Fitness facility operators aren't taking full advantage of the potential their software provides.

MOST WOULD AGREE that the computer is both our friend and our enemy. It's our friend when it's working correctly, and we're wondering how we ever lived without it. It's our enemy when it decides to have a mind of its own - refusing to do what we want it to do. Tell me you haven't said a few choice words to your computer, or even threatened to throw it out the window?

But the "enemy" in our computer is really only that because we often don't have a clear understanding of how to use the software. Unfortunately, despite how useful computers are, they have made our lives even busier than when we processed everything via paper. So, we often feel we don't have the time to learn the intricacies of the computer software programs. And, not only does this hurt us by creating headaches through the programs' mis-use, but it further hurts us by not providing the true capabilities of what the programs have to offer.

At the Club Industry conference and trade show in Chicago, November 3-5, Michael Scott Scudder, managing partner of Southwest Club Services (a health club consulting firm), held a special session titled "It's What You Don't Know That's Costing Your Business a Small Fortune!" The session, sponsored by Aphelion (Houston, Texas), shed light on what most of the computer software suppliers' representatives have been saying for years: Fitness facility operators aren't taking full advantage of the potential their software provides. Scudder outlined what the top-10 questions a "smart" facility operator should be able to answer every month:

1) Did we make a profit? (How much?)
2) What was our "sales breakdown"? (What income in what departments?)
3) What percentage of gross is our EFT base?
4) What was our "net monthly loss" on EFT?
5) What was our facility usage summary? (What activities?)
6) What was our guest traffic? (Did it grow?)
7) What was our check-in traffic? (By gender and by hour?)
8) What was our "program user" traffic and percentage?
9) What was our class attendance? (Analysis?)
10) What was our "sales per member" analysis? (PT, programs, profit centers?)

Are you using your software to answer any or all of these questions each month? Only a minority of those in Scudder's audience answered yes (by a show of hands at several points in the seminar), and you're probably no different. But that needs to change if you plan to succeed in today's technology-savvy business environment.

In her article, Where Technology is Taking Fitness Management (p.32), Elizabeth Philpott takes a look at how software and, now, web-based solutions, are helping fitness facilities to exceed in their management goals. Web-based solutions are the newest technology that allow facility operators to take advantage of "hosted" business management tools vs. packaged software programs. Offered by most software suppliers, they provide facilities not only with tracking tools, but also the ability to increase revenues through other services. And, as Philpott notes, the data that software and web-based solutions provide will have far-reaching implications for the industry in terms of healthcare reimbursement in the future.

So, let's forget about tossing our computer out the window, and take the time to learn what they can do for us. Let's let them be our friend!