Help! Managing Your Fitness Center Doesn’t Have to be a Juggling Act

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Strength Tek

With contributions by Cindy Brooks, Anatomy Academy; Paul Couzelis, MediFit Corporate Services; Ed Dasso, Personal Fitness & Wellness; Lorne Goldenberg, Strength Tek; Gary Henkin, WTS International; Curt Langager, FitnessWest; Susan Liebenow, L&T Health and Fitness; Chris Nail, Corporate Fitness Works; Janice Rice, Healthtrax Fitness & Wellness

Strength Tek fit people smiling while relaxing

“If you build it, they will come.”

The high demand for convenient fitness facilities was certainly enough to justify this headline on the cover of On-Site Fitness’ premier issue, but it fails to tell the whole story. Your goals involve more than just getting people into your fitness center. Your objectives must also focus on continued participation, motivation, and education.

When planning your fitness center or wellness program, defining your objectives first (and with an open mind) is imperative. Once this is done, begin to assign or acquire the necessary resources. Do not reverse the planning process and let current resources determine your objectives. For instance, if you first determine that you cannot staff your facility, you have automatically excluded many potential goals for the center. If you do not know how to obtain the resources to meet your goals, do not fear: Help, for this and other problems, is on the way.

Hundreds of on-site fitness consultants across the country can help with any and every aspect of installing a fitness center. Whether you view the assistance as affordable depends on the ultimate success of achieving your goals. If your fitness center is an investment, as most are, then you must consider the possibility that a larger investment will yield a greater return (more customers, greater retention, etc.). The real question emerges, “How much can these consultants help you achieve?”

Help Setting Objectives

Setting aggressive and feasible objectives is obviously the most important aspect of the planning process. Why not utilize the expertise of professionals in the field? Waiting too long to seek help is the biggest mistake.

One resort hotel, for instance, planned to generate ancillary revenues by allowing (and charging) non-guests access to the fitness center. Unfortunately, the resort did not add extra showers to accommodate these additional users. Hotel fitness centers generally do not need many showers since guests have their own in each room. The outside users in this situation, however, overtaxed the fitness room’s one available shower. By the time a consultant was brought in, inexperience had already cost the hotel thousands of dollars.

As a first step, some consulting firms will perform market and feasibility studies to help develop sophisticated and realistic objectives. These studies may also indicate how much a consultant or management company is needed.

Help Designing the Facility

Architects and interior designers can be excellent assets, but unless they understand the unique needs and dynamics of on-site fitness centers, they will make mistakes. Fitness centers must not only look good, they also have to be functional. It is important that your professional consultant understands those requirements and the best ways to build them into the facility. When using a designer or architect, make sure they have some on-site fitness centers in their portfolio.

Help Selecting Equipment

No one expects you to be an expert on fitness machines, but the success of your facility depends on the correct equipment selection. Generally, the best consultants will help you choose the most appropriate equipment and often facilitate the purchase.

An important distinction exists between facilitating the purchase and brokering it. Consultants who act as suppliers often are limited to the lines they represent, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Help Developing Incentive Programs

Build it, and they may come. Incorporate the right incentive programs, and your customers will keep coming. Your users will also be more likely to achieve their personal goals, ensuring that your facility becomes an integral part of their lives. Fitness consultants know the programs that work-ones that are both creative and time-tested.

Help Implementing Corporate Wellness Programs

The ultimate goal of any wellness program is to improve the health of its participants. This objective cannot be accomplished with equipment and other physical assets alone. Education must be an integral part of the program. Yet, very few companies have the resources or the knowledge to accomplish this goal without assistance.

However, fitness center consultants regularly set up educational programs, such as smoking cessation or CPR classes, health fairs, needs assessments, or screenings for blood pressure, hearing, glaucoma, body composition, and flexibility. With a consultant’s help, you may be surprised what you can offer and how you can change the lives of your program participants.

Help Developing Operational Procedures

All facilities, staffed and unstaffed, require a clear and thorough set of standard operational rules and procedures. Fitness consultants can help develop these policies, help incorporate them, and/or audit their effectiveness. Also, you can utilize consultants on a periodic or on-going basis to help evaluate capital expenditures, personnel, and marketing efforts. At a minimum, an objective third party can help a wellness program stay on track toward its goals.

Help with Management

Management companies can help anywhere from managing your staff to providing professional staff for your facility. By providing staff, the management company assumes all the workforce responsibilities and shares the risk/liability aspect of the facility. Perhaps the most persuasive argument for professional staffing is in the implementation of programs and strategies. Who better to execute the plan than those who truly understand and may have even been involved in developing it?

Sometimes the decision may not be who should staff but whether to staff at all. By comparing unstaffed facilities with professionally staffed ones, you may be surprised at how profitable – the ultimate impact on your company’s bottom line – the latter can be.

What to Look For in a Fitness Consultant

Setting aggressive and feasible objectives is obviously the most important aspect of the planning process. Why not utilize the expertise of professionals in the field? Waiting too long to seek help is t

Help Setting Objectives

You may need help with one, some, or all of the areas mentioned above. Some consultants offer specific services, while others offer fully integrated, or turnkey, service. Obviously, an integrated approach is preferable, but that does not mean that a good consultant always makes a good manager or vice versa. You may want to choose one consultant for the first stage of your project and then determine whether the working relationship, or chemistry, is sufficient to continue on for the second stage.

Whether using one vendor or several, the key is for the different stages of development and execution to work in concert with one another.

Specific items to look for in a consultant are:

  • A track record with facilities similar to yours;
  • Consultant’s philosophy (vision/mission/niche);
  • Strategic alliances with companies that may be beneficial to you;
  • No strategic alliances that may influence consulting recommendations.

Good places to research consulting companies are:

  • References/recommendations;
  • Current suppliers/vendors;
  • Internet/web sites; and
  • Fitness industry publications.

Developing a successful on-site fitness center and wellness program is an intensive process. You know that offering fitness is essential, but how to maximize its return? If you feel overwhelmed by the details involved, you are not alone. Asking for experts’ guidance is often the best approach to alleviating your concerns. Fitness consultants can help illustrate and realize the full potential and benefits of your facility – let them work for you.