Strategy is Key to Running a Winning Fitness Business

Successful health club businesses are built on a long-term vision surrounding strategic goals and a short-term vision surrounding actionable planning.

To run a booming health club business, you should consider employing strategic thinking that is different from the status quo.

Instead of solely basing your strategy around the work your business does and how it can do this work better, it may be time to take a step back and rediscover your purpose—by thinking about why you do what you do.

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“We, as humans, tend to sometimes get stuck in what we want and how we get it, versus exploring why we want it in the first place,” says Bill McBride, president and CEO of Active Wellness and BMC3 in San Francisco, CA. “We espouse coaching for customers/clients/members to get maximum efficacy in their lifestyle programs, but sometimes businesses need to seek similar coaching or just revisit articulating their ‘passion and why.’”

If you’re having trouble building a winning business strategy, stop to consider your “why” and start thinking less like a business and more like a human.

“This human nature component translates to businesses as well,” McBride says. “Businesses are legal entities made up of people. They tend to have the same challenges as individuals: financial stress, friendships and relationships, break-ups, emotional drama, windfalls, setbacks, etc.”

And this is only the tip of the strategic thinking iceberg. McBride will cover even more in his “Winning in Business Requires Strategy” session on Wednesday, March 21 at IHRSA 2018 in San Diego, CA.

Methods for Defining Your ‘Why’

So then how do you reclaim your “why”? McBride recommends that companies and employees follow these three tips to better define why they do what they do:

  1. Work on a 30-45 second “why” that explains why your business is unique, different, and great in your senior leadership/management meetings.
  2. Take this statement to your department and front-line staff meetings and have these employees work on the same task.
  3. Imagine every employee at every level knowing your “why” and being able to personally, passionately articulate it whenever the conversation turns to the organization.

“And remember,” says McBride, “these should be things no one else can say in your market…if anyone could claim it, it’s not special to your organization.”

“This human nature component translates to businesses ... They tend to have the same challenges as individuals: financial stress, friendships and relationships, break-ups, emotional drama, windfalls, setbacks, etc.”

Bill McBride, President & CEO

Active Wellness & BMC3, San Francisco, CA

Making Strategic Thinking Part of Your Culture

Defining your "why" creates awareness surrounding what you'd like to accomplish as part of your core business strategy. Once you've done that, you can serve unmet market needs.

The next step involves finding ways to make strategic thinking part of your daily business culture, and it is okay if this takes some time. It’s important to note that you should have a long-term vision surrounding strategic goals for your company and a short-term vision when discussing more actionable planning.

“I am a firm believer that you have to learn to say no to good ideas so you can execute on your current good/great ideas.”

Bill McBride, President & CEO

Active Wellness & BMC3, San Francisco, CA

McBride believes that the best way to start thinking strategically is to set aside specific times to discuss strategy.

“A lot of times we are in ‘firefighter’ mode and never get to strategic thinking mode in our operations meeting,” he says. “Setting strategic thinking time during operations meetings tends to cut short brainstorming time, so I find it best to have strategic meetings separate.”

Ensure your team stays focused on achieving results by tieing organizational strategy to the operational plan you use.

It’s also crucial to note that it is more than okay to say ‘no’ to strategic ideas, even if they may be good ones.

“I am a firm believer that you have to learn to say no to good ideas so you can execute on your current good/great ideas,” McBride says. “Saying no is the biggest component to successful organizations (and individuals).”

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The Effect of Developing Trends and Technology

In an ever-evolving industry, like the fitness industry, it can be challenging to figure out which business strategies will yield the most success, and determine which trends are worth chasing.

When asked about how to track developing trends that influence business strategies and strategic thinking, McBride suggests listening to the consumer.

“How do we learn more about the consumer’s wants, desires, and needs?” asks McBride. “I think there is a big play for data analytics companies to serve our industry. I think it’s bigger than physical activity—it’s lifestyle and related retail purchasing patterns.”

Using technology to capture consumer behavior analytics will be transformational for the health club industry, he says. It will help businesses determine in-club equipment usage, clarify retention percentages, and discover how health clubs can create more tailored strategies that meet consumer needs and build upon our businesses’ and our industry’s overarching purposes.

Learn more about IHRSA 2018, March 21-24 in San Diego.

Author avatar

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.