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Entries in management and operations (21)


6 Things to Consider Before Adding a Spa to Your Health Club

The following post was written by April Smith, spa manager at The Ocean Reef Club, for our Best Practices series.

Question: We’re thinking of adding a spa treatment room to our facility. What fundamental things do we need to know in order to create the right atmosphere and ensure the spa’s success?

April Smith: The good news is adding a spa room doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want it to be a tranquil, relaxing space that’s comfortable for both the client and the service provider. Here are some important guidelines to consider:

Consideration #1: Size

Many spa rooms are either 10' x 14' or 12' x 14', which translates to 140 to 168 square feet. A typical massage table measures 72" x 30", but a face cradle can add up to 12" to the length.

You’ll need to make sure there’s at least 3' of space around each side of the table, as well as a treatment chair for the service provider. Of course, there should be room for the door of the room to open and close. You’ll also need space for a cabinet to store linens, treatment supplies, a sink with counter space, a comfortable chair for clients to sit on while taking off their shoes, and clothing hooks fastened to the wall.

Consideration #2: Flooring

The best choices include wood, vinyl tile, or cushioned flooring, rather than a hard surface, such as marble or ceramic tile. Keep in mind that your clients will be barefoot, so the floor shouldn’t be cold or slippery. Avoid carpet, as it can be easily stained and is hard to change out. Instead, try a nice, soft area rug that will create a warm feeling, and can be cleaned without difficulty.

Consideration #3: Lighting and décor

Lighting should operate by means of a dimmer, and not be positioned directly above the massage table. If there’s a window, add some kind of window covering or a blackout curtain.

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I Want to Launch a Health Promotion Program... Where Do I Start? 

Health promotion provides a great opportunity to do several things at once: 

  1. Generate new revenue with added programs
  2. Address important health issues your members are struggling with, like weight loss
  3. Reduce costs of attrition by promoting greater member retention

Step 1: Planning and Assessment 

The first step to starting a health promotion program should be a self-assessment of your club and community. Ask yourself what your club can feasibly do given your size, location, staffing, and membership, and what your community—both members and non-members—needs.

Once you’ve determined what your community needs and what you can do to address it, identify your target audience and issue. Are you considering a program for pregnant mothers with a healthy eating and activity focus? Or will you offer a weight loss program to members and potential members who work in the area? This issue and target audience will then inform the design and implementation of your program.

As you plan your program, it is also important to consider whether the program will be open to non-members, whether it will be part of the membership fee or offered at additional cost, and who will be in charge of running and staffing the program.

More detailed information about planning and assessment, as well as a community assessment  worksheet and tips for assembling a wellness team, can be found in IHRSA’s “Building a Health Promotion Program In Your Club: An Introductory Toolkit.”

Step 2: Creating Your Program

Once you know what you are going to address and with whom, the next step is setting your goals and building a program that will get people engaged and excited.

Every health club is different, not only in terms of facility and staff size, location, equipment, and services offered, but also in terms of staff specialty and expertise, target population, and overall goals. Thus, no “one size fits all” program can be prescribed.

You can find ideas for programs in the toolkit linked above, or in IHRSA’s best practice e-books, including: 

Step 3: As You Implement Your Program, Don’t Forget About Evaluation

Many people view evaluation as the last step in the implementation of a program—get the program going, then assess how it’s doing—but it should be one of the first considerations when designing a health promotion program.

Before you design your program, you want to consider the following: 

  • What are the main objectives of your program?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What are the best ways to measure the program’s success based on the objectives and resources at hand? 

Related reading: 


What Qualities Should You Look for in a Health Club Manager?

Whether you’re a club owner, a current manager, or an aspiring manager, there are many things to think about when considering your management team. 

Managers, and what they bring to your club, come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences—and a successful, cohesive management team should consist of personalities that complement each other. 

Managers Should Have Qualities that Align with Your Club’s Values 

Considering the size and type of health club business you are running, you may have department managers or “general” managers. Do you run a small club with two or three “Jack-of-all-trade” managers, or a larger facility with a dozen managers, each specifically responsible for a department? 

No matter what kind of management structure you have, you want to ensure that each manager has qualities that are in line with your club’s mission and values. 

One of the key ingredients for great health club leadership is visionary thinking and brokering ideas, says Molly Kemmer of EXOS/MediFit and former IHRSA board chair. 

 “View the organization not just as it is today, but also as it needs to be in the future,” she says. “Foster a culture of speaking up, as well as of listening intently, to facilitate this approach.” 

Many departmental mangers will require more specific skills, but all managers should have some level of inherent “people” skills—as general of a term as that may be.  

Specific Qualities You Should Look for in a Manager 

Behind the certifications and equipment and trying to keep up with evolving fitness trends, the health club industry is a compassionate, hospitality driven one. You’re transforming lives, helping people reach goals, celebrate personal victories, and work through defeats. 

In his 2016 IHRSA Institute session “Strategic Planning for Club Executives,” Bill McBride, president and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3, shared insights from an article he wrote saying the first step to good talent (employees) is to know whom you are looking for.   

“You have to know what type of person you need on a given team based on the other team members to have balance and multiple aptitudes covered… Look for initiative, ownership mentality, adaptability, positive thinking, results orientation, accountability, broad thinking, honesty, integrity, and character.” 

In addition to personality and people skills, consider what technical skills are required to take on a leadership role in your club. 

Should your managers have previous departmental experience or will an all-encompassing knowledge of the health club business suffice, as individual skills will be trained?  Will they be responsible for hiring and training, implementing policies and procedures or budgeting? 

Determine which skills your managers should already have and which you can train. Finding the perfect manager may not be realistic, but finding great managers whose strengths and weaknesses complement and balance each other is an essential part of your clubs’ perfect management team. 

Related reading and resources:  


How to Empower Your Health Club Managers and Engage Your Employees

One of the consistently reported challenges to owning or managing a health club is finding and retaining quality staff—and even more challenging can be hiring effective managers.

If your tireless recruiting has paid off and you now have a promising management team, how do you make sure they stay and grow with you? 

The key is empowerment. 

Enable Your Health Club Managers to Take Ownership 

Empowerment starts with clear communication, continues with nurtured relationships, and carries over to the next generation of your management staff.

Enabling your managers to take a level of ownership of their contributions to your team will allow them to be more motivated, productive, and engaged in your club. As each individual is motivated by different things, it’s important as an owner or senior manager to get to know your managers and what methods of coaching and recognition will lead them to feel most empowered. 

During his session Strategic Culture: Three Keys to Creating a High-Performance Culture at the   2016 IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show, Rob Lewis of RBS Holdings, LLC said, “Professional development and career progression are among the most important things for employees when looking at jobs.” Lewis explained that owners and managers often only communicate the end result, when what is more important is to communicate the behaviors that produce that end result. 

Communicating your health clubs mission, vision, and values to your managers and enabling them to pass that along to hourly staff and club members, will keep your club culture alive and thriving. “Employee engagement is reflective of a good culture,” Lewis said. 

Clear Communications Set Employees Up for Success 

Another industry leader—Allison Flatley—offered her expertise in keeping your staff engaged in her 2016 IHRSA Institute session, “Staff Hiring, Training, and Retention.” 

The Corporate Fitness Works Chief Strategy Officer and IHRSA Board Member discussed the importance of clearly communicating job responsibilities, what the expectations are, how and when employees will be evaluated, where to find the tools they need to succeed, and how they can overcome obstacles.  

Whether you’ve just hired a brand new manager, promoted a stellar employee, or have a seasoned staff of fitness professionals on your management team, these are essential elements to fostering a sense of empowerment. Flatley also suggested using Gallup’s Q12 survey to help assess the level of engagement in your staff and identify areas for improvement.   

IHRSA’s Professional Development and Management Video archive is full of sessions and recordings from industry leaders, discussing many aspects of successful management skills, training tactics, and culture-creating strategies. These training tools and more are available to IHRSA members at up to 50% off non-member prices, online at the IHRSA store.


6 Ways Attending the IHRSA Institute Will Turn a Good Manager to Great 

There are several barriers that can keep a good health club manager from becoming great: perhaps they aren’t able to take a step back from their daily tasks to see the big picture, or maybe they just don’t have the resources and skillsets to reach the next level. 

But, no matter what challenges are standing in your manager’s way, sending them to the IHRSA Institute, Executive Education for Club Professionals will help them reach their full potential. 

The IHRSA Institute, which convenes August 2–5, at the Rizzo Conference Center, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, is designed to provide a strong overall base for anyone working in the fitness industry. 

The faculty includes both industry experts and professors from UNC. Classes are small and intimate. Through classroom discussions and social activities, the attendees learn not only from the faculty, but also from their peers. 

Here are six ways attending the IHRSA Institute will turn a good manager into a great one. 

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Everything You Need to Know About Health Club Locker Room Size

Locker rooms and their amenities and features have become increasingly important as health clubs compete to attract new members and retain existing ones, but choosing the right size for your facility can be tricky—especially since there are a number of factors that should be considered in addition to the basic square footage percentage. 

An upscale locker room design by Fabiano Designs.

“Like all good design, locker planning is a case-by-case puzzle that needs specific attention and understanding of the target market,” says Hervey Lavoie, architect and president of Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative in Denver, CO. 

To help club owners and operators determine the locker room size that’s best for each facility, we talked to three experts about all things locker room. 

Locker Room Size Rules of Thumb 

Since there are no specific industry standards on locker room square footage, expert opinions are varied—but most agree locker rooms should take up 10-15% of the facility’s overall square footage. 

“As a rule of thumb, the quick answer is in general about 12-15% of the overall club size, meaning if you have a 20,000-square-foot club, the total size dedicated to both locker rooms may be between 2,400–3,000 square feet total, or about 1,000-1500 square feet each,” says Rudy Fabiano, architect for Fabiano Designs in Montclair, NJ. “Likewise, a 60,000-square-foot facility may have between 3,500 and 4,500 square feet for each locker room. These are base numbers that should get modified depending on the various factors.”  

But keep in mind that there’s a limit to this rule of thumb—as units get smaller, the required locker room percentage may grow to accommodate the minimum fixtures and facilities required, Fabiano says. 

“Many times this will preclude the ability to have any locker rooms at all,” he says. “With smaller clubs, under 5,000 square-feet as an example, we may opt for common locker areas, with dedicated individual toilet and shower rooms.” 

It’s important to consider the types and number of fixtures required by the plumbing code, occupancy load, etc. in the club’s jurisdiction. 

Member Demographics and Membership Cost 

There are a number of factors that may cause a club owner to modify the locker room size beyond the 10-15% rule, including member demographics and membership cost. 

“To better determine the actual locker room square footage and number of lockers, the specific needs and logistics of each facility must be analyzed and addressed,” says Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., owner of Paris-based Fitness Resources Consulting Services. “If there is a much larger percentage of either of the sexes, the size of the changing areas should reflect that difference.” 

Hoffman also recommends that clubs consider the type of facility and member services; an upscale facility might choose to allot a larger amount of changing space per person to enhance the member experience. 

Consider “factors such as the demographics the club will serve, the number of member visits anticipated, and the cost of a typical memberships will affect size,” Fabiano says. “As an example, typically, the higher the membership cost, the more square feet per member should be allocated. Since personal space is a premium, higher end clubs typically provide more features, more space, bigger lockers, etc., versus a budget club, with minimum features and amenities.” 

When determining locker room size and number of lockers, club owners and operators should also consider the demographics of the surrounding community. 

“Is the club serving a residential market or a business work day market? Locker demand will be greater in a facility that is serving a work-day population,” Lavoie says. “A larger percentage of a residential-based membership will arrive dressed for working out and not need access to lockering facilities. Business-based membership traffic, for obvious reasons, has a greater need for changing facilities as they fit their workouts into their work day.” 

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4 Tips for Health Clubs Managing in the Social Media Era

The prevalence of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn has created several opportunities for health clubs, but they also open health club operators up to compliance and liability concerns. 

Kara Maciel, a founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey PLLC and chair of the firm’s labor/employment practice group, presented valuable information for clubs to make informed decisions about social media in the workplace at the IHRSA 2016 session, “Managing in the Social Media Era: Compliance, Employment Laws & Legal Liabilities.” 

Here are four takeaways Maciel gave to session attendees: 

1. If your business uses social media in its recruiting process, consider obtaining a waiver from the job candidate and research what your state laws say about employer access of social media accounts belonging to job applicants. It is advisable to document, for each candidate, reasons for non-hire or hire, to protect your business from discrimination claims (many social media accounts prominently display a person’s age, sex, and religion). 

2. Create a section in your employee handbook for explanation of your social media policies and procedures. If you are not sure what you should write in the section, now is the perfect opportunity to determine how you want social media to be used by your employees, such as for marketing and customer service. Be cautious on placing limitations on employee use of social media. 

The National Labor Relations Board, which regulates both non-union and union workplaces, prohibits restrictions on protected concerted activity; individuals are allowed to talk about conditions of employment to co-workers, even if that conversation takes place on social media. In the handbook, your club might state that it retains the ability to access and investigate company systems, such as company social media accounts and company computers, and that it retains the ability to discipline or terminate employees for harassment on social media or for posting complaints or threats about gym members. 

3. Think about whether any of your employees, as part of their job responsibilities, might be posting on social media after they leave the club (i.e. at home). Be sure to adhere to wage and hour guidelines according to your state. 

4. When employees leave for another job opportunity, they might use social media to attract their former clients to their new place of business. Recently, courts have ruled that general LinkedIn invitations are not sufficient to violate non-solicitation agreements.


Back Office Tour

It’s a mistake that Brent Darden sees all of the time.
Darden, the principal of Brent Darden Consulting, Inc., a Dallas, Texas–based industry consultancy, says he often encounters clubs that, while they “put a premium on hiring friendly, upbeat, outgoing front- desk personnel,” are “less diligent when hiring for the back office.”

That, he insists, is a mistake—a conclusion based on years of experience and observation as the vice president of Cooper Aerobics Enterprises, cofounder of the Telos Fitness Center, and former chairperson of IHRSA’s board of directors.

“Back office,” of course, refers to that area of a club where administrative and operational functions unfold daily, generally behind the scenes. Conversely, sales, member-service, and other customer-focused activities tend to take place “out front.”

A club’s back office may be out of sight, acknowledges Darden, but it should never be out of mind.

In many ways, it’s the brain, heart, and lungs that keep the member experience alive. It’s responsible for, among other things, accounting, accounts payable, accounts receivable, financial support, record maintenance, data administration, human resources, regulatory compliance, and the management of member accounts. And it contends with all of the challenges these raise.

Darden makes the point that, because back-office employees often interact with members on an important topic—i.e., the member’s money—it’s imperative that they be great ambassadors of the brand, inspiring trust and confidence in the business. “The single best bit of advice I can give is that you need to appreciate and recognize your back-office team because they’re crucial to your overall success,” he offers. “There’s a saying that applies here: It’s not what’s sold that’s important, but, rather, what’s collected.”

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Club Management 101: Leading Your Club to Success at IHRSA 2015

When a class or presentation has "101" in the title then you know it has an introductory theme or feel to it. The discussion will be for people who relatively new to the subject. 

What "101" also invokes is a variety topics will be discussed. Quick hits is one way to describe it.

Roberta Kruse-Fordham’s "Club Management 101: Leading Your Club to Success," a Management & Operations educational session at IHRSA 2015, 34th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, will certainly have the feel of a quick-hitting class.

Read more about the IHRSA 2015 Management & Operations Track.

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InfoPacks are unveiled at IHRSA/Fitness Brasil

IHRSA President and CEO Joe Moore explains InfoPacks at the IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Conference & Trade Show.Those who are attending the 15th IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Conference & Trade Show, currently running through Aug. 30 in Sao Paulo, have the opportunity to get a new IHRSA publication for free.

The InfoPacks are informative articles and ideas that are essential for club owners in Brazil, South America and Latin America. They also include trends and relevant cases. There are three available:

  • IHRSA InfoPack Management & Planning
  • IHRSA InfoPack & Sales Trends
  • IHRSA InfoPack Marketing

InfoPacks are free for those who attended IHRSA/Fitness Brasil and fill out a quick survey, until Sept. 30, at They are also available for purchase at the IHRSA Store.