// Make a difference - people, product and profits

by Bill McBride

All too often in the health club industry we get preoccupied with chasing sales and trying to drive net membership growth, frequently focusing on promotions and short term strategies to achieve these goals. Such tactics can, of course, provide impact and reap short term rewards for your facility, but for long term success you need to look at the bigger picture and establish the proper order of things.

Allow me to share a proven priority sequence for success:
1. People 
2. Product 
3. Profits.


Firstly, you must focus on your team – proper selection,

value expectations, training and managing – so that your team can best serve your members. Then you should focus on your members’ needs and the solutions required to deliver results and a stellar membership experience. If you truly value your team members and invest time and training in each one of them, they, in turn, will value your club members and deliver above and beyond the basic expectations of their role.

There is an old quote regarding managing people that resonates strongly with our industry; ‘People are hired for what they know – they are terminated for who they are.’ Additionally, they are promoted for the results they achieve. Focusing on hiring the right person with the right value system and character to align with your organisation is more important than any particular trainable skill set. With the right people on your team you will deliver a world class membership experience. So ask yourself; ‘how much time do you spend developing your people and forming relationships with your team?’


Your product is your facility, equipment, classes, programs and amenities, and your aim is to deliver a product that serves the needs of your membership like no one else. That is, you must provide a superior or compelling differentiator from your competition. Your facility involves a lot of ‘moving parts’ – the physical layout, the amenities, the equipment selection, the infrastructure, the colours, the carpeting, the music selection, the music volume, the lighting and even the towels.

Your program offering is everything in the way of structured fitness that you offer to support your members, i.e., classes, personal training, leagues, lessons, boot camps, etc. Do you know exactly what every member will experience on any given day at your club? Most of us don’t. Most of us rely on chance and hope that it will all work out – a dangerous approach in today’s marketplace. Does your system deliver the results you want to achieve 100 per cent of the time? Study your program and design a system to deliver the optimal experience.


If you master the first two priorities in the sequence, you will succeed in growing net membership and profitability. Sustainable success comes from increased participation; the key is top line growth with disciplined expense management.

The biggest challenge we all face is attracting and training great people to work within a well-designed system, which supports our teams in delivering for our members. The goal is to ensure satisfying results for each participant, thus resulting in our success through increased retention, sales, program revenue, referrals and loyalty.

By having the best people, delivering the best aligned service, in an immaculately clean and purposefully appointed facility (not necessarily the largest or most expensive facility), with a program that really meets your members’ needs you will achieve success!


Bill McBride
Bill is a US health club industry veteran who started his full time career in 1986. He has worked in virtually all aspects of club sales, management and operations. In 2006 Bill became the chief operating officer of Club One, Inc.