// The winning formula for club success

With more industry awards to its name than you can shake a Gymstick at, the team at North Adelaide Fitness Centre knows what it takes to create an exceptional club. Here, manager Maria Albanese explains how you can emulate this success.

North Adelaide Fitness Centre (NAFC) is a multi award-winning centre, with recent accolades including 2010 and 2009 Australian Fitness Business of the Year (under 2,000 members), South Australian Fitness Business of the Year (under 2,000 members) for three consecutive years (2008, 2009, 2010) and becoming a finalist in the Les Mills Club of the Year.

There are no real secrets to becoming an award-winning health club, but there are some key factors that have been fundamental to our success.

A genuine Mission Statement

We believe that our mission statement is the foundation of our business; it sums up our purpose, provides a sense of direction and serves as a guide in our decision making.

We developed our mission statement by asking our key staff the following questions, which we then summarised into a short paragraph:

  • Who are we?
  • Why do we exist?
  • Who are we trying to attract?
  • How are we going to attract them?
  • How are we perceived by our members/competitors?
  • How do we want to be perceived?

Our mission statement became: ‘To provide a personalised fitness experience in a friendly and comfortable atmosphere with professional service and dedicated staff helping people make a positive difference to improve their quality of life’.

We want both our team and our members and prospective members to understand what our purpose is, so we display our mission statement;

  • on our website
  • in all staff areas
  • in new staff introduction packs
  • in member areas.

A positive culture

We strongly believe that a strong, positive culture that taps into people’s passion creates an encouraging team environment where employees are highly engaged. Our culture is a reflection of the attitudes, beliefs and values of our team leaders and it determines the appropriate standards and expectations of the behaviours of our employees.

It is imperative that our staff understand and align with our culture to deliver on the mission of the business. Our culture has developed over time and was achieved by;

  • setting clear standards of what is expected from employees
  • leaders role modelling those expectations
  • quality control (inspecting what we expect)
  • regular staff training.

At NAFC we are passionate about providing exceptional customer service. This is achieved, in part, by our creation of a workplace where employees feel a genuine sense of satisfaction with their working environment and enjoy the knowledge that their input is highly valued. This fosters a high level of employee involvement and efficient work performance.

Organisations that have an entrepreneurial spirit, embrace change and listen to staff and customers are said to be ‘forward looking’. We believe that we are a forward looking organisation, willing to take risks and doing well because of it.

Hire, train and retain the right staff

We also believe that our most valuable asset is our staff, as they are the first and last impression of the club and they represent our brand promise. We understand that staff members who feel valued are motivated to deliver on the mission of the club.

The benefits of happy staff are;

  • higher morale and productivity
  • better team spirit
  • constructive team meetings
  • welcoming environment for new team members
  • reduced absenteeism.

At NAFC, the effect of this is apparent and self-fulfilling; team members feel our positivity, which in turn strengthens the reputation of which they become proud.

The following attributes are mandatory for any new team members at NAFC;

  • Passion for health and fitness
  • Passion for helping people
  • A positive attitude
  • They must be suitable role models
  • Trainable
  • Fit into our club culture.

To retain the right staff; we;

  • Conduct regular (at least annual) development reviews with each staff member to appraise the preceding period and set goals for the future. This assists in the planning of training and recruitment.
  • Investigate what motivates the team member so we can reward and recognise appropriately. This can be done during their development review and through observing their behaviour in relation to ‘above average’ performance.
  • Establish employee recognition programs. Our club has an annual ‘Staff /Team Member of the Year’ program whereby members vote for the Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Team Member of the Year. The staff also votes for the team member who best personifies the team spirit, and management award the recognition for outstanding commitment. Staff Member of the Moment is also conducted at different times throughout the year.
  • Assess staff regularly to give constructive feedback for professional development.

Our employees respond well to;

  • professionalism
  • strong leadership
  • approachable management
  • exciting new ideas
  • a learning environment
  • positive energy
  • attitude of excellence
  • opportunities
  • friendly staff.

We strive to find out what our staff like about working at our club and what they would like to see improved. Understanding this can build a positive reputation as a preferred employer and generate a referral culture of staff recruitment. When you become known as the best employer, the best staff will be attracted to you.

Ongoing staff training in all areas is vital in the pursuit of excellence and success. We regard staff training as an investment in the future rather than an expense to our business.

In order to broaden their knowledge, NAFC personal trainers undertake a monthly session with guest presenters ranging from physiotherapists and psychologists, to nutritionists and podiatrists.

Sales and front-line training takes place both in-house and in external workshops. In addition to internal training, group exercise instructors attend quarterly Les Mills workshops and are encouraged to undertake AIM modules.

Attending the annual FILEX convention is a must for any fitness business owner or manager as it keeps you informed of the latest innovations, consumer needs and industry trends both on the local front and from a global perspective. Having attended FILEX every year for the past 13 years, I highly recommend this dynamic event for both the educational and networking opportunities.

Deliver outstanding customer service

Members judge us by what they see, what we say, what they hear and how we listen; in other words ‘everything speaks’.

We have fostered the customer service experience in our club by;

  • developing a culture of learning member’s names
  • seeking problem-solving opportunities
  • looking for ways to surpass expectations
  • recording complaints to uncover any recurring issues
  • being consistent in your actions
  • increasing employee satisfaction.

By providing superior customer service, our business has grown by increasing:

  • number of members through referral
  • dollars spent by each customer
  • frequency and number of times our members visit the club and purchase services.

Build trust

People want to do business with a company they can trust. We have built a positive reputation of honesty and integrity by undertaking fair trading practices and consistently dealing with clients in an ethical and respectful manner.

Developing relationships with schools, sporting groups and local businesses through sponsorship has also helped to raise the profile of the fitness industry, and its contribution to the local community. This has helped us earn a high level of trust with members and the public.

Testimonials from our members have instilled a sense of confidence in our business which has been supported by using professional marketing material that is clear and does not misrepresent.

Create connections

Connecting with our members and staff on a personalised and emotional level has helped to build long term loyalty, a key to both staff and member retention. We have enhanced employee satisfaction and increased productivity through:

  • offering opportunities for growth and recognition
  • creating a healthy work environment where there is work-life balance
  • understanding what motivates each employee
  • allowing employees to have input in the business so they feel they can contribute
  • rewarding and recognising appropriately
  • providing effective feedback.

We aim to stay connected with our members by regularly reminding them that we value their patronage through;

  • loyalty programs
  • email newsletters
  • Birthday acknowledgements
  • ‘Thank you’ cards
  • ongoing support (e.g. program reviews)
  • personal trainers that have interpersonal skills to deliver support
  • a dynamic team of group exercise instructors who deliver memorable classes
  • interactive social media
  • social events
  • continually looking for ways to innovate and enhance customer care
  • community involvement.

Award nominations

Winning awards has been a major boost to our club’s reputation and to the ‘feel good’ factor for our staff and members. But, to win an award, you have to do the hard work of nominating and applying.

In order to be considered for any award you must begin with a nomination which illustrates that you have a clear understanding of your business. You should be able to articulate what makes your business great and how you differentiate from your competitors. Applying for an award can be a catalyst for reflecting on your business practices, solidifying your mission and values, getting your systems and structures in order, and striving to be the best you can be. Persevering through the often time-consuming process of applying for awards is well worth the effort!

Through adopting these practices in your fitness business, you will be setting your club on the right path to not only receiving both local and national recognition in our industry, but to business success.

Maria Albanese
Maria is the manager of North Adelaide Fitness Centre. For more information on how to create a winning business contact her on 08 8344 7187 or email maria@northadelaidefitness.com