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Entries in Sue Liebenow (1)


Challenges differ from club to club

No two clubs are the same, and locations, countries and socio-economic issues vary. So it is not surprising that if you ask 20 club owners/operators what their biggest challenge is that you will get up to 18 different answers.

This week's Best Practices talks to a franchise in the Midwest, a club in the South and a group in Toronto, Canada. Of course, the answers are very different.

What has been your biggest challenge as a club operator and how have you addressed it?

A: Usage has always been our biggest concern. We feel that usage is tied into everything else. If our members are using the club, they’re more likely to stay members (better retention). If they’re using the club, they’ll be getting better results (which leads to referrals). If they’re using the club regularly, they spend more money on non-dues products and services. We’ve addressed this by incorporating the S.L.E.D. System (which stands for Stronger, Leaner, Every Day) into every member’s workout program for them, every time they come in. With each visit, they have a workout program already filled out for them.

Jeff Bissonnette
Anytime Fitness
Lake City, Minn.

My biggest challenge as a business owner of a health/fitness management company is getting members (and clients) to recognize that our employees are more than fitness trainers or group exercise instructors. Our employees are highly trained, educated (often with advanced degrees) and possess multiple certifications and specialized skills. They balance duties and responsibilities that range from educating people about life-changing behaviors to managing budgets, facility operations, and providing non-stop and professional service. L&T addresses this by reminding our clients and members that we do much more than manage “gyms” and fitness centers - we manage health, and that’s a valuable service.

Sue Liebenow 
L&T Health and Fitness
Falls Church, Virg.

Club operators face two major challenges. One is keeping members and the other is continuing to improve our clubs’ physical premises. For retention, the social aspect of the club is key. We help members to establish relationships – not only with staff but, more importantly, with other members (just as private clubs do) in order to reduce turnover. Also, our business requires regular capital improvements. If we’re not continually spending money and upgrading our facilities, we’re falling behind and leaving the door open for other clubs to take our members. We must keep our clubs fresh, modern, and up-to-date.

Clive Caldwell
President and CEO
Cambridge Group of Clubs
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices. Check them out here.