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Never-Ending Learning

According to one ancient and wise Chinese proverb, “Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back.” 

In fact, in order to become and remain truly successful—in the health and fitness club industry, as well as in so many others—it’s important for a person to constantly be striving to better himself or herself.

Of course, in our industry, there’s no single greater educational opportunity than IHRSA’s annual International Convention and Trade Show, the 2013 installment of which will take place next March 19–22 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The fitness profession, however, also offers a wide range of other educational resources: events staged by other associations, as well as independent companies; magazines such as CBI; and, among the newer media offerings, videos and online Webinars.

Prominent among the latter are the thoroughly researched and professionally produced educational products developed by IHRSA. Making good and consistent use of them is an efficient, inexpensive, and rewarding way for club owners, operators, and staff to remain cutting edge ... and a step or two ahead of the competition.

Development/management videos

These days, given the current economic climate, keeping club members is a challenge, and obtaining new ones, even tougher. As a result, it’s essential that every club employee be actively involved in member retention, and that no potential “lead” slip through the cracks.

IHRSA’s Professional Development and Management DVD series includes eight videos that are designed to help clubs improve their sales and member-retention activities. Four of the videos concentrate on sales, and four focus on keeping members happy, coming back, achieving results, and spreading the word about their club.

“Every club employee should watch these valuable videos as part of their training,” suggests Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. “Just as it’s important to get members on the right track when they first join, it’s imperative to provide new employees with proper sales and service training when they’re just getting started.” 

In Selling Club Memberships, Karen Woodard, the president of Premium Performance Training, based in Boulder, Colorado, points out that many club salespeople rely too heavily on walk-ins, and neglect to work on business-building. “Walk-ins are great,” she says, “but you never want to need them.”

In the video, Woodard provides an overview of the basic factors involved in membership sales; offers a proven, five-point plan for generating leads; and reviews the key components of effective telephone selling. She also describes the role of the club tour in the sales process, and explains exactly how to conduct one.

Shayna Nestor, the membership coordinator for the Longfellow Club, in Wayland, Massachusetts, recommends Selling Club Memberships to any club. “In this video, Karen shares some intriguing ideas about how to sell memberships,” says Nestor. “The real-life scenarios she uses to illustrate each stage of the selling process are especially valuable.”

In Creating a Warm and Welcoming Club Environment, Brent Darden, the owner and general manager of the TELOS Fitness Center, in Dallas, advises viewers that every member is entitled to a warm welcome and a fond farewell. And, he notes, a club’s employee culture is a critical element in the equation. “Employees will treat customers the way they’re treated by their managers,” he indicates. “Happy employees are more fun to be around.”

In the past, John McCarthy, now IHRSA’s executive director emeritus, would often remind operators that, in any business with a high operating leverage, even a small improvement in member retention can produce an enormous impact on profitability. 

“A 2% improvement in membership retention can yield—all other things being equal—as much as a 20% improvement in club profitability,” notes IHRSA Chairperson Bill McBride, the COO of Club One, Inc., based in San Francisco, California. McBride makes the point in Increasing Membership Retention in the Health and Fitness Industry.

In the video, he identifies many of the characteristics that are often associated with healthy retention, including comfortable social spaces; greater square footage per member; continuous club improvement; and higher joining fees (e.g., $250-plus).

Herb Lipsman, the COO of the Houston Oaks Country Club, in Hockley, Texas, serves as narrator and guide in Creating and Sustaining a Member-Service Culture. “Hire people who like to serve, who can be excited about helping others,” he posits. “You can’t train for that—people either have it in their nature, or they don’t.” Staff should also feel safe to disagree with management. “At our club, the owner and management want input from everyone,” he explains. “Employees will take their ideas elsewhere if they’re frustrated and not being heard.”

All eight Professional Development and Management videos are available in three formats— DVD, Internet streaming, or download—with prices depending on format.

“These outstanding DVDs are an efficient and cost-effective way to train employees,” observes Rick Beusman, the owner of Saw Mill Sports Management, in Mount Kisco, New York. “I recommend them to anybody who’s serious about improving their bottom line.”

Industry-specific Webinars

IHRSA offers monthly Webinars on a wide variety of topics—ranging from sales and marketing, to fitness programming, to social media strategies—for club operators. These Webinars make use of on-screen graphics, a presenter’s instruction via phone, and on-line questions and answers. All that’s required to participate is a phone, a computer, and a high-speed Internet connection.

IHRSA’s Webinar series is generously sponsored by Cybex International, Inc., a leading equipment manufacturer based in Medway, Massachusetts.

A Webinar purchase provides entry to the live presentation for an unlimited number of company employees at a single location, all downloadable materials, and access to the archived Webinar for 60 days.

Recent IHRSA Webinars have included Create an Exceptional Brand Experience; Best Practices to Increase Your Member Retention; Marketing and Selling to Older Adults; and Personal Training Management: Maximizing Your Team’s Effective- ness and Profitability.

“The Webinar with Trina Gray, Create Raving Fans by Engaging Your Members, was truly inspiring and motivating,” says Connie Cook, the fitness director at the Fit Athletic Club, in San

Diego, California. “Just when you think you’ve tried it all, it’s nice to have a fresh perspective and great marketing ideas.” (Gray is the owner of the Bay Athletic Club, in Alpena, Michigan.)

Visit ihrsa.org/webinars to learn more, register, or purchase recordings of past IHRSA Webinars; the price is $49 each for members, and $89 for nonmembers.

“Every club owner, manager, and, in fact, anyone aspiring to grow in the fitness industry should take advantage of all of IHRSA’s programs, Webinars, and other tools,” concludes Lauren Eller, the human resources (HR) director for the Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago. “The association’s experience and dedication forms the very backbone of our increasingly important industry.” 


Save now on Training videos!

CBI readers can save 20% on any of IHRSA’s eight sales and service training videos. Simply visit ihrsa.org/store (click on “DVDs” and, then, on “Professional Development and management DVD Series”) and use the coupon code DVD20 at checkout. A free preview of each video is available. Current titles include:


  • Creating a Warm and Welcoming Club Environment (Brent Darden)
  • Engaging New Members in the Club (Brent Darden)
  • Creating and Sustaining a Member-Service Culture (Herb Lipsman)
  • Increasing Membership Retention in the Health and Fitness Industry (Bill mcBride)
  • Selling Club Services to Corporations (Bill mcBride)
  • Managing the Sales Team and Process (Bill mcBride)
  • Non-Sales Professional’s Guide to Selling Club Services and Products (Stephen Tharrett)
  • Selling Club Memberships (Karen Woodard)


Coupon code expires 12/31/12 and cannot be combined with other offers. 


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