We all use the same party line about why we love owning a fitness center, but let's be honest - there are some perks we don't always talk about.
It's hard enough owning and operating an independent fitness center without the national financial rug being pulled out from under you. So, what is a facility owner or manager to do? It's time to talk about why we really get up and go to work every day. I'm not talking about the touchy-feely stuff: helping people improve their lives, developing our staff, being part of our community, making a difference ... blah blah blah. I'm talking about the dark side. The stuff we love that we're not allowed to talk about. The privileges of ownership and management that are enjoyed when nobody is watching.
Owner perksFree drinks. We ask our staff to pay for the drinks they take from the cooler, so I try to do the same. But, if I'm working the front desk and nobody's watching - ka-ching! Even better, I like to be alone at the facility after we've locked up. I sometimes wonder, "How many protein shakes can one person drink in an hour?"
Working out alone. It's impossible for me to enjoy a workout when our facility is open. With interruptions from staff and members, it's not even worth the try. Once those doors are locked, though, I have my own private nirvana. I choose the music. I take as long as I want. I sweat and don't even wipe it up. I'm a mad man.
Saying "no" because I feel like it. Sure, Mr. Rude Annoying Member, I could resolve that complaint for you. Maybe you were trying to cancel your membership and you missed the cut-off date. Perhaps you have a reason (a weird, why-would-you-tell-anyone-that reason) for missing that personal training session we charged you for. But, you know what? I don't like you. You're rude and a pain in the you-know-what. Therefore, I'm not going to help you. So there.
Paying bills when we feel like it. My business partner pays our bills, and this is one of his favorite guilty pleasures. While we try to pay all of our vendors on time, it's inevitable that we will be late on some payments. We figure that once we've incurred a late fee, why pay any sooner than we have to? This can drive leasing companies crazy, who are - quite appropriately - diligent in following up on late payments. They'll call the fitness centers and our cell phones, and we just couldn't be more friendly or pleasant.
"Can we do a check-by-phone today on this month's lease payment?" Um, why should I do that? You already dinged me on the late fee, and I have until the 30th before anything happens to us. "Yes, but management really hates when you pay at the very end of the month." Really? Management hates that? You know what I hate? People who don't sign the front of their company's checks telling me, a business owner, when to send in my money when I'm managing my business just fine, thank you.
Eaves-dropping on customer calls. Our billing company has the marvelous service of recording all customer calls, and they do an outstanding job of capturing notes on every call that are then typed into the member's database record. Whenever we receive customer feedback about a potential billing problem or alleged unpleasant phone call, we immediately review the notes in their database record and request the recording of the call. Within minutes, a sound file will arrive in my email, and I get to go back in time, eaves-dropping on a conversation hours, days or even weeks after it occurred. It was a bit creepy the first few times, but now I love doing it.
"Your operator was rude to me!" Hmm, really? Because I just listened to the call and the operator could not have been nicer or more professional. You, on the other hand, behaved like a baboon. Would you like to hear what a baboon sounds like?
"I was never told to send anything in writing!" That's so strange, because I just listened to the call, and the operator spelled out the necessary email and U.S. mail address for you, and you confirmed that you had written it down. Shall we share a listen?
"I've called several times and nobody ever helps me." That's fascinating, because your database record shows no calls before the one you completed, and I listened to the call and you gave no indication in your words or demeanor that this was anything other than your very first call. Wanna hear?
Just writing all of these down has put me in a better mood. Recession, re-smeshion. I'm going to lock up, steal a drink from my own cooler, turn up the music in the weight room and go lift.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fitness Management magazine.