In the first article in this series, we examined three important skills needed to succeed in corporate fitness: the competence to be a hybrid pro; knowledge of the company’s goals; and an ability to customize programs based on the company’s culture. In this second and final installment, we look at two additional skills and highlight the benefits of working in this arena.
Understanding Budgets and Finance
A fitness professional’s education is science-based, with a focus on physiology, anatomy and exercise programming. This training is useful but may not be enough when working at a corporate site, since often these sites employ a small staff and expect people to be nimble enough to perform multiple duties. Providing fitness services may be your primary role; however, keeping the center running smoothly will be another major component of your job.
Though each corporate fitness center is set up differently, managers and staff are likely to be in charge of the budget, administrative duties, and equipment purchases and maintenance. Though a business degree is not required to manage a corporate site, understanding the basics of budgeting and finances is important for maintaining operational efficiency. Some sites are given an operating budget each year, while others may need to seek approval for every expenditure. It will be essential for you to understand finance principles such as program revenue, equipment expenses, depreciation, capital improvements and purchasing.
A side note: Corporate sites likely have tighter budgets than commercial gyms, since a corporate fitness center is an ancillary program and not essential for the company’s operation. Consequently, money may be limited for numerous budget line items, making it challenging to keep up with the latest equipment and fitness trends. If it’s important to you to use the newest technology and have access to the “next best thing,” keep this in mind when choosing your direction.
Equipment Maintenance and Risk Management
Fitness entrepreneurs who have spent most of their careers working in big-box gyms or other fitness facilities may be out of the loop when it comes to maintaining equipment and understanding risk management. To start, you will need to establish relationships with various equipment vendors, including companies that sell large cardio and strength equipment, as well as small equipment for group exercise classes. Staff should understand preventive maintenance needs and know when to replace equipment based on usage. Most commercial gyms handle equipment repairs and purchases through a facilities department—a luxury that’s usually not available in a corporate setting.
Also key will be understanding how to reduce risk exposure. Safety is paramount in a fitness setting, since injuries can occur. It will be crucial to learn as much as possible about risk management, including liability issues and how best to ensure members’ safety. In smaller corporate centers, whether there is adequate space for equipment may be an issue. Being aware of footprint limitations and understanding proper placement will help you reduce injury risk. Another hypothetical: Centers that are open 24 hours are typically unstaffed overnight; in such cases, it will be important to implement security and emergency plans. Each corporate fitness center is different and will need a unique risk management plan.
Benefits of Working in Corporate Fitness
Working in corporate fitness offers surprising benefits that you may not have considered and that, consequently, may sway the decision-making process based on personal and professional needs and preferences.
Consider the following perks, along with the skills mentioned above and in the previous article, when deciding whether or not this career path is right for you.
No sales pressure. Sales are a part of most businesses, but in a corporate gym, sales are usually a lower priority. Memberships aren’t necessarily sold, since gym access is an employee benefit. Some corporate centers do charge a nominal monthly fee, while others make membership free. As a result, staff often do not have to sell memberships, which frees them to focus on programming and customer service. If there is a usage fee, it’s generally inexpensive since many employers subsidize the program’s cost. Other services, such as personal training and nutrition coaching, are also offered for rates below the industry standard, which translates to less sales pressure but also lower commissions (this may not be a factor for you, but it’s worth mentioning).
Appealing work hours. Traditional gyms are usually busy early in the morning and later in the evening, as these are likely the times when people can exercise. Many fitness professionals are accustomed to working these nontraditional hours. Corporate hours are more traditional, since fitness centers is located within companies. Working during the weekends is also rare for corporate fitness staff, making the hours more family-friendly. A more normal day shift appeals to many fitness professionals who don’t want to work early mornings and late nights.
Closer relationships with members. By nature, corporate sites are smaller and have fewer members than commercial gyms, meaning you will likely be able to get to know patrons on a more personal level. You might have the same person take your group exercise class, train with you and participate in an incentive program. On the other hand, if you like to work with a wide variety of people, commercial fitness could provide a more varied demographic.
There are pros and cons for both sectors, but knowing the skills needed and the benefits of working in corporate fitness and wellness are key when choosing a career path. These programs will continue to grow as employers seek an edge over their competitors to attract and retain top talent. Fitness professionals can take advantage of this thriving sector by obtaining the skills needed to succeed in a corporate setting.
For the first part in this series, see “Success in Corporate Wellness.”