I was recently speaking with a health club owner about his business. He had gone from health club employee to now, health club owner. Being in the “hot seat” was much different than just being concerned about himself or his department each day. As we talked, it got me thinking about what it takes to be a successful owner of a health club…and some of the things that must be done in order to have success in this business.
One thing is for sure, there is no way to eliminate all the problems that are associated with running and operating a successful health club. However, you can improve your chances of success with good advance planning, daily preparation and surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are at what you’re asking them to do. A good starting place is to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as the owner and manager of a health club.
Consider each of the following questions:
Work ethic…Are you a self-starter?
If it is to be, it is up to me. It will be up to you - not someone else telling you to watch the budget, develop marketing programs, get the sales, organize your time, train your staff and follow through on daily paperwork. On a scale of 1 -10, how would you rate your drive to succeed? Of course, everyone wants success, but are you willing to step far enough out of your comfort zone to achieve success?
How well do you get along with a variety of different personalities?
Health Club owners need to develop working relationships with a variety of people (perhaps even a cast of characters) including club guests, members, vendors, staff, bankers and professionals such as lawyers, accountants or consultants. Can you deal with a demanding member, an unreliable vendor, an angry caller, cranky sales person…all in the best interest of your club?
How good are you at making decisions?
Health Club owners are required to make decisions constantly, often quickly, under pressure, and independently. The job of “owner” requires wearing a lot of different hats…plumber, janitor, salesperson, bookkeeper, trainer, developer, even psychologist…all will require decisiveness. Act, don’t react, is a good reminder.
Do you have the physical and emotional stamina to run a health club?
Health Clubs many times are open from 5:00 am – 10:00 pm during the week. What will happen when your front desk person (who is also your opening person) is late or no-shows? No salesperson for the evening shift? A new member needs help? Health Club ownership can be (and is) challenging, fun and exciting, but it's also a lot of work. Can you face the potential demands of 12 hour work days six or seven days a week?
How well do you plan and organize?
History shows that many health club struggles or failures could have been avoided through better planning. Good organization of monthly financials, better inventory control, keeping an eye on schedules, tracking all guest and telephone inquiries and completing daily sales reports can help avoid many pitfalls. It’s good to remember “what gets tracked, get’s done.”
Is your drive strong enough to maintain your motivation?
Running a health club can wear you down. If you don’t believe me, just ask around. Some health club owners feel burned out by having to carry all the responsibility on their shoulders. Strong motivation can make the club succeed and will help you survive slowdowns as well as periods of burnout. We talk a lot in sales training about Super Objective Selling…understanding the real reason the guest is in your club. What is your Super Objective as the owner? Why is it important to you? Understanding your own personal Super Objective will help fuel your drive.
How will the health club business affect your friends, family…your sense of balance?
Running a health club can be hard on family life. The strain of an unsupportive spouse, friends who don’t understand…may be hard to balance against the demands of running a health club. There also may be financial difficulties until the club becomes profitable, which could take months. You may have to adjust to a lower standard of living or put family assets at risk.
How did you check out?
Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: www.fmconsulting.net or www.jimthomasondemand.com.
Want to learn more tips about health club management? Read 7 Powerful Club Marketing Tactics that Actually Work!