Key Practices for Gym Owners

By Ann Gilbert

Community, Camaraderie & Confidence

A community is defined as a social unit with a sense of commonality, mutual respect, overall comfort, and safety. The feeling of community is not about a number, a measurement, or a physical achievement. It is the feeling of being in a safe place. It means being in an environment that makes the customer shout, “I love the skin I am in!”

A community promotes a nonjudgmental atmosphere, creating a true sense of camaraderie and support. All the above can be sewn into one tapestry that nurtures the “I belong” mentality and keeps our clients staying put for years beyond the national average.

The growth of small studios and wellness communities is on the rise and seen climbing up the trend list as something to study with a growth of 6.3% expected before 2030. The following have and will contribute to the growth, in the community driven business.

  • Having a team who shares a vision and is willing to assist in decision making, meeting the customers where their needs are.
  • Having a team that focuses on customer experience, taking initiative beyond a job description.
  • Having a team with an entrepreneurial mind-set, owning a piece of all systems, and management changes.
  • Having a customer specific on-boarding process allowing for the proper introduction of unique value-added programming options that make the community stand out. 
  • Having a system of follow up to assure there is clear direction in creating the pathway towards the feeling of belonging

Innovative program options are essential when focusing on creating an experience that will lead to the community’s growth. This is a sample list of customer-centric programs that we deliver at SHAPES Fitness for Women.

  • 56 Day Wellness Challenge
  • Yes, You Can with Cancer
  • Aging Fit
  • E.A.T. Supported Exercise for Ageless Training
  • Walk a Marathon Training
  • Elite Small Group Functional Training
  • Smart Start Integration Option
  • Pre-Post Surgical Training

The options must be specific to the demographic attending, in compliance with the Club or Studio’s vison & mission and have earned the respect and support of the staff and customers. Having innovative programming in place enhances the value proposition of the facility in the eyes of the client and staff. The choices must stand out, be unique and be seen as only available to those in the community itself. Gone are the days of every facility offering the same dance, strength, or mind body options. One must strive to be different and deliver the “difference making” options. If so, price is no longer a concern or sales obstacle. Some argue that you may cut off a supply or percentage of potential customers by niching down. I argue the opposite! Retaining a customer base due to having unique offerings is more important than working for the next sale off the street.

Meet Our Relationship Building Tree

There are 3 interrelated components in our Relationship Building Tree: The Root System (Our Value Propositions); The Branch System (Our Customer-Specific Programming); and our Delivery System (Our Hybrid FitPros).

The Root System: The components in our Root System represent the various components of our culture. These individual components represent our community values that represent the reasons for customers to join us; the reasons for our customers to stay with us; and the reasons for our customers to refer their friends, family members and work colleagues to join our community.

The Branch System: Our Branch System represents all the customer-specific that are delivered to our customers. The content of our Branded Programs makes our culture, our value propositions come to life. All our Programs have an omnichannel option that keeps our customers engaged both inside and outside our 4 walls.

Delivery System: Our Hybrid Fitness Professionals are our Delivery System. Our team has been recruited because they have, as a minimum, the following skill-sets: have a foundation in Emotional Intelligence; are looking for purpose & meaning instead of looking for just a “Job”; see themselves as a contributor to the picture and vision; they are non-judgmental; have empathy skills; and know what they don’t know but want to learn so they can improve themselves.

Taken together, these 3 interrelated components create an environment that (1) non-customers want to join; (2) customers want to stay; and (3) customers want to share their positive experiences with by referring their friends, family members and colleagues to join.

As Hybrid FitPros, we all have the expertise to find the answer to any member’s need. Each need can be addressed by any or all of those on our Hybrid FitPro team. Each Hybrid can and will teach any GroupEx Session. Each Hybrid who delivers GroupEX Programming is certified. Each team Member can deliver Personal Training Sessions, Small & Large Group Training Sessions. The Hybrid FitPro staff continues to grow as a customer-focused team because they all participate in an In-House Continuing Education Program that is staffed by outside subject-matter-experts.  The graphic below captures the essence of what our team provides to our customers.

Integration or onboarding of the new customer remains the third key to success in growing a culture. We now use a popular 12 week start up programming option. Customers no longer join a gym and instead brag of starting a journey within the walls of the location. Gym or Journey is the conversation during the get to know you or needs assessment on day one. Those interested are now seeking us out for a specific program rather than a price.

To summarize, it’s the blend between staff, programming and integration that will be key to the growth of a flourishing tree that will generate a dynamic Return-On-Investment on our initial investment.

About the Author: Ann Gilbert

Ann Gilbert is the fitness industry’s premiere educator on exercise and aging. A successful owner and operator of Shapes Fitness for Women, she oversees over 50 Personal Trainers and Group Fitness professionals, coordinating extremely successful fee-based small group training programs including functional training for the older adult involving strength, balance, coordination, and independence. As an ACE / IHRSA Personal Trainer of the Year, Ann is a featured, sought-after, and popular speaker at IHRSA, FBA- Succeed, Club Industry, SCW MANIA®, and IAFC Conventions. Ann is an industry leader and education expert helping to develop and teach the following SCW Certifications: Active Aging, Aquatic Exercise, Group Fitness, WATERinMOTION®, and S.E.A.T. (Supported Exercise for Ageless Training.).

What’s New in 2024
DC MANIA® – February 23-25

Members are clamoring for NEW & EXCITING in 2024. Give it to them! DC MANIA® has it all with over 150 powerful sessions including more than 50 devoted to YOU! Whether you’re a small fitness boutique owner or a multi-facility gym manager, SCW Health & Fitness Business Summit has programming to boost your membership, marketing, programming, and of course your bottom line. Connect, Learn, Shop, Share!!!

What is Corrective Exercise & How It Benefits Clients & Trainers Alike

By Patrick Mummy

Corrective exercise is increasing in popularity and it’s not just clients seeking to heal old injuries but endurance athletes as well. In fact, it’s been a growing trend for the past couple of years. With clients returning to the gym after a few years away, they’re looking for ways to ease back in responsibly. So, what is Corrective Exercise, and why is it gaining popularity?

What is Corrective Exercise?

Corrective Exercise is a category of exercise that helps improve or correct movement and positioning of the body. Any dysfunction can cause pain, increase the risk for injury, or cause other dysfunction in the body. Corrective Exercise is used to resolve core problems that affect posture, balance, and coordination. If your clients aren’t moving correctly or have poor form, you can use these types of exercises to help get them back into alignment. 

Corrective exercises are personalized to each individual client based on their needs and limitations. They often look gentler than the routines you might be used to putting together, including some stretch, and strengthening positions that appear similar to yoga poses.

Because each program is personalized, it requires an understanding of anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics to accurately assess issues in the body and then create a corrective exercises routine. 

Though the exercises themselves appear gentle, results can be seen relatively quickly.  

How to Assess Your Client

Just like any assessment, understanding your client and their key metrics will help to establish a foundational understanding of where they are starting from. Especially when starting a corrective exercise routine this is important, it requires really getting to know them. There are two important elements in an initial consultation that will help you build a thorough assessment:

  1. Verbal Assessment: Getting to know your client’s health history is important to establish an effective corrective exercise routine. It’s an opportunity to understand what their goals are and any limitations they might have and establish a starting point to compare to when measuring progress. 
  2. Hands-On Assessment: This can mean a lot of things usually relating to measuring a client’s body in some way, but it can also mean measuring range of motion and strength. Most essential to this process is establishing trust with your client. Consent is a powerful concept and applies even in this setting. Some clients may not care if you touch their bodies, but there are many who will appreciate the communication and that you have asked for their permission as you handle their bodies. Also, communicating what you’re doing and why as you take measurements while working quickly will put your client at ease. Make sure to record your findings and relate their meaning back to your client.

Why is it Important?

Movement is a part of everyone’s life. Often, it’s not until someone experiences an injury that they realize they’ve been taking it for granted, and then they start the long and difficult process of healing their body. Usually, this is in the form of surgeries, physical therapy, and other serious interventions. Often, these injuries started as small misalignments that could have been corrected, avoiding the massive interruptions bigger injuries cause.  

Moving freely, pain-free is a privilege. Especially as we age. It doesn’t have to be though. Through corrective exercise, your clients can restore mobility, posture, stability, and balance and pursue greater physical goals in the process. Having a deeper understanding of Corrective Exercises will allow you to spot potential issues in your clients and address them before they become big problems.

Benefits of Corrective Exercise?

  • For Clients: Quality of Life
    • Pain Relief
    • Recovery from an injury, or preventing injury
    • Restoration of mobility
    • Help reach fitness goals
  • For Trainers
    • Prevent injury in clients
    • Get clients to return to training after injury sooner
    • Improve client performance, no matter the fitness level
    • Differentiate yourself from other trainers

Who is it For?

The great thing about Corrective Exercise is that it can be modified for anyone to use. It can be adapted to anyone’s fitness level or physical limitations. This opens up a lot of opportunities for a new client base and holding on to clients as they heal from injuries. 

Corrective Exercise is important for everyone, especially in an increasingly sedentary world. Posture, in general, is a challenge, but for those working from home or the office, it remains especially difficult. Sitting for long periods in front of a computer or at a desk encourages a laundry list of problematic postural behaviors.

Especially for those who are sedentary for most of the day, Corrective Exercise can be a good segue into being more physical. Sure, intense exercise is popular and tempting, but going from one extreme to another can contribute to injury. Not that this is news to you, as a trainer you know that the body needs to be prepared for explosive movement.

A Cut Above

Helping your clients build a solid foundation of alignment, posture, and stability will create long-term success for both of you. They are more likely to reach their goals without injury, and you are more likely to reach your own business goals. This opens up opportunities for your clients to continue to grow and no doubt instill a deeper sense of trust in you. 

While all trainers have a basic understanding of form and the skills to adjust their clients, diving deeper into Corrective Exercise is an opportunity to have the upper hand. You’ll be able to see your client’s movements with a more analytical eye and identify their needs and offer exercises that target the exact issue they might be experiencing, getting ahead of any larger issues that could come up later. Truly a win for all.

To experience your own personal Corrective Exercise Assessment, join the Symmetry AlignSmart Team at DC MANIA®, February 23-25.  They will be leading sessions about Postural Alignment and Corrective Exercise as well as providing spinal assessments at their expo booth. 

About the Author: Patrick Mummy

Patrick Mummy earned a baseball scholarship to San Diego State University & graduated with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. He founded Symmetry for Health & was awarded a patent on a measurable system for postural assessment and corrective exercise – AlignSmart Technology. Patrick has written three books, the latest – “The Physics of Pain; becoming Pain-Free”. He has spoken on the subject of postural assessment at multiple conferences & corporations.

16 Recruiting Best Practices for Hiring & Leading Great Staff

By Erick Schmitz
Courtesy of IHRSA

A well-trained, motivated staff can boost sales revenue, membership numbers, retention rates, and help your members to achieve their fitness goals. Unfortunately, hiring a team of staff that will help your health club or fitness studio flourish can be a challenge. Training them, developing their skills, and then retaining them are additional feats that you’ll have to tackle.

But there are steps you can take to set yourself—and your team—up for success. From interviewing to creating a company culture that supports your business goals, these best practice guidelines can help you develop a top-notch team. The additional resources listed at the bottom of this article will help you learn more about this key topic.

This article is one in a series of 28 Best Practice Guidelines for Operating a Fitness Facility.

Follow these guidelines and improve your staff recruiting, training, and development strategy.

  1. Start With the Hiring Process

  2. Help Your Team Develop Professionally

  3. Look at Your Employee Benefits

  4. Focus on Company Culture

  5. Manage to Support Your Team

Ultimately, well-trained and dedicated staff will help you to build your brand and achieve your business goals.

Start With the Hiring Process

1. Design a collaborative interview process where candidates meet and interact with multiple employees.

2. Consider incorporating a personality or work style assessment into the hiring process to gain additional information on candidates and better understand personalized onboarding needs for new hires.

Help Your Team Develop Professionally

3. Develop a clearly defined path for each employee’s professional growth.

4. Develop a performance management plan to work on career mapping for employees.

5. Provide professional development and continuing education opportunities.

Look at Your Employee Benefits

6. Ensure all employees have access to health and dental care (where applicable).

7. Implement an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to provide additional resources to your employees.

8. Consider offering education to all employees on how to save for retirement and, if needed, help direct them to reputable retirement options or information.

Focus on Company Culture

9. Create and document your company culture. Components may include a mission statement, vision statement, brand promise, and core values.

10. Lead your organization with a suitable culture and outlined values to achieve short- and long-term sustainable business goals.

11. Host regular team-building activities, workshops, or off-site retreats/outings.

12. Schedule recurring meetings to keep employees and company initiatives aligned.

Manage to Support Your Team

13. Obtain appropriate legal counsel to ensure knowledge and compliance with all applicable employment regulations.

14. Ensure there is an effective planning process to support systems, processes, employees, and customers.

15. Set out effective management and governance systems.

16. Plan appropriate use of resources and funds.

About the Author: Eric Schmitz

Eric Schmitz is a University of Wisconsin graduate and has been the president of California Athletic Clubs for over 12 years.

A Systematized and
Well-Executed Referral System

By Manny Escalante
Courtesy of Personal Fitness Professional

Referrals SHOULD be your primary source of new business. Many fitness professionals are on the hunt for the next great marketing tactic while completely ignoring the best source for business growth. People who come from referrals are warm, pre-qualified leads that are easier to convert. You need to perfect your referral request system and ensure it includes a follow-up process.

Some clients refer often (we love them). Some clients will never refer anyone (that’s ok). Most clients will refer if they’re asked and reminded. The keys to a successful referral program are to be specific, be direct and be willing to follow up.
Specific: I’m looking to help 2 more people this month.
Direct: Who do you know that would benefit from working with us? (Expect a name or a relationship, e.g. my co-worker or my sister, but be prepared for “I need to think about it”)
Follow up: I’ll follow up with you to remind you to bring them in or to think about who you want to invite. Is text or email best?
It’s imperative that you declare your mission. Rally your clients and your team around the number of people you want to impact in your community. We’re on a mission to change 200 lives in our community by the end of the year. Will you join us on the #200Fit Mission?
Now that you have declared your mission, here are 5 marketing tactics that you should be executing:

1. Scheduled checkpoints

There are certain times during the client lifecycle that are ideal to ask for referrals.
  • New members, between days 7 and 21. During this time they’re still very excited and motivated and are often already talking about your program.
  • After they renew because you can be confident they like what you offer and they believe that you can help them.
  • When they hit a milestone on their fitness journey (major or minor), follow up with “I am so proud that you’ve accomplished _____. I love helping people just like you. Does anyone come to mind that would benefit from working with us?”
  • During the first week of each month, physically hand out “bring a friend” coupons to clients. Ask them who they’re thinking about bringing in, and be sure to follow up.
  • Quarterly, set up bring a friend day/week where guests are invited to experience a class or just invited to come to check out your space.

2. Structured invitations for past clients and past leads

Another great lead source is past clients and past leads. These people have already engaged with you and your business.
Systematically and consistently reach out to past clients to check in on them. Ask about their kids, their work, and their hobbies. Share what you’ve been up to both personally and professionally.
A very common marketing mistake is never reaching out to past clients (but always feeling the need for more leads). Yet another common mistake is to only reach out to past clients when you want them to buy something (and wonder why you often don’t get any replies).
Business success is about relationships. Relationships are built by maintaining open lines of communication.
Along the same lines, unconverted leads also have the potential to be untapped goldmines. Get in the mindset that unconverted leads didn’t say “never,” they said “not right now.” Look at your consultation notes so that you can personalize your outreach to them. Do you know something about their work, their hobbies, their family, their fitness goals? Ask them about things that matter to them before asking them to join your programs.

3. Consistent in-person networking

In-person networking introduces you to new people who will be your ideal clients, or who can introduce you to ideal clients. It’s difficult to grasp why fitness professionals spend hours trying to hack funnels & algorithms when they can go to an in-person event and instantly be in front of warm leads. This is critical even for online businesses.
The networking event is where to meet people, not where you make sales. The key to in-person networking is to be consistent and to follow up for one-on-one meetings. Use these as a jumping-off point for your in-person networking…
  • Volunteering with your favorite organization
  • Chamber of commerce, BNI & business grand opening celebrations
  • Rotary & service Organizations
  • Partnerships with other businesses (i.e. run shop, chiropractor)

4. Capitalizing on client reviews and testimonials

Documented reviews increase your credibility. When was the last time you made a significant purchase without reading reviews? Why do you think your potential client shouldn’t read reviews about you?
Reviews, especially those captured on your Google Business Profile (you have one of these right!?!) will help with SEO and can organically help people find your business. Regularly updated reviews and testimonials let the internet algorithms and the world know that your business is relevant, active and doing good work.
In addition, you can capture reviews on Facebook, Yelp and NextDoor. Add testimonials to your website, your social posts and any other marketing material you develop.

5. An organized social media strategy

You shouldn’t be silent on social media, but you also should’nt spend all of your marketing brain power trying to become an influencer and hack the platform’s algorithm. Most fitness professionals want loyal, paying clients — not just random likes on their posts.
Social media is a vehicle for people to get to know, like and trust you. It is a branding tool that will keep your company top of mind when the potential customer is ready for your services. It also helps you stay top of mind and engage with your current clients.
Avoid the extremes in social media… always asking for the sale (or always making a sales pitch) OR… never asking for the sale (or never asking people to meet with you).
  • Educate. Give clients information on how to solve the problem they have or how they can achieve their goals. This includes exercise tutorials, nutrition tips, answering common questions.
  • Entertain. You will see the most engagement with posts that are entertaining. This can be videos of clients working out, someone being silly, your kids, your pets, etc. Stop the scroll by putting a smile on people’s faces.
  • Celebrate. Showcase the success your clients are having with videos and pictures. Encourage your clients to be celebrated even if they have not achieved their “end goal” but they have made progress along the way. This celebration can be for weight loss, decreased pain, strength gain, better sleep, improved mood, etc. Also use this category to celebrate birthdays, team member anniversaries and anything else you want to draw attention to.
  • Inform. This is your opportunity to directly ask your social media followers for the sale. Is your nutrition challenge opening up? Looking to gain a few more private training clients? Are you offering a complementary consultation? Should they download your e-book?
Finally, be sure to have a clear answer before posting your inform offer.
  • Who are you talking to?
  • What problem do they have or what goal are they trying to achieve?
  • How does that make them feel?
  • Who else has had success working with you?
  • What can you offer to help them?
Make your marketing simply by executing these 5 pillars. Then, feel free to incorporate some additional initiatives, such as paid advertising, to this foundation. As we’ve learned in fitness, results are attained and maintained by executing the basics day in and day out.

About the Author: Manny Escalante

Manny Escalante brings real life experience as a business coach and business owner. Since 2003 he has helped business owners generate more revenue and take control of their lives. He has worked (in varying capacities) 24 Hour Fitness, Disneyland Resort, professional baseball, professional bullriding, varsity sports and hundreds of business owners with monthly revenue from $6K to $300K per month. Manny has a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Sports Medicine. He is Certified in OKR Leadership and Goal Setting and is a Certified Customer Acquisition Specialist. He’s an avid runner, an occasional beer drinker and an outdoor enthusiast. He loves his dog, but loves Jesus and his wife much, much more. Learn more about Manny at Follow him on Instagram @businesscoachmanny.

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