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Global Trends, Part 2

These four global trends can affect how you run your business.

In last month's column, we addressed the first five of nine global cultural trends we feel will significantly affect the future of the fitness industry. The four additional trends presented here will require a creative and revolutionary response from the industry, if it is to continue to grow and prosper, and serve the needs and interests of the public.

6. Globalization

Today's economy and, more importantly, today's consumer, are global. In his book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman wrote that, unless a business (even a single fitness center) is prepared to think globally, it will become obsolete. Echoing the importance of globalization, Coco Fusco, in English is Broken Here, remarked that the U.S. and the world are not a homogenous blend of people; rather, we are nations of strangers. Accordingly, the new economy the industry must be prepared to deliver requires experiences that appeal to a diverse audience - individuals who have different perspectives and experiences. One step facility operators must take is to create teams of employees who have diverse cultural backgrounds, speak multiple languages and offer dissimilar backgrounds from their customer base.

7. Going green

In a recent ad, Honda referred to environmentalism as "environmentology." While "environmentology" is not a word, it definitely is a trend. People all over the world are focused on renewable energy and products, bringing the outdoors inside and reconnecting with nature. Accordingly, the fitness industry needs to consider how to connect to the expanding focus on "going green." It needs to incorporate "green" into its designs, equipment, programs, services and efforts to reach the community. Fitness centers must have credible answers to prospective members who want to know what the industry is doing in this regard. Facility managers need to prepare now, because, those who don't will be experiencing another type of green (i.e., a lack of) when their competitors figure out the solution.

8. Beefing up security

Secure cameras, eye scans, secret passwords, facial recognition and gated communities have become fixtures in many parts of society. In contradiction, many people seem to feel less secure in their lives than at any other time in history. As a result, people are seeking security in their professional and personal lives. How can the industry demonstrate its sensitivity to this issue, and respond to it? How can facilities provide a place where every member feels safe? Possibly more importantly, how can fitness centers make their facilities seem like home, and provide the comfort, safety and peace of mind everyone seeks?

9. Smart growth

An evolving trend among developers is the creation of "smart communities." Smart communities incorporate work, home, play and activity into their design. Smart means designing communities with work, home and physical activity blended into a single experience. In the future, individuals will be able to walk or ride their bike to work and still get home in time to be with the kids. Accordingly, fitness facilities must be able to adapt to the "smart communities" that promote outdoor activity - communities that foster an attitude that driving 2 miles to get to a fitness center may be perceived as too far. The key is for clubs to gear their resources and efforts to accommodate the realities of this new community model of convenience. In the process, fitness centers have to make themselves less about their physical space, and more about the programs they offer.

Business models for the future

Hopefully, this, and the previous column, have stimulated your entrepreneurial mind in a way that brings about new ideas and business models for the future. When looking to the past, you can see where a few creative and brave industry leaders took a chance to create a new business model, one that helped shaped the future for those who followed. Now, the mantel of responsibility for affecting meaningful change in the industry has been passed to your generation. One of the challenges you face is to take these nine trends and create a business and operational model for the industry that will enable fitness centers to deal with the demands and opportunities of a transforming society.
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