With most gyms opening again they will be dealing with a variety of issues to get their clubs running effectively. Regardless of the COVID pandemic however, there will always be problems that come up in any business. While the obvious ones can be dealt with right away, many others can go unnoticed. It can be easy to assume that all is well because things seem to be operating fine in a certain area, but looking beneath the surface often discovers or identifies something that needs to be addressed right away.
Finding issues that aren’t initially obvious BEFORE they become too problematic often determines whether a company will be successful or not. Here are a couple of ways to stay ahead of the issues that could hurt your business.
“Status Scans” are the process of looking for a problem that hasn’t been identified yet, determining the cause of that problem, then resolving or repairing it. The idea is to find the problem before it finds you. The purpose of these scans is to take stock of particular parts of your business in order to determine its functional health. The most successful companies rarely get broadsided by something that they didn’t see coming. The one’s that aren’t successful, are often or almost always dealing with issues that could have been resolved much easier if they had only caught them earlier.
One effective way to set up status scans or status checks is to identify and list all the procedures and protocols that are important to the success of your business that have an impact on the top or bottom lines, whether directly or indirectly. This can be done department by department or in any other way that makes sense to you. A checklist of questions that determine compliance on a ratings sheet that includes YES or NO, and Always, Mostly, Sometime, Rarely, or Never, should be all you need to give you a clear picture of what is going on. A “Comments” line after each NO response -or for a response below Always– can provide details of that particular concern.
For example, to determine a specific level of compliance, a question such as, “Are referrals asked for after every sale?” would be best answered with an Always, Mostly, Sometimes, Rarely, or Never. The question “Do new members who miss their initial fitness consultation always get called to be rebooked?” is best answered with a YES or NO.
By asking questions on the scan questionnaire, it compels those in charge to delve into questions they may not have a clear answer to, then correcting those areas that need it. For those who do have the answers to all or most of the questions, at the very least it serves as a review to see if they are on top of an issue that they are aware of.
Deficiencies can come up in any area of a club, at any time, from operations, to sales and marketing, to customer service and member retention. Breakdowns can occur when: vital revenue generating procedures and systems are not being followed properly, when company standards become compromised by employees, when frequent staff turnover minimizes the transfer of important knowledge to new recruits, or when employee complacency or poor morale reduce work effectiveness, etc.
Once you have made your scan list(s), you can then set a regular time period to do them. Depending on what it is you are checking for, some scans are best done weekly and others monthly. Some can take as little 10 minutes and others may take significantly longer to get a good idea of what is, or is not going on. Resist the urge to get diverted away from these checkups by day to day business that seems more important at the time and it will save you countless hours of “fixing” down the road.
Look to see how Engaged Employees are
Over the years of overseeing clubs, or working with gym owner clients, I have done many scans to spot deficiencies that sometimes included determining how involved specific employees were in their roles. A potential red flag is when someone always reports that everything is fine and has very little to discuss. This may indicate that the individual is not involved as they should be, as there should always be something to discuss or talk about.
I learned this lesson the hard way years back when as VP of sales, of a large gym chain, I hired three new manager trainees and eventually promoted each of them to the position of General Manager in three of our GTA clubs. Whenever I called two of these managers, they were always telling me of problems or issues they were dealing with. Whenever I asked the third manager how things were going, he would always say, “Everything is great!” and very little else. Since his club’s membership sales were decent, my first reaction was that I had hired a winner, and that he had everything under control compared to the other two. As a result, I believe I spent more time with the other two managers who seemed to becoming along slower. I must admit that because I wanted him to be successful, I didn’t pick up the warning signals as quickly as I should have.
My “delusion” bubble broke quickly one day when I paid an unannounced visit to his club during prime time and walked into his office to find him with his feet up on the desk playing computer poker. That was the beginning of the end for this guy, who, even after my written warning, told me that everything was perfect one too many times. Delving deeper into the operation after he was replaced, I found poor work ethic in his staff, negligence in carrying out important sales systems and other profit “eroders” due to poor leadership.
The lesson I learned was that just because things appear to be fine on the surface, it is still important to make the usual inspection rounds to see what is going on. Had I done what I knew I should have, I could have avoided all the extra hours getting that club back on track.
Don’t get Caught in Survival Mode
Another reason for possibly not seeing problems within your club is that businesses can get caught up in the “survival mode” mentality of day to day business. In this state, objectivity can become diminished and the ability to recognize a problem can become greatly impaired. Defined, “survival mode mentality” is a mindset where a company becomes so focused on either just paying their bills, or getting through the daily rigors, that very little else is thought of, observed or dealt with. This mode of thinking can diminish creative energy, strategic planning, and blind someone to destructive behaviors and practices. In other words, all the things that don’t need to be done today to survive are usually put off to another day. To give an example that many can relate to, how many times as a customer have you walked into a business and observed flaws within minutes of arriving that others working in that environment don’t seem to notice at all. These may range from poor maintenance and cleanliness of the surroundings, to how poorly customers are treated, to something that just seems in general like bad business. One may wonder how could it be that those working within the environment miss what casual observers see? One answer is that they do see the problem, but just ignore it. In other examples they may not see what you do, because their mind is focused on what makes the business tick at the moment at the cost of the big picture. Regardless of how busy you are, always make sure that a regular part of the club routine includes assessing key areas of your business to see how well they are functioning.
To request your free health club profitability scan, email Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org
Terry Patryluk was Vice President of Sales for one of Canada’s largest fitness club chains for 15 years, until starting his own company The Gym Profits Group, in 2012 . He has been instrumental in helping gyms owners throughout Ontario develop and implement new revenue streams and improve on existing ones. He specializes in leadership and sales training and implementing club corporate programs and personal training programs. He can be reached at 647-300-3997.