Preparing Your Gym for a Comeback

As of this writing many gyms across the USA are slowing beginning to relaunch their business and others will be conducting a relaunch in the coming weeks. One thing for sure, we’re not going back to the same place we left a few weeks ago. It’s a different marketplace and it’s a different economy. We will need a plan. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you begin; 1) what are you willing to give up to hit your goals? 2) What will you have to change to hit your goals? 3) What will you have to learn to hit your goals? Now, here are some things to consider:

1. The need for certainty. This is where it all starts. We need to be sure we get our head right. Of course, we need to understand the problem, but we need to give power to the solutions and what we’re trying to accomplish. Owners, managers and staff all need to work with a high level of certainty and confidence if they want the customer to have certainty. People will still buy.

2. Over communicate. Keep your members in the loop on what is happening and continue to provide them with valuable information on how to get the results that they are seeking. Create signage throughout the clubs on washing hands, cleaning equipment, social distancing and even consider arrows letting people know what direction they should go. Use all forms of communication to let everyone know what is happening with your gym

3. Provide unprecedented value. Give more than ever before. The goal here is to keep all your members and sign up new ones. You will need to provide an unprecedented level of value. Continue your digital programming with hangouts, expert Q&A, lives streams, private sessions, etc. Continue to focus on the member experience and celebrate success stories during the break; celebrate member anniversary dates, etc.

4. Prepare for member health and safety. I suggest doing more than what is required by your state. Temperature screenings for members, guests, employees and any vendors. Increase the number of cleaning stations throughout the gym. Prepare a FAQ to help address any potential issues of members not social distancing, coughing, sneezing, etc. Depending on your member base, consider a specific time for those 60+ to come in and workout. Have plenty of signage throughout the club as well as directional signage moving member down the right path form proper social distancing.

5. Prepare for staff health and safety. With all the talk about member health and safety, let’s don’t forget about our staff (not that anyone would). There will be some staffers that are simply not comfortable returning just yet and that’s okay. Perhaps they can help work on your digital product. The key thing here is to educate everyone on what you are doing to keep them safe. Many clubs are conducting temperature checks on staff twice per day. Two a day cleanings, rubber gloves, masks if desired.

6. Marketing to your members. This is one to start doing right now. Prepare videos to walk your members and guests what they can expect upon entering. You need to let your members know what you’re doing to keep the gym clean, healthy and safe and what you’ll be doing to keep your member healthy and safe. Social media and email marketing is ideal here. Showing new protocols and what to expect will ease potential fears your members and guests may have.

7. Marketing for your business — advance into the marketplace. You won’t be able to use just one or two things and get the results you want. The plan should be to show differentiation and market to an uncontested marketplace. You want EVEYONE to know who you are and what you are doing. Start writing your plan of action now. A press release is a great way to start. This is a great time to conduct a membership drive or a re-grand opening.

8. Prepare to be ready to sell in a new marketplace and a new economy. Include your health and safety standards in your process, but stay on point. Business and sales fundamentals will be more important than ever. You will likely have fewer inquiries and fewer prospects for a while. A good habit to get into…is to treat each guest like it’s the only one you will see that day and work to bring them up to your level of certainty. Get your staff trained and follow up to be sure they are on track. You can’t afford not to. As mentioned, conduct a membership drive, have referral contest, host a re-grand opening, etc. Revenue is the oxygen of your business, let’s keep it flowing. In addition, looks for ways to increase the amount you collect per new membership sale with additional added value. Consider new membership offering to accommodate a new economy.

9. Continue with Digital Programming. Digital programming is here to stay and is something you should continue even when you open your doors. Remember, you want deliver unprecedented value to your customer. Initially, this should be continued at no additional change, but as you move forward this should may be included as part of a premium membership offering or even sold online through your web site.

10. Develop existing profit centers or create new ones for ancillary sales. Since many people have poor diets which lack the vital nutrients the body needs, consider selling supplements online. Investigate selling gift cards online, meal planning, etc. You want to find ways to encourage additional sales to your current customer base.

11. Not every gym will return. Some gyms will not return because of financial reasons and other simply will not want to continue, which is okay. This presents an immediate opportunity to grow your business. In nearly every case, this will be done with no money out of your pocket and you will be able to increase your recurring dues, perhaps your personal training, email lists, renewal lists, have URLS and phone numbers pointed to you and more. This is something to investigate immediately.

Now, let’s make this the greatest comeback ever!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

a message from Jim Thomas

While all of us in the gym business settle in and wait for the pandemic to pass, we need to recognize that this could end up being a significant opportunity for your gym if you choose to expand and advance into the market place. But, it will require work. Don’t just sit and wait, develope a strategy, so that when this is over, you’re prepared to advance.

Here is some impotant information to remember:

  • People will still buy from you, but you will have to ask. Don’t let anyone guilt or shame you into thinking that selling is a bad thing. In many ways, you can treat this like a pre sales.
  • The economy will prosper soon. This is temporary. This will end. Let’s be sure we’re ready.
  • Gyms will re-reopen. There will be pent up demand for your services and products. Be prepared.

Prepare a plan of action and business strategy for the new normal:

  • Keep Selling. For a visual, treat this like a presales, make it simple and easy to get started and add value. Memberships, paid trials, personal training, supplements, etc.
  • Keep your current members. You’re only temporarily changing how you will coach your members (you’re not closing). Help your current members stay with you. Stay in touch with your members. Commnicate, even over-communicate. Such things as online classes, Q&A sessions, sending a work out of the day, check in on them, accountablity sessions, etc.
  • This one is big…be prepared for business after this ends. Don’t find yourself doing nothing and expect to flip the switch. Develope your plan and take action!

Are you ready to keep your members and capture market share?

  • Take control of the current situation and get a grip on things. Write out a plan that allows you to preserve cash, keep your current members, continue to sell, and develope a strategy that allows you to advance, not retreat into the marketplace. Turn off the TV.
  • Leverage an online and remote strategy to serve your members and prospects. Live classes, video, accountabilty calls, coaching calls, have fun with it just like you would inside your gym.
  • Prevent objections and sell during this time; Make this simple. Provide value.

Thank you.

Jim

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

How to handle a pay raise with gym staff in a challenging economy

I speak with many gym owners and operators who have concerns on how to hand out pay raises when times are tough. Although… difficult times can be nothing more than an excuse not to offer a pay raise even though there’s merit. My answer normally will surprise the concerned gym owner when I tell them my solution to pay raises is the same no matter if it’s good times…or not so good times.

Gyms need talent. There is a shortage of talent. Talent will cost money otherwise you will lose your best people to other industries.

As we all know, sales can have a way of being a moving target…so if you continually compensate your staff around a fixed compensation plan, you are setting yourself up for a fall. I like to see gyms offer some form of a guaranteed opportunity, but with plenty of upside based on production and job description.

· You have a budget, right? Give staffers responsibility for certain line items. Say the budget for towel service is $2,000 per month…any savings they can generate in that line item would result in a 50% bonus off the total savings. So, if they save the club $500, they would receive a $250 bonus. It’s a win-win.

· Additional compensation does not have to come in the way of direct dollars. Work a half day on Friday, but receive compensation for a full day.

· Make childcare available for a reduced cost or even free. This offers a potentially significant savings for the employee plus the added bonus of convenience.

· Where it’s possible, offer flex-scheduling. This is a nice perk for those who have children or simply like the idea of beating rush hour traffic.

· Everyone is in sales…or they should be. Have a commission plan for every employee in your club. And then teach them how to promote and sell.

· Offer more training and continuing education that’s job related. Help make them more valuable to you…and increase their confidence and self esteem at the same time.

· Have a monthly contest. Of course, a sales contest would work in many departments, but you could also have a cleaning contest based on daily inspection scores. How many more memberships would you sell or how many members would you retain with a cleaner facility?

· Combine duties. When someone leaves your company…instead of hiring someone else, take a look around, maybe you have someone who deserves more money and they can pick up some of these duties. The club will save and the employee will get an increase.

· A common mistake in evaluating compensation is to view the employee as an expense…if you can learn to view the employee as your most valuable asset, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

· A final reminder…the most expensive person you have on staff is the lowest paid person who’s worth it.

Now, go give someone a raise!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

Keeping Your Gym in Shape: Fourteen Ways Your Gym Billing Company is Losing You Money.

Thousands of gyms and fitness clubs are doing their billing and member management using Gym Software. But just because you have gone digital does not mean you are ahead of the game. There are many ways that your Gym Billing Company can actually cost you money and this article discusses several of those ways.

1. Your vendor / gym billing company requires you to use their merchant account. Gym Billing companies are not financial institutions. They are middlemen that mark up and resell financial services at a profit. Requiring you to move your billing services to their merchant account can cost you an additional 2% to 3% in monthly charges

2. Your Vendor does not provide next day funding for ACH transactions. It is critical to keep the cash flow going in your gym. Gym billing companies that do not process your ACH transactions in one day may cause critical lapses in your cash flow. Prompt ACH processing is important so that you can manage your billing and cash flow of receivables.

3. Your Vendor does not provide an integrated email and texting function within their software. Having software with integrated email that includes self-managed custom templates is critical if you do email marketing to your existing member base. If your vendor does not provide this service you will incur the extra costs of a service like MailChimp. And having your existing member database accessible to integrated SMS templates will eliminate the time consuming exercise of exporting your member database and uploading it to the SMS Company your vendor uses for texting. Remember though,

if your vendor has integrated an outside texting service, there may be extra rates applied every time you do a text to your member base, so be sure and check for that.

4. Your gym billing software does not include an integrated EFT payment-processing gateway. If your vendor outsources their ACH and credit card processing they will pass those costs on to you, usually with a markup.

5. Your vendor does not provide automatic processing of declines back into the system, along with an automated way of rebilling declines. If you have to search for declines after every billing you are wasting your time and your employee’s time. In the gym industry, time is money. Your vendor should automatically process all declines and rebill them as part of their service.

6. Your vendor does not provide deferred revenue reporting for accounting purposes. Deferred revenue is money received by a company in advance of having earned it. In other words, deferred revenues are not yet revenues and therefore cannot yet be reported on the income statement. As a result, the unearned amount must be deferred to the company’s balance sheet where it will be reported as a liability. If you have to spend time doing this reporting instead of your vendor, it becomes another added expense for you.

7. Your vendor does not provide a clear explanation of charges. There is nothing more aggravating than discovering ‘blended hidden’ rates of services in your vendor’s bill. If they do not provide this clarity there is no way for you to know exactly how much you are paying for what.

8. Your vendor’s software does not allow for extensive data mining of your member database. In the fitness industry it is critical to be able to quickly contact ALL the members in your database — current, former and prospective — so you can inform them of sales, specials, events, new products, “please come back” offers and use the integrated CRM to upsell them. If your vendor does not integrate this function into their software it may take you hours to search the database for the group you want to reach, export the result, and then contact the members through one of the email or texting services.

9. Your vendor’s system does not include a mobile phone app. More and more gym members want to user their phones to schedule training, buy services, research history,and check into the gym. A built-in app that your members can quickly acquire and download to their phone can save your club hundreds or thousands of dollars.

10. Your vendor’s software does not allow for online training and scheduling. Being able to allow online booking and scheduling is crucial. It frees up your resources by letting the trainers and members schedule classes themselves. Plus standalone scheduling systems can cost hundreds of extra dollars a month, a real detriment to your bottom line.

11. Your vendor’s software does not reflect the number of training sessions used after purchase. If the vendor’s system does not automatically perform the function of managing the allocation and use of purchased sessions, you will spend your money using your staff to manually keep track of what was purchased and when it was used.

12. Your vendor does not provide a CRM website that integrates with your software. Fitness clubs that can be found on all the social media outlets are ahead of the game. And the smart clubs use social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram — to link to a user-friendly website where the latest offers and specials can be purchased. If your vendor does not offer this service and link it directly to your software database, you are losing revenue that could push your earnings to a whole new level.

14. Your vendor does not include online contracts as a feature of their software. For years you have been having your new clients fill out paper contracts at the front desk — contracts that you then have to file away and keep permanently somewhere in your office. Software that stores all these contracts digitally and allows your members and prospects to sign up using a kiosk, tablet or phone allows you to store all your “paperwork” in the cloud, saving you space and allowing for instant retrieval of contracts. Paperless contracts stored on a secure cloud server also keep your club PCI compliant.

And that’s just some of the ways that your vendor can lose you money. When you are looking for Gym Billing Software or if you are just starting to wonder if you have gym software that is doing the very best job for you, review this information so you can ask the right questions.

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

Branding Ideas That You May Have Forgotten About That Will Work for Every Gym

No doubt that we live in a digital world with many opportunities for branding and to create awareness of our gym or studio. But with that said there are many opportunities to brand and promote your gym outside of digital. In the end, your goal should be to be known by everyone in your trade area, so you want to utilize every option you can. Here are a few ideas that tend to be forgotten:

  1. Business Cards

Think of this as your own personal billboard and rather than hope that someone you just met will remember your email address and phone number, business cards are your tangible reinforcements. A high-quality business card could be what earns you that callback, which is normally the goal of giving them out. It’s important that your cards properly represent you and your gym brand and add that extra bit of credibility. Use both sides of the card.

2. Snail Mail

Snail mail still works. As a matter of fact, because it is less popular, your personal hand-written thank you card could be the way you effectively get in contact with someone that might normally be hard to reach. For example, are you sending hand written thank you cards to your new members? To clubs guest that’s don’t join? To Members who bring in a guest? If you are looking for differentiation, this is a good place to start.

3. Public speaking opportunities

Public speaking is like giving your blog post a vitamin B shot…it’s a great way to network and gain credibility with an entirely new audience. The idea here is to put effort into the content you present and make sure you leave a lasting impression while educating and sharing “how tos.” Take that “how to” blog you wrote and use that as your guide for a speaking engagement. Even if you don’t immediately walk away from the speaking event with a lead, your gym will be attached to the memorable seminar on how to lose weight (for example). By doing this, the next time expertise is needed for that, your name and gym will ideally pop into their mind.

4. Testimonials and Social Proof

Testimonials and social proof will most always stand the test of time. Every gym in existence is going to give their members and prospects reasons that they are the best. They will brag about their results, their customer service, why they are the best facility in the area, etc. Hearing from their actual members is a whole different story. Testimonials are a candid, inside look at how a gym really operates and handles their membership base. In fact, many people won’t make buying decision to join a gym before reading testimonials.

5. Promoting a community event or local charity

Another great way to gain credibility and get your name out in the open for others to see is to sponsor a community or charity event. Not only is it great PR for your company, it shows that you care about your community and giving back. We have a gym recently partner up with a local charity to sponsor an attempt to teach the world’s largest group exercise class.

6. Making outbound calls

Of course, not everyone likes making outbound calls, so the key here is to hires staffers who can find motivation in the follow up. The next step is to set them up for success. They’ll need a list of potential leads such as missed sales, former members, corporate leads, etc., a proven script or method of calling, and a strategy. They’re going to get a lot of no’s, what is their rebuttal attempt? Their follow up and follow through? This can be a very successful method if properly executed. For many gym owners this is either a gigantic problem or a gigantic opportunity.

7. Attending local trade shows

Participating in a local trade show is definitely worth the time and effort, especially if you are open to penetrating your immediate area. Even though we live in a largely digital world, people are still attending these events knowing the importance of face to face networking and brand recognition. Similarly to public speaking, this strategy should be thoroughly planned. The goal is to be remembered at this event, not to simply be a participant promoting your gym.

Some other forgotten ways to brand your gym are street signs, joint marketing ventures with local businesses, flyers, press releases, and networking groups.

Now, go brand your gym!

An Outsourced CEO and expert witness, Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting, turnaround and brokerage firm specializing in the gym and sports industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars, webinars and workshops across the globe on the practical skills required to successfully to overcome obscurity, improve sales, build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. In addition, his company will buy gym equipment from gyms liquidating or closing. Visit his Web site at:www.fmconsulting.netorwww.jimthomasondemand.com.

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