Few Fitness Facility Leaders Achieve Success on Their Own

The recession affected everyone in the fitness industry—many for the worse, but some for the better. Those who came out on the better side likely did so because of a team effort.

In March, Jim Worthington, one of the owners of Newtown Athletic Club (the NAC), Newtown, PA, shared with me how his health club not only survived the recession but actually grew during it. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he described how he and his partners had decided to go ahead with plans for expansion. They spent $15 million on renovations and a fitness center addition, plus a new building for its sports performance training programs and a four-acre pool complex, both of which will be completed in the next 12 months.

As he proudly shared these details, he pointed out that he did not do this alone. Worthington acknowledged that the NAC’s success stemmed from a group effort in several areas, starting with his two partners’ agreement that they should forge ahead with their expansion plans despite the recession.

Worthington also visited The Atlantic Club, Manasquan, NJ, where CEO Pat Laus and COO Kevin McHugh shared their company’s marketing wisdom and marketing department setup, which inspired Worthington to increase his marketing staff from one full-time employee and one part-time employee to five full-time employees.

He credited that newly expanded marketing department for increasing the company’s Internet and social media presence. He also credited them with increasing revenue for each profit center— salon, personal training department, party division, and food and beverage, among others—by marketing each of them as separate businesses.


Worthington also noted that an increase of 850 membership units since April 2011 was due mostly to full-time salespeople—who were hired from outside the industry—doing a better job of retaining members, some of whom participated in a member referral program in which they received $150 for every person that joined whom they referred.

Even though Worthington was proud of how his club was growing, he did not presume that he possessed all the knowledge required to make the right decisions alone.

Worthington knows what good club operators know: you can never think that you know it all and that you can do it all on your own. Good operators are never done learning. Instead, they continue to network with others inside and outside of their industries, and they continue to seek help from their partners, their staff, other club operators, architects and even their members.

How can you do the same? You can seek feedback from members through surveys and advisory boards. You can continue to read industry publications, go to industry trade shows and join industry roundtables. You can develop a mentor relationship with a more established club operator—and you can become a mentor to a new club owner since mentors often learn from those they are mentoring, too.

Foremost, you can remember that you are never too big, too smart or too successful to learn from someone else.

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