Creating a Coaching Culture

Changing the gym’s identity from a convenient space to exercise to one that creates a valuable connection with members changed everything for a multi-chain Anytime Fitness operator.

The Anytime Fitness tagline is, “Something different is happening here.”

Brent Potter, a multi-club Anytime Fitness operator in Winnebago, IL, has taken that adage to heart. He’s steadily been shifting his chain’s focus from individual exercise to coaching.

“When we started, we were one of the only health clubs in the area open 24/7 that had locations all around the U.S.,” he says. “As other brands started popping up with some of the same offerings, and our attrition rate increased, we knew we had to change our identity from one of convenience to one of working more closely with our members, and coaching was an excellent way to get there."

Wide-ranging Change

But the change is more than just a programming shift. It’s a cultural change that’s affected a wide range of processes and areas within Brent’s health clubs.

“It starts with the tour of the facility,” he says. “We moved from showing prospects the features of the equipment to how each area of the club and its related machines would directly impact how they were going to achieve their goals. We also changed the way we onboarded our members.

“It’s no longer just about the initial fitness consultation. We created multiple touchpoints that match our members’ journeys to show them that we were as dedicated as they were to achieving their short- and long-term goals.”

Those touchpoints now include:

  • monthly goal-setting assessments,

  • homework workouts,

  • check-ins with their coaches, and

  • a Personal Training Experience (PTE)—a new member offer.

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To keep trainers engaged and aligned with the new business rhythms and needs, Anytime holds quarterly Training Summits, where the trainers meet to educate and work with one another. Each Summit includes a hands-on training topic, such as ways to increase the mobility of the shoulder, as well as a business-related topic geared toward improving the member experience.

The Right Introduction

Effective communication and implementation were critical for the new model’s success.

“Of course, we filled our targeted emails, website, and social media with education and tips designed to help members create and achieve their exercise, nutritional, and other goals, coupled with messaging about how our coaches would help them get there,” Brent says. “But we also had to communicate the shift in ways that members and prospects could see and feel.

“We changed the layout of the clubs to make each area stand out—added turf for functional training and recovery equipment for post-workout work, included technology designed to help both coaches and members track progress against goals, and more.”

On the technology side, the clubs use Myzone to add another dimension to their coaching, as members can now track their progress with MEPS. MEPS, or Myzone Effort Points, are awarded for every minute members spend exercising in their personal intensity zones. The more effort, the more MEPs. Challenges, personal goals, and rankings are all based on MEP count.

Brent says, “Myzone gives our members a measurable method of what drives them, whether it’s accountability with their daily MEPS goal, our monthly Myzone challenges, or seeing their name up on the Myzone leaderboard. Our staff also uses it as a tool to teach clients to track their heart rate zones and be more efficient in their workouts.”

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In terms of implementation, “everything came down to participation,” he adds.

“Instead of offering a free consultation, we invited members and prospects to experience a live session with a coach focused on recovery, training, or nutrition,” explains Brent. “We also created inter-club challenges, where each of my locations would compete against each other for prizes.”

For example, the club may host a “Day of the Deadlift” challenge.

“The club that deadlifted the most combined weight that day would win new accessories or equipment for their location,” he explains. “Every member, no matter their age or limitations, can compete and help their club win. To lead up to these events, we offer free coaching sessions, teaching members techniques, progressions, and recovery methods. This leads to increased member and coach interaction and, eventually, more members participating in personal training and utilizing our other services.”

Coaching Success Metrics

Among the results Brent experienced was a greater sense of community within his chain.

“Having 12 clubs stretched across three states, you worry about each one having a different ‘identity,’” he says. “When we share a trainer tip or a member’s success story, we now do it across all 12 locations. Our members in one club will comment and encourage members in another club—and they’re all communicating more with each other.”

It's also been a boost for Anytime’s trainers.

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“As coaches, they went from having jobs to careers where they could see how they made an impact on someone else’s life,” asserts Brent. “They felt like they were a part of something bigger—a valuable piece to not only the success of our business, but also the success of our members. Our staff turnover decreased significantly, and we developed the reputation of being the company you want to work for.”

Anytime now bundles training, small group, and recovery sessions with a Myzone Switch heart rate monitor in its PTE to ensure new members have the best chance of success. This change has allowed Brent’s clubs to enroll almost a third of new members in his PTE and convert over half of those to long-term, fee-based packages.

Perhaps the most significant benchmark is that his chain’s attrition has plummeted to the lowest rate Brent has ever seen.

“Members aren’t leaving us for the next shiny new club opening down the road because they love the experience we’re giving them,” he says. “And the increase in revenue from these additional services has given us the ability to add more locations, reinvest in our facilities, and reinvest our staff.”

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to Club Business International.