Developing Employees. Part 1

Just as is the case with members, developing and keeping good employees
is more profitable than continually replacing them.

Within the fitness industry, owners have fought an ongoing conflict between providing long-term job stability and career opportunities for employees, and meeting business and profit expectations for themselves and their investors. There are ways, however, for owners and managers to balance these competing interests to ensure the long-term growth and profitability of their businesses.

The new, business savvy management

The growing popularity of fitness centers has allowed the industry to greatly expand and to be considered a legitimate industry by many business leaders. This fact has caught the attention of many well-capitalized investment groups who are interested in ownership of multiple fitness clubs. These venture firms come from traditional industries such as investment banking, retail and real estate, and bring with them years of experience and successful, robust business strategies that can easily be adapted to the health club market. This is in contrast to the “traditional” club owner, such as the hard-core enthusiast, who will now be competing against business executives who are well-seasoned in business strategies such as employee compensation, organizational development, and recruitment and retention of long-term employees.

The industry has also undergone a consolidation of ownership groups (and continues to do so) and has reached market saturation in many urban markets. This has resulted in intense competition for available members, forced the exclusion of many worthy entrepreneurs from access to the market and has created a need to develop solid career opportunities for employees to ensure the long-term growth and stability of fitness businesses.

This means a change in the way business is conducted. In the past, many fitness centers were run by individuals whose experience was limited and who lacked cross-training in all business disciplines. The lack of experience was often the intent of owners, and stemmed from a lack of business experience and a paranoia of losing trade secrets. But it resulted in a lack of opportunity for employees, which made it difficult to attract and retain good staff. Thus, over the years, the centers that have become successful are the ones whose owners understood the need to provide a solid career opportunity for employees.

Today, with the maturation and expansion of the industry, there are increased opportunities for people desiring careers in the health and fitness field. Many of these people have impressive academic or professional training credentials, as well as years of experience. But there can be intense competition to obtain the best employees, and if your facility doesn’t offer enough opportunity to entice employees to stay, your competition will hire them away, leaving you with a less talented and less capable workforce. And a poor workforce will be sorely lacking in the skills needed to handle the new service demands of our industry.

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