How to Reverse Decline and Restore Stability to your Health Club, Fitness Center or Gym

Several years ago, I received a call from a gym owner with several facilities. He called me in despair. He knew that his gym was failing because membership sales had been declining steadily.

The club owner had just received a major wake-up call. In addition to the loss of some long-term key personnel, his business has just lost a major corporate account that made up a significant part of his overall sales.

Fortunately, he had some good cash reserves. From our conversation and initial evaluation of the gym, it was clear the gym could be saved. The cash reserves would give us enough time to fix the business.

I explained the drastic action that we would need to take in order to save his gym business. It was too much, too quick and too much heartache for him. (Significant layoffs of club staff were going to be required.)

He decided not to retain our services. He looked for a miracle and hoped everything would work out in the end.

Unfortunately, he was wrong.

Approximately 4 months later, the gym owner called me again and he was very down as he spoke on the phone. Membership sales had continued to decline (which caused other sales to decline), long term members and key staff had left the club and he was now almost out of cash. He was literally down to his last $1,000 with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

His gym chances for survival were gone. Within a week of his last call, he closed his business. Even worse, his home backed-up the personal guarantee on his business loan.

The saddest part of this story is the gym owner sent me an email a few weeks later. He knew that he could have avoided all of this if he had acted sooner…back when we first spoke. By failing to act quickly, he had lost his gym, his livelihood and his home.

Do not become paralyzed and fall in the trap of hoping for a miracle. You need to take immediate action to get a handle on your existing circumstances and get your business turned around.

Are You a Candidate for a Gym Turnaround?

Conducting a gym turnaround is all about reversing a gym’s decline and restoring stability to the business of the gym. There are some key factors that will help determine if your gym is a good candidate for a successful turnaround. Here are some questions you should ask yourself?

1. Is your gym still a viable business? If you were going to open this club today…what would you need to know to make an informed decision?

2. Is there still enough time left to get this done? Are there any hard deadlines looming that could stop you in your tracks?

3. Is there enough available cash to get this done? If your cash flow is good enough, many times you can use a simple float to get it done, if not, you will need outside funding.

4. Do you have a clear vision on how your gym should operate? Have you done this before? Do you know how this should look?

5. Do you have the proper management team and leadership in place? Are your key people truly committed to the success of the gym?

6. Do you have the confidence and belief of your stakeholders? Of course, your stakeholders will see you as the person who got them into this mess. You will need to win these folks over…again.

7. Do you have a structured and proven approach to get out of this mess? Go with what’s known and proven…no guesswork here.

Key Steps for the Gym Turnaround

 The first step is critical. You must recognize the need. Most gym owners wait until it’s too late. If you have a problem…face up to it now! Speaking from my consulting experience, don’t wait to admit the need until the patient is on the operating table. The longer you avoid what’s happening, the worse it will get and the more difficult the turnaround becomes.

 You must get an immediate grip on your finances. Only pay what will keep you in business. Everything else can wait.

 Next, you must take an objective look at your situation and develop short term and long term priorities. Don’t let emotion rule your decision making. Be willing to make the difficult decision.

 You will need to determine what has caused the underperformance. If you don’t know why this happened, you are doomed to repeat the mistake. Be sure and re-establish discipline.

 Establish a marketing plan and get the entire management team on board for the planned objectives. Do your research. Now is not the time to be testing new marketing ideas. Go with what’s proven.

 You will need supplier and vendor support to ensure your plan can happen. Don’t ignore these folks. Meet with each of them and let them know your situation and your intentions. The key here is good communication.

 You need to become an expert at health club management, particularly sales management. Start surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are at what you are asking them to do. Get your system in place. Assume nothing.

 Keep everyone involved in the process. Communicate, don’t keep anyone guessing. Communication is the key to most anything, but it’s the foundation when trying to keep everyone on the same page during a gym turnaround.

 Manage the process. Let people know what needs to be done and why. Then follow up. Train. Train. Train.

 Know your numbers. Don’t let the process of change distract you from the need to manage your gym. Track everything that is done in your gym just like you normally would.

 Manage with a cautious optimism. Know the risks moving forward and be prepared to deal with them. There are many elements that can stall your turnaround progress. Make a list of these potential setbacks and then a have plan if this were to happen.

 Keep your foot on the accelerator. Don’t let up. Ever. Don’t take success for granted. It’s hard work. Be on the lookout for success apathy.

Benefits of Turning your Gym Around

• You will save your investment and that of your investors.
• You can keep your well-paying job.
• You will get rid of any criticism that you have been receiving.
• You can continue to have the good things in life, such as a big house, vacations and a college fund for your children.
• You will give your gym a fresh start.
• You will increase the cash flow, the profitability and productivity of your gym.
• You will gain valuable experience that will keep you from trouble again.
• You will be able to sleep well at night.
• You will save many of your employee’s jobs.
• You will be a hero to your family, your board, your investors and your employees.
• And most importantly, you will have the personal satisfaction of knowing that you saved your business.

Learning Experience

The difference between winners and losers is that winners take responsibility for their actions and learn from their mistakes. This will be your key to bouncing back and taking the necessary steps forward. High achievement usually only comes after having a failure.

With this done, put the past behind you. Nothing good comes from lingering on the past. You need to look forward and figure out how to save your gym business.

In the end, you and your gym will survive. You will save many jobs and increase your investors’ stake in your business. Most importantly, you will have revived an important business for your community.

The key to getting out of your rut and moving forward is having very specific and defined goals. Your key goal now is to fix your gym. However, you must balance this goal with compassion since your goal will affect many lives negatively.

In addition, you must make time for family and friends and all that’s important to you.

This will give you the strength to go into the gym the next day and continue the honorable work of saving your business.

You must start immediately to give your gym its best chance to survive.

Now, go turn around your gym!

The Prejudging Predicament for Health Clubs in January

There’s a direct correlation between health club sales experience and prejudging the membership sale in a health club. The more health club sales and prospecting experience you have the greater the tendency to prejudge your members and club prospects.

January is around the corner. It will soon be the busiest time of the year for health club sales traffic. This could mean more membership sales for your health club. It could mean a lost opportunity…if you start to prejudge your club guests.

Workouts will be up. Guest traffic will be up. Phones will be ringing. There will be lots of activity. It’s that time of year. But success is guaranteed to no one.

Years ago, when I was first learning the health club business, I remember sitting in a manager’s meeting and being told “to only work with those who are interested.” I remember immediately saying, “that’s prejudging.” And it is.

Here’s the rule: 1) have a winning attitude, 2) work hard, and 3) follow a proven system

Just because it’s January…Just because you’re busy… Don’t start to cut corners and don’t prejudge.

Do not put labels on prospects. “Most people don’t have the money . . .”

Don’t assume you know anything about your guest if you haven’t ask any questions.

Don’t assume your members and guests all have similar needs i.e. to save money and time.

Here’s the pure definition of prejudging….thinking you know what the outcome will be before you even start.

From a member or guests perspective, imagine how they feel when you jump to conclusions about their fitness objectives, personal challenges, and concerns.

Instead of assuming all health club members and prospects are similar… find out what makes them different. Asking questions uncovers more than basic needs, it reveals what is unique about the different people you meet each day in your health club. Once you know what’s unique you can zero in on what’s best for them based on what they said, not what you assumed. Get the picture?

Avoid prejudging – Goals, desires, budgets, priorities, problems, challenges, decision criteria, decision process

Making assumptions only makes you look and sound pathetic.

Asking provocative questions makes you look and sound professional. If you’re asking really good questions – you should hear your members and prospects say “That’s a good question.” If you’re not hearing that compliment often it means you’re not asking really good questions.

No matter how busy your health is in January, remember the key steps to a successful health club presentation:

1. Get your guest to register in (you’ll have plenty of follow up in January)

2. Pre-qualification. Don’t find yourself rushed and trying to do this at the front desk. Find an area of the club that is quiet, comfortable and where you can sit down with your guest.

3. Qualify. Use a Needs Analysis Sheet or Lifestyle Fitness Questionnaire. No matter how busy you might become, this will allow you to stay on course and be sure you are asking the right questions. It’s the professional thing to do. Plus it works.

4. Tour. Don’t just go on auto pilot on the tour. I know you’ll be busy, but be sure and treat each guest like it’s the only one you’ll have that day. Don’t simply point out the machines and facilities…tie it back in to their goals, what they want to accomplish and the benefits they can receive.

5. Membership presentation. Don’t just show prices. It will be tempting. Take the time to offer a professional presentation. Do a review. Show your standard membership rates. Give them a reason to get started today (other than simply a price discount). Show your rates with the savings and with plenty of decent boldness…ask them to buy.

6. Overcome objections. Most prospects won’t say yes right away. Be prepared to answer their questions and concerns. Continually go back to the benefits and results they can receive by getting started now.

7. Point of sale referral process. Don’t use the excuse that you were too busy to get referrals. This is where your next sale will come from.

When you prejudge, you misjudge.

Now, go have a record breaking January.

Getting Ready for the Peak Selling Season

Anyone in the fitness industry knows that with New Year’s right around the corner, it will soon be the busiest time of the year for sales traffic. On one hand, more traffic simply means more membership sales and more revenue. On the other hand, a potential problem lurks; high prospect traffic often results in a drop in closing rates.

During busy times salespeople have a tendency to cut corners with the selling process. Perhaps they are trying to rush because another guest is waiting, but often the reason stems simply from the fact that they can cut corners without “feeling” the effects of a weaker sales presentation. That is, their closing percentage may go down (and I am shocked at the number of salespeople who do not track their own closing percentage) but because they are seeing more prospects, their numbers still look good. Hence, they are not “feeling” the pain of the decrease in overall success.

As a quick review, remember there are 8 steps to the professional fitness sales presentation;
1. Find a prospect
2. The meet and greet (which is the pre-qualification)
3. Qualify
4. Tour
5. Membership presentation
6. Overcome objections
7. Point of sale referral process
8. Establish a clear course of contact

Although every step of the sales process is important, and requires specific skills, tools and techniques to properly complete, the two areas of the sales presentation where salespeople have a tendency to first cut corners are on the qualifying stage and the tour.

The Qualifying Stage

Mistake #1: Trying to qualify while standing at the front desk.

This is a huge mistake for number of reasons. First, with many prospects there is a level of DIS-comfort at being inside a club. Therefore, making sure the prospect is at ease is very important. As a result, the qualifying process should happen in a quiet and private area of the club as possible, if you use an office, keep the door open so the prospect doesn’t feel “locked in.” In addition, if the salesperson will be sitting with the prospect in an area where guest traffic walks by, try and position the prospect so their peripheral vision has the LEAST number of distractions. Finally, when choosing desk space, know that round tables are the most inviting for rapport building and if a desk must be used, sit caddy-corner with a prospect NOT across from them

Mistake # 2: Not using a printed Needs Analysis Sheet or Guest Profile

Using a printed, professionally looking needs analysis form is imperative for a number of reasons. First, it ensures a consistent, effective and PROVEN sales presentation with every prospect no matter which salesperson is on the job. Second, it looks professional; let’s face it, when you go to your doctor they have forms they use! Third, when a salesperson asks questions AND writes down the answers, it conveys a feeling of caring to the prospect, and therefore creates a greater level of rapport. And fourth, using a form to capture the prospects information allows for effective follow up.

Think abut it, if a salesperson works with five prospects a day, it will be almost impossible for them to remember details about someone one or two weeks later. So, for all these reasons, and many more, it is imperative that salespeople use a needs analysis form.

The Tour

Tour Mistake #1: Touring the prospect before qualifying

Yes, I know some of you are saying, “Wait a minute, if qualifying is step #3 and touring is step #4, then how (or why) would a salesperson reverse the order?” That is a great question and one that has NO logical answer. What salespeople will often say is that because the prospects say, “I’m here to see the facility,” they feel obligated to show them the club so as not to “upset” them. To ensure that a full understanding of why one tours ONLY AFTER qualifying, think of this scenario. You go to the doctors because you don’t feel well. You are sitting in the examining room and the doctor comes in and says, “So, I hear you don’t feel well.” After simply saying, “No, I don’t.”” the doctor turns around, grabs a syringe, fills it up with something and comes over to give you a shot in the arm. What is going through your mind right now? Yea, “This guy is a whacko – he’s trying to give me treatment without even knowing what is wrong with me.”

Well, the same analogy applies to selling health club memberships. How can you give a prospect a customized, personal tour without first knowing what the prospect wants and why that it is important to them? You can’t, so always make sure your sales team is ALWAYS QUALIFYING BEFORE TOURING. Not only will it result in greater success, but the prospect will feel better about the process as well.

Tour Mistake #2: Giving the “Museum” Tour

The museum tour refers to the situation when a salesperson walks through the club and simply “feature-dumps” information to the prospect. “Over here we have 55 cardiovascular pieces of equipment and we have 112 different classes per week, and we have only certified trainers, “ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. WHO CARES! People don’t buy features – they buy what those features are going to give them in terms of benefits.

Therefore, salespeople need to stop blabbing about a ton of features and, instead, focus on the key things that the prospect indicated were important to them (Super Objective) during the qualifying stage. Then once the salesperson has explained the benefits of a particular club feature, they need to get the prospect to verbally give feedback as to the importance of that feature.

Take the time and tune-up the qualifying and touring aspects of your clubs sales presentation and it will result in a higher level of sales success.

Fitness Management & Consulting Launches My Fitness Career Job Web Site

New fitness industry job website benefits both employers and job seekers.

Dallas, TX – October 16, 2013 – Fitness Management & Consulting announced today the launch of its new web site at for job seekers and employers in the fitness industry. The new web site is designed to provide job seekers and employers from all fitness verticals with tools and resources they need to build their business, career, or both.

While working with club owners and fitness experts through the years, it became evident to Jim Thomas, president of Fitness Management & Consulting, that the uniqueness of the fitness industry did not lend itself to traditional staffing outlets such as Monster or “Our new MyFitnessCareer job site offers all fitness verticals additional resources to find the right employees as well as helps the job seekers search out the ideal career opportunity,” states Thomas.

Personal trainers, fitness teachers, gym managers, and sales consultants can post their profiles and submit their resumes for free on the site. Club owners and other employers looking for experienced fitness personnel can post job listings for $35.00 for 90 days.

Fitness Management & Consulting offers several programs to health clubs, fitness centers, gyms and other fitness verticals to help expand their market bases and keep the facilities productive and profitable. “Now,” says Thomas, “We’re excited to deliver the MyFitnessCareer site to the fitness industry to address needs at many levels. It’s an ideal complement to our health club consulting services, while offering career opportunities.”

About Jim Thomas’ Fitness Management & Consulting                                                         

Fitness Management & Consulting is a firm specializing in health club business consulting, turnarounds, new club start ups without franchisee fees, and sales training.  Its founder, Jim Thomas, has over 25 years experience in all aspects of health club sales, club ownership and management. Fitness Management & Consulting is a privately held company based in Dallas, Texas. For more information on Fitness Management & Consulting, please


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Fitness Management & Consulting

Skype: jtmanagement



How to Spot a Potential Star Health Club Salesperson

After having interviewed thousands of potential salespeople over the years on behalf of client clubs…and after having hired and helped to supervise many of them…and after having trained them and worked beside them, I have found there are certain qualities that every star health club salesperson possesses.

One of the secrets is…don’t be tricked by what they know relative to fitness or the health club industry, and don’t be blinded by how they look. Instead, concentrate on who they are. Here you go:

1. Will they do the right thing when no one is watching? Do they have integrity?

Members and guests appreciate and want to deal with honest people. Fast talkers will come and go. Hard closers will get some sales, but will create some ill will… experts in fitness will help us understand, but the thing that draws us to do business with a person, more than anything else, is that person’s integrity. We know that we will be dealt with fairly and honestly.

2. Do they have a high energy level? Are they a self starter? What kind of work ethic do they have?

Whether we like it or not, it is still true, to a large degree, sales, in the health club business, is a numbers game. Every health club sales person must talk to a certain number of people in order to sell one.

So, the element of volume is very important to a successful health club sales person. Given two salespeople of equal skills, experience, intelligence, product knowledge, etc., the one who works the hardest will be more successful.

There is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes, the difference between one sales person being successful and another being unsuccessful comes down to quantity of sales efforts.

3. Are they coachable? Do they have the ability to learn?

I’m not talking about the kind of knowledge that you get in school. For the successful health club salesperson, the ability to learn means the ability to evaluate a situation, and then to modify or make adjustments in the way they do things as a result. Can they think quickly on their feet?

In today’s health club environment, there are a number of areas in which a good salesperson must continually be inquiring, learning, and changing their behavior.

The first of these…are their personal sales skills. Health Club sales is an area of endeavor where a person is never as good as they could be. There is always some skill that can be learned or improved upon. The successful health club salesperson never considers themselves to have arrived, but is constantly looking for ways to refine and improve their sales skills. It’s a continuous learning process.

The health club salesperson must learn how to change their behavior to meet the needs, drives, and personalities of the club guests and members. The successful health club salesperson is a chameleon. They change their behavior and, to some extent, their personality, to meet the ways in which different guests and members need for them to behave.

4. Do they have the ability to build positive relationships? Do they have a winning attitude?

The successful health club salesperson is the individual who can quickly build trusting relationships with all sorts of people in the community and inside the club. That requires empathy, the ability to listen, perceptiveness, and the ability to mold themselves into the kind of person the prospect and club member needs.

Those are relationship-building skills. And the most successful health club salespeople are relationship builders.

5. Do they have a self-image of success? Do they see themselves capturing every sale?

People tend to live up to their image of themselves. We all understand that.

Every one of us can think of people in our own lives who have lots of ability and potential, but who never live up to that potential because of their poor self-image.

Somewhere, they developed a poor self-image, and began to think of themselves as incompetent, unable, or unworthy.

6. Do they really want to be in sales? What is their personal motivation?

The best health club salespeople all have within them a drive to excel, to be the best. They have a desire to persuade others.

They have a desire… to get you to see their way of thinking.

It’s that internal motivation that drives all the other qualities of the superstar salesperson. And that drive to succeed is far more powerful than any of the other qualities. Given a strong internal motivation, sooner or later the health club salesperson that is driven to success will succeed. It’s only a matter of time.

Now, add that internal drive, with an ability to learn, an image of success and achievement, a high energy level, personal integrity, and add the ability to create strong business relationships, and you have the ingredients of a superstar health club salesperson.

And should you find a salesperson like this, get ready, because they will make your health club the most interesting it has been in a long time…and, oh by the way, profitable.

Now, go find that health club superstar.

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