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Entries in Mike Alpert (8)


This Week in the Fitness Industry: Google Launches Fitness Class Booking Service

Google Launches Fitness Class Booking Service
Reserve with Google, a new feature that allows users to book fitness classes without leaving the search engine, is now available nationwide after completing a test run in New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, Mashable reports. Like Google Flights, the service pulls data from Google Maps and Google Search to help users find available classes at nearby fitness studios. Reserve with Google also makes personalized recommendations. "We make recommendations based on courses you've taken, and will be exploring more ways to bring timely and useful recommendations to fitness buffs," a Google spokesperson told "For example, you will soon be able to get notifications of new classes that might be interesting to you." Several class scheduling providers, including MINDBODY, MyTime, Genbook, Full Slate, Front Desk, and Appointy, partnered with Google on this effort, according to a release. 

Continue reading "This Week in the Fitness Industry: Google Launches Fitness Class Booking Service."

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An Open Letter to the Fitness Industry Leaders of Tomorrow

Dear Future Industry Leadership Council Member, 

Chances are you already are a leader—you just aren’t aware of it. 

You may be asking yourself “How is that true? What does being a leader truly mean? And how are other people able to identify me as one when I can’t even be sure of that myself?” 

The answers to all of those questions lie in the singular character trait all successful leaders share—passion.

Passion is the key to unlocking and capitalizing on any opportunity that comes your way, and joining forces with people who share the same passions and interests puts you in the company of those who want to use their collective power to make a lasting impact on society. After all, if a group of people can get anyone to look at the world through a different microscope—even if it’s only for a few seconds—they have succeeded in using their passion to perform good work.

So, if you have this passion and can leverage its potential for change by working creatively with others to solve problems, then believe it or not, you are a leader. 

Continue reading "An Open Letter to the Fitness Industry Leaders of Tomorrow."

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6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to 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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Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Resonate with Members’ Hearts and Souls

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. 

Mike Alpert
The Claremont Club
Claremont, CA 

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

It is being able to innovate and create programs for people that need us the most and can afford us the least. You must be able to see past the bottom line and see what moves the bottom linewhich is people. 

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?  

Don’t ever be complacent. Think outside the box, and think about how you can make a difference in people’s lives. 

It takes good people to create and maintain meaningful and purposeful work. Because of this, we have really been able to resonate with members’ hearts and souls. We offer programs for those afflicted by paralysis, cancer, and other chronic conditions. Making programming all inclusive has unintentionally proven to be a direct link to member retention. It was absolutely never about the money to begin with, but this model has proven to be very successful for us.   

And, nothing meaningful or great comes without failure. You need to be able to anticipate the difficulties and when they will arise. 

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

We all have a responsibility to support the efforts that IHRSA is making in legislative advocacy. It’s all of our responsibility to support them as a club operator, and that means lending support through financial means.


4 Reasons Health Clubs Should Invest in CRM Technology

It’s a fact: The primary business of every health club isn’t fitness. It’s maintaining good customer relationships by providing excellent service. 

You can have the best facility, amenities, and programs in the world, but if customers have bad experiences, they won’t stay. And sub-par service certainly won’t help generate referrals or lead to new sales. Au contraire: You’ll lose business and your reputation will suffer. 

The good news: Having a robust customer relationship management (CRM) system can help you improve the most critical aspects of your customer service program, and, thus, your members’ club experience. 

Here are four reasons CRM systems are worth the investment for health clubs. 

1. CRMs Reduce Member and Employee Frustration 

In many operational areas, clubs have grappled with inefficiencies that have frustrated employees and customers alike. In many cases, for example, simple administrative tasks that involved actual paperwork have led to major headaches as a result of human error. 

For a long time, that was the case for Beth Saroka, a 35-year industry veteran, and the owner of Onslow Fitness, in Jacksonville, NC, a 14,000-square-foot club with fitness, group exercise, and personal training offerings, a heated saltwater pool, and other amenities. 

However, in 2011, Saroka acquired ABC Financial software, and, in the process, eliminated “tons” of man-hours required for tasks that no one liked to do. 

“Whether it was a simple credit card update, a change of address, or something more involved, such as a cancellation, my staff would have to stop doing more important things— selling or servicing members—to manually fill out the paperwork,” she said. “Then, assuming it was filled out correctly, someone else had to enter all of that information into a computer. In retrospect, that was a huge waste of our time, and rarely resulted in a ‘wow’ experience for anyone.” 

Now, the CRM component of her ABC system boasts a newer feature called MYiCLUB online, a portal that allows a member to log in at any time and make account changes— even cancellations. Not only is it convenient for members, but it also ensures that the club obtains accurate information. 

Continue reading "4 Reasons Health Clubs Should Invest in CRM Technology."

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9 Takeaways from the California Clubs of Distinction Spring Symposium

From member engagement to pricing strategy, there were many takeaways to be found at the California Clubs of Distinction (CCD) Spring Symposium in Palms Springs, CA, held April 19-21. 

IHRSA staff was there, attending sessions and gleaning insights for health club owners and operators who weren’t able to attend. Here are our top nine takeaways from the three-day conference. 

1. Focus on customer experience, not customer service. Building a great team is critical to any health club’s success, said Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness, during his session. By hiring the right staff—and keeping morale high—club operators can deliver a member experience where “everyone leaves feeling better than when they arrived.” 

2. Build membership through community engagement. Karen Woodard of Premium Performance Training explained the many benefits health clubs can gain by getting involved in their communities. Doing so promotes member engagement, builds brand familiarity, and may ultimately increase memberships.  

Karen Woodard leading a team building activity.

3. Perseverance is the key to success. Shaun Quincey of DebitSuccess became the second person to row across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia at age 25, but the feat didn’t come easy. In his keynote address, he detailed the preparation and training that went into the 1,200-nautical-mile journey, including the 390 sponsors that turned him down. 

4. Strategy and execution go hand-in-hand. Bill McBride of BMC3/Active Wellness and Brent Darden of Brent Darden Consulting stressed the importance of creating a goal-oriented strategic plan, and also assigning the right people to execute that plan with the needs of members in mind. 

5. Pricing is a mix of art and science. McBride and Darden also spoke to the art of finding the pricing sweet spot. They recommended starting by by determining a product's or program’s usefulness, usability, and desirability. 

Brent Darden

6. Make time for team-building activities. Different team-building and team-bonding activities can help to improve relationships between co-workers, said Karen Woodward. Club operators should consider incorporating team-building exercises into existing meetings or holding team-centric events outside of work.

7. Think like a customer. Club operators should wire customers’ mindsets into their decision making process at every level, said Blair McHaney of ClubWorks. This will help operators better understand how to develop an emotional connection with customers, and thus increase loyalty.

8. Health club medical wellness programs can curb obesity. Successful medical wellness programs facilitate the relationship between fitness and healthcare professionals, said Mark Kelly of Principle Centered Health. Doing so may slow the rise of obesity, which is related to more than 50 preventable diseases. 

9. Differentiate your club by doing meaningful, purposeful work. Mike Alpert, president and CEO of The Claremont Club, which received the Outstanding Community Service Award at IHRSA 2016, shared his experience with partnering with the medical community to help people live healthier lives. In addition to serving as a differentiator, this practice will improve the overall member experience, which will lead to higher retention.


The Claremont Club’s Virtual Blueprint for Inclusive Fitness

It really doesn’t take much to get Mike Alpert going. Mention people who have disabilities or have suffered chronic injuries, and the passion quickly rises to the surface. 

For Alpert, the president and CEO of The Claremont Club, in Claremont, CA, that zeal has prompted a long, ongoing struggle to include such individuals in club activities to help improve their lives.

“It’s about an opportunity to do some truly meaningful and purposeful work in our industry,” he said, his voice filling with emotion. “We—and, by we, I mean all of us club operators—have the ability to save lives. We have the facilities and the skills to do this great work. However, I’m sad to say that many of us aren’t doing so right now.”

The Need for Inclusive Fitness

“Inclusive” is a rather broad category, and includes people who have been born with physical and/or intellectual or emotional disabilities; and those who, due to accidents or other events or circumstances, have acquired them. The disciples of inclusive fitness programs believe that everyone should be able to take advantage of the services that clubs can offer.

While the number of inclusive clubs is growing, the need is clearly great.

A 2014 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that half of the 21 million Americans with disabilities don’t exercise, which further jeopardizes their health. An additional 22% of disabled adults aren’t active enough, which means that approximately half of them are more likely than their active peers to develop serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

A Virtual Blueprint for Health Clubs

If there’s an exemplar, a poster boy, for inclusive fitness in the U.S., that person might well be Alpert.

His club, a multipurpose athletic, aquatic, tennis, and social facility set on an impressive 18-acre campus, employs a staff of more than 270 to look after some 10,500 members. It could also easily serve as a virtual blueprint for clubs that want to become more inclusive.

The Claremont Club is currently treating people with spinal cord injuries (SCI), multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), Parkinson’s disease (PD), and those who have suffered strokes or are battling cancer.

One of the highlights of Alpert’s efforts is the Project Walk Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Centers franchise that he acquired in 2013, the first situated inside a health club. These centers, managed and operated by SCI Business Solutions, Inc., of Carlsbad, CA, help people with SCI via education, training, and intense activity-based recovery programs.

Alpert transformed a racquetball court into a 5,100-square-foot studio to accommodate the program.

 “It’s incredibly rewarding to walk through this facility every day and see the difference we’re making,” he said. “I’d encourage every club owner to think beyond the bottom line, and recognize the potential that inclusive fitness offers to create an incredibly meaningful legacy.”

Such initiatives serve critical needs, increase club utilization, drive memberships, enhance a club’s standing in the community, boost the morale of staff and current members, and—most importantly—actually improve people’s lives.

Continue reading about IHRSA members’ inclusive programs in the May issue of CBI.


6 Best Practices to Enhance Your Business with Health Promotion Programs 

Well-executed health promotion programs can drive business to your health club and enhance member engagement, but for many club operators it is difficult to know where to start. 

To solve this pain point, three experts provided a health promotion program road map at the IHRSA 2016 session, “Boost Your Business & Enhance Your Brand with Health Promotion Programs.” During the hour-long presentation, Mike Alpert of the Claremont Club, Janet Cranston of Reh-fit Centre, and Bill Gvoich of Spectrum Fitness & Medical Wellness Center spoke to the benefits and challenges impacting clubs looking to offer health promotion programs. 

The panel offered the following best practices for establishing top-notch health promotion programs:  

  1. Use successful health promotion programs as models for creating your own. Spend some time researching programs that are currently being offered by other clubs to determine if it would be feasible to adapt one of these programs for your facility. 
  2. Create programs that are closely aligned with your club culture and brand. Tailor your programming to fit the needs of the members that you service and make sure that this programming is reflective of the mission of your business. 
  3. Ensure that your club environment is welcoming. As a club owner or operator, engaging those who are sedentary can prove to be quite challenging. Thus, marketing your club as a safe place, where people of all ability levels can come to workout is important. Training your front desk personnel on how to make people feel comfortable using your facilities is just as critical as ensuring that the proper equipment and amenities are always available.
  4. Employ staff who are champions for the programs that you offer. Staff members who believe they are making a difference in the lives of the people that they serve will act as the best promoters for your programs.
  5. Share success stories to create opportunities for greater member engagement and business expansion. Showcasing the success stories of your members is a great way to personalize the member experience and brand your business as one that cares about the goals and aspirations of your members.
  6. Determine the best method to measure the success of your programs. There are a number of different methods that can be used to evaluate the success of your program. Outcome measurements do not have to be elaborate. Looking for improvements in quality of life, comparing pre- and post-program health data, requesting participant feedback, and tracking member retention are just a few strategies that have proven to be effective.   

“Clubs are the perfect environment for offering health promotion programs because we have an opportunity to improve and save lives and we have a societal obligation to do so,” Alpert said.