By Greg Simmons
We all know what a fit person looks like. But what about a fit business?
Just like the body, success can be affected when weak areas are not addressed and improved. Use the following questions to explore the key factors that may be holding you back from achieving your business’ full potential.
How strong is your brand?
Your brand is defined as your business identity and how you are perceived in the community. More than just a trademark or a fancy logo, a brand is a collection of user experiences. If your brand promises cutting edge equipment and excellence in customer service and programming, be sure you are offering these. Upholding a brand promise takes continuous effort and attention to detail. A reputable brand takes a long time to build and just a short time to erode.
How agile are your staff members?
Can your team members shift from instructors to problem solvers to member greeters to promoters to cleaners? The service industry is fast paced and full of daily (and sometimes hourly) surprises. Hire team members with the ability and desire to be part of the bigger picture in terms of fulfilling and exceeding their job descriptions. Set clear expectations and provide training that covers handling difficult situations.
How flexible are your finances?
Annual budgeting and forecasting lets a business predict expenses and make plans for purchases. But not everything is predictable. If you are stretched month to month without a cushion, it puts your business in a precarious position when an unexpected expense or an event causes a shortfall. Having flexibility with your finances is essential to business longevity.
How powerful is your programming?
The fitness industry has never been so competitive, especially with today’s numerous branded group fitness and small group training programs. While licensing these products can come with advantages, the added expense may or may not be a good investment for your facility. A program plan that offers members your own unique and intriguing product—that includes consideration of your target market, strong promotion and a team of creative, competent instructors—may be able to deliver similar results without the expense. With a lacklustre or status quo program plan, your operation may survive but not thrive.
How fast is your customer response?
A friend once told me that to cancel her gym membership she required an appointment (which isn’t uncommon), however, there was no staff person available to meet with her for over a week. When she called back and asked about buying a membership, there was someone available right away. The reason (e.g., a sale, cancellation or complaint) or the medium (e.g., e-mail, phone, face-to-face or suggestion box) for an inquiry should not affect the timing of the response. Every staff person should know the facility and its services, feel confident making decisions and be able to quickly answer questions or to research and follow-up within 24 hours.
How enduring are your customer relationships?
Clubs work hard to acquire new members and to keep them (rather than replace them). Do you know how loyal your members are to your business? Understanding how engaged they are and how likely they are to maintain their memberships and refer other members is critical information. Measuring these factors can be a wake-up call to your operation. Implementing regular formal and informal surveys of your members will help determine if you are on the right track.
How balanced are your strategic objectives and business plan?
Strategic objectives are key to directing your business planning. Having one without the other can lead to missteps without achieving the desired outcome. Over time this can become costly, confusing and frustrating for your staff and members. Be sure that your planning efforts are aligned with your strategic objectives. Provide your team with clarity and purpose to achieve what you envision for your business.
How coordinated are your marketing, sales and services?
Too often there is a gap between sales and service functions. Marketing and sales people make the promises that the service and program team are expected to deliver. If there is a combination of over-promising and under-delivering, then customers will feel they have not received value for their money. Service and sales departments need to work together to develop a plan that is both attractive to sell and reasonable to deliver. A fresh perspective, respect for other departmental responsibilities and happy customers are the likely outcome of a coordinated effort.
Like members who rely on personal trainers to help them achieve their goals, there are industry consultants who can assist you in evaluating the effectiveness of your fitness business. An objective review of your business, followed by customized recommendations and prioritized action steps can help you operate a more-fit business.
Greg Simmons is the general manager for fitness and recreation services in the Atlantic Region (Canada) for Health Systems Group. He combines his 25+ years as a personal trainer, manager, owner and mentor helping fitness facilities start, grow and renew. Contact him at email@example.com.