PERSPECTIVE: Winter 2015

Australian Fitness Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner believes we can help shape our industry’s future by looking to its past.

I believe it’s important – and good for us – to take a few moments every now and then to reflect. We are so busy that days, weeks and even years seem to just disappear. For me, it feels like only yesterday that I began my journey into what was, then, the embryonic world of health and fitness. It was actually 35 years ago and, believe me, much has changed. Interestingly though, some things are returning to how they used to be. Comparing the fitness industry of the late 1970s and 80s to today’s diverse range of offerings is quite mind-boggling – but there are many great lessons to be learnt by doing so.

1. Inspiration is effective

In the early days most of the original fitness professionals were simply people who trained regularly and were well educated about what needed to be done in order to achieve weight loss, muscle growth and strength gains. Seeing people who passionately lived what they preached was inspiring to prospective gym members, and helped make their decision to join easy. Fitness businesses that use this strategy today are finding it hugely increases their closing rates.

2. You should be the third place

The gym/health club became our third place. We all have three places: the first is our home. The second is our work, and the third is the place we choose to be because we like being there; the company is good, we feel part of something and it makes us feel good to be there. Years ago, the gym was that place, and I’ve noticed recently that we are coming full circle as it’s once again becoming the third place for many people.

3. Group workouts work!

Classes and opportunities for people to train with others (just like the old-style circuits and ‘hard work’ classes) are making a resurgence because we’ve realised a truth that Les Mills has been espousing for years: that we are all tribal by nature. In addition to group exercise classes, Fitness First now offers Freestyle group training, and businesses like CrossFit, F45 and Orangetheory Fitness are based on the group training model.

4. Focus on the care factor

Customer service has always been important, but it’s returned as a priority for many fitness businesses. Reception teams are now re-engaging with members and there has been a return of the gym floor teams, which is creating more value and assisting in boosting retention.

5. You need to understand sales and marketing

This was not a priority in the early days, as sales were easy to come by. But after a short while, it became a big focus. This changed the face of our industry, with subsequent price wars hurting many clubs. Sales and lead management emerged as the keys to long term success, and started the resurgence of the industry. The arrival of professional overseas chain clubs seemed threatening at first, but was the catalyst for clubs and fitness businesses to raise the bar in terms of the quality of facilities and skills they offered.

6. Qualifications = career path

Prior to the 1980s, formal qualifications to work in the fitness industry were non-existent. The introduction of fitness qualifications to increase the knowledge of fitness professionals, as well as the introduction of CECs, made our industry much more professional. This has enabled the fitness industry to offer a real career path, instead of just a stepping-stone between other jobs.

7. Outsourcing is key

No one is an expert in all areas, so seeking outsourced expertise makes good business sense. Outsourcing to fitness industry experts can ensure that your team learn how to positively generate leads and convert sales.

The key to successful outsourcing is for it to be an ongoing process and for your team members to apply what they’ve learnt as soon as possible. Companies that train and coach their teams regularly have higher team satisfaction and retention – and make more sales.

I’ve been fortunate to have met, been taught by and mentored some truly amazing people who have helped me over the years. For this I will always be grateful. My advice for anyone seeking a successful experience in the fitness industry is to be kind to people, be loyal, have integrity, help others, and ask for help when you need it. In the next five years Australia’s fitness industry will grow substantially, with many more specialised services being created. The future looks very positive, so let’s get out there and keep making a difference!

Steve Jensen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. As the founder and CEO of Impact Training Corporation and the National Sales Academy he has helped boost the profits of thousands of fitness businesses. In 2015 he was presented with Australian Fitness Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award.