Building the Foundation for Success

by Amy Boone Thompson on Oct 01, 2006

Fitness Management 101

Take a step back to gain better perspective on your people, programs and profit margin.

The primary objective of this ongoing series has been to guide you, as a new and possibly struggling fitness manager, to take the steps necessary to elevate both yourself and your club to the pinnacle of success. Up to this point, we have focused primarily on how you can establish yourself in your new position by making a positive first impression; learning your club’s essential business practices; determining the needs of your department; and creating objectives and a detailed action plan to increase productivity.

This column will challenge you to take a step back in order to examine your role from a broader perspective. Perhaps from this perspective you will gain a deeper appreciation of the significance of each of your staff and of their respective roles in satisfying your members and making your organization a success. With this newly trained eye, you may find yourself challenging some of the traditional methods of managing your resources. The three resources this column will explore are your people, your programs and your profit.

Power to the People

Unless you are opening a new facility, you have probably inherited some employees who aren’t exactly shining examples of the values and vision you have for your fitness team or even for the organization. Some of these employees may be past stars who are now dull and tarnished, set in their ways and disillusioned with past management’s promises or mistakes.

The good news is that you may be able to transform some of your most challenging employees into your biggest advocates by giving them a clean slate and setting new guidelines and a new purpose for their work. Encourage and treat each employee with the same trust, responsibility, respect and expectations. Then give them all sufficient time to rise to those expectations. Initially, your employees will no doubt repeat some of their old behaviors. Remain diligent, and coach the wayward through these difficulties. Maintain your discipline policy with firmness and fairness, and take actions swiftly to remove abusers from your team. Handled confidentially and professionally, this can set the tone for others who may be tempted to push the limits and test their new manager.

A great manager interviews year-round. Begin bringing into your team people who are your allies and who know your current expectations from the start. By the end of your first year as a manager, you will have assembled a crew of employees who are committed, passionate, enthusiastic and willing to work together to accomplish goals and who look to you for guidance and support. In essence, you will have created your “A-Team.”

To sustain this sense of unity, meet with your employees regularly in order to align and create action plans that will move everyone in a focused direction toward a common goal. Emphasize your vision for your staff’s future and their personal success, the club’s collective triumphs and the achievements of the members. Use your goal-setting steps and action-planning strategies to outline each employee’s purpose and primary role.

Pioneer New Programs

Every fitness organization offers its members a variety of different services. Some of these, such as group fitness classes, are included in membership, whereas others, like personal training or Pilates, are fee-based programs. Still others, such as training the floor staff, fall into the category of business functions that are vital for smooth club operations.

The structure of your programming will depend on the history of your organization and its members, any budgetary constraints and the space and time you have available. Exercise due diligence to understand your club’s existing programs and services. Ask what makes each of your current programs successful and what would make each one even more so. Slowly improve and refine the relevant aspects of your business to add more value and quality for the membership. Use the goal-setting steps described in earlier columns of this series to direct your actions and keep you focused on constant improvement.

When adding a new program to your menu of services, take adequate time to research, test, measure and share information about the program prior to its integration, to establish a seamless and painless launch. As discussed in earlier articles, this should be done with input from your staff and members. A program’s success largely depends on the person who pioneers and champions the idea from its conception. Allow that person to lead, and then support his or her efforts every step of the way. If that person is you, make sure you take on only as much as you have time for, so that each new program gets the attention it deserves in order to succeed.

Pump Up the Profits

Chances are, you will not be stepping into a position where the organization is content with its current revenues and expects nothing of you but continued superb customer service and employee satisfaction. (Even in the unlikely event that that is your situation, I would still challenge you not to be complacent and content!) The reality is that most organizations look to new fitness managers to add revenue sources that will make more money for the business (and maybe a nice commission for yourself).

One of the most critical elements in any business is its cash flow. And when it comes to revenue, a fitness manager is only as good as last month’s profit margin. As a new manager, you’ll quickly realize where your revenue is coming from and learn to manage it on an annual, monthly and daily basis. Many software applications are available to help you manage income and expenses, or you can create your own using an Excel Workbook.

Once you have mastered the process of managing revenue as it comes in, you’ll need to develop and teach your staff how to produce additional revenue more efficiently and effectively. Eventually, you’ll add more programs and people to your staff to increase and improve on the business, sometimes replacing those people who were unwilling to be coached.

Finally, when you feel your services and products are excellent and you have your “A-Team” in place, it may be time to review and evaluate your service rates and compensation structure to improve revenue for the business. Keep in mind that this is one of the most delicate projects you will take on as a fitness manager, one that requires much research, along with ample comparisons and projections. If fee changes are deemed appropriate, they should be accompanied with a letter of explanation and private meetings with members or employees to discuss the reasons for the changes and how they affect that person.

Put That Perspective to Work

To gain a broader perspective, fitness managers need to occasionally remove themselves from the personal interactions associated with their daily doings. This objectivity fosters a clarity that will allow you, as a manager, to really “see” the business as just that: a business composed of people, programs and profits. With this new vision, you will be in a much better position to produce positive results in all aspects of the company. And success will be that much more within your grasp.

In the next installment, we’ll wrap up this series of Fitness Management 101 by delving into the darker side of management. We’ll suggest strategies for approaching difficult conversations, coaching change and dealing with conflict.

IDEA Fitness Manager, Volume 18, Issue 5

© 2006 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Amy Boone Thompson

Amy Boone Thompson IDEA Author/Presenter

Amy BooneThompson is the national project director for Stroller StridesTM and is experienced in directing multi-purpose health clubs and spas.  Amy teaches fitness/nutrition with Stroller Strides and...