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Entries in Jarod Cogswell (10)


Strong Fee-based Programming Drives Revenue, Trainer Retention

This post is an IHRSA Institute preview.

There’s more to fee-based programming than meets the eye.

Personal training, small group training, and other fee-based programs are strong drivers of additional club business revenue. But the benefits of fee-based programming don’t stop at your bottom line.

Continue reading "Strong Fee-based Programming Drives Revenue, Trainer Retention."

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How The IHRSA Institute Will Amp Up Your Health Club Management Game

There are several barriers that can stop your health club management game from reaching its full potential. Club managers have to juggle so many daily tasks it can be difficult to see the big picture, let alone find the time and resourses to sharpen your skillsets. 

If the situation we just described sounds familiar, the IHRSA Institute is for you. 

Continue reading "How The IHRSA Institute Will Amp Up Your Health Club Management Game."

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Health Club Member Experience Is the New Customer Service

In today’s increasingly internet- and device-addicted world, the customer experience matters more than ever—especially when it comes to health clubs.

“Fitness is no longer simply about the physical—today, it's more about how we make people feel about themselves,” says Jarod Cogswell, founder of FIT Academy and Enterprise Athlete. “Our customer service systems must reflect our sincere support, quality care, and immense desire for a relationship with our members and clients.”

Continue reading "Health Club Member Experience Is the New Customer Service."

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Best Practices: Month-to-Month Contracts

It is tough to get a commitment from someone for a year. That is why month-to-month memberships are becoming more popular in the health and fitness club industry.

Industry experts Jarod Cogswell and Geoff Dyer weigh in on the benefits, best ways to make them work, and more in Best Practices.

Q: No-contract memberships are becoming increasingly popular. What are the main benefits? How does a club stay afloat on a month-to-month membership basis?

A: It’s quite true that, today, many existing and prospective club members prefer the month-to-month (M2M) membership option over the long-term commitment that’s associated with a one-, two-, or three-year membership contract.

The sense of freedom that M2M offers, growing awareness of consumer rights, the recent recession, and the increased number of exercise opportunities, including many low-priced versions—all add to M2M’s appeal.

However, studying the situation more closely, we find ourselves forced to face a disturbing fact of life: Some 25% of all members become inactive within six months of joining a club, and that figure doubles, rising to 50%, after one year. Unfortunately, one of the black eyes our industry has earned is its reputation for locking inactive members into long-term, retail installment contracts.

By shifting our industry to the M2M model, one club at a time, we’ll become a business that focuses as much on member retention as it does on new member acquisition. If our clients can leave at any time, simply by providing written notice, then we’ll likely be much more attentive to their level of satisfaction with our service, programs, and facility upkeep.

Can this model prove as profitable as the contract sales model? Yes—absolutely! Because our reputation as service providers will improve, and, as a result, we’ll attract more customers. Granted, members may leave our facilities at a faster pace, but, with more people joining, the outcome will still result in a net gain.

Geoff Dyer
Columbus, Ohio

Monthly agreements have been in use for quite some time now, especially at higher-priced facilities, and have clearly demonstrated that they’re not only a viable payment system, but, in fact, can be a very rewarding one.

The challenge for you, as an operator, is to prove your club’s value on a month-to-month basis, which promotes and produces a higher level of service. It motivates your staff to focus on service, cleanliness, and member retention because every visit counts, and there may not be a second chance. In the final analysis, monthly agreements cultivate consumer trust.

Some other challenges present themselves when you don’t “lock” a member into a contract. For instance, it places a lot of pressure on the sales process. When members aren’t bound into a long-term agreement, they can leave at any time, so there’s a greater chance that you’ll lose them. You therefore need to be selling at the same or higher rate than the rate of your member- ship losses.

One of the advantages of offering no-contract memberships is that you won’t lose prospects who may be turned off by a long-term commitment. When people understand that they can leave whenever they like, joining your club becomes a comfortable decision - both psychologically and financially - that will tend to drive the volume you need to be profitable.

Of course, the clear and obvious key to succeeding with M2M membership agreements is to always give your members a reason to come back to your club. 

Jarod Cogswell
Founder, Enterprise Athlete 
President, Fit Academy, Inc.
Portland, Ore.



Best Practices is one of IHRSA's most popular features. For answers on hundreds or question, check more here.


FitLife rolls out big names for summer conference

Jarod Cogswell at the 2014 FitLife Conference.The FitLife Conference, held at Alderbrook Lodge and Resort in Union, Wash., on July 20-22, featured some of the biggest names in the health and fitness industry.

Brent Darden, Bill McBride and Jarod Cogswell were keynote speakers while also leading sessions on sales, service and culture, respectively.

Darden opened the event with his keynote, “Discretionary Efforts,” which he noted that happy and satisfied employees does not always equate to productivity. He listed 12 truths that drive engagement, including earn trust, set an example, empower with responsibility, create community and stimulate personal growth.

“Employees need to be emotionally connected to be willing to put in the extra mile,” he said.

StairMaster had a table during the 2014 FitLife Conference.The three-day event also included a trade show, harbor cruise and receptions.

For more, visit



Next IHRSA webinar: building your personal training business

Health and fitness clubs that don’t have a successful personal training department probably have issues with retention and possibly even making a profit.

It is a time where more and more people want to get in better shape - often looking to attain specific goals or working on particular areas of their body. And, personal training is the answer. Whether it is in a large or small group setting, or one-on-one, working out with a trained professional is definitely trending up.

But as many clubs are finding out, just putting on your website or Facebook page that the service is offered is not enough and most likely won’t translate into success. 

IHRSA’s next webinar will certainly assist club owners and managers that are looking for a little assistance on the subject. “Championship Personal Training: Increasing Your Business Performance” is Thursday, Sept. 12, 2 to 3:30 p.m. (EDT), with Jarod Cogswell, founder of Enterprise Athlete

Read on for more on IHRSA's next webinar.


How to Get Old Members to Reenroll

"Rejoins are an excellent source of membership leads... especially those that cancelled at the downturn of the economy."Jarod Cogswell discusses how to get old members to reenroll:

Q: "What is an effective strategy for reaching out to old members to reenroll?"

A: One effective strategy to bring back former members is to develop a rejoin campaign  and offer a special promotion.  The offer should last for a limited period of time to create a call to action.  The promotion can consist of discounts on joining, a free month, a special gift, etc. 

Simply print off a list of cancelled members - make sure the list is accurate so you do not reach out to someone that has already rejoined - and create a call "blitz" that is executed by your membership sales team.  In addition, you can also email the promotion to former members if you retained their email, as well as, a special invite to their homes. 

It is also recommended that you conduct some research on the reason(s) why the former member cancelled so that you can maximize your effort to re-sell the club.  Rejoins are an excellent source of membership leads and sales, especially for those that cancelled at the downturn of the economy.

Jarod Cogswell, General Manager
ClubSport Oregon


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Cash Conundrum

Scott Lewandowski, Bill McBride, and Jarod Cogswell offer their help to a club owner who is struggling to predict membership revenue in a cash based society:

Q: “The health club industry thrives on predicted revenue streams from contracts. Unfortunately, for us, this is not possible due to absence of a national E-commerce platform coupled with a society that still prefers cash over credit. We offer open-ended, pre-paid duration based memberships with the highest duration (annual pre-paid) offering the highest discount. This is a very uncertain and crude collection method in the sense that we don't know how many clients will renew next month since 80% plus prefer monthly package over the annual one due to lump some payment. What can we do to improve our receivables base?”

A: Start with a membership agreement that includes personal information, length of contract, risk of liability, and the cancellation policy. Since you mention most members pay with cash, I would discourage month-to-month memberships and encourage no less than 6 month and no more than 12 month agreements with the membership rolling over into a month-to-month agreement until the member cancels in writing.

Additionally, here are two tools to manage your account receivables and minimize the time from when you send bills and receive payment unless you hire an automated billing company.

Create a sales analysis report that lists all of your membership types. Breakdown each membership type listing active members, membership adds, deletions, suspensions, and estimated dues for the month. Compare the report on a monthly basis watching for favorable and unfavorable trends.

Another report is an aged trial balance listing outstanding balances of members by length of time. The report should include name, contact, amount owed, and how long since last payment.

Lastly, a policy for your company needs to be established on when access will be denied until the unpaid balance is collected.

Scott Lewandowski, Regional GM/Fitness Director
Fitness Formula Clubs

A: The easiest way around this would be to creatively design various membership options that allow for installment payments (even via cash) while highly encouraging longevity. One way would be to do an annual membership with the first and last quarter paid in advance and at the end of the first quarter, they would pay for Q2 and then at the end of Q2, they would pay for Q3… the last Quarter could be used for Q4 or they could extend (but always having their last quarter prepaid as a deposit to encourage the install payments or risk losing the “deposit”). This would allow for more payment flexibility and still increase at least Q2 and Q3 renewals. Coming up with an incentive to renew for subsequent years (either using the above system on a two year basis) or adding in service incentives upon 2nd year renewal. I would suggest you brainstorm with some of your staff and some of your customers various consumer friendly options that incentivize longevity and allow for the cash payment system currently in place while honoring all laws in the jurisdictions in which you operate.

Bill McBride, Chief Operating Officer
Club One, Inc.

A: This is a challenging one. Not having all of the information may be needed (# of current members, type of club, etc.), I will do my best to offer suggestions.

First, I agree with Thomas Plummer's philosophy on monthly revenue... It does help pay the bills. However, if your attrition rate is as high as 70% (for monthly agreements), then you need to be flexible, which seems like you are doing. With that said, I'm not sure if I would offer too many options. I would suggest offering monthly and annual packages only.

To address your attrition issue with this group, evaluate member usage carefully. There are a lot of programs that will help with this. We use Retention Management. If a member hasn't used the club in 4-6 weeks, the program will automatically send him/her a fitness tip and we follow up with a courtesy call and ask them if they would like a complimentary Personal Training session (or two) and/or invite them to a special event. Most members are very appreciative of the call.

Do you have a strong new member integration program? Solid retention begins at the start of one's membership. Our hope is that a new member utilizes the club 8-12 times in the first month. We're also looking at giving their joining fee back if they utilize the club 30 times in the first 90 days. Once they are serious about their program, they are least likely to quit.

The bottom line with monthly agreements is that you need to tighten up your retention, so that it does less damage to your business.

This is a little difficult because you stated that your society prefers cash over credit. I suggest giving them a little more incentive. Call it a "VIP Package". Don't charge a joining fee, give them 15-20% off dues, x number of personal training sessions and perhaps other complimentary ancillary services. Make it as attractive as possible.

I think if you delete the quarterly and half-yearly options, you will be OK. I'm guessing that these individuals are not making a long-term commitment (same as your monthlys), therefore their retention isn't great as well. Quarterly and Half-Yearly agreements seem like short-term cash options vs. a commitment.

Jarod Cogswell, General Manager
ClubSport Oregon


Non-Dues Programs And Retention

Scott Lewandowski, Chez Misko, and Jarod Cogswell discuss discounting non-dues revenue products to increase retention´╗┐:

Q: “I have an idea to give members a 5% club-credit on their membership dues to spend on things like nutrition advisory, personal training sessions, or even as a credit into the fee when the amount is high enough. The goal is to increase retention by supplying a higher level of service to our members. I've seen this work in retail, do you think it will work in the fitness industry?”

A: Retention Success is based on achieving three goals: usage, variety, and relationships. Increased club usage of the member equates to increased value of your monthly dues rate. Participation in a variety of services by the member builds customer loyalty. The more activities a member experiences the more invested the member is reaching their fitness goals within your health club. Last, members join health clubs for the social component of meeting new friends and the support system offered by the staff.

Retention Success is based on achieving three goals: usage, variety, and relationships.The proposed 5% club-credit on their membership dues to spend on additional services within your facility is a member rewards program that shows your appreciation for their business. I support all member rewards programs. The money will allow the member to receive a discount on their next service or experience a new service satisfying the variety component of the retention success.

I recommend the 5% club-credit be a gift card. It is tangible. You also want this money to be used for a service not a credit to dues. Remember, variety. This program must be promoted to the member upon enrollment and announced proudly within the club when earned by members for continued success.

Scott Lewandowski, GM/Regional Fitness Director
Fitness Formula Clubs

A: Incentivizing members to participate in non-dues programs is a good idea and does improve retention. When designing an incentive program like this I would advise the following: keep it simple, make sure you can track its success, make sure the value of the program creates action, include an expiration date and most importantly - don’t do anything to devalue or affect the integrity of your membership.

I prefer programs that reward, recognize, or show sincere appreciation to the member verses a credit, because it could be perceived to devalue your membership. If you credit me 5% every month why don’t you just charge me 5% less? Sending a new member a congratulatory card and $25 gift certificate on successfully completing the first ninety days as a member and getting a personal call to explain the various ways the member could use the gift certificate might create more good-will and a greater percentage of non-dues revenue sales.

Whatever program you design I would suggest piloting it to a smaller group first; this allows you to make sure it is implementable and can minimizes costly mistakes!

Chez Misko, Vice President of Operations
Wisconsin Athletic Club Inc

A: I don't discount dues unless it's a corporate/group membership (10 or more memberships to qualify). Dues are sacred. They steer the business. They pay the bills, payroll, etc. PT and other programs are features that support retention.

Dues are sacred.Also, I'm not sure if 5% is going to motivate someone to purchase other services. My suggestion would be to leave the dues alone, create a short-term program discount that creates a call to action. In addition, develop an incentive for your staff to sell those services.

Here are some examples:

  • Member Offer: 10% off personal training services in the month of December... a $x savings! Offer expires December 15, 2009.
  • Staff Offer: Sell $4,000 or more in personal training this month, receive 10% of your total sales.

Jarod Cogswell, General Manager
ClubSport Oregon


The Benefits of Selling Month-to-Month

Q: "I've been in the industry for over 13yrs. I don't understand this new wave of no-contracts. How does a club stay afloat on month to month membership basis? I know its the wave of the future but how does it work financially for the club? What is the benefit to offering no contracts? And should we make the transition as it seems most clubs are?"

A: Todays potential and existing Club members prefer the month to month option over the longterm commitment associated with a one, two or three year contract.

Given the fact that 25% of members are inactive 6 months after joining and that rises to 50% being inactive after one year, one of the black eyes to our industry has been the reputation we have earned from binding inactive members to long term retail installment contracts.

By shifting our industry to a month to month model, one club at a time, we will become a business that focuses on member retention AS WELL as new member acquisition.

If our members are free to leave with written notice at any time we will be much more cognizant of their satisfaction with our service, programs and facility upkeep.

Can this model prove as profitable as a contract sales model?


First, we will attract more members.

Second, our reputation as a service provider will improve.

Granted members will leave at a faster pace but with more joining the outcome will still result in a net gain for each of us.

Geoff Dyer, Founder
Lifestyle Family Fitness

A: No contracts (month to month agreements) have actually been around for some time, especially for higher priced facilities. The main challenge is obviously proving your value on a month to month basis, but I believe that is what elevates and promotes a higher level of club service... it influences your entire staff culture to focus on member retention. The other challenge is that it places a lot of pressure on your sales process. If you don't have members locked into a contract, you have higher potential to lose them, which means you need to be selling at the same rate or higher than your losses.

The benefit to offering no contracts is that a large percentage of those interested in a club membership can be turned off by the long term commitment. Therefore, knowing that they (the prospect) can leave at any time is a comforting decision, especially in this economy. We offer two options: a one-year contract which allows a new member to join for a $25 processing fee or a month to month option offered at a $250-$500 initiation fee. The contract member has a buyout option to pay the full initiation (or pro-rated) if they wish to leave the club before the year expires.

Offering these two options during challenging economic times are working for us and yes, I would recommend the same for others. Please let me know if you need further assistance.

Jarod Cogswell, General Manager
ClubSport Oregon