There was a time when all anyone needed to own and operate a health club was a passion for fitness and some money to get things started. Unfortunately, today independent club owners are faced with competition from larger, well-run companies with full infrastructure and more commonly, business executives from outside of the fitness industry.
To be successful in today's increasingly competitive health club environment takes business savvy, vision and the ability to put the right people in place to run the day-to-day operations of the health club.
So where do club owners and operators turn when they’re in need of a little help?
The good news is there are plenty of resources to get the basic understanding needed to be successful. The bad news is there may be too many resources out there. A quick Google search for “running a health club” brings up about 213 million results, ranging from Amazon to IHRSA and everything in between.
Among the generic how-to sites and eBooks that offer advice, sometimes it’s hard to find reliable information that fits your club’s unique situation. Not every issue can be resolved with a Google search. That is when the question arises, “Is worth the investment to call in a professional?”
Sure, it can be a hefty investment depending on a club’s situation. And of course, controlling costs is always a priority for independent club owners. But sometimes, just like with marketing dollars, money well spent may help boost revenues in the long run.
Consultants can bring a wealth of specialties and educational degrees with them. However, an important aspect in bringing in an outside consultant is that he or she can provide a personalized program that addresses the company's weaknesses and turns them into strengths through evaluation, goal setting and operational improvements. And they can do it without the emotional connection that many have to their own business. Think of it like personal training for your health club (or for those that enjoy reality TV, having Jon Taffer from Bar Rescue come in and fix up struggling bars — with a bit of screaming and cursing for dramatic effect.)
When one watches shows such as Bar Rescue, Tabitha's Salon Takeover or any of the business turnaround shows, the common theme is that too often egos, emotions and pride can get in the way of analytical, creative and bottom-line thinking — especially when a business owner may not be fully armed with all the skills needed to design, staff, and run a successful health club. This is where an expert (or group of experts), which are often found speaking at conferences and trade shows can be of great service. They can help owners get systems in order, find the right people to be hired and suggest proper programs that will boost ancillary revenues.
Does every club need a consultant? Maybe not. But if you believe that every member should be spending a bit extra on a personal trainer to get the best results, you may want to think about doing the same for your business before it needs rescuing.
John Agoglia has spent nearly two decades either working in health clubs or writing about them. He currently writes for several digital and print publications and provides marketing strategy and content services to companies in and out of the fitness industry.