Characteristics of Great Health/Fitness Clubs

Fitness Expert

1. Road map to success. Great clubs have a clearly defined vision that identifies and articulates the target toward which they are channeling their resources and energies. Vision is the standard of excellence by which the efforts of everyone within the organization can be judged. It is the benchmark that keeps every staff member on track.

2. All the right reasons. Great clubs exhibit a moral core that is based on ethically sound principles. Their values inspire confidence and help rally staff to achieve a common purpose. Great clubs know the difference between doing their best and doing what is right. From top to bottom, employees in great clubs exhibit high levels of integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, and pride in their mission and their accomplishments.

3. More than two peas in the same pod. Great clubs have a unique culture that is often easily distinguished from the other clubs in the market. A club’s culture is similar to the culture of a country. It involves an integrated pattern of beliefs, behavior, customs, knowledge, and traditions.

4. People wealth. Great clubs see their employees as their greatest asset. In that regard, great clubs view their staff as the heart of the organization. As such, they make a concerted effort to provide a work environment that enables employees to perform their duties at the maximum level of productivity and potential.

5. Spotlessly clean. Really great clubs are incredibly clean. Just as important, all of the employees, including the manager, feel a sense of personal accountability for keeping every aspect of the club clean.

6. Work site allies. Every great club has a unified "team" of employees who are interacting with each other in pursuit of a common goal. A great club has a workplace environment (atmosphere) in which its employees are willing to do whatever it takes to do the job that needs to be done and who accept responsibility for their efforts and take pride in the final outcome.

7. Same place, same faces. Great clubs typically have employees who have been with them for an extended period of time. Tenured staff tend to inspire loyalty from the club’s members. The members know them, like them, and trust them. Such loyalty enhances the experience a member achieves at the facility, as well as improves the club’s membership retention levels.

8. Get the message. Great clubs are able to communicate effectively with both their members and their employees. They develop systems that allow members to easily communicate with management about their experiences  at the club, good or bad. They also make it a practice to always respond to member’s feedback within at least a 48-hour time period, if not before. As such, these clubs are constantly seeking feedback from their  members through the use of such tools as focus groups, surveys, and one-on-one discussions.

9. Money well spent. Great clubs invest their earnings into their facilities. By engaging in such activities as purchasing new equipment, repairing worn areas, adding the newest services, and making sure that the facility is never outdated, great clubs show their members and their staff that they are committed to providing a positive experience for everyone involved.

10. Right place, right time. Similar to the real estate business, location is one of the best predictors of success in the health/fitness club business. More often than not, great clubs are located in areas that are close to the right demographics and convenient to access.

James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the United States Military Academy.

Copyright 2010 by the American College of Sports Medicine.