Flipping the Telescope

Man with a telescope - Flipping the telescope
(Photo by DNY59/iStock/Getty Images Plus.)

When considering panelists, presenters and sponsors for the 2018 CEO Summit, I saw how some of the approaches from these companies could be viewed as antagonistic or competitive with the interests of conventional health club operators.

Many had new ways to bring exercise or personal training to the market that at first glance appeared to potentially erode profits or bring fitness to people outside of the health club rather than bringing people to the club.

While introducing one of our Hot Topic panelists at the 2018 CEO Summit, I encouraged everyone in the room to “flip the telescope,” a metaphor for changing your perspective or long-term beliefs to look at something from another point of view, for example, seeing digital streaming or online personal training as opportunities rather than threats.

The Hot Topic was technology. One panelist had developed a platform that offers live streaming of exercise classes, enabling members to view classes live or on-demand wherever they are from their phones, tablets or computers.

On the face of it, this would appear to run contrary to the long-held belief that we want and need people coming to our clubs. Traditionally, many of us have seen anything that offers people an alternative to coming into our clubs as competition.

But flip the telescope and you’ll see a different story. In last month’s CEO Summit Insights column, I wrote about convenience being a big driver of relevance. What if streaming classes to the masses made your club the most convenient option for people in your communities (and beyond), like Peloton for your club? It not only could be a huge value-add for your members but also help to exponentially increase the reach of your programs in the market. By the way, the same service enables you to stream classes to your club from outside sources. The streamed classes could include marquee instructors with global appeal or even could enable your best instructors to be streamed to your other locations or during off-peak hours. That’s leveraging talent.

This is not a call to promote digital streaming as much as it is for you to look at how you might embrace new technologies and business tactics as potentially beneficial, and perhaps even game-changing, rather than yet another unwelcome erosion of our market share.

Other examples of new alternatives offered at the CEO Summit included platforms that offer passes to clubs online or one that enables trainers to offer their services online. When you stop thinking about what new options might pull people away from your club, you can view this another way.

The biggest challenges limiting personal training are time, money and proximity (having to be physically with the trainer). If even one of these isn’t available, personal training doesn’t happen. Is it any wonder that typically less than 10 percent of our members avail themselves of personal training? It’s not an easy service to access.

Change your mindset by asking these questions:

  • What if you could eliminate even one of those obstacles?
  • What if you could eliminate all three?
  • Could this make personal training accessible to far more members?
  • Could this grow personal training revenue by 10-20 percent or more next year?
  • What if you could double personal training revenue in two years?

Flipping the telescope allows you to enjoy a new perspective, enabling you to ask new questions and draw fresh conclusions. If you don’t like it, you can always flip it back to the old way.

Join Us in October

For a room full of new perspectives from industry-leading health club operators, panelists, presenters and sponsors, join us Oct. 10, 2019, at the Chicago Hilton for the 2019 Club Industry CEO Summit, an invitation-only event. You’ll be sure to see and hear new and different ways to succeed in the future.

Commit to attend by Jan. 31 and pay by March 31, 2019, to lock in the lowest rate of $299, a 50 percent savings. This early, early bird offer includes the price of club tours and dinner on Oct. 9.

Just email “I’m in” to [email protected]. Registration will be open in early February. This offer expires Jan. 31, and you must pay by March 31 to get the discounted price with club tours and dinner included.


Tim Rhode is a fitness industry veteran with more than 30 years of experience, managing, developing, owning, growing and consulting in the health club industry. As an owner and manager beginning in 1986, he has operated health, wellness and racquet sports clubs from 8,000 to 120,000 square feet with teams of 20 to more than 300 people and more than 100 personal trainers. As an industry innovator and consultant, Rhode helps small, large and multi-club operators to visibly improve their businesses with strategy, systems, training and motivation. Email [email protected], or call or text him at 443-324-0580.

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