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 Zappos (2)


The Keys to Building Community

By Jon Feld

In a recent post, I mused (briefly) about the choices IHRSA makes for its International Convention & Trade Show keynote speakers. While I mentioned my discussions with CEO Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness, I never really delved into my thoughts about why he was uniquely qualified to present at the event.

In comparing the ways in which Zappos and clubs serve their customers, Hsieh  says, “In a lot of ways, we built our brand around customer service through the phone. With the face-to-face contact that clubs enjoy, you have a bigger advantage in creating a personal, emotional connection than through telephone or e-mail.”

In that previous post, I discussed the passion most entrepreneurs share for what they do and for those they serve. Hsieh takes it a step further with Delivering Happiness. Certainly, creating the best possible experiences for customers is the driving force behind what Zappos does and what club operators seek to achieve. But Hsieh’s vision has taken root and he’s beginning to achieve what we in the club industry already have: a community growing around his service ideals.

One point he makes in the book is that you need to have the mindset that you will “seek to change the world.” And that point has taken life beyond his pages. The Delivering Happiness Movement has raised funds for charity and more. “We wanted the book to be the spark that caused Delivering Happiness to take on a life of its own,” Hsieh related. “We’ve heard that there are physical communities around the world and we want to continue to build out multiple communities online.”

In my view, that’s the strongest link Hsieh has to the club industry: He’s found a way to spread the gospel and have a positive impact on lives outside his business. It’s a goal we’ve spoken to with regard to reaching the deconditioned and other markets for several years now. To that end, his presentation may unlock some secrets to building community that we can put to work for the long term.

Check out the full interview with Tony Hsieh in the March issue of CBI , available next week.


Closing the Loop on the Circle of Passion

By Jon Feld

Each year, I have the distinct privilege of interviewing keynote speakers for the upcoming IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show. This year, for example, I had the opportunity to spend time with Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of, and Phil Keoghan, author of No Opportunity Wasted and host of the show The Amazing Race (among an array of other programs). Both are speaking at IHRSA’s 30th Anniversary International Convention & Trade Show in San Francisco, coming up in March.

When I get the assignments, the same thought runs through my head every year. “What do these guys have to do with the club industry?” Usually, I shake my head and start crafting questions, never answering the question.

This year, when I told my wife, Susan, who I was interviewing, she asked: “What do those guys have to do with clubs?” It forced me to face the question directly. I could answer with only one very hackneyed word: Passion. We use the term so much in connection with the industry that it’s almost lost its luster for me.

But in this case, it might just be at the heart of the issue. (It’s worth noting that I have no idea how the organizers of the event come to make the selections they do, but the speakers are always intriguing.) Invariably, the speakers I interview have exhaustive energy and an array of business and personal interests. And they all share a passion for what they do, but, more importantly, for who they serve.

When I asked Phil Keoghan about his favorite moments from the hundreds and thousands of shows he’s hosted, he said: “I love watching people push way beyond what they think they’re capable of. This is a show where so-called ordinary people do extraordinary things and where you can see a deaf person like Luke win the first leg of the race with his mother. Telling them—actually, I used sign language to tell them—that they had won the first leg…definitely a favorite for me.”

Tony Hsieh put his passion for serving others into Delivering Happiness, a book whose message he says is about “making everyone in a business happy—customers, employees, and even vendors.”

The intersection here, again, is the P-word. Club owners got into the business, for the most part, based on a passion for health and fitness and a strong desire to serve others. Where many businesses are products of innovation or an idea that no one has had before, operating a club starts with an old, time-tested tenet: The need to serve.

Innovation in the club industry is about the ways in which you do that, the techniques and tactics you can use to differentiate yourself from others in your market. And that’s where the IHRSA Conventions come in (you knew I’d get to my point eventually).

In its passion to serve the fitness community, IHRSA offers a wide range of tools and resources, not the least of which is its annual Convention and Trade Show. It’s where you’ll find the latest education and thinking regarding industry trends.

But, as any successful business owner can tell you, learning from sources outside your own industry is a very powerful way to help transform your own thinking—it forces you outside what you “know” about your segment. It helps you view your business—and the way you serve others—in a different light. Hence, the value of keynotes from top businesspeople in other verticals.

The presentations put you in a unique position: to hear about improving your business from unexpected, yet proven sources, and to hear about how leaders in their own fields maximized their business opportunities, taking their passion and desire to serve to new heights.

Trust me, this is not a pitch for IHRSA or the show—I have no need to do that. I’ve simply learned a tremendous amount from interviewing these folks and want to pass the benefits along. As a writer, that’s my passion. If you close the “passion loop” yourself and see any of the IHRSA Convention and Trade Show keynote speakers, I promise you will not be disappointed. In fact, you might just look at your passion—and your business—in a brand new way.