Step Out of the Background to Become a Fitness Leader

Working behind the scenes is great, but according to Larry Conner, you must also lead by networking with others in the industry and in the community.

The Lessons in Fitness Leadership series highlights IHRSA’s industry leaders and thanks them for their continued commitment to growing, promoting, and protecting the health club industry. By sharing their business expertise, we hope that you will get to know them, what they've learned along the way, and how they view leadership.

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Larry Conner
President and General Manager
Stone Creek Club & Spa

What is the most fulfilling part of being a business leader in the fitness industry?

I love this industry. We are not only making a difference by improving people’s lives through health and wellness, but through our businesses, we are also able to do so much more for our communities. Our clubs are magnets for support of charitable causes and awareness and this makes our work even more meaningful.

If you were able to go back in time, what is one piece of leadership advice you would give your younger self about working in the fitness industry?

Get involved. I was always more of a background type of a leader—working behind the scenes and with the team. [There’s] nothing wrong with that and I still do this, but you also have to get out there and network with others in the industry and in the community. Your club, your team, and yourself will prosper more by you being involved and staying with and a part of this ever-changing industry.

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Visitors enjoy the pool at Stone Creek Club & Spa.

What prompted you to join the Industry Leadership Council?

Our industry is growing rapidly and with this comes increased threats from many sides—increased regulations, taxes, unfair competition, etc.—plus other opportunities we could benefit from, like the PHIT Act. The ILC defends and supports our industry and keeps us informed along the way. We can hide our heads in the sand and this will work temporarily, but sooner or later we will get buried. We must be involved and support the ones who are supporting and working to protect us at all times.

What has been your most memorable experience as part of the ILC?

Personally getting “thank you’s” and “congratulations” from other clubs and members about the PHIT bill passing in the House. Our team played a normal role in this—sharing and informing our members about it, sharing with other clubs, talking to our representatives and senators, sharing with the local business community, etc.—but people appreciate when their club is looking out for them and others. This adds to the credibility and professionalism of the club.

“We must be involved and support the ones who are supporting and working to protect us at all times.”

Larry Conner, President and General Manager

Stone Creek Club & Spa - Covington, LA

The Personal Health Investment Today Act, or PHIT, is legislation that would make access to physical activity more affordable. How will the passage of this bill help America get fit?

Sometimes you just need a little push to get started. We have a large part of our population not doing anything. If nothing else, this gives it more attention and will help some make it more affordable. One member told me he has never had a personal trainer and he knows how much this would help him get fitter (PHITter) and healthier. He said if this passes, he will use the savings to get a starter pack of training. He knows that this will help him reach his fitness goals because he is the type who needs someone to push him. I never thought of this, and I know there are a lot of people like this who will benefit more than they are benefitting now.

IHRSA does a significant amount of advocacy work to Grow, Promote, and Protect clubs across the country. How do you feel that work benefits your business or the industry at large?

We have to have someone looking out for us and representing us when the time comes because it will come. Locally, we have had two pieces of state legislation come up recently dealing with an attempt to tax massage services—presently a non-taxed service under state sales tax laws—and in another proposed law, there were new regulations being proposed on personal trainers. Both times, I was notified by IHRSA and was not aware of this at the time, and both times IHRSA was successful in getting the language changed or the item deleted from consideration.

A lot of times legislation is proposed by legislators without them understanding the impact it will have on non-targeted groups. We were not the targets in either of these efforts, but if they were not stopped or changed, we would have been adversely affected. It is our duty to be involved and when you are and you are doing the right thing, people will notice.

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Shannon Vogler @vogler_shannon

Shannon Vogler is the Communications and Public Relations Coordinator for IHRSA. Shannon writes articles, press releases, and the IHRSA Advocate newsletter to make IHRSA members aware of policy issues that impact health clubs. She also speaks with media influencers about the benefits of working out and joining a gym. When she's not writing, Shannon enjoys running and cheering for the New England Patriots.