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Entries in Eddie Tock (5)


6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take┬áto Develop Emerging Leaders

Identifying and nurturing emerging leaders continues to be a challenge in our industry.  

It’s also one ofif not the most importantchallenges we face. In his IHRSA 2016 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team,” Eddie Tock of REX Roundtables said, “research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment.”

So, in looking at the leadership traits of many of our industry’s leaders, I’ve distilled those traits into six common actions leaders use to foster leadership in both their own organizations and throughout the industry.

To develop the next generation of industry leaders, current club leaders...  

#1. Lead by Example 

Most everyone replied that leading by example is by far the most important trait. Basically, the leadership traits you want to see in your club staff are the same ones they want to see in you every single day. Any form of leader should be professional, ethical, communicative, supportive, display a high work ethic, and be willing to share knowledge and experiences.  

Jim Worthington, owner and president of Newtown Athletic Club, who is known for “walking the talk” has said that being a leader in the industry has given him the chance to mentor employees as well as colleagues at other clubs.

#2. Are in Perpetual Learning Mode  

According to Leadership Hospitality, it is important for leaders to ‘be visible about their own need to learn. Great leaders are never more powerful than when they are shown to be in a learning mode.’

Our industry’s leaders are some of the best at sharing the fact that they are information and education-hungry. Allison Flatley, CEO of Corporate Fitness Works, has shared that she loves learning growth strategy from successful entrepreneurs and training techniques from experienced personal trainers. And Janine Williams, vice president of human resources at Leisure Sports, said that the most important leadership trait is “to ensure that you continue to expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge; not only in the health club industry but in business and financial acumen as well.”

#3. Cross-train to Develop Across Skills or Knowledge Gaps  

Our industry already understands the value of cross-training to build endurance, flexibility, and skill. The same applies for leadership learning as candidates that are rotated through various jobs gain first-hand experience and new expertise in many different roles. They also develop a broader vision of your club and exposure to staff dynamics and member concerns.

In his IHRSA 2016 presentation, "Developing NextGen Leaders," Brent Gallagher discusses the practical steps involved in establishing a team of next-generation leaders, including the need to train across areas to create a healthy leadership pipeline.

Continue reading "6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders."

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IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team

Research has proven that a strong employee team is a key component to health club member satisfaction and loyalty—and there are several steps club operators can take to ensure their team is achieving its potential.

Eddie Tock, chair of REX Roundtables for Executives, will guide the IHRSA 2016 audience though those strategies during his Tuesday, March 22 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team.” 

“Research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment,” he says. “Developing everyone on your staff to lead in their area is a powerful tool to drive that culture as a competitive distinction.”

Tock has 32 years of health club experience, and has worked with some of the industry’s most successful leaders. REX Roundtables works with more than 2,000 clubs to help them develop more effective leaders. The company has also worked with more than 1,200 clients in building management teams, sales teams, and marketing.

Tock says audience members will leave his session with two key takeaways:

  1. Five core skills of effective leadership
  2. Two components that are more important than strategy

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How Do You Measure Sales Staff Productivity?

Casey Conrad and Eddie Tock discuss how to measure the productivity of your sales staff in this week's Best Practices

Q: "How do you measure the productivity of your sales staff?


Casey Conrad
Communication Consultants



A: The key measurements that are looked at in the REX Roundtables that result in increased sales are # of appointments you schedule today for a future date and your efficiency rating ( sales per hour). Both of these will have different numbers for every club, depending on size, market place and niche in the market. Typically after 60 days of carefully monitoring sales, you can benchmark both of these numbers for your club.

The ultimate goal is to increase sales and while performance counts in sales…it is accountability that really pays.

Accountability simply means being held answerable for your own actions and results.  If you wait until the sales reports are in it’s simply too late – you’ll need to track performance along the way.

There are 2 keys to implementing accountability:

  1. You must create a culture where your sales team freely and willingly accepts the premise that each person is responsible for their own success and their own failures. 
  2. You must have a system in place for measuring and monitoring factors other than pure sales results.

If you're a sales manager, it means you have three primary responsibilities: Lead your people, teach your people and coach your people.

Eddie Tock
REX Roundtables



This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.


What to do when a budget club moves into the neighborhood

Bryan O'Rourke, Christine Thalwitz, Vaughn Marxhausen, Eddie Tock and Steve Krum discuss what to do when a budget health club moves into your town in this week's Best Practices.

"What is a good marketing strategy to compete with budget clubs, that move in to our area?"


Bryan O'Rourke, CSO & Principal

A:  If your club’s price point is mid-range to high-end and a budget club is coming to town, you are wise to re-evaluate your current marketing strategy.

  1. Resist countering with a low-cost strategy of your own. Lowering your price may help you keep market share, but it will likely drive down profits and customer satisfaction. There is a portion of the population that will always base purchasing decisions solely on price. As long as you are priced well for the value you deliver, you can position yourself favorably in your market without having to be the cost leader.
  2. VALUE trumps PRICE for the majority of consumers, even in a difficult economy. Your marketing strategy will need to highlight compelling benefits your club offers that your competition does not. The more clearly your marketing efforts articulate the advantages of joining your club, the more likely it is that people will choose your business.
  3. Do your homework. Gather data about your competitor’s facility plans, operations, amenities, staffing models, etc. What type of member is this new club likely to attract? Target markets not fully served by budget clubs often include families, seniors, medical fitness and corporate wellness. What segments of the population are you better equipped to serve than your low-cost competitor?
  4. Take advantage of the time you have before the new club opens to deepen your relationship with your members and the community. Create lasting partnerships by engaging in activities that support the efforts of other local organizations. Consider starting a member loyalty program or creating referral rewards. Call on team members to build a strong rapport with your members and facilitate member-to-member connections to establish a sense of community.
  5. For a fresh perspective, look at successful companies in other competitive industries. There are lessons to be learned from hotels, restaurants, car dealers and phone service providers that can be applied to your own experience.  

Christine Thalwitz, Director of Communications & Research
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers

A: Most clubs (especially the budget clubs) advertise strictly on price and will list out their features, the things that fill the space of their club: free-weights, cardio equipment, showers, customer service, etc.  So instead of following the same trend of advertising on price, your focus should be based on the value of being a member of your club, what’s in it for your members and how they personally benefit from being a member.

Take a look at advertisements from other industries.  You won’t see coke advertising on price, their focus is the experience.  High-end automobile ads don’t list out that their cars have steering wheels, seats, tires, brakes and shocks, instead their focus is on the experience of driving and whats important when driving a car: luxury, image, how it makes the driver feel and, most importantly, safety. 

Keep in mind that the type of advertising you do should be based on the kind of member you trying to capture.  Your advertising needs to dynamically generate a display that engages your viewer and is hyper-relevant to each audience member at the time of delivery. 

The key point is to stop advertising on price and start advertising on what’s important to your market (what is their pain) so your product becomes priceless.

Vaughn Marxhausen, Area General Manager
Houstonian Lite Health Club

A: One of the strategic marketing tools we use to successfully compete with a variety of clubs entering our immediate market is a S.W.O.T analysis. By identifying your Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses and Threats, you will have a "crystal ball" allowing you the differentiation needed to remain competitive. With a little thought, it will help identify a course of action. Do a spreadsheet or chart the following:

  1. Strengths: Think about the Programs that your Club really does well. What makes them stand out from what your competitors do? What are you going to be famous for? I would suggest that with the budget clubs you are referring to, you should focus on service and member experience items, because you will not win the price war.  
  2. Weaknesses: Example-List the Programming areas that are a struggle.    
  3. Opportunities: Try to identify areas where your strengths are not being fully utilized. Do you have employees with skill-sets that you have not been able to successfully use?     
  4.  Threats: Look at things both inside and outside the club that can damage and/or adversely impact your business growth potential. i.e., are there new training trends?

By understanding the weaknesses of your business, you can manage and eliminate threats that would otherwise catch you unaware. More than this, by looking at yourself and your competitors using the S.W.O.T. framework, you can start to craft a strategy that helps you distinguish yourself from your competitors, so that you can compete successfully in your market.

Steve Krum, VP of Facilities & GM
Spectrum Clubs

A: Clubs need to not only grow new sales but also keep current customers happy and loyal. How do they do this? Many of the 102 club owners that together own over 1000 clubs, within the REX Roundtable who are currently in competition with these “budget” clubs have taken on a strategy of carving out its own market, its own niche, its own differentiation, and owning that differentiation in the eyes of all its club members and the nonmembers who live in its primary market.

Club owners must train their staff to meet and deliver on customer expectations at every critical interaction. In today’s competitive landscape, delivering a valuable customer experience becomes increasingly important. It is the people and their behaviors that create distance and differentiation from competition. It’s about the ability of employees to respond to customers based on their unique needs and to engage them emotionally in a memorable experience.

Ultimately, it is about creating value for customers, for employees and for the club. Dov Seidman, author of “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything ... in Business (and in Life),” corroborates this position when he says that “sustainable competitive advantage comes more from how you deliver your products and services than what the products and services are.”

When it comes to engaging members emotionally, your employees make the difference. Excellent products and reliable processes are part of the equation, but to make memorable connections with members, staff must be ready to deliver a reliable yet personalized experience to each customer. To do this, staff must have a consistent understanding of the company’s brand message and possess the skills, attitudes and resources to handle each interaction.

Differentiation ... emotional engagement ... value ... consistency ... loyalty. Do you want to stay competitive? Focus on these five controllable factors first. You can’t change what is happening in your market, but you can change how it will affect your business.

Eddie Tock, Partner
REX Roundtables for EXecutives


Have a question for our industry leaders? Fill out this form and get an answer to your fitness industry question.


Average Cost of Selling a Membership

Q: "What is the average cost of selling a membership to a fitness facility, factoring in advertising costs, sales staff, and number of members?"

A: Sales staffing and commissions are usually in the $75-$150 range per new member. $100-$125 is common with higher priced clubs.

Direct marketing costs (not including marketing personnel) are usually in the $75-$150 range as well. $100-$125 is also a common direct marketing cost with higher priced clubs.

If you have a marketing staff you would take that number and divide by your sales number to determine the full marketing expense load. My estimate is that it would add $10-$50 per sale depending on your marketing team payroll and head count.

All in, you can be at $200-$250 per sale in expenses for a premium priced club membership. This would be anywhere from 2-3 month of member tenure to break-even on acquisition costs. Retention has a much higher ROI.

Bill McBride, Chief Operating Officer
Club One

A: In this challenging economy, it is vital that you closely watch costs, reduce expenses, and according to business experts outside our industry, do not reduce marketing because everyone else will, or do not reduce sales training. You need to sharpen the saw as you will have less leads now than you did one year ago or do not diminish customer touch. The members will become more demanding and less tolerant of challenges/problems.

The simplest way to enable a small business owner to make better decisions, implement better, and get the necessary support to take action or follow through during tough times is to have a group of peers who are other CEOs.

The average REX Roundtable member has a cost of sales between $170 and $300. Keep in mind that a more expensive club may have a higher acquisition cost that profitably fits in their budget.

REX Roundtables has more than 90 club organizations (totaling over 500 clubs) that submit and share actual data three times a year. Many IHRSA past and present Board members and Presidents, including the current one are members of the REX Roundtables.

Eddie Tock, Partner
REX Roundtables for Executives™ Licensee

A: The question posted in part answers itself. The formula of advertising costs + sales staff costs / # of members highlights just some of the variables that come into play.

Here are some other variables to consider:

  1. How many leads does the club get?
  2. How does the club do on lead conversion?
  3. How much is spent in TOTAL on advertising and marketing.*

* When figuring the total cost of advertising and marketing, be sure to include the following:

  • Direct advertising costs
  • Signage and billboards
  • Internal branding and uniforms
  • Brochures and fliers;
  • Web site creation/support;
  • Phone line/call costs
  • Sales staff wages, commissions, taxes, etc...
  • Approx 10% of front desk costs
  • Your new member integration program. A vital service new members look for and should be budgeted into every new sale. If you don’t have one, it’s costing you sales. (more information on this topic can be found at

CLUB X has 2500 members and loses 1000 members through attrition. It sells 1200 new memberships annually from 2000 inquiries. Annual revenues near $3m and the clubs spends 5% or $150,000 annually on direct advertising and marketing and an additional 7% or $210,000 on the sales staffing and essential services to support each new membership. Therefore each inquiry costs $180 and each new sale cost $300. More importantly every time they skimp on essential services such as a proper new member integration program and systematized retention strategies, they will likely have to spend a further $300 to replace the lost member.

Going the extra mile to retaining a member at CLUB X with all costs factored in would equate to just $87 in year 1 and $46 annually thereafter. A wise an profitable investment.

Paul Brown, President
Face2Face Retention Systems