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Employee Advances from Selling Smoothies to Managing Fitness Departments

A strong work ethic and great customer service skills helped Candice Christner go from selling smoothies to managing many fitness departments.

Fitness facility managers have been saying for years that it is easier to teach someone skills than to teach personality and work ethic. To back this claim is Candice (Candi) Christner, the services coordinator at LifeWorks of Southwest General in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. Christner began working in the kitchen at the health center of the hospital where the fitness center is located. She then worked in the fitness center's café, where she was noticed by Executive Director of LifeWorks Karen Raisch-Siegel. Thus began her career as the service desk manager and now the services coordinator of the fitness center. Says Raisch-Siegel, "I noticed her amazing skills with members and coworkers [while at the café], and recruited her into the fitness center. She is now one of my key managers who I depend on for the success of the facility."

As the services coordinator, Christner manages the service desk, the Kids Area, programming, aesthetic/spa services and racquetball leagues. "My first job ... working in the café ... taught me so much about customer service," Christner says. "I think that starting with a position that gave me the opportunity to deal one-on-one with customers was very important because it helped me see that each customer is an individual. It also helped me understand how important relationship building is to any business."

Candice Christner

Services Coordinator
LifeWorks of Southwest General, Middleburg Heights, Ohio
www.lifeworksfitness.netg

Years at facility: 10

Certifications: Pilates Reformer certification, CECs at numerous industry conferences

To nominate a staff star, send an email describing the person to edit@fitnessmanagement.com.

Christner also recognizes the importance of relationship building with the staff she manages. "Recognizing that each staff member is different, I try to utilize their strengths to help build a team. Also, positive reinforcement goes a long way. I have found that people respond very well to telling them what they are doing right," she says. "Another important area of management is providing strong leadership by being fair and consistent, and by putting myself 'out there' as a good role model. I am always eager to help other staff members, and fully involve myself in this company with passion and enthusiasm."

Raisch-Siegel agrees that Christner is a good role model: "She takes her responsibilities seriously, and is very accountable. ... I never have to worry about the front desk or the Kids Area not being covered. Candi will cover the shift herself if need be." Another example of Christner "walking the walk" is her recent certification as a Pilates instructor. She explains, "I help promote and run the Pilates Reformer program here, and thought it would be very helpful to know more about what I was promoting."

Part of Christner's ability to handle the many tasks she has as a manager came from her days working in the busy café. "[This first job] helped improve my time-management and multi-tasking skills. Knowing how to juggle several customers at a time and getting their orders out correctly has proved so helpful in my current position. There are many aspects in my current position that require some prioritizing, and I have to decide daily what is most urgent."

Christner's rise up the fitness ladder also has to do with her positive attitude, and can-do spirit ("CanDo" is the nickname one staff member has for her). Explains Raisch-Siegel, "She never gives any type of attitude when asked to do a task or take on a project. ... I recently asked her to assist me with starting up our facial treatment service. This is the first spa-like service that we have ever offered, and we had a lot to learn. She stepped right in to take it over, and, since its inception in September, it has been very successful." Christner also successfully ran the facility's first annual golf outing for staff and members. "It was a lot of work in planning the event, coordinating the foursomes, working with the golf course and watching the budget," Raisch-Siegel says.

Christner's willingness to take on new tasks comes from her eagerness to learn everything there is about managing fitness. "There is so much to learn about this business. I see that this industry is very dynamic, and is constantly evolving. That's partly why I love it. It is so exciting to be a part of the emerging trends. You can't get stuck on the same page, or you will not be successful."

As for her future career, Christner says she is exactly where she wants to be. "Wellness is more than exercise - it's about feeling good about yourself. Whether it's from exercise, nutrition or personal services, I think people look for ways to feel their best and get the most out of life. Right in the middle of all of this is exactly where I want to find myself in the future."
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