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Entries in strategy (16)


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


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.


9 Takeaways from the California Clubs of Distinction Spring Symposium

From member engagement to pricing strategy, there were many takeaways to be found at the California Clubs of Distinction (CCD) Spring Symposium in Palms Springs, CA, held April 19-21. 

IHRSA staff was there, attending sessions and gleaning insights for health club owners and operators who weren’t able to attend. Here are our top nine takeaways from the three-day conference. 

1. Focus on customer experience, not customer service. Building a great team is critical to any health club’s success, said Chris Stevenson, owner and founder of Stevenson Fitness, during his session. By hiring the right staff—and keeping morale high—club operators can deliver a member experience where “everyone leaves feeling better than when they arrived.” 

2. Build membership through community engagement. Karen Woodard of Premium Performance Training explained the many benefits health clubs can gain by getting involved in their communities. Doing so promotes member engagement, builds brand familiarity, and may ultimately increase memberships.  

Karen Woodard leading a team building activity.

3. Perseverance is the key to success. Shaun Quincey of DebitSuccess became the second person to row across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia at age 25, but the feat didn’t come easy. In his keynote address, he detailed the preparation and training that went into the 1,200-nautical-mile journey, including the 390 sponsors that turned him down. 

4. Strategy and execution go hand-in-hand. Bill McBride of BMC3/Active Wellness and Brent Darden of Brent Darden Consulting stressed the importance of creating a goal-oriented strategic plan, and also assigning the right people to execute that plan with the needs of members in mind. 

5. Pricing is a mix of art and science. McBride and Darden also spoke to the art of finding the pricing sweet spot. They recommended starting by by determining a product's or program’s usefulness, usability, and desirability. 

Brent Darden

6. Make time for team-building activities. Different team-building and team-bonding activities can help to improve relationships between co-workers, said Karen Woodward. Club operators should consider incorporating team-building exercises into existing meetings or holding team-centric events outside of work.

7. Think like a customer. Club operators should wire customers’ mindsets into their decision making process at every level, said Blair McHaney of ClubWorks. This will help operators better understand how to develop an emotional connection with customers, and thus increase loyalty.

8. Health club medical wellness programs can curb obesity. Successful medical wellness programs facilitate the relationship between fitness and healthcare professionals, said Mark Kelly of Principle Centered Health. Doing so may slow the rise of obesity, which is related to more than 50 preventable diseases. 

9. Differentiate your club by doing meaningful, purposeful work. Mike Alpert, president and CEO of The Claremont Club, which received the Outstanding Community Service Award at IHRSA 2016, shared his experience with partnering with the medical community to help people live healthier lives. In addition to serving as a differentiator, this practice will improve the overall member experience, which will lead to higher retention.


Will They Come? 4 Factors that Matter Most in Calculating Health Club Demand

This feature is brought to you by the IHRSA Store spring sale. Now through June 30, save 25% on reports, webinars, and all other resources in the IHRSA Store by using promo code 2016SALE at checkout.

Before you commit to opening, buying, or investing in a particular health club location, be sure you fully understand the four factors that matter most in calculating the local demand. They are:

1) Population Density. Health clubs thrive in markets where population density is highest. Sophisticated club operators like to site their facilities in markets where there are at least 60,000 and preferably 100,000+ people who are in close proximity to the facility. (Mini-facilities can succeed in smaller markets.)

2) Travel Time. In suburban markets, in which the car is the primary means of commuting to a club, the primary trading area for clubs in competitive markets extends no more than eight minutes for the primary market, 12 minutes for the secondary market of travel time from the club site.

Note that the reference is to travel time, and not to miles or distance. In every market, these two factors are distinct. Note, also, that this implies 12 minutes from either a person’s residence or from his or her office. Numerous health club demographic studies show that upwards of 80% of a club’s members come from within 12 minutes travel time of the facility. Travel should mimic the realistic route used by a local resident to the club site.

Travel times need to be calculated at prime time; that is, at times of peak demand such as between 6 and 8 a.m. or between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. In most suburban markets, 10-12 minutes travel time means no more than three or four miles from the club site, and it can be as limited as under two miles in dense areas.

In most situations, at least 70% to 80% of a club’s members need to come from within this primary trading area.

In urban markets, where parking space is limited and car travel is constricted, the primary trading area for a club generally extends no further than an eight-minute walk/commute for the primary market and a 12-minute walk/commute for the secondary area from the proposed site.

Because all markets tend to become competitive over time, travel time benchmarks need to be applied even if the market is not yet competitive.

Trading areas need to be plotted precisely. Each intersection point needs to be connected. That polygon is what should determine the primary, secondary, and total markets. Once a club’s trading area is determined, various demographic services can provide essential information, such as: the number of people that live or work within a particular primary trading area, their ages, their marital status and whether they have children, their educational attainment level, their median household incomes, the level of professional/ management occupations, home ownership, etc.

3) Household Income. There is a strong correlation between median household income and health club membership. Whereas roughly one out of five members of the American population is a health club member, member penetration rates among high-income segments often approaches 30%.

Conversely, when household income falls below $25,000, only one out of every 14 (7.2%) people is a health club member.

Household income is also a key determinant of club pricing. In general, in markets where the average household income is $75,000 or more, such a community can support dues pricing in the $60 to $125 range. (Naturally, it can also support clubs with lower dues structures.)

Where the average household income is $50,000 to $75,000, the market will support dues pricing in the $45 to $74 range. And where household income is in the $20,000 to $50,000 range, the market will support monthly dues pricing in the $10 to $44 range. In the last 10 years, the widespread availability of low-priced options has exerted significant downward pressure on health club pricing in many markets.

4) Educational Attainment. Educational attainment levels are another key factor in assessing demand. In general, the higher the educational attainment level of people in the community, the higher will be the overall market penetration rates of the clubs serving that market.

To cite but a few examples: the overall health club penetration rate among full-time college students is 24%; the health club penetration rate among men and women with advanced degrees (business degrees, law degrees, medicine, etc.) is 25.2%. Conversely, among men, who earn $75,000 or more, but who did not go to college, the penetration rate is 11.6%

Because of the complexity of assessing demand in any community, it is essential that feasibility studies be conducted by experienced third parties who are not developers, architects, or builders.

This post was excerpted from the IHRSA Health Club Business Handbook, written by John McCarthy and sponsored by ABC Financial.


What's Your "Next"?

By Dr. Michael R. Mantell 

"Cheshire Puss,...Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
-Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll


With the media, government, the medical community, economics, value proposition of the industry, and awareness of the nation all on the side of fitness, it’s no wonder the health club industry has a very healthy future.

Yet, this is no time for complacency and unlike the Cheshire Cat, it does matter which way you go.  Instead, it’s time for club business owners and leaders to bring rock solid, proven business practices to ensure an infusion of fresh, relevant, and profit-driven action.

If you are lacking a well-focused, actionable, strategically productive planning process leading to a simply stated, well-understood, reliable traction plan that assures breakthrough business performance, then you are missing the boat—named “Strategy.”

With 90% of businesses failing to execute their strategies successfully, 86% of executive teams spending less than an hour per month discussing strategy, and 60% of businesses not linking their strategy (if they even have one) to budgets, strategic planning is in a sorry state of affairs.  To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, few businesses have any next.

√ Are you serious about growth?

√ Are you serious about building your unique competitive advantage?

√ Do you understand the value of communicating your strategy to your staff?

√ Do you want to prioritize your financial needs?

√ Are you looking for focus and direction to move from plan to profitable action?

√ Do you want to remain responsive to a dynamic, changing fitness industry landscape?

If so, then strategic planning is right for you.  But like someone once said, “The reason everyone likes planning is that nobody has to do anything.”  Not so, in the way I suggest you do your actionable strategic planning, a process I call “mind-body-business fitness.”

A successful strategic planning process often starts with the following questions for all members of the strategic planning team you’ve pulled together:

  1. What are your personal agenda items for strategic planning?
  2. What are the three to five most important agenda items for the strategic planning sessions?
  3. What one strategic imperative will transform your health club over the next three to five years?
  4. What resources are necessary to accomplish questions #2 and #3?
  5. What obstacles do you see that will interfere with effective strategic planning in your health club?
  6. How will we know when we get to where we want to go?

In order to move from strategy discussions to executable action items for your club, an initial thorough discussion must take place with your strategic planning team of such items as your operations, structures, processes, systems, barriers, strengths, weaknesses, industry and competitive threats, and opportunities.

A final one-sheet strategic plan includes no more than five very succinctly stated goals (such as increase membership, grow social media presence, increase group ex classes, etc.) with an attached specific breakdown of tasks necessary to accomplish each of these larger action goals.  Of course, a champion for each goal and task is assigned to monitor, drive, and be responsible for regular strategic management reports on progress. 

Finally, each staff member of your health club ought to be supplied with a simple summary of the strategic planning sessions.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  Work out with your strategic management process daily and you will see your club’s bottom line bulk up as quickly as your members. 

Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D. is a writer, speaker, and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and a regular contributor to the “San Diego Fitness Psychology” column for The Sporting Club in La Jolla, California, where he is a member of the Sports Medicine Team, specializing in fitness psychology. He earned his doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania after completing his M.S. degree in clinical psychology at Hahnemnann Medical College, where he wrote his thesis on the psychological aspects of obesity. 

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