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Entries in Shannon Fable (6)

Monday
Oct032011

A Great Team is a Health Club’s Dream

By Shannon Fable

While Teamwork seems like a passé notion, creating an environment where every employee strives to take care of each other for the good of the company can prove priceless. Many clubs function quite well on the surface and consider this teamwork: shifts are covered, the facility is clean, classes run, and personal training sessions are purchased. But, if you pull back the covers – this is merely COOPERATION. Teamwork is something completely different.

“Teamwork involves getting the right people on the bus, seated in the right seats, and heading in the right direction – towards a common goal”(Good To Great, by Jim Collins … a must read). When a group is led this way, they begin to view their co-workers as their number one customers. And, when employees are taken care of, your customers are taken care of better. Now isn’t that worth taking some time to investigate?

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Does your team KNOW the mission and vision of our facility?
  • Does EVERY team member (regardless of how part-time) know how their role intersects with the mission and vision? In other words, do they know their significance?
  • Do you have a method for tracking teamwork each and every day? Do you reward those who excel? Do you set expectations for all?

If you answered NO to even one of these questions, it may be time to sit down and develop a teamwork strategy. Yes, it will take some time to establish the framework, implement it, and reap the rewards. But, it will be well worth your time.

Use the word TEAM to help you develop your plan:

T – Team

Begin by reviewing what TEAM means: research it, read about it, and get real about it! Observe what’s going on at the club and how you’d like to see things change to take your company to the next level.

E – Empower

Make sure your department heads are on board once you have it all figured out! Creating a team, or restructuring an existing one, starts with this group. Each department head should be responsible for fully explaining and managing teamwork expectations within his/her department, but the GM or Owner should weigh in on the progress from time to time. Regularly observe the teamwork in action and offer constructive feedback to keep all team members on board.

A – Assimilate

Conflict is when expectations don’t meet reality. To avoid this common pitfall: part of your recruiting process should focus on the purpose, mission, and vision of the facility. Make sure every potential employee knows the value you place on teamwork and the consequences for not ‘playing nicely with others.’

M – Mentor

Begin by hiring for attitude and training for skill. Sometimes your best employees are not your most skilled … initially; but they’re willing to do anything you ask if they come with the right mindset. Choose role models and mentors in the TEAM arena and highlight their efforts consistently.

Teamwork is essential to providing the best customer experience possible. Get started today! 

Shannon Fable is a 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year & 2009 Top 3 Finalist for IDEA Instructor of the Yearis the founder and CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources and the owner of Balletone.  Shannon is an international presenter, program developer and Master Trainer for several well known companies including the Schwinn Fitness, ACE, BOSU, and Power Systems. Additionally, Fable consults for fitness professionals on a wide variety of subjects covering career development in the fitness industry. 

Thursday
Jul072011

Continuing Education Incentives

By Shannon Fable

Shannon Fable, Fitness Industry ConsultantContinuing education is an absolute necessity for fitness professionals. It’s quite possible what was recommended last year could now be considered unsafe or ineffective in the fitness world. Unfortunately, many fitness professionals may not be getting enough updated quality education to continue to safely and effectively help a wide variety of clients. But, the reasons that education is falling by the way side may be easy to fix!

Cost

Even though the cost of some fitness conventions has come down over the past years and accessibility to affordable live events has increased, the earning potential of a group fitness instructor has not changed all that much. According to ACE’s 2010 Salary Survey Results, the average GX Instructor receives between $23.50 and $24.49 an hour while Personal Trainers are right around $25/hour.

At this rate, taking time off to attend continuing education (usually scheduled for the weekend, which could be a lucrative time for some), is challenging. Add on the price of the event, and it can take some instructors months to dig out of the hole. And, when you factor in that with increased level of education, pay rates only increases by about $3/hr for instructors and $6/hr for PT, in most cases, there is not a huge incentive to continue your education.

Many fitness pros try to save by banking up for ONE big event every two years to satisfy their CEC requirements. Clubs could help by incentivizing continuing education attendance on a more regular basis, helping offset costs or hosting more events to cut down on expense.

Content

It’s hard to justify juggling the expense of attending continuing ed if you’re not sure you’re going to like what you buy. Conferences are shifting to more ‘sponsored’ sessions that could potentially be a ‘teaser’ for the education that comes with the new product or new training program. Of course, not ALL sponsored sessions take this approach and there are reputable companies that ensure attendees walk away with valuable information regardless if they ‘buy into’ what they’re selling. But, it’s hard to tell from reading a brochure what you might get when you arrive. It only takes one bad experience for a fitness pro to say “sayonara” to attending live continuing ed.

Virtual learning is becoming a big hit as it can be done in the privacy of your own home. While this is a great option to hone your skills on a more frequent basis, nothing compares to hands on experience every once and a while.  Explore magazine articles, online CEC quizzes, and webinars to stay fresh with your knowledge.

Clubs can help by bringing workshops to their facility where they choose content based on products and programs already offered. As well, managers can scout content at shows and events, then bring the information HOME to their staff in informal meetings.

Clubs, managers, and instructors should work together to find solutions to obtaining continuing education on a more regular basis. Think outside the box on how to get education and set the bar high for yourself and your team.

Shannon Fable is a 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year & 2009 Top 3 Finalist for IDEA Instructor of the Yearis the founder and CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources and the owner of Balletone.  Shannon is an international presenter, program developer and Master Trainer for several well known companies including the Schwinn Fitness, ACE, BOSU, and Power Systems. Additionally, Fable consults for fitness professionals on a wide variety of subjects covering career development in the fitness industry. 

Thursday
May052011

Money Management 101

By Shannon Fable

Oftentimes, club employees rise through the ranks and become responsible for areas where they’ve succeeded on the front lines, but might possess little training for what happens behind the scenes. Star trainers and instructors may excel with members, but the financial concepts necessary to run a department effectively might be all new. It’s important to acknowledge the business side of your new post and find resources to help you. With some guidance, you’ll learn what’s expected to run a department that will positively contribute to the club as a whole.
 
The group exercise department has a direct line to dues, whether you see it clearly or not. This requires a bit of a mindset change. While every club differs in their expectations of what group fitness contributes, providing cutting edge equipment and programs while controlling payroll is quite a balance.  Here are a few tips that can help you.
 
There are three areas to consider when working on a fitness budget: analysis, development, and management.
 
Analysis

The most critical step involves understanding the big picture. How is the club doing financially? How many members do you have? What’s the projected growth, earning and spending trends? Understanding the overall club budget will provide a clearer picture of how your piece affects the bottom line.
 
First educate yourself on the expectations: 1) How much money are you supposed to bring in 2) Is the revenue divided up by program/service or one lump sum, and 3) How does this revenue projection compare with actual numbers from the previous years?
 
Next, review labor costs: what is the projected payroll expense for your staff (and does this include your salary) and how does it compare to years past?  
 
Last, review all expenses that are housed under your department: 1) Equipment (large equipment, if at all possible, should NOT be included under your department’s budget but rather pulled out as a capital expense; 2) education, dues/subscriptions and professional expenses for your staff; 3) business supplies; 4) equipment repairs.
 
Development

Once you’ve analyzed a current budget, you can make predictions for how you will increase revenue or decrease spending to influence the club’s bottom line.
 
When developing a budget, look first at a healthy growth curve for revenue. Three percent growth is a solid number. Do the math; take the revenue projections from previous years and notice the trends.
 
As well, take into account how payroll may need to grow (annual raises, predicted additions to classes/programs) and adjust your revenue to offset or plan to seek increase in the expenditure column. If an increase in payroll is not possible, you will need to get creative with your programming. It’s best to know ahead of time and have a plan!
 
Management

Once your budget has been approved, your number one job is managing the money. Plenty of reports exist for you to keep an eye on your performance. Make sure you have access on a consistent basis (monthly, at the least). As these reports may be new to you, seek resources that can help you translate. The more you know, the better your department will be.
 
Of course, this merely scratches the surface in managing a budget. Finance may not come naturally to fantastic movers and motivators. There are a plethora of sources out there: business books, tradeshows, seminars, online classes and, most accessible and important, your peers. Avoid ignoring the area due to lack of immediate understanding … prove your business worth and watch your career explode in management.

Monday
Feb282011

Communication Tools for Fitness Managers

By Shannon Fable

Communicating effectively with a fitness staff is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs as fitness managers. We’re dealing with remote, mobile staff who may teach anywhere from one to 40 classes a week, train clients on the side, or have another full-time job outside of fitness. They’re often difficult to track down, and it’s uncertain whether the information we need to impart is being heard. That’s why developing a simple communication plan and employing a user-friendly software system can help.

Communicating with your staff in a way that’s familiar and comfortable to them will go a long way. Meet them in their comfort zone. These days, that means more instantaneous and low-touch methods like e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Frequency of communication should be predictable and clearly defined and the content relevant. Your communication should be in one centralized location and the method of retrieval should be consistent.

Group fitness managers are the connectors in the facility. We have a responsibility to interact with, organize, and mobilize our staff; schedule substitute instructors; interview potential employees; and communicate with our members, prospective members, supervisors, peers, vendors, and community leaders. With our team of instructors, we’re often expected to operate as the communication hub and “heartbeat” of the fitness center.

In addition, group fitness managers are equal parts leader, instructor, accountant, marketer, negotiator, motivator, salesperson, public speaker, liaison, community spokesperson, scheduler, customer-service representative, and more. This can make the amount of information that we have to deliver overwhelming. Your communication solution should be easy for you to take with you on the go; easily archived to retrieve information and pass along; and contained so it’s easy to digest.

When choosing or developing a communication solution, look for the following components:

  •     A central place to post notices, i.e., short snippets of information that are stored in reverse chronological order, with an easy way for you to track whether the information is received.
  •    A place for instructors to post comments and questions.
  •    A sub swap board that shows available classes, who’s available to sub, and a quick way to approve and spread the news.
  •    A calendar that can serve the needs of the team internally and privately. Specifically, communicating special events and subs to members.
  •   The ability for pictures to be attached to profiles to allow instructors who may never see one another to connect.
  •    A really robust system will have a scheduling feature that links to instructors’ pay rates with class numbers to quickly calculate cost per head and confirm payroll information.
  •    The system should be accessible from anywhere via a handheld device.

Most clubs—though they have software to run their business—don’t invest in software that’s specific to communication and the fitness department, but there’s no question that a system that does all of this will be cost-effective and invaluable for a club to eliminate the headaches that sometimes come with a large part-time staff. At a cost of less than $1 per instructor, per month, it significantly decreases manual communication and tracking costs for your group fitness managers, and provides an opportunity for upper management to track fitness department activity. Look for a system that’s been built by someone in the industry, preferably one who has held the position of group fitness manager. They will understand the intricate needs of the department and the club, which will make the tool an effortless addition to the standard operating procedure of the department. 

Shannon Fable is the President/CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources and the Group Fitness Manager at Colorado Athletic Club in Boulder.

Monday
Nov292010

Cultivating New Trainers

By Jean Suffin

It seems like everyone is vying to be the next Jillian Michaels or Tony Horton these days. With the rising (we hope) interest in fitness in our country, it follows that there’s an influx of people looking to work as fitness instructors, and there are a plethora of training and certification options for them to obtain. So how does a club weed out the really good ones? As we are about to learn, it’s not about weeding out, but nurturing and growing the good ones. So how can a fitness director determine who is going to be best for the job, the members, and the club?

Shannon Fable—whom you’ve seen on this blog before and in various issues of CBI as a source for invaluable information—is the Group Fitness Director at the Colorado Athletic Club - Boulder, and she brings years of experience running her own consulting business and working with hundreds of group exercise instructors to the table. I asked her about her interview process for hiring trainers and learned that it’s quite intensive. It takes more than your typical résumé solicitation and interview process to find the really good ones.

Here’s what Shannon had to say on the topic:

“Hiring good people starts with finding them, so I put the word out in as many venues as possible—craigslist, Gym Jobs, Healthclubs.com. But word-of-mouth and networking are often the most effective ways of finding people. My business, Sunshine Fitness Resources, maintains a database of instructors all over the world, and I can refer to them for people in the area.

Once I find potential candidates, guess what? I don’t even look at their résumés. It’s easy to put together a seemingly impressive résumé but, surprisingly, sometimes the very best instructors do not have the best résumés, and sometimes the best résumés don’t reflect the best instructors. You never know until you see them move. So I hold open auditions every three months at the club and allow anyone to participate. The initial audition process—3-5 minutes is all you get—is to gauge stage presence, professionalism, and preparedness only.

Certifications and credentials are very important, but they can also be obtained and maintained pretty easily these days. I do look for NCCA-accredited certifications, such as ACE and an IDEA affiliation. However, I’m also looking for real-world experience, professionalism, loyalty, and the desire for ongoing education. I look for good people who are willing to continually evolve.

Once I find my initial picks during the preliminary audition, the interview process takes over and it’s fairly long and intensive. 

The following are the interview steps:

  1. Candidate completes paper application.
  2. Candidate participates in an “All Call” three-minute audition. During these auditions, I’m looking for the “it” factor; i.e. that special something that makes a class engaging, fun, and effective. Some of that comes naturally and can’t be taught, and we all know it when we see it and participate in one of those classes.
  3. If the candidate makes it through the audition stage, I conduct a phone interview during which I review their application, résumé, references, and experience.
  4. If they make it through the phone interview, I conduct a live interview. Now that I already know their background, I begin digging deeper to find out how they would handle dealing in our particular environment. I question them regarding ethics, leadership, and teamwork based on previous experiences leading a group. I also give them a real view of what’s to come to see if they’re up for the rest of the challenge!  
  5. If they make it through the interview, they’re invited to ‘play with our team.’ That is, they come in for a month to take classes and review classes. They are essentially trying the job on for size: assessing me and if they’d like to work with me, assessing our current team and seeing if they’d fit in, and getting to know the members and the culture of the club to see if it would be a good experience. Basically, we’re interviewing each other. In their review of classes they take, I’m evaluating what kind of team player they would be. Is their review all glowing? Do they recognize places where they can learn and grow or are they competing with my current team? This is probably the most crucial part of my process.
  6. When all of this is complete and they have finished their “assignments,” they participate in a formal audition lasting 20 minutes or more. Now, I can really see how they would perform. They’ve had enough time to see the format they wish to teach in action, and to get to know how we do it at our club and adapt. This audition allows me to see if they would be able to jump in and teach on our team.

I’m looking for the right person, with the right talent at the right time, with a willingness to learn. We’re not interested in ego; we want instructors who are there to help people.

Those selected are placed in waiting for a position in the future if there is none available at that time. But the key is, I don’t collect résumés and hold auditions only when a position is available; I hold them on an ongoing basis so I’m sure to have talent available when we need it. I think this is the best way to “catch” the good ones and not miss out on new people coming into the area who might be terrific. I actually create an ongoing pool of people who will be available when there’s an opening to increase my network. 

It works well as a test of commitment to put people through a long interview process with several phases. If they stick around to make it through, chances are they really want to work for you and they’ll put their best foot forward (figuratively speaking). I have been so blessed to build up such a talented network of instructors whom I can call upon at a moment’s notice.

Once someone is hired, there’s very little training that needs to take place because they’ve already experienced, in a way, working in the club. They’re pretty much ready to go. I have them shadow and team-teach prior to taking over formats/classes so they can get familiar with the team and vice versa. It’s a good three- to six-month process—even though I know this is unheard of in the business—before an instructor is out there on their own teaching a class.

I’ve been using this method for years and we keep refining it, but the basic premise has worked extremely well. CAC has some of the best instructors in the Colorado area. Beyond that, we have a true team of instructors versus several individuals who come in, do their thing, and then take their ‘thing’ to another location down the street. When you use a process such as this one, the current instructors have more pride in what they do and respect for the new folks who make it through the process. It cuts down on folks feeling threatened, keeps them from competing with one another, and allows them to focus on the task at hand: making people fit! The process I described takes time, tons of time. But, what it does for you in the future cuts down on wasted time elsewhere.” 

Monday
May172010

Helping Group Exercise Programs to Shine

Shannon Fable

By Jean Suffin

Group fitness is too often underutilized as a critical membership and retention tool. A strong group fitness director can grow your programming and the quality of your instructors and add a tremendous amount of value to your club.

Shannon Fable, a world-renowned fitness industry veteran, 2006 ACE Group Fitness Instructor of the Year, and one of the top three finalists for 2009 IDEA Instructor of the Year, is the principal founder of Sunshine Fitness Resources (SFR), a consulting business that works with clubs to help them hire and train effective group fitness managers and directors. SFR, based in Boulder, Colorado, represents some of the top fitness professionals in the world. The company provides instructors with career-development resources, develops programming and training for new products, and works with clubs to hire leaders and grow their programming.

Fable says that group fitness is undervalued. “If you study the number of people who head into your classroom compared to your total number of swipes for the entire facility, you might be surprised to find how many people this department affects. Class attendees tend to be the most ‘connected,’ socially oriented of the members and they tend to utilize the most pay-for services in a facility, like the spa, lessons, childcare, and café.

“Improving group fitness offerings begins with hiring the right manager with experience managing people. Look for a combination of educator, customer service agent, master scheduler, and nurturer,” she advises.

Another issue to pay heed to: Often, clubs promote their most popular and successful instructors into group fitness management positions without training them how to oversee a staff, a budget, and an effective program. “Having a cohesive group of individuals who are committed and vested in your club is the beginning of a great program. We teach clubs how to find good talent, what to pay them, and how to hire a manager who will transform their group fitness programming.”

Education is really SFR’s biggest initiative. Fable wants to train instructors to avoid simply latching onto the latest and greatest fad. Rather, she’s interested in bringing back base-level education that helps hone essential skills in movement, class design, and communication. “Internal education is so critical. We give managers the tools to be able to train their own staff and continue to improve the end-product for the member,” Fable explains.

Fable travels constantly and, as a result of her personal experiences and frustrations with communicating with her own group fitness staff, she developed GroupExPro.com, a software program to enhance communication within group fitness and personal training staffs.

"GroupExPro.com was born out of my own need to be able to run the group fitness departments I was in charge of from abroad. There was an abundance of e-mails that weren’t getting read or tracked, and the need to keep track of subs was getting overwhelming. I needed a way to streamline communication via the Internet because the group fitness manager position is 24/7 and always code red. Groupexpro.com tracks what people are reading and generates a paper trail of subs while maintaining a definitive contact list. I have used the software for over four years and could never manage without it.”

Now, Fable sells GroupExPro.com to clubs and other group fitness managers.

“Communication is the name of the game, and it’s lacking in most clubs. We want to help raise the bar for instructors, trainers, and managers so that clubs can really succeed in offering their members programming that will keep them motivated and living the fitness lifestyle.”