“What is “Sexual Harassment”?”

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By: Karen Perlmutter, Executive VP of Smart Fitness

Let’s face it, when you mix bodies sweating alongside one another, wearing (at times) revealing clothing, and add in surges of hormones flowing from physical activity, you’ve got a recipe for wandering minds (and sometimes hands), and often locker room behavior that enters the gym floor.

I’m sure you’ve seen inappropriate behavior in health clubs. You’ve seen trainers giving each other back rubs, or staff flirting “harmlessly” with members or other staff members. But you think that’s not harassment. And besides, sexual harassment would never happen in your club.

Think again.

Let me ask you this, what can be construed as sexual harassment? Quiz yourself and let’s see if you can spot what constitutes sexual harassment:

Is winking at a coworker sexual harassment?

Is commenting on a coworker’s sex appeal on social media outside of work considered harassment?

Staring at a coworker. Is that considered sexual harassment?

The answer to all of the questions above is, yes. And it’s costly. In fact, statistics from 2012 show that 1 in 3 lawsuits filed concerned employment claims and the average cost of defending those claims, without going to trial, was $150,000.

Yikes! Guess what? If you are the club owner and operator, i.e. the employer, you hold strict liability for those claims. In other words, owners have absolute responsibility for any damages arising out of the harassment claim. But it’s not just about money. It’s also about your reputation in the community, your values and your brand.

Sexual harassment suits arising out of unwanted or unwelcome sexual advancements, whether verbal, physical or nonverbal, can be avoided and should be. But you have to know the law and most importantly, your employees need to know the law as well. Sexual harassment is a difficult topic and it’s not black and white. So the more you and your staff understand what can be construed as sexual harassment, the better, because a wink may not just be a wink. It could be considered an unwelcome advance.

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A knowledgeable, qualified staff equals a successful business. Smart Fitness provides all the education you’ll need, from how to prevent sexual harassment and safety training, to personal training, Group X, CPR training more!

Smart Fitness provides an interactive website with all the education a health club staff would need to become trained in their perspective roles within the health club. The platform can also assist in advancing the careers of the health club staff by offering an education continuum that allows individuals to grow into other departments within the club.

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“Beneath the Surface”

By:  Stefanie Fee, Social Media Specialist with ECORE and member of the USA Field hockey Team

The foundation of every mission statement in gyms across America is a commitment to empowering all members to be the best version of themselves while providing quality gym experiences that keep them coming back for more. What is it that allows some gyms to successfully meet these declarations, and others to fail? Customer satisfaction does not only rely heavily on the visible features gyms provide, such as innovative machines, appealing aesthetics, cleanliness, and great customer service. In fact, most membership fulfillment comes from the behind the scenes extra mile that gyms take to support their customers. Customers often overlook such features, even though the impact is remarkably influential on their satisfaction.

Nothing says, ‘We support you, from the soles of your feet to the top of your head,’ more than quality gym surfacing. It’s pretty easy to make a gym floor look attractive, but it’s what lies beneath the surface that truly matters. When a member is interested in signing up for your gym, they aren’t going to ask questions like, “Can you please share the slip resistant properties of your flooring?” “What is the thickness and critical fall height rating?” “Can you tell me if I’ll be able to clearly hear the fitness instructor and if my knees and back will be sore after I workout?” But, n reality, these details help to form the foundation your mission statement stands on, and should be addressed for your members. Can a floor do more? Yes.

Investing in quality surfaces that provide safety, good acoustics, and ergonomics is critical. Some sports and fitness flooring manufacturers use state-of-the-art technology that features recycled rubber to achieve this. The result: members can reach their optimal performance, while benefiting from energy return and force reduction characteristics that safely minimize body-to-ground impact, and make the floor more noticeably comfortable underfoot. This high performance surfacing also provides sound and shock absorption, which means that athletes dropping heavy weights in one room will not disrupt the yoga class next door. Safety is another key aspect that is crucial but often overlooked. Fitness floors that feature rubber are slip resistant and provide much more cushion than other surfaces, like wood. When you pair these three things – safety, good acoustics, and ergonomics – along with the given attributes that floors featuring rubber provide – durability, sustainability, ease of installation, ease of maintenance, and slip resistance– it’s really no contest. Sports and fitness floors that feature rubber offer superior performance; and, if installed, your customers will be inspired from the ground up. The best way to support your members begins beneath the surface!

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About ECORE International:

ECORE was born “green” and has been making smart choices for more than a century. What began as the Lancaster Cork Company in 1876 is now ECORE International. In addition to creating cork products, ECORE is committed to transforming reclaimed waste into unique performance surfacing.

Today ECORE offers a full line of the smartest, highest-performing and most eco-logically responsible recycled rubber products made in the United States. ECORE leads the commercial rubber flooring category and continues to blaze trails and set new standards in recycled rubber technology, responding with intelligent solutions that improve people’s lives every day. ECORE’s brands include ECORE Commercial Flooring, ECORE Athletic, Everlast Fitness Flooring with Nike Grind, PlayGuard Safety Surfacing, and QT Sound Insulation.

To learn more about ECORE International, its advanced technologies, and portfolio of products and brands, please visit www.ecoreintl.com.

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“4 Ways Technology Will Make Your Club a Winner”

greg sklootBy:  Greg Skloot, VP Growth, Netpulse

For the fitness industry, 2015 is the beginning of the mobile and digital revolution. The most successful clubs will combine excellence in customer service and member relationships with world-class technology that enables member engagement, drives revenue and enhances the club experience.

As operators, you are faced with far too many challenges a day: staff not showing up, machines breaking, searching for leads… on the surface, adding technology to the mix can seem like just another thing to worry about it. However, when harnessed the right way, technology can become the ultimate competitive advantage for a club operator. Let’s dig into how:

It all starts with smartphones. Nearly 80% of online Americans have a mobile phone that connects to the Internet. It’s pretty unbelievable, when it feels like just a few years ago, we were all on dial up! This innovation has connected millions of people to a sea of useful and entertaining apps, devices and services that were never available before.

Now, we know that the vast majority of our members are using smartphones. How can WE use that to our advantage to drive a better member experience?

1. Go digital

From training videos to virtual coaching to online advertisements, operators must engage with members where they live: online, and more frequently, on their mobile device. Members now demand to access basic club services (like a class schedule) and increasingly enhanced club services (like signing up for PT) online and from their phones.

 2.  Think about commerce

For operators, the mobile revolution can be a goldmine, because many people are using all of these smartphones to buy things. We’re talking big numbers here… 1 out of every 4 of your members have made purchases from their phones. Imagine if grabbing a protein shake or even a trial personal training session was as quick as a tap.

3.  It’s not just the phone, it’s the wearable

People spent a whopping $700M in 2014 purchasing wearable devices, and now 1 out of every 5 Americans are using wearable tech in their daily lives. These devices, like FitBit, Nike+ and Jawbone UP are giving members access to never before available data that helps them understand how they are progressing towards their fitness goals. Savvy clubs can use these devices to support their member’s fitness journeys, and provide better opportunities for engagement (like club fitness challenges).

4.  Know that Internet is everywhere

In the next 10 years, I bet even your toaster will be connected to the Internet. From doors to treadmills, more devices than ever before can be online, and as a result, allow a member to interact. From connected cardio equipment to futuristic iBeacon technology, the health club of 2015 and beyond will have more “smart equipment” that makes workout tracking and personalization easier than ever before.
This article is a preview of Bryan O’Rourke & Netpulse’s 10 Tech Trends for Clubs in 2015. Download the full, free PDF here.

Bryan O'Rourke croppedBryan O’Rourke is an accomplished CEO, strategic adviser, entrepreneur, investor and professional speaker. His expertise in technology, strategy, development, marketing, management and finance has led to a track record of results in fitness and wellness, food and beverage, international trade, technology and franchising. Learn more at http://www.bryankorourke.com.

netpulseNetpulse is the #1 provider of custom branded mobile apps for clubs. The most successful clubs use their mobile app to engage members, drive revenue and create a complete club experience. Your mobile app drives member referrals, PT sales, member participation in fitness challenges and many other powerful methods of member engagement. It’s a must-have for 2015! Learn more at http://www.netpulse.com

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“How to Close a Gym Membership Sale at Anytime, Under Any Circumstances”

Jim ThomasBy:  Jim Thomas,  President / Fitness Management & Consulting and also one of our GGFA Think Tank Panel of Experts

You just never know when things will change.  You get transferred to another club.  You have a new boss.  Your company is sold.  Even if things just seem to be going crazy in the gym you have worked at for years. Things change, but the expectation of sales production remains.

Here are some tips to help you make the membership sale no matter what the circumstances;

  1. Attitude is everything.  The key to remember here is that it’s more important how you feel about your prospect than how they feel about you. You can’t let crazy circumstances change you. The positive expectancy to win.    The will to make it happen.  No negatives, attitude is paramount.  If this is not in place, you can’t even get started.
  2. Have commitment in your posture and voice. You want to be using words like great!  Fantastic!  Terrific! Show confidence!
  3. Have enthusiasm that conveys conviction and belief. It’s been said many times that the definition of sales is a transfer of feelings or a transfer of enthusiasm. It really goes beyond just enthusiasm; it’s your passion, your belief and your conviction for what you do that means you can’t be swayed otherwise.
  4. You must be sold. You must be sold that your company is the best.  You have the best product and best service.  You’re the best person to help them get the results they want.  You’re sold on the value you bring to your customer. You are unreasonable to the point that nothing can be said that will change how you think.
  5. Always agree first with your prospect. This is senior to everything you do in the sales process. Always be agreeable. Don’t defend your position.  Certainly don’t tell your customer they’re wrong.  Be agreeable.  Mary, I understand.  Mary, I agree with you.  Even if your customer says they didn’t come to join today, you say, “Mary, I understand, most of our guests don’t come to join when they first come in.”  Then follow your sales process.
  6. Be sure you are getting daily training. Be sure you are getting daily training.  If your club is providing this great, if not, be sure to get it on your own.  Daily training will add a  sales a day to your production.

Now, go close a sale!

FMC Logo May 2012

Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: www.fmconsulting.net or www.jimthomasondemand.com.

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“Sustaining the Momentum”

Dave KenyonBy:  Dave Kenyon, Gold’s Gym Owner
Dutchess County (Hudson Valley), NY

Its funny and a little scary how quickly time goes by. We were just planning the Gold’s Gym Challenge and here we are finishing it up and getting ready for National Judging. I feel that the business has changed dramatically over the last 5 years. With social media, events and competition from other health clubs, it seems as if there is always something happening that demands our attention. So how do we keep things even and consistent throughout the year?

One way is to try and keep the momentum of the Gold’s Gym Challenge going for as long as you can. There is so much excitement with the Challenge that it’s easy to get everyone on board and be successful. So when it’s over the real challenge starts to find something to keep that spirit alive and well in your club.

Be creative and find ways to keep your members engaged with their results from the Challenge as well as providing alternative programs or options for them to continue their journey. We hold a summer shape – up program that starts at the end of the Challenge and runs up to the 4th of July. It’s a simple concept of continuing the Challenge without pictures. So we keep the age and gender categories the same and award prizes for people who change the measurements and weight the most.

Another way is to reward people for keeping their weight and measurements the same or better for a period of time after the challenge. For example let all of your Challenge participants know that they will get a prize or some sort of recognition for staying the same or improving until August 1st or whatever date you feel is appropriate. You can take this concept one step further and create a wall of fame, where you can put up members who have had success. This can be done year round and again you can be creative with this also and have a member of the month featured for their outstanding results or efforts in the club. You have also created a place for your sales people to stop and highlight some of the things that a member can achieve while working out here. An instant marketing tool that you pay nothing for. These things can help create lifelong exercisers as well as keep loyalty to your club as you are rewarding the habits and consistency that people need to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

All of these things can be run by employees other than the management team. Getting employees involved with programs like this helps to create excitement because if it’s theirs, they will talk it up and create the buzz just like they did for the Challenge. So let your staff lose and have them take some of your work and watch as they make magic happen all year round.

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“Bad member experience? Don’t blame the staff!”

By:  Karen Perlmutter, Executive Vice President, Smart Fitness

Well, at least not until you gather all the facts.

Ninety-nine percent of individuals I talk with each day talk about training their staff to implement better service standards – inevitably because they want their members to have a better “member experience” in their facilities. Of course, we all want to ensure our members are happy. But could you be focusing too much on the trees and not enough on the forest? In other words, in-person interactions may be more important to your members, but their experience with you starts from the first click on your website, and doesn’t end until your member cancels their membership. (Maybe not even then.)

Let me explain.

Members interact with several service “touch points” from your club, starting from discovery (which could be online) to in-person club visits, where the parking lot can affect a potential customer’s experience. Yes, the parking lot! In fact as our expert Blair McHaney explains in Smart Fitness’ Member Experience Course, your client begins formulating an opinion about you and your service from the very first interaction with you. Was your website user-friendly? Were they able to find your location easily? Was the parking lot too small? Did a member witness your employees parking close to the front door while they were forced to park far away?

The devil is in the details and as our Member Experience course explains, your customer touch points are everywhere.  Arguably, these non-human interactions with your club are just as important as in-person interactions. The cumulative data a member sees, hears, smells and (potentially) tastes all reinforce an opinion they are formulating about your club and your services.

It’s easy to blame a bad member experience on poor human interaction. That’s not to say it doesn’t weigh significantly on a member if they aren’t treated respectfully and with their “expected” level of service from your staff. (And, as Blair explains, there’s a danger in being satisfied with an “expected” level of service.) However, maybe it’s time to pay attention to the entire spectrum of the member experience, starting with taking a blind tour of your club starting from searching for your club online all the way to exiting the parking lot. Look at the details, see what brand new eyes see and then decide where you may be missing the mark.

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Karen Perlmutter
Executive Vice President

karen perlmutter headshotKaren Perlmutter heads up business development and public relations for Smart Fitness. In this role, she has tremendous dedication to all facets of business development, public and industry relationships, professional development, and all account sales/management. She is an industry ambassador of customer retention and follow-up.

Previously, Karen was with The National Academy of Sports Medicine, where she acted as the National/Corporate Accounts Manager and Corporate Event Coordinator for 14 years. With 17 years in the corporate health club setting, she is dedicated to help improve the success of health club owners and operators in achieving their professional goals to change lives every day.

Prior to health and fitness, Karen worked in the dental field for over 15 years. Karen adores spending time with her two daughters, Allie and Jenna, who are both passionate about fitness, as well as being with family and friends. She is passionate about exercising, helping others, anywhere tropical, dancing, music, sushi, and always keeping a positive mindset. Her favorite quote is, “Happiness is a city located in the state of mind”.

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“60” IS THE NEW “90”

By:  Bill Jackson

DON’T LET YOUR MEMBER ACCOUNTS CONTINUE TO AGE PAST 60 DAYS“60” IS THE NEW “90”

For years the health & fitness industry has allowed receivables to age for 90 days before sending accounts into collections, but times have changed and the more sophisticated operators are starting to move accounts into collections at day 60 or sooner.

First Credit Blog

When referring to someone’s health and well-being, we always hear the old saying “40 is the new 30” or “50 is the new 40”, because as times change we all adjust our thinking and perception of age. Plus,  I’d like to believe we are all much healthier here in 2015, and living more active lives than the generations that came before us.

But, while thinking about age, and adjusting our perception of what we always believed to be true, I quickly try to figure out why the health & fitness industry has maintained a 90-day threshold as THE AGE” to refer past-due members to collection agencies. It just does not make much sense anymore! Of course you want to give EVERYONE ample opportunity to update their payment method if they are in fact a “soft decline” and did not purposely fail to  pay. But, members who truly care about their membership should only take at most 30-45 days to contact and help repair their payment method. In fact, most of the “paying” members offer new payment information within the first 15 days of their initial decline.

So, why do we still keep spinning our wheels and wasting time, money, and resources for the entire 90 days? My only guess, is that most gym operators are afraid to send someone to collections earlier than 90 days because they want to give every member plenty of time to pay and retain their membership, RIGHT?

Did you know that Collection Agencies well versed in the Health & Fitness Market have built MEMBER RETENTION into the collection process? In reality, a large percentage of the members that are contacted  by  a  collection  agency  express real interest in retaining their membership, and a good agency will help facilitate the relationship and help get that member back for you. Agencies are re-engaging members who purposely walked away from the gym with no plans of returning until the account was properly handled by a reputable collection agency partner. So, don’t be afraid to use a collection agency…, we know how to handle every member properly, and we actually work as a true MEMBER RETENTION tool. Just make sure you do your due-diligence and select an agency that fully understands YOUR business and understands the value of your members.

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There are collection agencies out there that don’t know what they are doing when it comes to collecting health &  fitness member accounts, but the agencies that do have a lot of experience are trusted and valued business partners to the gym owner.

Almost all member accounts are fully resolved within the first 0-45 days, so from day 46-90 members just sit there becoming less collectable and the members become much less likely to return or reconsider their membership. The sooner accounts are sent to a collection agency the better. Look, if a member does not pay after you or your first party billing company contacts them, then they are just avoiding you until you move on to the next level and allow a 3rd party collector to step in and inform the member that you are serious about resolving the matter.  It does not seem fair at times, but consumers will continue to completely ignore the original creditor forever. But, once a 3rd Party Collection Agency steps in, a consumer quickly realizes that the debt is not going to just disappear, and they are much more willing to resolve the account and pay what is owed.

In summary, I think it is important to review your current A/R and analyze exactly what your return is from day 60-90, and if there is not a lot of activity (which is what you should anticipate) make a change, and start sending accounts to collections earlier. Sending accounts into collections on day 60 is the trend we are seeing from many gym owners, and it certainly makes a lot of sense.

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About First Credit Services, Inc. (FCS)

Established in 1993, First Credit has been the Health & Fitness Industry leader in Collections. We have always maintained a position as the Agency dedicated to staying ahead of the curve and delivering the most effective and compliant collection service the industry has ever seen.

Although times have changed, and the federal regulations have become so much more stringent, we have stayed way ahead of the game and developed standards which have allowed us to maintain a high level of service and trust within the industry that  our partners and clients deserve.

Bill JacksonBy: Bill Jackson
To learn more about First Credit Services Contact: Bill Jackson – Vice President wjackson@fcsbpo.com
371 Hoes Lane, Piscataway, NJ 08854
Office: 1-800-606-7066, Ext 2019

Original: FEBRUARY 11, 2014 / Updated JANUARY 3, 2015
60 IS THE NEW 90 – Health & Fitness
First Credit Services, Inc.

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