Group fitness managers: before you beg your general manager (GM) for new products or programs, gather the financial facts to back up your request. Quite often we lack the tools to present our argument in the way that the person controlling the money needs to hear it. Gain your GM’s respect by speaking his language: money. You need to view the group exercise department as a crucial vehicle for increasing club membership, retaining current members and building a community within the facility.
There are ways to enhance your decision making and bolster your argument. Reading fitness trends reports and attending trade shows and conferences are two steps that will serve you well.
Fitness Trend Reports
Fitness trend reports offer the facts you need to get your GM’s ear. These reports, commissioned by fitness industry insiders, measure the pulse of the fitness industry. Group instructors, personal trainers and facility owners and managers are polled, and their responses indicate which products or programs are growing or declining, weak or strong, trends versus fads, staples versus luxuries. Trend reports also shine a light on potential risks and possible benefits of adopting a particular plan. Each organization (including IDEA and some certification organizations) publishes its findings during the second quarter of the year. Be on the lookout; print the reports as soon as they’re available, and cross-reference them. One of the best ways to convince your GM that you need a particular program or product is to cite its appearance in the top 10 (or 20) on each of these lists. Always archive the reports. If the GM says no this year, ask again next year. If a program or product has remained on the list for consecutive years, the facts become more compelling.
Trade Shows & Conferences
Ideally you should attend at least one conference per year for personal growth, but an equally important reason for attending is to research possible opportunities for your club. To ensure your conference costs are covered, create a proposal detailing how your attendance will benefit your program. Explain how the sessions you attend will provide research for new programming, education that you will bring back to staff, or fresh management techniques. Scout vendors who will be exhibiting, and give your GM an idea of those you will be visiting, based on your facility’s equipment or programming needs (vendors typically provide discounts at shows). Your ability to connect your conference experience with the growth of membership will show your attention to the bottom line.
Many conferences exist throughout North America (and across the world!). Sign up to receive conference registration information, and begin a calendar. Make note of each conference’s focus (instructors, trainers, managers, owners, etc.). Decide which venue will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Can you learn about new programming ideas, enhance the staples on your schedule and check out the new bikes you’ve been hearing about--all at the same event? Also, look at location. Regional conferences might appear monetarily attractive; carefully weigh your decision after seeing the program’s brochure. Consider the sessions, presenters and exhibitors. One last consideration: will the conference provide an opportunity to network? It’s always valuable to connect with fellow directors and have a chance to discuss your woes (and successes).
For more on how to present a sound case for why you should try new programs or products, see “Just the Facts” in the October 2008 issue of IDEA Fitness Manager or online in IDEA's Health and Fitness Article Library.