A sign hanging in Amy Williams’ office at the Little Rock Racquet Club, in Little Rock, AR, provides a daily reminder: “You get what you demand, and you encourage what you tolerate.”
Whenever she considers these sentiments—attributed to the late Tom Landry, the record-setting head coach of the Dallas Cowboys—she remembers the four enlightening days she spent last August at The IHRSA Institute.
At last year’s session, Brent Darden, the CEO of Brent Darden Consulting, in Dallas, and the former chair of IHRSA’s board of directors, shared Landry’s principle during his seminar, “Strategic Planning for Club Executives,” explaining how it applied to the health club industry.
“These are words to live by,” Williams says, pointing to the sign. “They’re a reminder of how small inappropriate behaviors—such as staff eating at the front desk or taking long personal phone calls—can become ingrained in the workplace culture. But these sorts of things will ultimately detract from a successful business.”
This instructive nugget is but one of the many that Williams mined at The Institute and brought back to her club, where, as assistant manager and membership director, she manages a year-round staff of 20, which expands to 30 to 40 in the summertime.
The 65,000-square-foot club, one of four owned and operated by the Little Rock Athletic Centers (LRAC), is situated on 10 wooded acres, and features, among its many amenities, 12 outdoor tennis courts, a 50-meter Olympic lap pool, and two additional pools. It serves 1,600 members.
Williams has worked for the LRAC family of clubs for 16 years, starting at the age of 16 as a towel attendant at the Little Rock Athletic Club. She then transitioned to the front desk, where she remained for six years, before training for membership sales. In 2010, she became the member services director, and, in 2016, assumed the positions she currently holds.
During her tenure with the company, she earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology, as well as a master’s in industrial and organizational psychology.
Frank Lawrence, the company’s CEO, took note of Williams’ talent, dedication, and hard work, and invited her to attend The Institute. Lawrence also is a member of IHRSA’s board of directors and, himself, an Institute alumnus.
“I was so inspired by The Institute,” Williams says. “After attending and having heard the incredible speakers, I couldn’t wait to hear these people again.
“I wanted to be one of these people.”
And, so, when the opportunity arose to speak at IHRSA’s 38th Annual International Convention & Trade Show, in San Diego, in March, Williams submitted her name for consideration. Although she’d never attended the convention before, she was chosen to participate in IGNITE!, a fast-paced, 75-minute event, during which 10 speakers, making use of 20 slides, share their personal and professional insights on a wide range of subjects.
“I spoke on 'Improve the Day,' which is the theme we bring to bear on the member experience at our club,” she explains. “We try to improve the day of every member or guest who comes through the door.”
Her account engaged the attention of a standing-room-only audience of 200, who responded with enthusiastic applause.
The immense size and scope of the San Diego Convention Center far exceeded that of the UNC campus, but, Williams discovered, thanks to The Institute experience, she felt right at home. “I saw so many people I knew from The Institute at the convention,” she says. “Seeing their friendly faces made it all a lot less intimidating.
“Attending The Institute really prepared me well for the convention ... and for so much more.”