due to its tax exempt status. 

It was to be 50% capitalized with tax exempt donations. The mortgage was well below commercial interest rates. It would not be subject to property, payroll, sales, or income taxes, and the ability to utilize volunteer labor would give it a 30+% operating expense advantage over my club. Therefore, the YMCA could significantly undercut my fees while providing very similar services. 

The ILC helped me fund a PR campaign to raise public awareness which dramatically reduced the YMCA’s capital campaign donations and delayed the opening. Since then, the ILC has supported me and other Maine clubs with three other YMCA PR campaigns, three sales tax fights, and two membership contract fights. With the ILC's help, we won all of them! 

The great thing about the evolution of the ILC is that it is not only helping clubs protect themselves from threats like unfair competition or harmful legislation, it is now also actively promoting our industry. It funds legislative efforts like WHIP and PHIT, partnerships with many like-minded organizations such as the NCPPA and Michelle Obama's Lets Move, and other PR campaigns that help amplify our voice!

Reader Comments (1)

Hey, This article is really good! I loved it!
September 11, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBhavya

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