10 Reasons Your Gym Business Has Become Stagnate

FMC Logo May 2012by Jim Thomas, Fitness Management and Consulting

We work at both ends of the fitness industry – with those gym owners who are just starting out and want to shorten the learning curve and those who have been in business are in need of a turnaround (and everything in between).

There are many reasons why some gyms grow and others become stagnate. Of course, there are factors like market size, competition and consumer demand. But there are also other factors that have to do with operations, leadership, accountability and systems.

Based on what we’re seeing across the country, here are some thoughts on why gym owners and their business become stagnate.

1. Success apathy. Just because you have had success in the past, it doesn’t guarantee success in the future. Simple complacency…we take our eye off the ball. . An independent gym is usually a reflection of the club owner’s needs, desires and personality.

2. The right staff. You cannot build a successful gym without the right people in place. This requires both the proper hiring and training process and the willingness to make the changes that become necessary as the business grows. This is easier said than done for many gym owners. It takes dedication to the process.

3. The lack of standards, systems and controls.  It’s not enough to have high standards in your gym without implementing the control systems that assure those standards are met. Without the controls, you will have good intentions accompanied by bad results.

4. The member attitude. Not the member’s’ attitude but the gym’s attitude toward its members. There is nothing more destructive than gym staff who dismiss difficult members as “nutty” and conclude that there is no way to make them happy. The problem is that most nutty members have not so nutty friends, and word of mouth travels fast these days.

Don’t miss Jim’s Webinar, Thursday, April 24th at 1:00
“Can You Keep Every Member You Sign Up?”  – Member Retention and Member Experience
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5. Technology. New technologies can do many great things but can also be overwhelming and time consuming for gym owners. Acquiring the financial, technical and staff resources necessary to solve a technology problem can be very difficult for a small gym, but there’s not much choice; the marketplace does not stand still.

6. Marketing. This includes everything from branding to advertising to market analysis. How your gym executes may be the major driver of its success, but how your gym is perceived is also crucial. The other reality is that small gyms can have a difficult time finding resources to help them with this critical part of their business. That means that the success or failure of a small gym’s marketing frequently comes down to the abilities of the club owner. Few people are good at everything.

7. Stale fitness services. Whether you are talking about fitness products or members, the market is always changing, and your products and services have to change with it. If you are fortunate, the changes are slow and subtle; sometimes, they are dramatic.

8. Lack of investment. Whether it is for more new gym equipment and accessories, new technology, a bigger facility, or more employees – growing gyms require more cash than non-growing gyms. Getting this cash may require borrowing money, finding more investors or using up whatever cash is on hand. It’s ongoing. Some gym owners tire of the demands and decide to slow down the investments — and that slows down growth of the gym.

9. Stubbornness. It is stubbornness that helped the gym owner get the club off the ground, get through the learning curve, survive the recession and cope with every problem along the way. At some point, though, focused adherence to what you know can limit a gym’s ability to adapt to change and get to that next level. Policies and strategies that might have worked when you had 10 employees can hold you back when you have 30 — a common example is when you start to hire higher-priced managers who have different expectations than a $10-an-hour employee.

10. Leadership. This includes vision, courage, fortitude, attitude and gym culture — all of which should create an inspired staff. And of course there’s the often-used word that is many times called the secret to it all, passion. Here is the real secret: passion is critical, but it can’t make up for deficiencies in the other categories. I have seen many owners struggle in the gym business that had plenty of passion. It will not be enough.


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What Lane Are You In?

shep hyken resizeby Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations


The best companies know what they are good at, and they “stay in that lane.”  For example, Ace Hardware is known for its helpful customer service.  Nordstrom is known for their brand of legendary service.  Zappos is known for their amazing service.  What none of these companies are known for is being the low price leader.  It’s not that they are high priced either.  They are competitively priced and have chosen to compete by delivering value with their customer service.  That’s their lane: customer service.

Sure, at certain times all of these companies have sales and discounted items.  I love the semi-annual sales at Nordstrom.  Some great buys can be found.  But those are just twice a year, and even with the sale, you still get the great Nordstom experience.

On the flip side, you have the Dollar Stores.  They advertise an incredibly low priced product.  The bargains are sometimes amazing.  But, unlike Nordstrom or Ace Hardware, you don’t find sales experts standing in the aisles ready to serve and help the customer.  What you usually will find are friendly people at the cash register who smile and say thank you as they take your money and hand you your bag of merchandise.  It’s important to note that there is nothing wrong with that.  It works well for them.  It’s their plan; their focus.  It’s the lane they’ve chosen to be in.

What really got me thinking about this was the recent news of Radio Shack closing about 20% of their stores.  All reports indicate that they are struggling.  Or, just like any savvy retail chain, they may just be ridding themselves of low volume stores.  How could this happen to a retail industry icon?  I may not have the entire answer; however I have a theory of what could have contributed to Radio Shack’s current situation.

First of all, I love Radio Shack, and I admit to being a little bit of a geek.  As a kid, I loved going to the Radio Shack store and getting what I needed for cool projects.  I continue to go to their stores on occasion to buy some electronic accessories.  However, the store I visit in the mall today is very different than the store I remember as a kid.  I remember going to Radio Shack for things I couldn’t get elsewhere; batteries, wire and cables.  They also had cool merchandise that other stores didn’t sell.  Today, their merchandising doesn’t give me that impression.  Are they in the “hard-to-find-in other-stores” electronics business, the phone business, or the TV business?  Are they competing with Best Buy and other consumer electronic stores?  At some point they switched lanes, but I’m still not sure which lane they switched.

Now even though I’ve opened the door a bit on Radio Shack’s strategy, that’s not the discussion I want to get into.  This is just an observation that made me think of companies that struggle because they can’t choose a lane and stay in it.

Back to the companies mentioned earlier; Ace Hardware, Nordstrom and Zappos.com.  We know what lane these companies play in.  We know what they stand for.  There is no What Lane are you in 4-15-14confusion.  They have chosen to compete with customer service, and they have done quite well.  That lane is obvious.  Walmart and Dollar Stores choose to compete on price, another obvious lane.  Less obvious lanes might be companies known for industry specific merchandise or very high end merchandise.

So, the question is this: Do your customers know what lane you are in?  Making a lane change in business isn’t illegal.  You won’t get a ticket.  But, if not done properly, you will confuse the customer, which reminds me of what someone once said: “A confused customer won’t buy.”

(By the way, if you know who said, “A confused mind won’t buy,” let me know.  Our search for the source of this quote didn’t give us a definitive answer.)

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times  bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or  www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go to http://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken(Copyright ©MMXIV, Shep Hyken)

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3 Sure Fire Tips To Make Your Gym Members Happier

Printby ABC Financial

The competitive world of fitness center management is one that calls for creativity and innovation. Not only do you have to offer the latest fitness classes and provide top-notch equipment and training methods, but to stay ahead of the competition, you have to continually find new ways to make your members happy.

abc post 4-8-14If you’re unsure what to do to boost the happy-factor at your club, try these sure-fire fitness center management tips to get your members smiling:

  1. Solve Membership Problems: There’s no quicker way to turn members off than to have them speak with sales staff who are unwilling or unable to help. It bears repeating that the fitness industry is a service-based industry and the time and attention you pay to your sales team will directly affect referrals and member retention.

Give your sales people the power to provide a variety of offers that work for varying customer needs. Allow your reps to provide student discounts, one-month trial memberships, and extend discounts to customers who’ve contacted you with complaints.

Empowering your sales people can give you a bump in member satisfaction that lasts long after the phone call is over.

  1. Get Friendlier: Sometimes the only difference between your health club and the one across town is the connection members feel to you.

Try reaching out to potential and current members through a variety of channels:

  • Offer discounts and promotions on Facebook
  • Provide value-added services through your email newsletters
  • Promote new class offerings via text message to members’ mobile phones
  • Use compelling signage at your locations to inform members of new events and promotions
  1. Spread Some Fun: Health clubs have an added bonus when it comes to engaging with their audiences, a large part of club populations are naturally competitive. Consider this statistic – nearly half of Internet users expect incentives and rewards for engaging with a brand online and over 200 million played games on Facebook in September 2012 alone.

Put these together and you’re working with fertile ground for spreading fun and increasing connection with current and prospective members when you create games and contests to capture their interest. (For more information on social gaming for brands, check this resource from Oracle (PDF).)

The name of the marketing game for any health club is connection. Use these tips to connect more strongly with your membership and you’ll benefit from happier followers.

About ABC Financial:

ABC Financial is the leading software provider for the health and fitness industry. Launched in 1981, ABC Financial has revolutionized software and payment processing for the health and fitness industry with our DataTrak software. With innovative technology and unparalleled commitment to our clients, ABC Financial has become the choice of over 4,800 health clubs throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada. 

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Staff Meetings That Rock

by Karen Woodard, President of Premium Performance Training

Karen WoodardIn any management position you are responsible for leading meetings. The last thing you want is for your staff to dread your meetings or express that they are always “meeting-ed” out. More than likely, what you want from your meetings is to bring people together and have them feel inspired about being the best sat their role and that the time is valuable and well invested rather than wasted.

staff meetingThis 60 minute webinar presented by Karen Woodard in partnership with Matrix is designed with nine key points that provide the tools for you to lead meetings that are memorable, valuable and effective.  Some of the points discussed will include how to inform, edcuate and motivate, how to inform, inspire and persuade, preparation, maximizing particpation and how to avaoid making your meetings a snoozer because if they are a snoozer….they are a loser.

Register for this Webinar (hosted Wednesday, April 2nd at 1pm edt.
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Karen is President of Premium Performance Training in Boulder, Colorado and Ixtapa, Mexico is an international author, speaker and consultant devoted to successful sales, operations, management and hospitality training in the health and wellness industry.

Karen has owned 11 businesses over the past 28 years, sold 9 of them and currently operates 2 businesses. 6 of the 11 entities were clubs starting in 1985 with 3 fitness centers, 2 indoor rock climbing facilities and a body mind center.

Karen attributes her success as well as others success to a simple practice: train staff well on sales, management and hospitality – what she refers to as the Indispensable 3. Karen currently works with clients throughout the world to train and consult on maximizing the Indispensable 3.

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Turn Angry Customers Into Customer Evangelists

shep hyken resize
by Shep Hyken, CSP, CPAE, Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations



complianing customersI just returned from speaking at the International Franchise Association convention.  This was my sixth year speaking at this great organization’s conference and I decided it should be more of a conversation than a speech.  While there was plenty of content in the session, I asked our audience members to share their best practices that related to the various topics that were in the presentation.

One of these best practices came from Jim Brown, the Chief Operating Officer of Handels, a chain of homemade ice cream and yogurt shops.  By the way, you should know that this chain of ice cream shops has numerous accolades including listed as being number one in the world for ice cream according to the book, “The Ten Best of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to Travel” published by National Geographic.

His best practice had to do with complaints.  My first response to Jim, after he told me about Handels, was how many complaints does an ice cream store typically receive?  Probably not many, but when Jim does receive a complaint from a customer, the first thing he does is what most of us do.  He apologizes to the customer and discusses what he can do to make the situation right.  So far, that’s nothing special at all. But then he does something interesting, if not somewhat unique.  He invites this complaining customer to be part of his secret shopper program.  He actually turns his complainers into mystery shoppers!

bright ideaWhat a brilliant idea.  He not only apologizes and fixes the problem.  He enlists their help to ensure a positive experience for other customers.  And, the customers love doing this.  Sure, they get some free ice cream for helping, but they also get to feel like part of the Handel’s team.  He turns these complaining customers into customer evangelists!

This idea is so simplistic, but the results are excellent.  Most of the time when there is a complaint, we want to resolve it and restore the customer’s confidence in doing business with us.  This takes it one step further.  This almost guarantees that the customer will not only come back, but become loyal as a result of the “bond” that develops when the customer becomes part of the team.

I’m constantly amazed at how many different ideas people and companies use to amaze their customers.  What ideas do you have that turns complainers into evangelists?  Send me an email and I may just include it in my next book.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times  bestselling business author. For information contact (314)692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The  Customer  Focus™ customer service training programs go tohttp://www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken


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Outlast, Outsell and Outsmart Your Health Club Competition

Jim Thomasby Jim Thomas, Founder and President
Fitness Management and Consulting

As the competition of more new clubs continues to grow, there isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t consider competitive marketing and salesmanship as top priorities.

success arrow upYour greatest achievement as a health club owner lies in trumping the fitness competition in the area of expanding membership sales. Here are some thoughts on accomplishing that expansion:

  1. Know your competition. It’s essential to understand all you can about the other clubs in your area. If you don’t already have copies of your competitors’ advertising and brochures and can’t recite their key selling points and messages, now is the time to make it happen. Otherwise, how can you hope to successfully position against those clubs?
  2. Capitalize on your specialty. Once you know everything possible about your primary competitors, you can identify an offering of your health club that’s unique or special. Take a long, hard look at the current programs in your health club. If necessary, alter your classes or services themselves, bundle in additional features or find a way to deliver a similar core programming or service in a way that uniquely meets the needs of your members. Then, build your marketing campaigns around this central specialty theme.
  3. Tackle new audiences. If you’ve reached the maximum market share of a particular member niche, why not try a new one? You may be able to add variations of your product (also known as line extensions) that will stimulate sales from a whole new set of customers. You can also launch a new media campaign targeting ethnic audiences or a different age group, who may embrace your product or service with a minimum amount of alteration.
  4. Offer more bang for the buck. Some product and service providers traditionallyroi compete based on discount pricing, but for many other types of businesses, cutting prices is often detrimental and sends the wrong message. The concept of “value” is, well, valuable. If you offer a service, for example, and charge the same rates as your chief competitors, cutting your prices may make you look suspiciously cheap and inspire customers to wonder what’s “wrong” with your club or the services it provides. A better idea is to offer something of additional value that your customers will find tempting.
  5. Add a sales channel. Are you presently selling via one channel alone, such as exclusively through a brick-and-mortar store or by catalog only? Adding another channel, such as online sales, gives your customers more choices and allows them to shop more often and at their convenience. (It’s likely that most of your competitors offer sales through multiple channels too.) What’s more, studies show that customers who shop through more than one channel will spend more (often as much as three times more) than customers who shop through one channel alone.
  6. Dial in to your members. You have to understand what your customers want if you customer needswant to remain highly competitive. Unfortunately, your customers’ needs and preferences sometimes change on a dime, so you should have systems in place to regularly solicit their feedback. As a club owner, you’re in the enviable position of being closer to your customers than some of your big-business competitors. You may know many of your customers or clients by name and even have the advantage of being able to contact them periodically to check in. To take it a step further, be sure to initiate regular surveys as well as solicit ongoing feedback via your website.
  7. Ask for the sale.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but the reality is complacency is the enemy of small-business success. If you’re not continually asking your best prospects and customers for their business, you can be sure your competitors are. Set up and monitor an ongoing marketing program that reaches out to your former customers and new prospects year-round. The key to success is to have a consistent marketing message and select a mix of media and tactics (email marketing, direct mail and social media, for example) that “touch” prospects and customers with sufficient frequency. This will help you drive your message home and stand out from your toughest competitors.                 

Jim Thomas | http://www.fmconsulting.net/

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How is Technology Playing a Role in the Development of New Cardio and Strength Equipment

Technogymby Technogym

Technology is playing an ever-increasing role in the development of fitness equipment. We carry technology with us everywhere we go.  These days it is preferred to have all aspects of our lives consolidated into one single device. Emerging trends in fitness have and are continuing to play into this phenomenon. Demand for personalization and easy access to entertainment and data on cardio equipment has evolved and uses similar technology that users find in other facets of their lives.

From wearable fitness trackers to websites and apps, our fitness is becoming digital. We can track everything from our steps, sleep, heartbeat, food consumption and temperature through a website or downloaded apps. The data is easily accessible and works as a powerful tool to improve and enhance our well-being. The ability to access all of this information allows end-users to better understand what they are doing and ultimately improve, while taking some of the guesswork out of their exercise program. Fitness manufactures are taking notice, and there has been an increase in technology driven fitness equipment.

Traditionally, users have been able to get data about each training session from cardio equipment. Now, that information can be stored in a personal profile and pushed to websites. Then all information from a series of workout sessions can be combined for an overall picture of your fitness training. The newest cardio equipment is equipped with a built in webcam so you can communicate with your trainer live, while you train, for instant feedback and motivation. Connection to the Internet opens a wide possibility of for entertainment while training. The consoles on cardio equipment have gone from a simple LED screen to a tablet like digital display with swipe gesturing that controls and connects the machine while entertaining and motivating the user.

Not as common in the fitness industry is technology in strength equipment, but the trend has not missed this category. Selectorized equipment can be configured to a personal profile so it knows how many reps and sets you have been prescribed to perform, your personal seat setting, even the pace recommended for each movement. Functional training equipment is now featuring QR codes that link to online instruction and training programs.

With all the human power and effort that we put into our workouts, it’s about time we harness that energy to both power the machines and even return energy to the grid. The newest generation of fitness equipment can do just that, put your members efforts to work for your facility and reduce, renew and recycle power.

We are a mobile society and one of the most challenging parts of an exercise routine is maintaining it as your schedule and your locations change. With the introduction of technology and the advent of web enabled fitness equipment you can now take your workout with you. All of your data is aggregated into one place, regardless of your location so you can keep your momentum going whether you are at home, corporate gym, or on vacation.

It’s a social world and finding help and motivation by sharing our fitness and wellness stories through social media is becoming increasing popular. Many devices, apps, website and equipment allow users to connect directly to social media to tell your story. You can also create a closed network of friends to through devices and apps to motivate and support your efforts.

So what does this all mean for an operator?  There are many ways an operator can benefit from this new technology. Having your members connect with your trainers via social media and technology can keep your members engaged, motivated and advocate for your facility. Technology can help cultivate a community feeling unlike ever before. You can create challenges for friendly rivalries and celebrate the success! Operators can keep the equipment well maintained by using asset management software that provides diagnostics in real time through an Internet connection.

From cardio and strength equipment to green energy, mobile fitness solutions and social media, technology is making an impact on the fitness world for both users and operators. Investing and embracing technology can only improve your business as well as your users experience. The industry is moving fast (pun intended!) and smart operators will find ways to incorporate technology in their cardio and strength offerings wherever possible.

About Technogym:

Founded in 1983, Technogym is the world’s leading international supplier of products, services and solutions in the wellness and fitness fields. With more than 2,200 employees and 14 branches in Europe, North America, South America, Asia, the Middle East and Australia, Technogym exports 90 percent of its production to 100 countries. More than 65,000 wellness centers and 100,000 private homes worldwide are equipped with Technogym. Technogym was the official supplier for the last five Olympic Games: Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Turin 2006, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

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