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Entries in Richard Synnott (7)

Monday
Jul182011

How to Retain Your Club's Core Staff Members

Photo: hellojenuine.Richard Synnott discusses how to retain your core employees in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "As the job market picks up we're seeing a few employees leave our club for other opportunities. We understand that employees will leave, but as a full-service club we want to maximize our employee retention. How can we keep our core employees happy without breaking the bank?" 

A: We know that money is not the number one motivator for most people. However, if you’re staff have seen an erosion of their real income, this will be an issue in retention the needs to get resolved and is too lengthy to respond to in this forum.

Let’s talk about your managers. People leave managers and supervisors more than they leave companies so ensuring that your management team is doing the right things to keep your people happy is fundamentally important. We do 360 reviews on all of our managers twice a year. The employees do a candid review to rate their boss on 20 critical areas. On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being excellent, we have serious issues with a manager whose staff rates him/her below a 4.5 and will create an action plan to bring those ratings up.

Other things managers should do include:

  • setting clear performance expectations that don’t change capriciously as this is a major cause of stress;
  • establishing clear pathways to increase earning potential for their people;
  • providing frequent feedback on performance; 
  • providing an environment that encourages feedback and solicitation of ideas; and 
  • give workers an opportunity to use their talents and skills to contribute to other departments to keep their job fresh and interesting.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

Monday
May162011

How to Respond When Your Club is Affected By A Natural Disaster

Richard Beddie, Robert Kuchefski and Rich Synnott discuss how to deal with a natural disaster in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "With natural disasters occurring around the world in Japan, New Zealand and, most recently, the American South, what steps should a health club that's been affected by such a disaster take to begin the recovery process?"

A: Responding to a national disaster is all about prioritization. The extent of the damage to both the club and the regions infrastructure will determine what these priorities are. You may have to go through a simple clean up or find new premises.

One thing that should be at the top of the list in all circumstances is staff. Make sure that they feel safe and their home life is as secure as possible. Not only will every staff member's situation be different (some may be relatively unaffected, others may have lost their homes, or loved ones), but how they react to this will vary considerably. We all know how home life issues can distract people at work, and a natural disaster is an extreme case of this. Until people feel safe in their home life, their ability to constructively add value to any recovery process of a club is hindered, and the workplace may be one of the few places where any scene of normality takes place for some months.

Another important consideration is preparing for an insurance claim. Before starting any remedial work, photos should be taken and as much evidence recorded to support any insurance claim. For business more significantly affected, a loss of business, or business interruption claim may also need to be prepared, and this will often require substantial financial calculations to be made before a claim can be. Of course this assumes that the club has the correct type and level insurance - and it is a timely reminder to all to ensure that the club is insured for not only the likely, but the unlikely, and potentially catastrophic events. (After all until 2010 everyone knew that Christchurch was not on a fault line, and did not have large earthquakes. Oh how wrong we all were!)

Most clubs insure physical assets well, but many do not fully insure business interruption and more significantly, depopulation insurance (the terms used in different countries may vary - but any insurance broker should know these terms) - and unfortunately it's too late once the disaster strikes.

Richard Beddie, Chief Executive
Fitness New Zealand
richard@fitnessnz.co.nz

A: From an insurance standpoint, be sure your facility is covered for disasters, before they strike.

If your club is in a flood zone, you will need to secure flood insurance. If your club is not in a flood zone you still have the ability to purchase flood insurance through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program). If your club is in an earthquake zone, you will want earthquake coverage. For wind damage caused by storms or tornadoes, ensure that your existing property and casualty insurance provides wind and hail coverage.

Property insurance covers building repair or replacement when damage is caused by the stated covered causes of loss. If your building is badly damaged or destroyed, it can take months to get running again. So be sure to secure business interruption insurance to pay your ongoing expenses while you get your business back on track.

Another disaster planning coverage is contingent business income coverage. This covers you for business income loss caused by the inability of a service you depend on to provide such service, such as a local power or water supply company.

Be sure that all your insurance is with an A+ rated company with the resources to actually pay your claim. There have been instances where lower-rated companies have been so burdened by claims that their ability to pay claims is jeopardized. This is not the case with an A+ rated company. It has the resources necessary to pay all claims.

Robert Kuchefski 
Hoffman Insurance Services
rkuchefski@hoffmaninsurance.com

A: The best way to emerge from a disaster is to prepare ahead of time. All membership and accounting data should be backed up at an off-site, secure location; you should have an up-to-date list of all your FFE items, especially fitness equipment (photos or videos are helpful); have an email data-base for your entire membership; assure adequate insurance to cover loss of income while you are rebuilding; have a Facebook Fans page, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. After a disaster, communication with your staff, members and the community is critical. Use email, phone chains, your social networking and local media to frequently update your plans.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

###

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.

Monday
Apr112011

How to Incentivize Personal Trainers: Hint, It's Not Always Money

Dr. Haley Perlus, Richard Synnott and Michele Melkerson-Granryd discuss creating incentives for personal trainers in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Our trainers' performance is lagging and we think it may have something to do with our incentive scheme (hourly pay plus incentives for training sessions). What are some other effective incentive schemes that might get this group motivated again?"

A: Although we would like to think that ‘pay per performance’ is enough incentive to increase work output from our trainers, monetary rewards are often not enough to spark the fire. I recommend experimenting with the following three methods often used to motivate employees:

  1. Public disclosure. Friendly competition is a powerful mechanism to increase productivity. Place a white board in the trainer’s quarters that keep track of each trainer’s responsibilities and individual progress (e.g. number of new members he/she signs each week). At first you may encounter some resistance, but public disclosure will increase the probability of goal achievement. 
  2. Autonomy. Allow your trainers to feel a sense of control and determine their own course of behavior. Your trainers need to have ownership and feel they have a say in decisions affecting their involvement. Otherwise, they feel pressured or obligated to act. Allowing them to choose from a group of tasks and then selecting from a group of rewards they can receive once they complete the task will foster high autonomy. High autonomy encourages wanting to participate, whereas low autonomy means having to participate. 
  3. Develop competence and success in your trainers. Individuals who doubt their ability to perform are called failure avoiders. Rather than striving to demonstrate success, they focus on avoiding failure because they doubt they can compare well with others. Be sure to highlight your trainers’ strengths, provide positive constructive feedback, and always give them tasks they perceive are within their capabilities.  

Dr. Haley Perlus, Peak Performance Consultant
haley@drhaleyperlus.com
www.drhaleyperlus.com

A: Conventional wisdom often centers on monetary “schemes” as a motivating force. Money, itself, does little to sustain motivation in the long term. If you read enough about motivation it’s about recognition, feelings of accomplishment, approval, camaraderie, and pride. Exceptional leaders know that. You need to re-commit to your core vision of why your club exists and why your trainers do what they do. It has to be about the results the members get, and helping people live a longer, healthier life. So here are the practical ways to start: 

  • Make sure you have a leader who can establish the mission and vales system for the PT team
  • Have a staff retreat to share that vision. Recognize the people who already embrace that vision.
  • Ask the top two trainers to be mentors for others
  • One of the measurements of success is that more people will train so the revenue will go up. Establish a team financial goal, with incentives
  • Find out what motivates each trainer to do what they do, and where they want to be in the long run and show them how they can get there
  • Meet frequently
  • Make them accountable for selling and retention
  • Take quick action to terminate anyone who is not performing 

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

A: Here are some suggestions:

  1. Run a competition such as a weight loss challenge – the trainers can train teams of small groups (4-8 people) over a designated period of time, for example eight weeks.  The team that loses the most weight wins a prize (for example 6 months membership) the winning trainer wins a cash prize (eg $500). 
  2. Have your trainers teach group ex – something they have a passion for so that they have exposure to a wider group of members.
  3. If incentives aren’t working – maybe the trainers don’t have the opportunities to promote themselves – do you offer discounted initial package to new members? (3 sessions for $99)  These introductory packages allow the new member to try out a trainer – the trainer has three session to prove their value

Michele Melkerson-Granryd, M.Ed., Executive Director
Texas Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association
michele_m@bodybusiness.com
www.bodybusiness.com

Monday
Oct042010

Vacation, Sick Leave and Personal Days

Bill McBride, Richard Synott, and Keith Callahan discuss vacation, sick leave, and personal days:

Q: “Sick time, personal time and vacation... What are the general standard for a privately held club?”

A: Typically a private club will either start with 1-2 weeks of PTO (Paid Time Off) accruing either at start date of employment or beginning 90 days later when employees are eligible for benefits. Most club companies allow for up to 3 weeks at some point. After 1,2 or 3 years you accrue at a 3 weeks per year level. Typically, you have one year from the accrued time to use it or you lose it, thereby limiting the total liability to 3-6 weeks. Sick time is sometimes set at 5 days per year or just lumped in to the vacation/sick time/personal time off total. Holiday pay is usually set at “take another day off” if you work a holiday (salaried) or time and half for hourly.

It is best to consult a labor attorney when setting benefits to make sure you comply with all local, state and federal labor laws.

Bill McBride, Chief Operating Officer
Club One, Inc.
bill.mcbride@clubone.com
www.clubone.com

A: Because we have such a large staff we do not calculate time off based on each employee’s start date. We roll sick time, vacation, and bereavement time into one package of Personal Time Off (PTO). All PTO is based on a calendar year that begins Jan 1 and ends Dec 31. Employees in the first 12 months of employment earn .8333 days per month (equivalent to 10 days). Starting the 13th through the 36th month of employment they earn 1.25 days per month (15 days per year). From the 37th month up they earn 1.666 days per month (20 days). PTO cannot be accumulated from year to year. If unused after Jan 30 it is lost. So we give them an extra month to use it up. Employees can take PTO before it has been earned and we will adjust their final check if they don’t accumulate enough time.

If you start work on March 1 and wish to take 5 days of PTO for a vacation in July, they may do so. They will have earned 3.33 days for March-June (4 months X .8333). If they were to leave our employ after their vacation we would deduct the 1.67 days from their final check. If they quit in November and have not taken any other PTO we would owe them for the unused time they didn’t take, 4.166 days (11 months X .8333, less the 5 they took). Employees who are not on salary, such as commissions or who work hourly, are paid the amount that they have averaged in the 10 weeks prior to taking their time off.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

A: I don’t think there are any “standards” for a privately held health club. Keep in mind the following as you build your policy: You cannot discriminate between employees of the same “class”. However, you can offer different amounts of time off for different classes of employees: FT exempt versus FT management versus nonexempt employees.

Consider combining ALL time off to “Paid Time Off”, or PTO. Employees can earn PTO based on an hours worked formula at a rate dependent on their class. For example, 30 total PTO days for an FT Exempt Manager or Department Head. PTO would be requested for holidays, vacations, sick time, etc. The PTO model is more common in the retail industry, which is similar to our industry as we tend to operate 7 days/week.

I have commonly seen: 7 Holidays paid, 3 to 7 sick days, and 5 to 25 vacation days – all dependant on how long an employee has been with the company – as well as if they are a manager or not. What you are challenged to do is to offer enough PTO – in whatever form it takes, to both satisfy your employees and make your organization an attractive place of employment but kept at your least expense.

Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club
kcallahan@blueskycorp.com

 

Monday
Aug302010

Pay Structure

Keith Callahan, Richard Synnott and Brad Wilkins discuss the industry standard when it comes to providing health care for employees:

Q: “What is the industry standard when it comes to paying employees health insurance?”

A: Check two things:

  1. What does your state require you to do? Fortunately, most do not have any minimum employer contribution requirements.
  2. What does your insurance company require for a minimum employer contribution? Most insurance companies request/require employers to contribute at least 50% of the cost.

It is realistic to expect your company to pay 55% to 75% of the health insurance coverage. The more you contribute, the greater your direct cost – and the more likely you are to have your employees add their spouses. It is common in many companies to have a spousal penalty cost to encourage couples to separate their insurance and purchase directly from their own employer when possible. If the spouse is not employed, the penalty does not apply.

As an option, consider moving to a high deductible plan and creating a Heath Reimbursement Account, which the company would contribute anything up to 100% toward the high deductibles. You can often find that the premium savings outweigh the cost of paying your employees deductibles.

You will need a third party to administer this HRA program for you due to HIPPA rules. And finally, hire a broker and have them shop three or four carriers to get a reasonably competitive cost.

Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club
kcallahan@blueskycorp.com

A: I don’t know if there is a “standard” across the board.

10-12 years ago we paid 100% medical insurance for our managers and 50% for all other employees who work full time. As the Massachusetts and federal laws have changed, and insurance has gone up with double-digit increases, we have had to adapt. We currently pay about 35%. Some of this has been due to the Mass law that makes it mandatory for everyone to have insurance. Most of the costs for this have been passed to the small businesses.

We would have had a 34% increase in our premium this past year, so we had to drop down to a more basic plan. It’s the 3rd year in a row that we have had to reduce benefits and pass some of the costs on to the employees.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

A: The first thing to realize is the complexity of our industry. We have for-profit businesses, non-profit businesses, publicly traded companies, “mom-and-pop shops”, and hospital based businesses just to name a few.

The second thing to realize is that in the United States, the Department of Labor (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos296.htm) estimates that there are approximately 265,000 fitness professionals working in the industry; and of this group about half are either part-time employees or contract labor.

I mention these two things to show the dynamics of our employers; because the answer to your question depends on what sector of the industry you work, and how the employer-employee relationship is defined (1099/contract vs. W-2). Thus, I must answer your question carefully and to highlight the fact that the below information are industry averages as we see them and would be highly sensitive to industry specifics:

  1. Employee coverage: employers typically cover between 70% - 90% of the single coverage when the employee is a full time W-2 employee
  2. Family coverage: the vast majority of employers offer family coverage to employees, but sometimes at a more substantial cost than single employee coverage. Employer averages are roughly 20% - 40% of dependant/family coverage for full time W-2 employees
  3. Overall, the employee can expect to have health care coverage offered through their employer, provided that they are full time and employed as a W-2 employee. The cost and substance of the health coverage, however, will vary significantly depending on industry, employer size and state insurance regulations.

Lastly, it is important mention, with the current administration in place and healthcare reform on the way, healthcare as we know it is probably going to change.

Brad Wilkins, Vice President & General Mgr.
Cooper Fitness Center
bwilkins@cooperfitnesscenter.com
www.cooperfitnesscenter.com

Monday
Aug092010

Employee Benefits

Q: “What is the industry standard when it comes to paying employees health insurance?”

A: Check two things:

  1. What does your state require you to do? Fortunately, most do not have any minimum employer contribution requirements.
  2. What does your insurance company require for a minimum employer contribution? Most insurance companies request/require employers to contribute at least 50% of the cost.

It is realistic to expect your company to pay 55% to 75% of the health insurance coverage. The more you contribute, the greater your direct cost – and the more likely you are to have your employees add their spouses. It is common in many companies to have a spousal penalty cost to encourage couples to separate their insurance and purchase directly from their own employer when possible. If the spouse is not employed, the penalty does not apply.

As an option, consider moving to a high deductible plan and creating a Heath Reimbursement Account, which the company would contribute anything up to 100% toward the high deductibles. You can often find that the premium savings outweigh the cost of paying your employees deductibles.

You will need a third party to administer this HRA program for you due to HIPPA rules. And finally, hire a broker and have them shop three or four carriers to get a reasonably competitive cost.

Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club
kcallahan@blueskycorp.com

A: I don’t know if there is a “standard” across the board.

10-12 years ago we paid 100% medical insurance for our managers and 50% for all other employees who work full time. As the Massachusetts and federal laws have changed, and insurance has gone up with double-digit increases, we have had to adapt. We currently pay about 35%. Some of this has been due to the Mass law that makes it mandatory for everyone to have insurance. Most of the costs for this have been passed to the small businesses.

We would have had a 34% increase in our premium this past year, so we had to drop down to a more basic plan. It’s the 3rd year in a row that we have had to reduce benefits and pass some of the costs on to the employees.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

A: The first thing to realize is the complexity of our industry. We have for-profit businesses, non-profit businesses, publicly traded companies, “mom-and-pop shops”, and hospital based businesses just to name a few.

The second thing to realize is that in the United States, the Department of Labor (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos296.htm) estimates that there are approximately 265,000 fitness professionals working in the industry; and of this group about half are either part-time employees or contract labor.

I mention these two things to show the dynamics of our employers; because the answer to your question depends on what sector of the industry you work, and how the employer-employee relationship is defined (1099/contract vs. W-2). Thus, I must answer your question carefully and to highlight the fact that the below information are industry averages as we see them and would be highly sensitive to industry specifics:

  1. Employee coverage: employers typically cover between 70% - 90% of the single coverage when the employee is a full time W-2 employee
  2. Family coverage: the vast majority of employers offer family coverage to employees, but sometimes at a more substantial cost than single employee coverage. Employer averages are roughly 20% - 40% of dependant/family coverage for full time W-2 employees
  3. Overall, the employee can expect to have health care coverage offered through their employer, provided that they are full time and employed as a W-2 employee. The cost and substance of the health coverage, however, will vary significantly depending on industry, employer size and state insurance regulations.

Lastly, it is important mention, with the current administration in place and healthcare reform on the way, healthcare as we know it is probably going to change.

Brad Wilkins, Vice President & General Mgr.
Cooper Fitness Center
bwilkins@cooperfitnesscenter.com
www.cooperfitnesscenter.com

Monday
Apr052010

Unauthorized Training Sessions

Richard Synnott, Keith Callahan, and Linda Mitchell discuss whether or not to pay trainers for unauthorized training sessions:

Q: “Do you need to pay your client based hourly employee their rate of pay if they perform a unauthorized session? I.E. a personal trainer conducts a session without getting authorization and/or making sure that the gym member has in fact purchased a session. Is the trainer entitled to be paid for that session?”

A: The safe/simple answer is yes, pay the worker. Then you issue a written reprimand to the employee to prevent it from happening again and make sure he/she signs it.

...I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator.

Employment laws vary from state to state, but if the worker chose to file a complaint about it I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator. The federal Portal-to-Portal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. 251) states that workers must be paid for any of their time that you control and that benefits your business. A labor investigator would probably interpret that the person did the work and it benefited your business, even if you did not authorize it.

In general, if an employee works, they must be paid. Your recourse is to discipline the employee.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club
ed@weymouthclub.com
www.weymouthclub.com

A: The answer may be yes or no – and it may depend on the state in which you reside. I’d be sure to call my State Department of Labor and run the scenario by them to get an opinion. However, remember that they will almost always ere on the side of the employee.

You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy.

Second consideration – is this a one time event and the first time or is it chronic. If it is the first time, I’d pay the employee and then ensure they understand the company policy and procedure – and have them acknowledge same in writing by signing a memo from the Club Manager/Owner. You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy. If they are a repeat offender, I would then write a second memo of warning and not pay them. The message will be clear. However, if they raise the issue to the Dept of Labor, be prepared to defend your decision and having the paperwork backup would be key.

Keith Callahan, G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club
kcallahan@blueskycorp.com

A: In our organization a trainer does not get paid for training unless the client has already paid. If a trainer gives a training session on the “assumption” that payment has already been received, then payment to the trainer is withheld until payment is received from the client. If a trainer receives an hourly rate for being on the floor, then they forfeit that rate as they were not available to the floor at that time. Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

The best way to avoid this issue is to require that the client present a receipt of payment already made before receiving training. In this way the trainer does not assume the uncomfortable position of having to deny training when a client is expressing interest and the “promise” to pay at a later time. All of this can easily be spelled out in the marketing materials and/or the personal training contract so that there is no confusion.

Linda Mitchell, Director of Marketing and PR
Newtown Athletic Club
linda@newtownathletic.com
www.newtownathletic.com