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First Impressions: Getting It Right

Members take notice of your landscaping, parking lot and building before stepping inside your fitness center.

If you've heard it once, you've heard it a hundred times: You never get a second chance to make a first impression. One of the many times I heard this was back in college when I worked at a resort town restaurant as a busboy over the summer. Typically, the day shift was slow and, as a busboy, there wasn't a whole lot of bussing to do. So, the manager would send us to the parking lot with trash bags to pick up trash.

Making a good first impression is great advice for any industry. When members and prospective members walk into your facility, what do they see? Is it the front desk? Maybe it's the professionally uniformed and groomed front desk person with a golden smile and inviting greeting? Could it be the advertisements that are strategically placed in the reception area? How about taking a few steps back to consider the front door, the facility sign, the building, the parking lot? A prospect's first impression may have caused them to not even pull into your parking lot. Their perception of your facility is being created before they even walk in the door. What are you doing to create a great perception of your entire fitness center?

Parking lots sweeps

Whether you own the building, lease the building or space in a strip mall, or have space within an office building, you and your staff can still make a difference. The quickest fix can be in the parking area. Why wait for the weekly sweeping of the parking lot? Make parking lot "sweeps" a part of your daily checklist. Walk the lot like you would any other part of your facility. Pick up trash and debris. Create a parking lot lost and found for your members. Walk the lot at night and check the lighting. Report burned-out lot lights and lights out on your facility sign.

Active beautification

Landscaping can make a tremendous impact on your facility. You or your property management company may have a contract with a landscaping company to plant, weed and mulch two or three times a year. Is this enough? Landscaping looks great for a couple of weeks after an overhaul, but, after that, it can quickly decline. Instead of a monthly staff meeting, give your team some gardening gloves and yard waste bags and take an hour to pull some weeds and clean up the landscaping.

If you share common areas with other tenants or owners, create a beautification committee and share the responsibility of keeping up the surrounding area. This can also build a sense of community with your business neighbors. If your neighbors work with you regularly on a project like this, they are more likely to bring things to your attention that you may not notice (a burnt-out light, loose railing, etc.). Members who notice how much pride you take inside and out of your facility will have a better overall perception of it. Fitness centers can be a dime a dozen. Taking obvious pride in how your facility is maintained is contagious and memorable.

Create a positive perception

You may be running a top-notch program with cutting-edge trainers, engaging group exercise instructors, wonderful childcare employees and motivating managers. However, if you don't maintain a positive first impression, people may never know what you offer beyond your doors. Create a positive perception that will result in members who are proud of their fitness facility.
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