The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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Entries in Shawn Stewart (4)


5 Steps to Prepare for the Post-New Year's Crowd 

Each New Year's, health club operators steel themselves for the influx of members—old and new alike—who will flood their facilities with the hopes of getting a jump start on a healthier year. While the bump in club memberships is always welcome, the increased volume can put a strain on staff and turn-off regular users.

“The phenomenon of people making New Year’s resolutions is often demonstrated with a desire to get in shape or get back into shape,” says Fred Hoffman, M.Ed., owner of Paris-based Fitness Resources Consulting Services. “So it is not uncommon that health clubs and fitness centers find themselves with an influx of people coming into the club in early January.”

To help you thrive during the early 2016 rush, we asked three experts how they approach the challenges caused by January “resolutioners” and curated five steps for success.

1. Be aware that the post-New Year's influx is made up of two main groups: new members and existing members who haven’t visited the club for a while. “Club operators need to be prepared to welcome back existing members and to sign up and welcome the new members,” says Hoffman says.

2. Fine-tune your processes well beforehand. “We evaluate every aspect of our company, from staffing, sales training, systems, and incentive programs,” says Shawn Stewart, chief operating officer for O2 Fitness in Raleigh, NC. “We begin by making sure we have the necessary staff hired and fully trained. Having the right staff is critical if you want a successful January. We generally keep extra staff into mid February.”

3. Expand your staff schedule and class offerings to match member volume. “Operators must guarantee that there is an appropriate amount of staff for the increased numbers as well as a sufficient amount of group classes available at all times of the day to accommodate everyone,” Hoffman says. “As the influx is anticipated, management needs to assess beforehand what the needs of the club will be and plan accordingly.”

4. Ensure new members are properly integrated into the club. “We work with our PT department in regards to ways to get our current members and new members off of the equipment and into groups on the floor to work out and we coach our sales teams to stay engaged with all of the new members that they sign up to make sure that they are seeing results and getting the most out of their membership,” says Maria Miller, regional programs manager for Merritt Athletic Clubs in Maryland. “This then turns into referral opportunities because family and friends will want to become a part of it.”

5. Keep a positive attitude and share it with staff. “We change our mindset and don't look at it as ‘dealing with it’ but as, ‘this is awesome,’ and we encourage it,” Miller says.


IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Customer Service Is Out, Customer Hospitality Is In

Hospitality isn’t just for hotels anymore.

Successful health clubs must move beyond customer service to a culture of hospitality, says Shawn Stewart, chief operating officer of O2 Fitness in Raleigh, NC.

“Customer service is delivering a promise. Hospitality is making people feel good while you’re delivering on that promise,” says Stewart, who will present the “Customer Service Is Out, Customer Hospitality Is In” session at IHRSA 2016 in Orlando this March.

Stewart has more than 20 years experience in the fitness industry, and is an accomplished health and fitness educator who has delivered presentations all over the world, including in Italy, Australia, and New Zealand. He currently oversees the operations of 24 health clubs in North Carolina and South Carolina.

“Customer service is technical efficiency—checking someone in in a timely manner, offering towel service, and helping a new member set up their workout,” he says. “Hospitality is a feeling, a warmth you give to customers as you handle their needs with heart-felt care and concern. It’s the smile you wear, the tone of your voice, and your actions that say you are thrilled they are there and will do all you can to make sure they have a wonderful experience.”

In his Monday, March 21 session, Stewart will share best practices regarding hospitality in health clubs and invite attendees to participate in discussion.

Attendees “will receive easy to implement plans and tools to quickly create a culture of hospitality,” he says.

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How has membership sales changed?

When it comes to health clubs, what’s one of the most important, indeed critical, aspects of the operation?

The answer is: membership sales.

The most important aspect of the business, of course, is member service, but the sale comes first - you can’t serve a client until you have one.

That’s why, during IHRSA’s 33rd Annual International Convention and Trade Show in San Diego, no less than eight sessions were devoted to the topic. That’s also why, this month, CBI turns to the participants in one panel discussion, “Generating Leads and Positioning Your Sales Team for Success,” for their best thoughts on the subject.

The four - moderator Chuck Hall, Jason Reinhardt, Amanda Konigsberg, and Shawn Stewart - emphasize the importance of well-defined sales systems, the need to monitor key performance indicators, the critical role of referrals, the use of strategically sophisticated promotions, the seminal impact of social media, the centrality of community involvement, and the need to remain alert to changes in the greater membership sales environment.

See the entire story on new ways to sell gym memberships here.


IHRSA Webinar: sales staff for changing economy

Even though the economy is on the rebound, times are still tough. It is even more important to have a solid sales staff in order to get potential members in, and then turn them into members. 

IHRSA’s next webinar, sponsored by Cybex, “Marketing, Prospecting and Sales Skills for a Changing Economy,” will certainly help those still trudging through, due to the recent recession.

Shawn Stewart, general manager of Gainesville Health and Fitness in Gainesville, Fla., will lead the hour on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2 to 3 p.m. EST.

For more on Stewart's sales webinar, read on.