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Entries in Nicki Anderson (9)


Weight loss, inviting environment among ways to get sedentary in club

Getting those who want to get in shape, or stay in shape, into your club has never been the problem. The population that is indeed difficult is the sedentary - those who prefer to sit on the couch or stay in bed.

This week's Best Practices has clubs in three different areas with representatives in varying capacities to answer the question of how to get the sedentary in the club.

 Q: What have you tried in order to attract sedentary people into your health club? What has worked, and what hasn't?

A: We attract sedentary people through our 6-week weight-loss courses, which are conducted in a group fitness setting. Individuals work out three times each week with their instructor, doing a variety of strength and endurance exercises. Fitness assessments are done at the beginning and end of each course, and each participant receives an email a few times a week with encouraging information on healthy living, fitness tips and low-calorie recipes. People need not be members to attend, but 75-80% of them join the club once our sales team contacts them with a special offer. We have found that people who have never before belonged to a health club are resistant to commit to a long-term membership. Through our 6-week program, they experience all the positive effects of regular exercise and learn how to change their lifestyles for the better.

Ágústa Johnson
Managing Director
Reykjavik Iceland


We provide a non-intimidating, inclusive environment. Many inactive clients visit clubs thinking that they need to get their “butts kicked” but walk away feeling defeated. Set this population up for success by offering classes and instruction that they are able to do while being appropriately challenged. Use instructors that are highly motivating, encourating and attentive. Check in with these clients at least once a month to make sure their needs are being met. Have an “ambassador” that works closely with this client base to increase retention. Offer “refresher” classes on how to use the equipment. Remember, the sedentary population is intimidated by health clubs. Therefore, create a marketing program that ties in to appropriate programming. This will ultimately bring you the population that we tend to unknowingly turn away.

Nicki Anderson
Reality Fitness, Inc.
Naperville, Illinois


A: Since we don't advertise or do direct mail - our tracking indicated they did not yield sufficient results - we attract sedentary people through word of mouth. Then, rather than take prospects on the proverbial tour of machines, we only take them to areas of the club that are their "hot spots.” This is determined by their completion of a personal assessment form when they first inquire about membership. Our staff is reminded to take new prospects on a D.A.T.E.:  "Please take a few moments to fill out this form so we can see what Discounts you are eligible for, what you'd like to Accomplish, take you on a Tour if you have time today, and we'll be sure to give you the most Economical price." Because the form allows us to see the prospect's hot spots, we only concentrate on these areas, and we avoid overwhelming them.

Wanda Neppell
The Weight Room Plus Wanda’s Workout
Moriches, New York


Make employees feel like part of the team to show their value

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.netIt goes without saying, a happy employee is a hard worker, more apt to stay on longer and is a proponent of the company.

Our experts this week are asked how they make employees feel valued. One way thay continually came up was make employees feel like an important part of the team by valuing their ideas, commending them for a job well done, and incorporating their suggestions.

Q: Besides paying them well, what do you do to make employees feel valued by your club?

To best answer this question, I interviewed four long-term employees who work in club sales, front desk and fitness. They agreed that they are valued and that it is the club's unique culture and community that play the greatest roles in their feelings of worth. It is interesting that members, rather than management, can provide the value. Feedback such as, "You are my role model" and "When you say it, I believe it" from members enhances employees' confidence and sense of value to the organization and community. From a management viewpoint, employees are encouraged to develop their own solutions to various problems, allowing them to feel autonomous and trusted. 

Alan Hanford
Penfield Fitness and Racquet Club
Rochester, N.Y.


For trainers/staff to be loyal, they need to feel valued, not just through compensation, but also:

1. Be open to their ideas. If you use one, show them how you implemented it.

2. Make them feel that they are part of something big. Look to them for solutions to problems.

3. Offer team-building. The closer they grow together, the more likely they are to stay and work harder.

4. Highlight your staff throughout the year to share their successes.

5. Tell them you appreciate them. This is easy to do, but easy to forget.

6. If you have opportunities for growth, mentor them so they feel they can grow with the company.

Nicki Anderson
Reality Fitness Personal Training Center
Naperville, Ill.


We want our employees to feel like they are each a valuable part of our team. We ask for their input on different issues, and we try to address any concerns they have in a fair and timely manner. Just like we all try to develop relationships with our members, we also want to have positive relationships with our staff.  It sounds simplistic, but a good way to encourage that is just by knowing all of their names. We have regular meetings with every department, as well as periodic off-site events and parties. Our goal is to maintain an environment of respect and professionalism for all staff, at every level.

Matthew Cofrancesco
Executive Director
Brooklyn Sports Club
Brooklyn, N.Y.


Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices. Check them out here.


What do you do to attract members to your club who feel self conscious while working out?  

Karen Jashinsky, Nicki Anderson and Phil Wendel discuss what do you do to attract members to your club who feel self conscious while working out in this week's Best Practices

Q: "How do health clubs handle obese members who feel self conscious while working out in public?  What do you do to attract these members to your club?”   

A: I think the key is to make the member feel comfortable and to recognize that it might not happen right away. The more information the club has before the customer shows up, the more they can help this potential member. We connect them with someone that makes them feel comfortable and also help them get started without feeling like they are being judged. To really make a lasting impact, it is important to get them started quickly but not put emphasis on getting a scale from the get go.  We work closely with our clients so they are comfortable with their workout building their confidence so they never feel self-conscious at the gym. We insure they understand the fundamentals of the program we create with them always reminding them their fitness goals are a process not perfection

Karen Jashinsky
O2 Max Fitness 

A: I have said for years that Health Clubs tend to turn away the exact people they need to attract. I believe that is why small boutique studios are doing well, they are attracting those that feel self-conscious in larger settings. I have a studio with all private rooms to accommodate those that have had a bad experience at a gym. This population needs to feel valued. In a larger setting, they tend to get lost and feel like a face in a crowd. I’m sure there are some clubs that “get it” but for the most part, larger health clubs are still falling short of creating programs that not only attract, but retain this population. New Year’s is a perfect opportunity to create a retention program for those hoping to actually stick with their resolutions. Imagine if larger facilities created a “Buddy system” or a mentoring program that could take these clients (who typically drop off in a month) and actually retain them. It is programming and customer service that’s seems to be lacking in some larger facilities.

Nicki Anderson, AFP, CPT
Reality Fitness


A: Let's begin with this premise:  65% of Americans are overweight and half of those, around 32% are obese.  If that type of individual wasn't welcomed, didn't feel comfortable, you would be virtually eliminating two-thirds of your potential market. 

Now some specifics:

  1. Hire some staff that look like 'overweight individuals'...they can be trainers, front desk people, salespeople, etc.
  2. Provide encouragement, especially from the Fitness Team....make sure you fitness team spends as much time with these individuals, if not more, than the already fit individuals that frequent your club

Summary:  if you truly want to grow your membership, make sure that your welcome mat is broader than those individuals that are already very fit! 

Phil Wendel
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers


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.


How Do You Solicit Feedback for Superior Customer Service?

Nicki Anderson and Christine Thalwitz discuss the importance of soliciting feedback from your members for superior customer service in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Knowing the importance of listening to your members, how do you solicit feedback to provide superior customer service?"

A: I think one of the biggest mistakes I see clubs make is not understanding the value of building relationships. Every service business talks about the value of building relationships, yet the health and fitness industry continues to fall short. If you have a strong relationship with your members, you’re more likely to hear if something isn’t going well. You’re also more likely to hear when things are going well. I always make an effort to talk to clients that work with other trainers and ask how they’re doing. I think that’s imperative. If you’re building relationships with your members, they are also far more likely to talk to you first, before just leaving your facility, why? Because within that relationship, you’ve also created loyalty, an invaluable asset. 

For a less personal way to get feedback or if you have a much larger facility, send an online survey with an incentive. However, I believe there is really nothing that beats face-to-face conversation. Managers, trainers, supervisors should all be trained on how to build relationships with the members. This will greatly reduce attrition and build loyalty.

Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT
Reality Fitness


A:  Customer-focused organizations have a well-designed strategy for gathering feedback on a regular basis. Make it easy and comfortable for your members and guests to share suggestions, praise or complaints in a variety of formats, including pen and paper, online, or face-to-face exchanges.

In order for clubs to have a complete picture of their members’ expectations and perceptions, it is important to reference several different sources of data: 

1) Customer-initiated communication. Open-ended, customer-driven systems, such as suggestion boxes, Q&A boards and “open door” policies, are valuable because they allow members to share their thoughts spontaneously, especially when there may be an acute need for company response. Furthermore, make it part of your company’s culture for team members to “own” any complaint they hear. Hopefully your team spends a large portion of the day engaged in conversation with your members. They may uncover frustrations or unfulfilled needs as they talk. This is an opportunity to make customer service magic! Give team members the latitude to solve problems without a lot of red tape. Their ability to respond promptly and personally to complaints makes it easier for them to provide superior service.

2)    Company-prompted contact. Focus groups, surveys and member advisory committees can yield tightly focused information to help companies make better strategic decisions. Here the company has the ability to limit the scope of feedback and to time the interaction in order to measure particular aspects of products or services. When collecting structured data, clubs need to ensure that results are not skewed by inadequate sample size or sampling bias. Unstructured data, though not necessarily reliable for making broad generalizations, can provide meaningful context to help make sense of quantitative data.

3)    Unarticulated feedback. Feedback is everywhere you look. Your members’ body language can tell you a lot about the experience they are having at your club. A warm greeting or a simple apology for an inconvenience may be all that is needed to smooth things over. You may, however, see bigger issues brewing, such as long shower lines or equipment shortages. Tracking club attendance, program participation and other ways that members “vote with their feet” is important, too.

4)    Conversation outside the club. Social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their opinions. Harness this incredible tool to your advantage! You can use social media to create positive momentum for your club, conduct market research and build stronger relationships with your members. In addition to creating your own presence online, monitor other channels your customers frequent. While you may occasionally encounter complaints, consider it an opportunity to demonstrate how responsive your company is to its members.  Responding positively and publicly to resolve a member complaint is a powerful display of your commitment to customer service.

Regardless of what methods you use to gather data, the most important thing to do is understand the results and act on them!

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


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.


How to Retain Clients When a Personal Trainer Leaves Your Club

Photo: hellojenuine.

Phil Kaplan, Mark Miller and Nicki Anderson discuss how to retain clients after a personal trainer quits or leaves your club in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "When a personal trainer quits or is fired, what's the best way to inform/approach their clients so they stay at our club rather than following the trainer to a new club?"

A: Well, the best way, is the way that prevents the “oops I wish we had done it differently” and that is to build a culture of community among the training staff.

Prior to employment, every new hire should sign a document that clearly spells out a no solicitation policy (you cannot solicit any members to train outside of the facility) and that document should also clearly explain the agreed upon policy related to client transfer upon trainer exit. However, or whenever a trainer leaves, it should be clear that the clients are clients of the business and not of that individual who worked as an employee.  

I’ve found the absolute best way to retain clients is to have the trainer, together with the fitness director, spend 5-10 minutes meeting with each client explaining that the trainer will be leaving and together they will make every effort to find another trainer who meets the client’s needs.  Under those circumstances the client is typically very open to the trainer recommendation.  

Ideally, if the trainer is concluding employment with two weeks notice, within those two weeks the sessions are either shared with the recommended trainer, or are handed off.  The key to making this work is a sense of team and a strong fitness director who is empathetic and a strong communicator. The client need not feel pressured, but should be led to trust that the same caliber of service will be maintained, even after the familiar trainer exits.

With that said, if a trainer leaves in anger, there often is an attempt to take the clients and the reality is legal action is often more costly than it’s worth.  I’ve found it valuable to identify the point where a trainer is going rogue and immediately terminate his or her employ.  The fitness director would then contact every client and invite him (or her) in for a comp consultation session to determine what trainer would be best to take over the client program. 

There are those clients who will leave the facility out of loyalty to a trainer (even without blatant solicitation), but if all else is handled professionally, the number of clients who leave should be insignificant.

It’s a great question and there really is not a “best way” to handle it after the fact as much as there is a “best way” to prepare for it.

Phil Kaplan, Founder
Be Better Solutions, Inc

A: The best approach is to make it clear upfront that clients are members of the club and not owned by the trainers. Periodically have other trainers train clients and personal training managers should have relationships with all clients so there is a rapport built.

In the event that trainers leave, it is best that the manager who has the relationship and rapport with the client to schedule the next workout, meet with the client, do a reassessment, temperature check on where their head is and facilitate a two-session transfer program to another trainer or two.

Usually I find it best if the client experiences two trainers and can make the decision so they are part of the solution. The key at the end is to not really ask if they want to continue it is to assume that they are staying and just moving to the next phase of their program advancement. They are the clubs client and the club will ensure their success.

Mark Miller, Vice President 
Merritt Athletic Club

A: If a trainer quits, clients will usually take it a little easier.
If the trainer is fired, it becomes a very sensitive issue because clients can take it personally - “How could you fire my friend?” 

I will typically call them as soon as the trainer leaves and let them know that so-and-so will be leaving. I try to set up a consultation with them so that I can reconnect and then place them with another trainer. If a trainer has two weeks before leaving, I will do the same thing: call the client, share the fact that their trainer is leaving the company but I would like to meet them. Setting up an appointment with them shows them that you care about their success.

Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT, President
Reality Fitness


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.


Personal Training Conversion Rates

Jen Poljacik and Nicki Anderson discuss the characteristics and conversion rates for personal training in the top performing health clubs:

Q: “For a high-end, training-emphasized fitness center, what would be a conservative estimate of percentage of members who could be expected to sign-up for personal training (PT) each month?”

A: Five to ten percent of your existing members engaging in PT in a conservative estimate. I know this is much higher than what the industry standards are estimating currently. This percentage only applies to a high end club with an emphasis on PT.

On the other hand, an established club that is dedicated to their PT operating sales systems (for example, Pro-Fitness Program) to drive PT could estimate 15-20% of your existing members engaging in PT. Again, I base this on my personal experience of what I have witnessed in the industry and the many clubs I have been in contact with. At the River Valley Club, we use the Pro-Fitness Program and have a 25% penetration rate on members engaging in PT. We have been in business for twelve years and have been dedicated to making this happen for the last ten years.

Our members count on us to educate, motivate and guide them to their best physical fitness. The only way I know how to achieve this is by getting them involved in PT. I firmly believe it is our moral obligation to sell them solutions to their fitness problems.

Ms. Jen Poljacik, Executive Director
River Valley Club

A: The percentage of members who will enroll in PT depends on how well you know your members and how strong your marketing strategy is. If they’re all coming to your facility because the facility is high-end, many are probably independently fit. By that I mean, your members likely have a high Exercise Intelligence (EI) which means they don’t typically use a trainer because they feel they know all they need to stay fit.

However, even if they are EI, you can market your PT services so they becomes less of an option and more of a necessity. For example, if you’ve got a lot of runners as members, market to your members by sharing the benefits they’d receive from working with a trainer, like increased speed and time or fewer injuries. For your golfers, promote taking strokes off their game while enhancing endurance. Offer a complimentary session. Better yet, host an event in which your trainers discuss the benefits of hiring a trainer for various activities.

You have to know your members and what they need instead of what they think they want. Then and only then will you be able to turn members in to PT clients.

Ms. Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT, President
Reality Fitness


Trainers Getting too Personal?

Dr. Haley Perlus, Nicki Anderson and Darren Jacobson discuss where to draw the line when it comes to personal trainer/client relationships:

Q: “What are the guidelines/best practices policies, if any, to give newly hired personal trainers so they understand the boundaries they must establish between themselves and their clients? I am particularly interested in professionalism and separation of work and personal lives of their clients.”

Personal training places participants in an intimate zone of physical proximity usually reserved for close family and friends.
A: The best practice for your new personal trainers is to keep communication contained within the boundaries of health and fitness. The purpose for this is twofold: (1) to prevent unnecessary ethical issues and (2) to build effective rapport.

(1) Prevent ethics issues: Personal training places participants in an intimate zone of physical proximity usually reserved for close family and friends. Often, personal trainers and clients get too comfortable in this zone and begin to discuss intimate details of their lives. Ultimately, someone can cross the line and create an uncomfortable environment that forces either party to terminate the working relationship.

(2) Build effective rapport: From a Peak Results standpoint, the purpose of building rapport with a new client is to help the client to feel that he/she belongs in the club’s community. When new personal trainers keep communication within the boundaries of health and fitness, the following is achieved: (1) the personal trainer remains the professional expert throughout the session and the duration of the program, (2) the client develops trust in the trainer’s ability and desire to help him/her achieve fitness-related results and (3) the focus of both parties is centered around the client’s training program. Consequently, the client exerts more effort in training, achieves positive results, has a rewarding experience and comes back for more. Now that’s rapport!

Dr. Haley Perlus, Peak Performance Consultant

The minute you blur the lines between business and friendship, is the minute your credibility is questioned.
A: I believe that professional client interaction, communication and service are paramount when training new staff. I have an entire portion of my personal training manual dedicated to customer service, ethical practices and proper communication. I truly believe that you can have the most beautiful gym, studio or club, but if you don’t have a staff that delivers professional service and polished social interaction, you will not be as successful as you could be. That should be part of every managers training protocol.

As for the separation of work and personal, here is what I share with my potential trainers. “The minute you blur the lines between business and friendship, is the minute your credibility is questioned. Sure, there are some great friendships that can come from training clients, but there are more disasters that have been the result of those relationships. In 25 years, I have never become “friends” with a client beyond professional. If I did, it was after they were no longer a client.” It’s the best way to keep business professional and a trainer successful and credible.

Ms. Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT, President
Reality Fitness

A: There are a number of organizations that have stipulated guidelines for Scope of Practice and professional and ethical behavior. One that I have adopted and implemented across our base of trainers is the IDEA code of ethics, you can find this on the IDEA site at It is vital to highlight the importance of a solid reference check prior to taking on your potential trainer. This "gatekeeper" attitude has saved us many headaches later in the process, when the true colors of your rouge trainer may come through. I have always maintained that if you hire the right trainers, then you as the manager/owner can sit back safe in the knowledge that your members will benefit from your new recruit. The days of hiring on physique or interviewing on personality only are over. By taking seriously this gatekeeper role, you dig deep to ask the pertinent questions, such as business motivation, dealing with financial pressures and the ability to engage strangers. This is then followed by an engaging personality and a member-centric attitude. Once you have gone through this process and recruited correctly, the code of ethics and other professional standards are a given.

Darren Jacobson, Head of Fitness and Product
Virgin Active South Africa

Personal Training and Retention

Laurie Cingle and Nicki Anderson discuss the relationship between personal training and retention:

Q: “Are there statistics on the retention of club members who do personal training? i.e. if a member does personal training how much more likely are they to commit to training vs. signing up for a membership and not attending the gym after a few months.”

A: Retention is a consequence of usage. People who use the club consistently are more likely to stay a member. People who sign up for personal training and attend consistently are more likely to continue with training. Usage is the key.

From my own experience, I have found the following:

As long as the client is engaged with the trainer and/or other group training members, they will continue.
  • People who invest in shorter-term one-on-one personal training packages (up to 3 months) have a 95% retention rate in the program.
  • People who invest in longer-term one-on-one training packages (one year) have lower retention in the program.
  • Higher pricing on training sessions sees higher retention than lower price sessions irregardless of length of package.
  • Clients who participate in group personal training see higher retention than one-on-one clients because of the member-to-member relationships that are built.
As long as the client is engaged with the trainer and/or other group training members, they will continue. Reasons for stopping training include not seeing results, injury, trainer incompetence, lack of relationship with trainer, perception of trainer not caring, trainer leaving club, placing low importance on the value of the investment.

Regarding club membership retention, IHRSA data show that 42% of club members attend their clubs less than 50 days per year. As of January 2010, IHRSA reports the average annual rate of member retention for IHRSA clubs is 75%.

Laurie Cingle, MEd, President
Laurie Cingle Consulting and Coaching

A: It’s important to remember that a successful business is possible through the building of solid relationships. Therefore, if clubs have solid trainers (with a solid staff training protocol) on staff and a great program which exposes both seasoned and unseasoned clients to their trainers, my hunch is that retention would be much greater.

We know that results create a satisfied customer which again, increases retention. Remember, trainers are a source of accountability, so in addition to the accountability factor, there is the relationship factor. Put them together and you’ve got a loyal client.

Also, those that work with trainers typically work harder which translates to results. We know that results create a satisfied customer which again, increases retention. Bottom line, solid personal training likely plays a role in retention.

Ms. Nicki Anderson AFP, CPT, President
Reality Fitness


How to Price a Personal Training Business

Q: “I have been running my own personal training business for over a decade with many long-time, loyal clients. I am planning on moving out of the country soon and am considering selling my business. How can I price a business like this?" – Derek

A: The net worth of your business is equal to the net revenue generated from personal training sessions during the previous year.

It goes without saying that your marketing, wage, payroll and operating expenses have been subtracted from the gross procured to get to your net. Many will negotiate a price using numbers that reflect the expected net for 1+ 1/2 years rather than the year’s actual net, when business is as well established as yours, when the business has a branded program option attached, or when the business has a history of high renewal or resign.

Most believe that these figures can be seen as fictitious, though, and can often lead to concerns with breach of contract. Experts will recommend that a buyer sign an open ended contract so it is best not to address estimated numbers during the sales process.

Studies have shown that new owners may be in need of using your services as a consultant when buying. Establishing this relationship at the point of sales is often recommended.

Ann Gilbert, Reg. Dir. of P.T. & Operations
Shapes Total Fitness for Women


A: You may want to rethink simply selling your business. If you have a great accountant or business lawyer, talk to them about the advantages of keeping your business and/or perhaps partnering with someone. If it’s a thriving business, you could still bring in income as a “silent” partner.

Next, consider the following:

Are you the business? In other words, if you’ve built your business by branding yourself and your image as the business, someone may view that as a negative once you’re gone, (thus the advantage of keeping some ownership or all of it and having someone run it). It makes a business tougher to sell.

Take a look at the market demand and perhaps research what similar businesses are selling for in your area. This is something that again, your business expert can help you with.

There are dozens of areas to cover when it comes to selling a business. So my first suggestion is to connect with a solid business resource as I mentioned above, i.e., Accountant or business attorney. They will be able to walk you through the steps and give you an idea on what your business is worth, thus allowing you to make a more educated, profitable decision.

Nicki Anderson, President
Reality Fitness, Inc.