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: It’s Okay to Not Have All the Answers

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.

Bill McBride
Active Wellness
San Francisco, CA

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

Helping people learn and grow.  I really enjoy helping operators and staffs get better at how we approach our industry through training, development, standards, and excellence.  Supporting people in their professional and personal growth is very fulfilling. 

It’s all about the people—this industry is such a community. Competitors are friendly with each other. A lot of us believe in the concept of a rising tide floats all boats. It’s about building something bigger than you and your own company, but in helping grow the industry. It is very important and critical when working towards industry goals not to insert any personal agendas. Collaboration for the industry’s progress is very fulfilling to me on a deep level.

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?

I have two pieces of advice: 

  1. Find people that you trust who play to your strengths or offset your weaknesses. Surround yourself with a group of people that make you better, and spend time building your own team.
  2. Realize that it’s okay to not have all the answers, it’s okay to admit when you mess up, and it’s okay and necessary to ask for help.  

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

This industry was an immature industry, and there was nobody out there that could unify or bring the industry together to safeguard and protect its interests. There was no organization that had the ability to represent the for-profit clubs prior to IHRSA.

The ILC is that vehicle within IHRSA. What prompted us to join was that joining mattered. There are a lot of opportunities to protect and grow our businesses through advocacy and legislative efforts. The ILC creates an environment where health clubs can prosper.

There is also a social conscience about wanting to give back to an industry you care about. It’s not only the right thing to do to support your industry—it’s also good business. And it’s the smart thing to do to create a climate for our industry to flourish.  Those that don’t join and contribute still get the benefits of the work the ILC does, but the ILC could do so much more if everyone participated and contributed.  

What has been your most memorable experience as part of the ILC? 

The ILC’s work in carving out legislation that was prudent but could’ve gone too far. The ILC has done a lot of good work on AED legislation as well as personal trainer certification standards. It also has a very good track record on preventing sales taxes on health club memberships in many states. IHRSA’s track record of success in public policy and advocacy on many initiatives is extremely noteworthy.  

The ILC is out there guarding the industry from threats. It’s out there watching and trying to keep us secure. It’s the firewall. It’s important to keep this firewall on, even when there isn’t a direct attack. It is crucial to have that level of protection and security. 

The ILC is not only our defense, it is our offense. It plays a significant role in working to promote the public policy interests of incenting membership and exercise in commercial health clubs. IHRSA works to make lawmakers understand the importance our industry plays in curbing the national and international obesity and inactivity crises.

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