Culture is key. Facilities with a well-defined core purpose, mission statement and core values are always the most successful.
Every club I have ever owned and operated had a clear-cut culture. We put a lot of time and effort into developing it, as we knew how crucial it was to our long-term prosperity. When I consult with other clubs, culture is always the first thing I look at, no matter what. It really is the DNA of a company — providing direction, inspiration and guidance.
Once you've put the time and effort into crafting a meaningful culture, you must spend the same amount of time and effort infusing that culture into your company and employees.
Here are six strategies that are highly effective for supercharging your team via your core purpose, mission statement and core values.
1. Live it
The first and most fundamental step to infusing your culture is to live it. That means leading by example at all times. If you fail to demonstrate behavior that is supportive of your core purpose, mission statement and core values, you can never expect your team to do so.
At Stevenson Fitness, one of the core values has been to "build real relationships." If your team sees you ignoring members or blowing them off, your actions suggest that the core value isn't really important. The fastest way to destroy a culture is to say one thing and then do another. Live and breathe your culture.
2. Promote it
In addition to leading by example, you also need to promote your culture. Make sure you have your core purpose, mission statement and core values plastered everywhere. Hang a poster in the break room. Put cheat sheets behind your welcome desk. Make it the screen saver on company computers. I have even seen companies require that every team member carry "core cards" in their pockets during shifts to keep culture in the front of their minds.
I also strongly suggest that you share it with your club members. When your team realizes that the members know what to expect from your culture, they know you take it seriously. Promote, promote, promote!
3. Hire by it
Use your core purpose, mission statement and core values during your hiring process. Give a printed copy of them to all candidates. Talk about them during the actual interview. Let candidates know that you are looking for a good culture fit before anything else.
A great practice is to actually create interview questions that reflect your culture. At Stevenson Fitness, our culture has been based on providing a great member experience. One of the questions we always ask candidates is, "Tell us about a time you received great customer service." In order to deliver a great experience, you must be able to recognize one. This type of question during an interview sets the expectation from the very beginning.
4. Fire by it
There may be no better way to infuse and demonstrate the importance of your core purpose, mission statement and core values than by firing a team member who isn't on board, especially if that team member is technically sound in their work.
We had a personal trainer who was very busy and had a large client base but was a terrible culture fit. Although his training skills were sound, he didn't interact much with others, and when he did, he wasn't friendly. His behavior violated many of our values, but specifically the core value "play like a championship team."
After several coaching conversations, as well as a performance-improvement plan, we saw no improvement at all, so we let him go. Our team was stunned, because he was generating a lot of revenue. Yet the team realized that our purpose, mission and values really were most important — even more important than money. Believe in your culture so much that you can prove you are unwilling to retain anyone on your team who doesn't honor it.
5. Express gratitude based on it
Expressing gratitude while referencing your culture is a great way to show your team how important it is. Gratitude must be expressed frequently, and in a timely and specific manner. As part of the specificity, refer to your core purpose, mission statement and values.
One of the core values at Stevenson Fitness has been to "do what others won't." I once noticed a welcome desk employee setting up the group X room for a class. This team member did this proactively, it was out of the technical scope of her duties, and the instructor wasn't even there yet. When I saw this behavior, I approached the team member and said, "It is so incredible that you did this. It is so helpful to the instructor. Way to do what others won't!"
Tying great behavior directly to your culture adds purpose and meaning to expressing gratitude, in addition to making your team member feel valued. Thank your team often, in the moment, and tie it to your culture.
6. Evaluate around it
Evaluating team members around your culture demonstrates its importance. Many facilities still do old-school annual evaluations, rating behaviors such as punctuality, appearance and attitude on a scale from 1 to 5. In my book, if a team member is late, stinky and has a bad attitude, that team member doesn't remain on the team.
While evaluations have to account for performance, they need a component that assesses adherence to core purpose, mission statement and core values. One of the core values at Stevenson Fitness has been to "grow through constant learning." We include that value in addition to all our core values on our evaluations. Listed under the value, we have, "Takes advantage of professional development opportunities. Regularly reads books, journals and articles and shares with the team. Attends at least one continuing education event a year."
Those are tangible ways to assess if the team member is living that core value. The bottom line is culture is important, and you need to evaluate what is important.
The importance of creating a meaningful core purpose, mission statement and core values cannot be overstated. Equally as important is making sure that your culture flows throughout your organization, and that all of your team members know it, understand it and demonstrate it in their work. These six tips are a great way to ensure that happens.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Athletic Business with the title "Six steps toward infusing a clear-cut culture." Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the athletic, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.