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Entries in strategy (16)


How Health Clubs Can Create Adaptive Digital Strategies

This post is an IHRSA European Congress preview.

Many health clubs struggle with creating successful digital strategies that stand the test of time. At the IHRSA European Congress, 23-26 October in London, UK-based futurist and author Ben Hammersley will share his marketing expertise during his Technogym-sponsored keynote presentation, “Adaptive Digital Strategy.”

IHRSA spoke to Hammersley to learn more about digital strategy, emerging technology, and consumer behavior. Here’s what he said.

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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.

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6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders

Identifying and nurturing emerging leaders continues to be a challenge in our industry.  

It’s also one ofif not the most importantchallenges we face. In his IHRSA 2016 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team,” Eddie Tock of REX Roundtables said, “research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment.”

So, in looking at the leadership traits of many of our industry’s leaders, I’ve distilled those traits into six common actions leaders use to foster leadership in both their own organizations and throughout the industry.

To develop the next generation of industry leaders, current club leaders...  

#1. Lead by Example 

Most everyone replied that leading by example is by far the most important trait. Basically, the leadership traits you want to see in your club staff are the same ones they want to see in you every single day. Any form of leader should be professional, ethical, communicative, supportive, display a high work ethic, and be willing to share knowledge and experiences.  

Jim Worthington, owner and president of Newtown Athletic Club, who is known for “walking the talk” has said that being a leader in the industry has given him the chance to mentor employees as well as colleagues at other clubs.

#2. Are in Perpetual Learning Mode  

According to Leadership Hospitality, it is important for leaders to ‘be visible about their own need to learn. Great leaders are never more powerful than when they are shown to be in a learning mode.’

Our industry’s leaders are some of the best at sharing the fact that they are information and education-hungry. Allison Flatley, CEO of Corporate Fitness Works, has shared that she loves learning growth strategy from successful entrepreneurs and training techniques from experienced personal trainers. And Janine Williams, vice president of human resources at Leisure Sports, said that the most important leadership trait is “to ensure that you continue to expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge; not only in the health club industry but in business and financial acumen as well.”

#3. Cross-train to Develop Across Skills or Knowledge Gaps  

Our industry already understands the value of cross-training to build endurance, flexibility, and skill. The same applies for leadership learning as candidates that are rotated through various jobs gain first-hand experience and new expertise in many different roles. They also develop a broader vision of your club and exposure to staff dynamics and member concerns.

In his IHRSA 2016 presentation, "Developing NextGen Leaders," Brent Gallagher discusses the practical steps involved in establishing a team of next-generation leaders, including the need to train across areas to create a healthy leadership pipeline.

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Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club Business

If you’re uncertain about technology’s place in the health club industry, Marcos Eguillor, managing partner of BinaryKnowledge_ and professor at IE Business School, would like to give you a wake-up call. 

The growing use of technology in fitness is “not going back to ‘the good old times,’” he says. “Forget about it—this is not going to happen. Digital is going to stay, and instead of trying to fight it I would say try to leverage it.” 

Eguillor will teach IHRSA European Congress attendees how to leverage digital strategies in his keynote address, “Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club & Fitness Business.” His Keiser Corporation-sponsored presentation will take place on Wednesday, October 19 in Seville, Spain. 

How Technology Is Impacting Health Club Infrastructure 

One of the biggest disruptive elements of today’s digitized world is that the days of solely brick-and-mortar businesses are over. 

“The main change is the way customers think of infrastructure has changed,” Eguillor says. “The gym or health club is no longer just a place. Technology has made us independent from the infrastructure being a specific location or exercise machine or personal trainer—we are more autonomous and more knowledgeable about what to do and how to do it.” 

Jump on Different Digital Opportunities 

Eguillor suggests looking for new ways to turn a profit, even if that means the fundamental value proposition of your club could change. 

“It’s no longer a place to practice sport—the gym infrastructure has to be rebuilt in terms of the value proposition,” he says. “I don’t know if that means better infrastructure or no infrastructure, but you cannot be restricted to infrastructure. You need to be part of the value change in terms of digital.” 

This means that all staff members have to be aligned under the new digitized structure, Eguillor says. For example, if one of your personal trainers isn’t capable of interacting with members virtually, in addition to face-to-face, you are likely missing an opportunity. 

“Your personal trainer at the health club needs to be a digital ambassador,” he says. “By pushing those boundaries forward you can create a seamless experience—the user shouldn’t be able to differentiate when they’re at the club and when they’re out of the club.” 

Ultimately, undergoing a digital transformation can be a huge opportunity for a health club, but Eguillor cautions that the process is much more involved than simply building an app or purchasing new technology. 

“Digital transformation is not technology—it is what you do with technology,” he says. 

Learn more about the IHRSA European Congress, October 17-20 in Seville, Spain. 


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.

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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.”


10 Exciting New Revenue Streams for Health Clubs

“Ancillary revenue.” It’s not a particularly exciting term, but if you’re a health club owner, just the thought of it can raise your heart rate well beyond your training zone.

And for good reason:

“Generally speaking, ancillary services account for a quarter of a club’s total revenues,” said Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “So operators need to be creative in terms of coming up with new nondues revenue services, and getting members—and nonmembers—to make use of them.”

It’s not a new notion for IHRSA clubs, and, especially in recent years, a fair number have been using them quite successfully. “Many have managed to boost their profitability to pre-recession levels—or even higher—by tapping nondues revenue sources.”

What have they been up to? Club Business International checked in with a host of operators, consultants, and industry suppliers to find out.

NO. 1: A Boutique Within a Club

For an extra $40 a month, a member of GymIt, a high-volume/low-price (HV/LP) bran with two locations in the Boston area, can train like a professional boxer inside a state-of-the-art BOXFIIT modular classroom.

The studio and associated programming are the creation of EveryBodyFights (EBF), a high-end boxing business cofounded by George Foreman III, son of the two-time world heavy-weight boxing champion.

The turnkey EBF studio comes equipped with bags and special lighting and décor, and the classes incorporate patented BOXFIIT techniques developed by Foreman. Clubs pay a monthly licensing fee for EBF, and instructors are BOXFIIT-certified. Certification costs $400, and includes continuing education credits and access to a library of more than 50 hours of video demonstrating 100 custom workouts and 200 boxing moves.

“The BOXFIIT curriculum was designed for members of both genders and of all ages and fitness levels,” said Ben Eld, EBF’s marketing manager. The program, he says, tends to attract individuals 22 to 38 years old, who earn $75,000 to $250,000 a year, and 60% of them are women.

Matthew Harrington, the president of GymIt, explained, “We wanted a way to differentiate ourselves from other low-cost clubs, and to offer a boutique fitness experience at a much more affordable price.”

GymIt offers approximately 30 EBF sessions per week. Members and nonmembers can take classes for $20 each or $140 for 10; members also can pay $40 for an unlimited monthly pass. “We reached 200 members on the monthly add-on pretty quickly following the launch,” said Harrington, “so we’ve seen a pretty significant increase in our nondues revenue.”

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6 Ways Attending the IHRSA Institute Will Turn a Good Manager to Great 

There are several barriers that can keep a good health club manager from becoming great: perhaps they aren’t able to take a step back from their daily tasks to see the big picture, or maybe they just don’t have the resources and skillsets to reach the next level. 

But, no matter what challenges are standing in your manager’s way, sending them to the IHRSA Institute, Executive Education for Club Professionals will help them reach their full potential. 

The IHRSA Institute, which convenes August 2–5, at the Rizzo Conference Center, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill, is designed to provide a strong overall base for anyone working in the fitness industry. 

The faculty includes both industry experts and professors from UNC. Classes are small and intimate. Through classroom discussions and social activities, the attendees learn not only from the faculty, but also from their peers. 

Here are six ways attending the IHRSA Institute will turn a good manager into a great one. 

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Download IHRSA’s Free Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon

Boutique studios—offering everything from cycling, yoga, Pilates, and personal training, to boxing, CrossFit, and functional training—now constitute 42% of the U.S. club market, according to a CBS News report. That’s double what it was in 2014. 

There are a number of reasons boutique fitness studios are hot right now—they’re social, they’re trendy, and they help members achieve fast results. The rapid growth of boutiques has changed the landscape of the fitness industry, causing concern among health club owners and operators. 

IHRSA’s Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon provides a broad view of this trend, digging into the root of this particular consumer purchasing behavior, the elements behind the appeal of boutiques, and a number of ways health clubs can leverage boutique strategies to improve member engagement and drive revenue. 

This free resource includes:  

  • The Root of Boutique Studio Members’ Purchasing Behavior
  • The Rise and Rise of Boutique Clubs
  • Maximize Revenue by Leveraging the Growth of Studios
  • 4 Expert Tips for Successful Fitness Studio Design
  • Further Reading 

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