by Jeff Russo
There are significant differences in club culture, operations and vision between fitness facilities in the United States and Canada. Having worked both sides of the border for the past 13 years as a fitness business consultant, I’ve acquired some interesting observations.
In the US fitness industry, there is a strong sense of desire and expectation in excellence toward becoming a better fitness professional. To that end, US fitness organizations typically set aside more money than their Canadian counterparts for education and training. They make it mandatory for staff to upgrade their certifications, mandatory to attend conferences and seminars and mandatory to improve skills and become better employees. This required learning and business development carries over regular staff to include management positions as well. No one is excluded.
Today’s independent Canadian club owner has a Cowboy do it yourself mentality; they want the benefits of an established education without the investment in the required time or cost. They want their staff education to be simplified, summarized and above all else, low cost. This is an opposite approach to the typical American club owner who, does their homework, shelves their egos and spends a lot more time on the phone and in person talking to other owners sharing their experiences with different learning systems and approaches. They truly live out the philosophy of working on the business for a good percentage of their time.
I have had the opportunity to participate in a few business roundtables in New England with Will Phillips NEHRSA (New England Health and Racquet Club Sports Association) and I was amazed at how well attended their quarterly 2- day owner workshops were. Their commitment was also reflected in the fees which were $6,000 a year for the four meetings in addition to costs associated with travel and accommodations.
Compare that to the Pro Fitness Alliance (established 2003), a non-profit Ontario based group of 20 independent club owners who met for quarterly business meetings to network and share information on financials, management, operations, events and Ontario roundtables. Annual cost, $1800, and yet in recent years it became more difficult to get owners out of their clubs to attend sessions that would better prepare them for the financial challenges of club operations and increasing competition. Last year the organization was dissolved due to lack of support.
If I had one bit of advice for an independent CDN club owner it would be to ask yourself if you are in business to make money. Now, invest in it. Research, financing and vision are the makeup and responsibility of the entrepreneur … not implementation. I’ve dedicated my life to supporting and improving independent facilities and owners who care about their members and their communities and I want to see the clubs not only survive but thrive. I implore independent Canadian operators to see the urgency and take action.
“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber will help give you a full understanding of the differences between a technician, manager and entrepreneur with some great examples of what this looks like in different business models.
Jeff Russo has been involved in the fitness industry from 1986 and has worked with over 60 independent health clubs in Canada and the United States in terms of improving customer service and profitability. His Pro Fitness Program has revolutionized the way fitness clubs operate with an emphasis on selling education results and knowledge as opposed to facility and price. Jeff has been a regular speaker for IHRSA and Can Fit Pro. His business consulting systems have created more full time fitness careers for independent club owners than anyone in history. If you would like more information please inquire at www.profitnessprogram.com
Toll Free: 1.888.920.6537
Mill Pond Publishing Inc.
30 Mill Pond Drive
Georgetown, ON L7G 4S6