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.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog

Welcome to the IHRSA Blog

The Online Home of news.

Blog Home |  Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Entries in strategic planning (14)


Strategic Plan Rewind: Working Backwards to Reach Your Goals

This post is an IHRSA Institute preview.

You can learn a lot about the pitfalls of strategic planning by observing fitness resolutioners.

Continue reading "Strategic Plan Rewind: Working Backwards to Reach Your Goals."

Click to read more ...


How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan

If they're honest, some health club owners will admit that they began with no greater plan than to combine their occupation and their calling. While that's commendable—you must have passion to succeed in any business—it's not enough. 

What you need to succeed over the long haul is a strategic plan. Here are some tips from industry leaders on how to formulate one.

Figure Out Where You Fit in the Health Club Landscape

The first thing you must do is identify what your club offers that others in your area don't. Is it lower cost? Better member benefits? More workout options?

Whatever sets your club apart, it should be emphasized in your strategic plan. That will help you leverage your competitive advantage. "Once your club is up and running you need to differentiate it, distinguish it, from the competition," wrote Joe Cirulli, president and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness.

Continue reading "How to Develop Your Health Club's Strategic Plan."

Click to read more ...


Health Clubs Should ‘Re-strategize’ Every 90 Days to Stay Competitive 

Since 18.5% of the American population joins health clubs, “this means we are all competing for the same [18.5%],” said Mark Miller, vice president and CEO of Merritt Athletic Clubs, during his 2016 IHRSA Institute session, “Strategic Planning for Club Operation Professionals.”

Independent health club competition grows increasingly more difficult with consolidation, niche studios, high volume/low cost growth, healthcare, technology, social media, and service voids, Miller said. Attendees shared additional challenges they face in their clubs, including staffing, member retention, staff retention, and attracting a younger market.

Combating ever-growing competition requires a strong leadership strategy. Club owners and managers should identify what they want the club to be, what resources they have and how they will achieve their goals. 

Miller advised conducting a re-strategizing every 90 days to ensure the focus remains in line. Miller introduced the “Four Primary Management Practices”—strategy, execution, culture, and structure—followed by the “Secondary Management Practices”—finding and keeping talented employees, leadership, and innovation.  

A common theme at the IHRSA Institute, Miller discussed the importance of core values.  Clubs should answer the questions: 

  • What are your company’s vision and goals?
  • Is your marketplace willing to pay for what your club has to offer?
  • Do you have the right people and resources in place?
  • Are you willing to be different, unique, or change your thinking? 

A healthy organization is built on a cohesive leadership team that creates, communicates and reinforces clarity.  “The only way to do great work is to love the work you do,” said Miller. 

Read more coverage from the 2016 IHRSA Institute.


Which Strategic School of Thought is Right for Your Health Club?

In the fitness industry, staying ahead of the competition just isn’t as easy as it used to be. 

On top of a booming market and increased competition, the way businesses approach strategy has changed drastically in recent years. 

“The reason that these things have evolved is that, up until the last decade, industries tended to conduct strategy in a confine of thinking that had to do with the past being a reasonable predictor of the future,” says Bryan O’Rourke, CEO of Integerus, LLC. “There was a lot more certainty when it came to a plan and strategy because people would take their knowledge from what happened before and say that’s a reasonable guess. But you just can’t do that anymore.” 

O’Rourke will explain how to best evaluate your marketplace and choose the right business strategy for your club in his Thursday, August 18 webinar, “Staying Ahead of the Competition: Competing Successfully in the Fitness Industry.” 

Part of his presentation will go in-depth on the three new strategic schools of thought: 

1. High Risk/High Return 

“In this scenario, you do something completely new and different,” O’Rourke says. “Find new, completely uncontested markets and transform everything around that, which has high degrees of risk and high degrees of return if you get it right.” 

Peloton, for example, followed this strategy when they began selling bikes for home use that allow customers to live-stream cycling classes. “It’s very disruptive and completely new,” O’Rourke says. 

2. Build on What You Do Well 

“When you build on what you do well, you incrementally build outside your core to defend against disruptors,” O’Rourke says. 

Examples of companies in the fitness industry that follow this strategy are clubs that are creating boutiques within their club, thus staying true to their core while also guarding against free-standing boutiques that could infringe on their market share.   

3. Don’t Assume Anything 

Companies that follow this strategy don’t make assumptions—they evaluate several opportunities, test ideas, and iterate until they find what works, O’Rourke says. 

“There are now fully eight clear, distinct business model delivery systems, and within those eight there are subsets, so the number of offerings and business models out there for fitness have proliferated in the last decade,” O’Rourke says. “Consumers are presented with many more choices, so to really do strategy well, fitness companies have to really be objective and evaluate what are they really capability of doing.” 

During the webinar, O’Rourke will also help attendees: 

  • Learn how to evaluate your marketplace.
  • Review the fundamentals of health club strategy.
  • Explore key business model alternatives should you consider pursuing and why.
  • Gain insight into marketing in the new era; and learn how to gain and retain members in today’s world.
  • Discuss options to consider when you beat your competition.

New Call-to-action


Organizational Balance is Key for Successful Health Club Strategic Planning

Developing a solid strategic plan is a critical element of business success; however, your hiring process and your club’s objectives must also align to achieve your goals. 

Ultimately, it’s all about balance. 

“Make sure that when you’re hiring and setting up your organization, you’re thinking about it from a balance perspective for what skillsets and talents you need, because if you hire a bunch of people like yourself, you’ll fail,” said Bill McBride, president & CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3, during his Wednesday, August 3, IHRSA Institute session, “Strategic Planning for Health Club Executives.” 

McBride asked attendees to fill out a work-style assessment, which helped them determine if they were a “producer,” “administrator,” “entrepreneur,” or “integrator.” By understanding your work-style, a club executive can focus on their strengths and hire people who have other strengths. 

With a strategically curated team in place, health club leaders can then work toward executing their strategic plan. During the two-hour session, McBride offered the following advice:  

  • Execution without strategy is dangerous.
  • Strategy without execution is worse than meaningless—it causes a lack of faith.
  • Good strategy requires strong discipline. That might mean saying no to many good ideas so you can focus on the good ideas you already have.
  • Being great at one to three strategic initiatives is a stronger position than being mediocre at four to six strategies.  

“Good strategy is saying no to good ideas so you can do your other good ideas well,” he said. “You have to have good discipline on what you’re trying to accomplish, otherwise you’ll just keep waffling.”


Answer These 5 Questions to Hire More Strategically at Your Health Club

Hiring and staffing plays an integral role in any health club’s strategic plan. 

Earlier this month, we discussed the questions you should ask every job candidate at your club. Today, we’re taking a step back to consider the questions health club owners and operators should ask themselves before hiring someone. 

Health Clubs Should Adopt a Strategic Approach to Hiring   

To hire strategically, you should begin with the end in mind, says Bill McBride, president and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3. 

“When you do that, you are essentially beginning with your strategy goal and then you can create the steps and roadmap to get there,” he says. “So to align, you would define: Who do I need to hire to achieve our strategy? How do I need to train my team to achieve our strategy? What performance metrics do they need to achieve to achieve our strategy?” 

McBride will teach IHRSA Institute attendees how to enhance their strategic focus and develop high performing teams that deliver desired outcomes and profitability in his Wednesday, August 3 session, “Strategic Planning for Club Executives.”  

5 Questions to Ask Yourself before Hiring Someone 

Here are the five questions he recommends club owners and operators ask themselves before hiring someone:  

  1. What type of personality do you need to add to your team for it to operate at the highest level of productivity? 
  2. What skills are needed for the team to carry out the strategic mission? 
  3. Based on this candidate’s past performance, is there evidence that he/she will make your site more successful and achieve your strategic goals? 
  4. Does this candidate have enough of the “must be hired with” traits?  
  5. Do they have honesty/integrity? (These are always non-negotiable.)  

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 2-5 in Chapel Hill, NC.


Best Practices: Strategic Planning for a Small, Independent Club

The following post was written by Joe Cirulli for our Best Practices series. 

Question: I’m currently developing a small independent club, and need to create and implement a strong strategic plan. Do you have any tips? 

Joe Cirulli: Strategizing, of course, is the first essential step when launching any company. You have to define the concept, choose the most appropriate business model, and decide how your club will differ from, and prevail over, the competition. 

The vision, mission, core value, core purpose, and culture of the organization have to be defined and clearly described. The company has to be structured and staffed to achieve your objectives. Everyone needs to understand and be aligned behind the club’s values and goals. 

One of the benefits of articulating a business’ core values is that it indicates the type of people who should be working for you. Changing a person’s core values is virtually impossible, so your entire hiring process should be designed to find individuals who share your company’s philosophy and principles. 

The right staff, in turn, will create the desired culture. 

Develop your team’s leadership skills, and always be on the lookout for new talent. 

Once your club is up and running, you need to differentiate it, distinguish it, from the competition. And what I’ve discovered is that execution is generally the defining hallmark of exceptional companies. 

Joe Cirulli
President & Owner
Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers
Gainesville, FL


11 Questions You Should Ask Every Job Candidate at Your Health Club

Understanding strategic thinking and developing a solid strategic plan is core to business success; however, your hiring, training, performance management and reward systems, and your organizational objectives must also align to achieve your goals. 

And executing that alignment often trips club owners up. 

“Most people start with the task at hand, versus going mentally to the final desired outcome and working backwards,” says Bill McBride, president and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3. When you begin with the end in mind, “you are essentially beginning with your strategy goal and then you can create the steps and roadmap to get there.” 

McBride will teach IHRSA Institute attendees how to enhance their strategic focus and develop high performing teams that deliver desired outcomes and profitability in his Wednesday, August 3 session, “Strategic Planning for Club Executives.” 

During the session, McBride will go in depth on how following hiring best practices will help club owners and operators achieve their strategic goals.   

Here are 11 questions that McBride suggests asking every job candidate before hiring them:  

  1. What was your first job? 
  2. What did you love about it? 
  3. What did you hate about it? 
  4. Can you tell me about that experience?
  5. Are you lucky/fortunate?
  6. If you were to have a professional business coach, what would you chose to be coached in?
  7. What are you most proud?
  8. What was your hardest work situation involving conflict with another person?
  9. Why should we hire you?
  10. What concerns you about the job?
  11. What do you like about our company?  

 “In the session, attendees will learn more about each one and how they fit into their strategic plan,” McBride says. “We will also look at how knowledge, attitude, skills, and habits form our ways of thinking and approach to result outcomes. There will be much more on strategic thinking modeling, hiring best practices, and performance management to achieve strategic goals.” 

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 2-5 in Chapel Hill, NC.


3 Tips for Effective Strategic Planning for Health Club Professionals

Health club operations professionals know that creating and following a strategic plan is the key to their department’s and club’s success—but, often, that is easier said than done.   

“What I find a lot of the time with managers is they get so sucked into the day-to-day they become really reactive,” says Mark Miller, vice president of Merritt Athletic Clubs in Baltimore, MD.  “When something unexpected happens it takes them off course, and the next thing they know they’re struggling and they’re never focused on how they can improve business and operations.” 

Miller will teach club operators how to overcome that obstacle in his IHRSA Institute session, “Strategic Planning for Club Operations Professionals.” During the Wednesday, August 3 session, attendees will learn to manage more effectively through the development of goals and objectives, timelines, and implementation plans. Miller will also help attendees understand the importance of resource allocation and positioning their team for growth. 

Here are three of Miller’s tips for effective strategic planning. 

1. Become Proactive, Not Reactive 

Club operators need to move from management in the moment to working toward anticipating what is coming down the pipeline, Miller says. By doing that, they can work with their employees to achieve a better outcome based on the company’s long-term vision.

“In my session, I’m going to teach attendees how to move from being a manager to being a leader and a manager,” he says. 

2. Broaden Your Mindset 

“Leaders have to start to look outside of the scope of just the fitness arena,” Miller says. “It’s critical to not be confined to your current thinking—to be open and conscious of where your own blind spots are and how you can improve upon them. Sometimes you need a good coach or mention to help you do that.” 

3. Connect with People Who Challenge You 

“Surround yourself with people you can learn from and get challenged by and grow from,” he says. “One of the benefits of going to the Institute is these are forward-thinking individuals sharing their insights and knowledge, so you’re interacting and building a network of people you can reach out to.” 

Miller’s presentation will help attendees gain a better understanding of their company culture and how it influences their success. 

“They’ll come away with actionable items that not only help them start the process of improving their growth, but items they can put into play immediately and move some needles,” he says. “I’m going to be at the Institute for a couple days, so I’d love to have conversations with attendees and let them pick my brain.”

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 2-5 in Chapel Hill, NC.


A Perfect Storm of New Trends Necessitates Astute Strategic Planning

The people I work with closely know that one of the things I like least is complacency. In companies, it’s reflected in strategic plans that fail to recognize weaknesses and threats, or to identify strengths and opportunities.

And now—particularly now—is not the time for complacency: in thought, word, action … or when it comes to planning.

A number of new research publications—The 2015 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, IHRSA Profiles of Success, and the 2015 International Fitness Industry Trend Report—make the case in a clear, inarguable way.

The rapidly emerging trends that are transforming the landscape of our industry offer three options: (1) acknowledge the pending storm clouds, build an ark, and ride the waves; (2) trust to your leaky rowboat and single, splintered oar; or (3) drown.

The clubs that survive to thrive will be those that own a unique value proposition, fulfill their brand promise, have a strong culture, and create—and execute—a strong and prescient strategic plan.

That message, one I shared with attendees at the 16th Annual IHRSA/Fitness Brasil Latin American Conference and Trade Show in September, echoes, repeatedly, in the pages of the Consumer Report (see “What You Don’t Know About Our Industry,” pg. 53).

Complacency—you don’t need it. A sound, forward-looking strategic plan—you do!

How can you develop one? A few tips:

  • Start with “Why”—Declare your purpose and develop brand authenticity. The report suggests: “Explore your value proposition and evolve appropriately to create a distinct competitive advantage.” Evolution not only means staying fresh and relevant; it also means leading.
  • Know your market—Search for and study trends, utilizing, among other sources, IHRSA’s many resources, outside research and authorities, member interviews; and community outreach. Utilize the findings to pinpoint gaps in your offerings, and to spotlight promising opportunities.
  • Measure relentlessly—Use the Consumer Report to provide a fresh perspective on your KPIs (key performance indicators). Are you using the right data, with age, gender, and income factors included in your mix analysis?
  • Engage—The report describes the dramatic upside of converting more of your clients into core and super consumers. What are you doing to foster such relationships? 
  • Plan for action—Your strategic plan should be concise, clear, with measureable outcomes and specific timelines, addressing each of the preceding topics.

It’s beginning to rain! About to pour! Time to take a tip from Noah?