// Club Network's Manual for Success: How to revamp your club for under $1,000

by Amelia Burton

Ask yourself this question; if a high profile personality who you greatly admire were to walk through the doors of your club as a prospect, would you be proud of your facility? If so, well done! For most of us, however, there are a number of things we would like to change. Some of these are expensive, but there are often many inexpensive adjustments that will make the world of difference to the overall look and feel of your club.

This Manual for Success contains a step-by-step guide to evaluating, organising and implementing an upgrade to your facility. It provides evaluation sheets, checklists, numerous ideas and an action plan for a fun and effective ‘working bee’. The global fi nancial crisis has hit our shores and now, more than ever, club owners and managers need to be keeping costs to a minimum, while offering maximum service.

Revamping your club for under $1,000 won’t get you the latest movie screen in your indoor cycle room or new equipment, but it will give you more than enough to make a significant
difference and show your members that your club is always making improvements for their benefit.

What exactly is a revamp?

A revamp means making all those little changes that you have been promising to do since shiny lycra was all the rage. It’s giving your club a facelift, stopping your club looking the same as it did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that There are specific procedures to follow for an effective revamp. Firstly the club must be critiqued and a mini SWOT analysis done on each dedicated area.

The list of potential improvements must then be collated, priced and rearranged in order of importance. A working bee weekend must then be planned with full staff involvement. Everyone from trainers, group exercise instructors and receptionists, to managers and cleaners should get involved.

The secret to an effective working bee is to get as much staff involvement as possible. Make sure it is presented to the staff as a fun, social weekend. This involvement can be where the real impact of a revamp is felt. It gives everyone a sense of ownership, a sense of pride in your facility and can help to cement long lasting relationships and loyalty.

The working bee should be held over a weekend and needs to be carefully planned and prepared for. The people involved will each have a set of specific tasks that have been pre arranged so as to avoid any disorganisation and wasted time on the day. A revamp will often require changes to be made to the daily procedures of running the club, so after the revamp you should have follow-up meetings to ensure any new procedures have been implemented and are being actioned.

One of the biggest drawcards – or setbacks – to a health club is atmosphere, which can translate into energy. If attention has been paid to every nook and cranny in your club, it creates a revived energy that members will pick up on. They take the time to use every aspect of the club, so they like to know when those aspects have all been carefully thought about and improved.

Why might your club need a revamp?

Answer the following questions with a yes, no, or maybe:

If you answered yes or maybe to more than five questions, you are definitely in need of a revamp. All you need for a successfully upgraded facility is a little bit of money, a weekend working bee and staff participation.

Step 1: Initial meeting – getting your team involved

Many hands make light work, and with a revamp, the key to success is total staff participation. Getting staff buy-in will not only allow for more improvements, but will create a sense of ownership for the team. It’s a great exercise to bring them closer together, to have a light hearted fun time doing something different from the day-to-day routine. It will also help to highlight superstars who willingly go the extra mile within your team.

Try to get staff from every department to participate. This includes the club owner, manager, accountant, sales, reception, personal trainers, group exercise instructors, crèche and café staff, cleaners and anyone else, including contractors or casual staff. Depending on your facility, you may want to get some of your most loyal members involved. It is not recommended that you involve more than three or four members, because you don’t want a member monopoly and too much involvement sometimes leads to expectations not being met.

The initial meeting should be tacked onto your weekly staff meeting. Here you should discuss the idea of revamping the club, introduce the concept of the working bee weekend and hand out the club critiques. Then have a general brainstorm about the state of the club – detailed critiques will come later. You will undoubtedly receive lots of feedback from staff, so it is important to embrace this enthusiasm and carry it forward.

When organising a revamp, follow these Do’s and Don’ts for getting the team psyched:

Step 2: Critiquing your club

This stage of your revamp will occur a few weeks prior to the working bee. In the initial meeting you will have brainstormed some general issues with the club and probably already have some great ideas to implement. Now it’s time to organise these in a club critique format. Break the facility down into its areas such as;
• Entrance
• Reception
• Lounge area/café
• Cardio
• Strength
• Stretch/relaxation
• Group Ex studio
• Indoor cycling studio
• Male bathrooms/change rooms
• Female bathrooms/change rooms
• Crèche
• Wet area (i.e. pool, spa, sauna, steam)
• Staff room/storage room.

Print off a critique form for each area in the club (see Appendix A on page 7). Have the team members pair up and volunteer an area. At least two people should critique each area, but the more the better. Allow half an hour for staff to walk the club fi lling out the critique forms and another half hour to organise the answers and action list. Book a follow-up meeting for the next week.

Step 3: Organising the working bee

The next staff meeting is about the preparation for the working bee. Each pair will discuss their critique results, their suggestions for improvement and the costs associated with each improvement. The critique sheets will be completed and copies given to the club manager. Feedback from other staff is encouraged and a discussion held to prioritise the suggestions and strike off any which you deem too expensive or unnecessary.

You will need to make a decision about the opening hours of the club during the working bee. A smaller facility might wish to close for the weekend or limit its hours, others may stay open but offer more limited services. The main issue is Occupational Health and Safety, so if you do remain open you must ensure all precautions are taken to keep your facility hazard-free. It is important to alert the members of the upgrade to both prepare them for the disruptions on the day/s and to turn it into a PR exercise highlighting the wonderful improvements about to be made.

The outcome of this meeting is that each area has a clear task list and action plan, as well as a shopping list for any items needed on the day (see Appendix B on page 8). The working bee dates and times should be set, and the lunch and post-revamp drinks organised. Team members will be psyched up about the improvements they will be making and excited about the working bee weekend. You are now ready for your revamp.

The day before

Preparation is crucial to an effective working bee. You don’t want to be racing around looking for sugar soap or scourers on the day, so set aside some time the day before to go shopping. Each team will have created a shopping list as part of their critique; you can either make it each team’s responsibility to buy their items, or, for the sake of expediency and greater financial control, you can delegate the buying to one staff member.

With regards to costs, there are two main ways to handle purchases if each team is given responsibility of doing its own shopping. The club manager can either give out a nominated amount prior to the working bee, or staff can pay and get reimbursed upon providing receipts. If you opt for reimbursements with receipts, place a cap on how much team members can spend.

Step 4: Getting down to business

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy! The first step of the day is to have a quick meeting in which you outline the schedule for the day. Make sure everyone is clear of their tasks and that they have all the tools needed. Confirm the lunch break and the wrap up time.
Below are some suggestions for improvements. You will be able to come up with plenty more, but double check that you have considered these as well;

Entire club

  • Repaint the entire club: Find yourself a painter who is happy to do a contra deal of one to two years free membership in return for painting the club. Some of your staff may want to volunteer to help.
  • Remove all stains from walls and surfaces: Sugar soap and gentle scourers work brilliantly for this. If you are painting the club, this may not be necessary.
  • Remove all blu-tak, old sticky tape and old notices off the walls: People become sign blind; instead of having notices all over the club, have one to three noticeboard areas and place all material there and nowhere else. It looks much neater and prevents dated material hanging around.


  • De-clutter bench tops: Get rid of old/no longer relevant brochures
  • Rearrange any products on the counter: This gives them a new look; try to keep it as minimal as possible
  • Aromatherapy oil burner on front counter: You can purchase candle-less, electric oil burners that are attractive and last for hours. Purchase lemongrass oil for a warming effect or peppermint oil for a cooling effect. It’s the member’s first and last smell of the club and hopefully will help them forget any unpleasant smells experienced throughout their workout!
  • Fruit or lolly bowl on front counter: Obviously fruit is the healthier alternative, however lollies are cheaper and can help in any blood sugar emergencies. It costs around $30 to $60 per month to have lollies delivered to the club and they really lift the welcoming mood of the front desk.
  • Flowers: If there is a florist near your club or a member who is a florist, why not try to get a contra deal offering a free membership in exchange for one fresh bunch of flowers each week?
  • Brand everything: When someone walks into your club, do they see your club logo everywhere? Is it burnt into their brain? You can have your facility doormat branded by your towel company, and it costs an extra $30 per fortnight to be cleaned and swapped. Your reception desk and group fitness timetables offer good, highly visible locations to place your logo. Consider where else you can economically position it.
  • Put in paid billboard advertising: This will make, rather than cost, you money! Companies such as Ultimate Media will position A0 or larger poster ads in your club. The ads are usually tasteful, high defi nition photographs which change the feel of the club, and backlit advertisements add colour and brightness. You will generally receive anywhere from $200 to $600 per quarter for them.
  • Adjustments to staff uniforms: This could involve buying new shirts for every team member – a change in shirt colour or style makes a huge difference. At $30 per shirt, you may be able to budget for two shirts per person.
  • New name badges: A cheaper alternative to new uniforms is new name badges. Make sure your club logo is clear and they are a decent size. A good quality magnetised name badge will set you back $10 to $15 per badge.

Sales area/couches

  • New table or chairs: How are your tables and chairs looking? There are many cheap seating options available so depending on how close you are to budget it might be worth pricing some new ones.
  • Re-upholstering couches/chairs: This sometimes works out to be more expensive than purchasing new ones, but obviously depends on your furniture.
  • New cushions: It’s amazing how a few cheap cushions can completely change the feel of a room. Don’t forget to stay in line with your club colours.
  • Testimonials: Purchase a nice looking leather-effect sleeve folder and fi ll it with your mission statement, ten testimonials from members and any publicity or reviews and leave this in the area prospects sit in for their pre chat.
  • Have the pre-exercise appraisals professionally printed: One of the first things a prospect fills out is the pre-exercise appraisal or exercise history form. What kind of message does it send to prospects if the form is poorly photocopied, crooked and fading? It costs around 10 cents per copy to get these professionally printed and is money well spent.
  • Recent magazines: You can purchase in bulk 10 to 20 recent magazines for around $40 per month or, if you really want to budget, every two months. These are sent in bulk and you usually get to choose which publications you want. Make sure you throw the old, sweat-stained ones out before distributing the new batch.
  • Upgrade your noticeboard: Now that you won’t be sticking random messages all over the club, your noticeboard needs to be up to scratch. This might mean repainting it, buying a new one, or simply updating the information on it. If each trainer provided one educational article per month, you could conceivably have a constant rotation of information.
  • Make it the task of weekend staff to print out one interesting article and present it nicely on the noticeboard. Members want to see a mixture of education, current club news and some advertising. If it’s all about sell, sell, sell, people will lose interest. Staff profi les also make a fun and interesting read. Placing the board in areas where members congregate while waiting for classes ensures exposure to a ‘captive’ audience.

Cardio zone

  • Serious clean of all cardio equipment and surrounding area: This includes vacuuming under the treadmills, cleaning the tread on the bikes, cross trainers etc. Simply making all the equipment look (and smell) the best it possibly can.
  • Rearrange cardio equipment: An impossibility for some clubs, but worth consideration for many. Even relocating machines like rowers can completely change the feel of the cardio area.
  • New disinfectant spray bottles: When the bottles are there and handy, people actually use them to clean the equipment. Try it!
  • Motivational quotes on the machines: Visit a web site such as www.bobproctor.com/insights.asp and have a motivational quote e-mailed to you daily. Laminate the quotes, credit card size is ideal, and place them on the cardio machines. Make sure each quote has your club logo on it and that the writing is big enough for jogging members to read. You may want to regularly swap the quotes around as well.
  • Framed posters on the walls: If you have Les Mills programs you will get new glossy posters every quarter. Hang these, or any other fi tness or motivational posters, throughout the club and rotate them every quarter. Framed prints look so much better than ripped, crooked posters.
  • Commission a local artist or two: Imagine hanging new art in your club every quarter. If you build a relationship with local artists, they will produce a certain number of artworks to be displayed, and hopefully sold, quarterly – a similar arrangement to that which some restaurants have with local artists. Some clubs may want to take a cut, while others are happy for all sale proceeds to go to the artist in exchange for the ever-changing gallery they provide.


  • Rearrange the equipment: This is by far the fastest way to revamp the weights area. It is really important to get the trainers involved in this one – after all, they practically live in there, and if they aren’t in agreement then you’ll pay the price later!
  • Purchase a stretch chart: A large stretch chart is fairly inexpensive (between $20 and $100) and creates a great point of interest while hiding any ugly, dead spaces. It will attract people so make sure you put it in an under-utilised area.
  • Thorough clean and service of all machines: All the rods should be as smooth as silk, with no hardened saliva clumps on bars, or chewing gum remnants lurking in the corners. WD40 or silicon spray works a treat on the machines. It’s amazing what a simple screw driver can do to improve the stability of the machines.
  • Place motivational quotes on walls, machines and ceilings: I will never forget the feedback we had in our club when we put the quote ‘Never, never, never give up!’ (Winston Churchill) on the ceiling above our flat bench machine. Numerous members remarked how motivating it was to read as they struggled with their last few reps.
  • New storage boxes: These will provide a storage area for all those loose items fl oating around the club, such as ankle straps, extra bars, foam rollers etc. If you can label them clearly with a laminated, branded sign, even better.
  • Hooks on the walls: For hanging equipment such as ropes, extra bars, etc. They should be positioned in close proximity to the relating machine. Be very careful that these hooks are in a safe, low traffic area.

Group fitness

  • Steam clean the carpet or professionally clean the hard surface of your group exercise room: Although you may be doing this regularly, it may not be regularly enough. Members have their noses very close to, or even on, the floor so make sure it smells clean!
  • Trim any lose carpet threads: or if you have hard floors, locate any unsightly marks and remove them.
  • Rearrange the equipment: Relocate the steps, pump bars and weights and the yoga mats. It is a good idea to position them so that outsiders who are looking in can’t see the equipment, thereby giving the room a larger, neater feel. They must be stored in a safe place that won’t affect the size of the group fitness area.
  • Replace/throw away dated equipment: Yoga mats cost as little as $8, so if yours are deteriorating or a little on the pongy side, get rid of them.
  • Buy aromatherapy oil burners: Purchase the same one as you got for the reception room and place it near the entrance inside the group fitness room. That way when members or prospects walk into the room, it is the first thing they smell rather than the damp sweat of the previous class. Peppermint or eucalyptus is a good strong scent that covers up just about anything. Alternatively, speak to your sanitary bin providers as they usually stock cheap and effective automatic air freshener systems which are activated regularly throughout the day.
  • Have props available for specialty classes: Examples include candles for yoga classes and lavender scented eye masks for meditation. These little touches make a huge difference to members. Your group fitness coordinator will have lots of great ideas in this sphere.


  • Thorough clean: Clean in all the nooks and crannies, hinges, under sinks and around the soap dispensers. You may be able to pass this on to your cleaners, but you must clearly outline exactly what needs to be done.
  • Install frames behind each bathroom door: In addition to the noticeboard and paid billboards, this is a great place for advertising as you have a captive audience! Use an interchangeable frame system which allows you to simply click A4 pages in and out behind a sheet of Perspex – this looks much neater than blu-tacked sheets of paper.
  • Install automatic air fresheners: Similar to the ones mentioned for the group fitness room, these are set to fire off at certain times of the day and do a good job of eliminating odours.

Change rooms

  • Thoroughly clean out the inside of all the lockers. This includes wiping down the insides and removing marks and stains where possible.
  • Fix all the little problems in the lockers: Loose knobs, faulty hinges, squeaky doors. Check all lockers inside and out – after all, members spend quite a lot of time in close proximity to them.
  • Shower scrub: Get down on your knees and give the showers a really good clean. Make sure the drains are free from hair (and whatever else!) and that there is no mould on the tiles.
  • Clean the mats and the floor under them: It’s not a bad idea to take bathroom mats outside, give them a good scrubbing and leave them to dry in the sun.
  • Clean all wall surfaces: Get behind things and on top of things, making sure there is no dust anywhere.
  • Double check air conditioning vents: Sometimes the moisture and dust can block air conditioning vents, so get the vacuum up there or even take the vents apart, if you can be sure of putting them back together again!

Step 5: Follow up

After the working bee is completed, it is very important to hold a follow up meeting and review the fantastic results of your hard work.

You may want to keep a record of what didn’t get done so that it can go on the top of the list for next time. Also, walk around the club and take note of what improvements had the biggest impact.

Some of your upgrades will have to go on your daily/weekly/monthly lists for regular checking. For example, re-ordering lollies, changing the aromatherapy oil, and changing posters in the cardio theatre, so make sure these are added to your regular checklists. The manager should watch closely over the next few months that these tasks have been successfully integrated into the club procedures (i.e., check the checklists!).

Finally, it is time to acknowledge all the effort your team members have put in to the revamp. Reward them, thank them, fuss over them and gloat about the achievements made. Watch the team’s pride in their club rise and staff relationships grow stronger. By now you will have accomplished a successful revamp, a fun working bee and a new, energised atmosphere that your members will love.


Amelia Burton, BHSc CertComm
Amelia joined her first gym when she was 14 years old and taught her fi rst class at the age of 18. She has been a personal trainer for 12 years, club manager for six years, regional manager of nine facilities and club owner for five years. Having recently sold her health club, Amelia is currently touring the USA as health and fitness coach to Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage and (sometimes) Sir Les Patterson. Amelia moved to London after completing her sports science degree in 2002. Here she trained at some incredibly well run and some terribly run facilities. She realised how crucial the staff were to a successful health club and it has been her mission to create profi table, organised and fun working environments ever since. After doubling the membership base of her Pitt Street club in Sydney, she sold her facility in 2008 to focus on spreading her health and fitness message through her web site, corporate speaking, writing and personal training. Amelia is driven to improve the health and waistlines of Australians and knows that successfully run fi ness centres play a massive role in achieving this. Education, motivation and a fitness industry full of passionate people are the ammunition needed to make a difference. For more information, contact Amelia at:

75 Sinclair St, Wollstonecraft, NSW 2065
Ph: +61 (0)417 458 772
Fax: +612 9211 2366
Web: www.ameliaburton.com.au
E-mail ameliab@definition.com.au

CLUB NETWORK'S MANUAL FOR SUCCESS • Volume 3, Number 2, 2009