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Are Consultants Necessary?

There are all types of consultants - good ones and not so good ones. When you are looking to improve your business, look for someone who can objectively analyze your operation.

You own or manage a spa and fitness facility. It has been open for three years, is profitable, and things are progressing well both operationally and financially. But, you read an article about a fitness center that is similar to yours, yet far exceeds your current operational parameters. You think, "Why don't we have those numbers or doing those things operationally?" You call a meeting of key personnel and department heads and discuss the various areas highlighted in the article, drawing comparisons to your own facility. "Our spa usage numbers are good, but look at theirs; our class calendar is robust, but look at theirs; look at their preventive maintenance schedule and routine checklists; and their membership numbers run circles around ours.
You go on, lamenting the fact that your facility is not doing as well as you had thought. You determine that you need help, someone with a broader background or with a keener operational and business eye. You finally decide you need a consultant. And then you groan, because your impression of consultants are on the same level as vultures, looking to prey upon the confused or operationally lost.

Get a grip

Sound familiar? If so, then it's time to get a grip. Are consultants really the dregs of our industry, or are they a necessity? It all depends on your perspective, which is based on past experience. There are all types of consultants - good ones and not so good ones. When you are looking to improve your business, or even a piece of your business, look for someone who can objectively analyze your operation. Often, you can't see the solutions to your facility's problems because you are too close to your facility; you need a fresh set of eyes.

Finding a consultant

How do you find a good consultant? The Internet, the Yellow Pages, professional organizations and publications are all options - but the best method is the same way you would find a good golf professional or a good doctor: referrals. Talk to peers in the industry about who they have used. Check out their references thoroughly. Take the time to do a little research before you waste your time and money - and, even worse, before you get bad advice that negatively affects your business. Be clear and concise when stating your problems or concerns to a prospective consultant. They should, in turn, be precise when outlining what they intend to do and what results you can expect from their assistance. Once you find the right consultant, and they render and thoroughly review their report with you, follow their advice or prescription for correcting your problems. Have them come back periodically (more frequently, initially) to make sure you are on track and executing the plan as it was intended. You are looking for long-term solutions, not short-lived success. If you are using a consultant who is not correcting your problems, get rid of them. But keep looking until you find one who meets your needs. Remember, you are looking for results, and the right fit for your company is one that helps you achieve the results you are looking for - not only in the next several months, but for the long haul.
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