Club Industry is part of the divisionName Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Behind the Scenes
Big Does Not Always Equate to Great in the Fitness Industry

Big Does Not Always Equate to Great in the Fitness Industry

Great businesses have six qualities in common, and none of them is being big. (Photo by Thinkstock.)

When Bo Burlingham gave the 2016 Club Industry Show keynote address about taking your health club from good to great, one thing the award-winning journalist and author shared was the six qualities that give companies their "mojo" or that special something that makes them great. Something that struck me then and continues to resonate with me now is that the six qualities did not include being big. In case you missed the presentation, the six qualities were:

1. Having a solid vision

2. Being rooted in the community

3. Personal ties with customers and suppliers

4. Putting employees first and customers second

5. Good finances

6. Leaders who have a passion for the business

Does your company have all six qualities (or are you at least working toward each one)? Or is your vision simply to be big and to get bigger?

I was speaking with an industry consultant the other day who shared that when she told people she was coming to the Club Industry Show last year, some of them said, "But the trade show is so much smaller than it used to be. It's not worth attending anymore."

If you judge something by scale rather than depth, then you are correct. But then again, if scale is your criteria, then boutique studios are not worth opening, independent films should be banned and anyone under 5 feet tall should not dare voice an opinion.

And as Burlingham shared in his keynote, bigger is not always better.

Yes, the trade show floor at the Club Industry Show is smaller. But we kind of like it that way. A few other trade shows are all about the exhibit hall. That's great, but our focus is on providing a more intimate experience for our attendees. Less flash, more substance and more connection. (Not to say there isn't substance and connection with flash at other events; we're just saying that we want to focus on the substance and connection, especially in this online age when it's easy to lose that connection.)

And when I look at the six qualities that make a company great, I see the Club Industry brand and our show hitting the mark on most of them and working to hit the mark on the others.

1. Having a solid vision. Check. As I noted in a previous blog, we have met with people in the industry for the past two years to find out how to deliver a better event for networking, education and buying. From those discussions, we created a three-year plan. And we are looking at our next three-year plan to carry our momentum forward.

2. Being rooted in the community. Check. The entire staff at Club Industry is focused on healthy living, exercise and eating right. At least four of us have worked in the fitness industry in some capacity for more than 15 years each.

3. Personal ties with customers and suppliers. We are in touch with health club operators, staff members and vendors every day. We are creating partnerships with vendors, associations and individuals that will only strengthen the show, our education program, our content website and your ability to get what you need and want from us.  

4. Putting employees first and customers second. Working on this. This quality is probably the hardest one for me to come to terms with. It may be the same for you. You grow up thinking that good customer service means putting the customer first. However, if you don't take care of employees first, then they cannot serve your members to the best of their ability. It's the same with us. Several of our group members have experienced some personal losses and health challenges in the last year. The rest of the group has stepped up to help support and encourage them. You can't be your best for your customers if one of your teammates is hurting.

5. Good finances. Working on this, too. Everyone would like more revenue, but we've seen an increase since we've put our three-year plan in place, and we expect that to grow as we focus more on what will benefit you and our sponsors rather than being stuck in the old way of putting together a conference and trade show.

6. Leaders who have a passion for the business. Check. As I mentioned before, several of us have a long history in the fitness industry, whether it's teaching group exercise classes, working for vendors, working on this brand or other related fitness brands. But many of us also have a passion for fitness. We run, box, do group cycling, rock climb, hike, play tennis, do strength training, swim and more. We have watched this industry change and grow, and we are excited to help guide the industry's transformation into wellness and its embrace of technology along with other changes by providing the best education sessions, keynote addresses, vendor interaction and networking opportunities.

Follow along with us as we go on this journey to creating a better experience for you. Check out the Club Industry Show this Oct. 4-6 at the Hilton Chicago. If you haven't been in a while, we know you'll see us taking steps to move from being a good show to a great one. 

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.