'What is the best change you've made in the past year?'
Wed, October 16, 2013 at 17:44
IHRSA in Bill Beck, Brooke WIlson, Karen Lankford, News, change

A year seems like a good time period to step back to judge and gauge how something has turned out. 

With trends and fads coming and going, and competition cropping up down the road or across town, fitness clubs, now more than ever, are forced to make changes. 

Owners and management constantly have to monitor memberships, retention rates ands attrition, so when something new is instituted it is imperative that it gains traction sooner than later.

We talked to a few owners and asked them, “What is the best change you have instituted at the club in the past 12 months?” and, not surprisingly, received a variety of answers.

Desoto Athletic Club, Southhaven, Miss.

The biggest of the family-owned three clubs, the Southhaven location’s cultural change is not only one the club is proud of but something that has affected a large majority of the members.

Brooke Wilson, Group Fitness director and Community Outreach director, explained that how they work with the members to help them achieve their goals has changed entirely.

DAC used to get new members in for an hour assessment and then send them on their way. Now, with newly instituted North Point Training Systems, everyone involved couldn’t be happier.

“The whole concept (owner) Robert (Creech) brought to us is totally the difference,” she said. “Once a member walks through the door there are so many options. We now can offer the best program that suits what the members want to achieve.”

Even before a member got their assessment, suggestions from staff, or took part in any variety of group fitness training and classes, DAC had to change. The culture and buying into the new program, and more importantly the club, was changed. 

“We are now more of results-based with our programming,” Wilson explained. “We changed our assessment process. Instead of sitting down with a member and showing them a packet of what DAC offers, we now take on the floor and assess their body movement head to toe. We listen to what they want to do as soon as they walk in the door. Instead of saying they need to get in front of a personal trainer we educate them on the tools they need to succeed. It is no longer a sales process.

“And with staff more educated we can explain fitness better than before.”

And when Wilson says “staff” she means everyone, from management and trainers to those who work at the Smoothie bar and  housekeeping.

“The whole culture in the club has changed. Now we are all in the same place, have the same goals - to help our members.”

Club Fit, Jefferson Valley, N.Y.

Club Fit looked at its membership and wondered how it could better accommodate them. Realizing that a large percentage of members hitting the Baby Boomer and retirement age, more and more were traveling and needing to take time off from the facility.

The club just outside of New York City already had a way for members to “freeze” their memberships. But, according to President Bill Beck, it was perfect.

Now, for a one-time $15 fee, members can freeze for as long as they want (in month increments) as often as they want. Previously it was one time a year up to three months.

“We’ve gotten a lot more liberal with our freeze policy in an effort to connect well with what we think our members want,” said Beck. “We are flexible and in return (members) commit to us. They commit with monthly dues, but they want us to acknowledge that their lives take them in different directions like trips and family.”

It’s not only the members who are appreciating the more lenient rule. Management is extremely pleased. Now that members don’t have to make a choice of paying for a membership they won’t be able to use or opt out entirely, they are cancelling a lot less.

Beck pointed out that the policy has also set his club apart from other options in the Jefferson Valley area.

“The competition in the area doesn’t have as liberal of a freeze policy. This is a good differentiator for us.

El Gancho Fitness, Swim & Racquet Club, Santa Fe, N.M. 

El Gancho Fitness, Swim & Racquet is a single club that isn’t afforded the support and collaboration that clubs in a chain has. So, when Karen Lankford, Front Office manager and Membership coordinator, explained their big change this year she said that it is something that most clubs probably did five years ago.

El Gancho “ramped up” their communications, including newsletters, e-mail blasts, the website, and, probably most importantly, social media.

“We had the old club tradition with a newsletter at the front desk,” Lankford said. “We have an older population and that is part of the reason why we are behind the curve a bit. As a lone club it was challenging.”

Another challenge was financial. El Gancho didn’t have a spot in the budget to hire a new employee to focus solely on communications. So, it has become a collaborative effort. 

“There are many tools out there that make the effort seamless to divide the duties,” Lankford added. 

One thing El Gancho has done is given the front desk staff the responsibility of Tweetiing and posting on the club’s Facebook page throughout the day. 

A residual effect from the increase in social media and information on the website has been breaking down certain walls and perceptions with more publicity.

“Even though we are not totally out of reach (dues-wise), there was a perception of, ‘oh, that is El Gancho,” Lankford said. “Now, with our outreach it makes people feel more comfortable because they are seeing what we are about.”

How about you?

Has your club made changes in the past year that resulted in big dividends? If so, e-mail bjs@ihrsa.org and let us know.


Article originally appeared on IHRSA (http://www.ihrsa.org/).
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