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Back to School, Back to Basics

Back to School, Back to Basics

One last thought about going back to school. It's September and that means the cicadas are humming, the temperature is cooling and neighborhood kids are lined up at the bus stop with backpacks, lunch bags and notebooks in tow. While this movement signals the beginning of fall, it also indicates an important opportunity for you and your club.

Programmed in us since the first days of kindergarten, the first day of school is a time to reset. It has always been a time to reflect on the last school year and a time to start fresh in the new school year with an eagerness to learn. September is when you get out your new planner, map out your schedule, set your goals and go after them. Sure, we're no longer in “school,” but it's a good time to think about improving yourself and your facility.

Clubs usually see their traffic pick up during this time of year. With the kids in school, stay-at-home moms have more free time to spend at the club; if there's a college in your area, you've just increased your population to pull new members from; and many in your community are back from their vacation ready to lose the five pounds they gained while lounging and eating their way through the buffet line on that Caribbean cruise. Take advantage of those new markets and cleverly incorporate the time of year. A back-to-school or back-to-basics fall fitness group training or group exercise class can ease and encourage new members into exercise.

Evaluate what your club offers, what it excels at and where it's lacking. Then map out a way to make it better. While your planner used to be filled with room numbers and exam dates, now is the time to line your schedule with conference dates and group ex class times. I can't tell you the number of times a burnt-out staff has been rejuvenated simply by going to a conference or a workshop.

It's also a good time to evaluate (or to follow the school analogy, give grades to) your staff. Last month, I switched clubs, and while my new club is a wonderful facility with a talented staff, numerous program offerings and rows of shiny new treadmills, as the saying goes, it only takes one rotten apple to ruin the bunch. For confidentiality sake, let's call this rotten apple Ted. A recent high school graduate, Ted enjoyed working out and landed a gig cleaning the floors for the club in the afternoon. A few weeks into Ted's employment, I noticed him loitering after his shift, watching other members working out and — much to my horror — laughing at those struggling to finish their workout. At first I thought he was laughing at something else. The second time I figured he knew the person. The third time I contacted the manager. Because clubs have the reputation of being only for the beautiful and fit, it's difficult enough to get deconditioned people in the gym without these members enduring heckling from an employee. After I talked to the manager, we both agreed the fellow needed to go back to “school.” Hence, the club began a sensitivity training for its entire staff — Ted included.

While you may be fortunate enough not to have a Ted at your fitness facility, a little customer service training, continuing education and a look at your club's future is never a bad idea, and fall is an ideal time to do so. School's in session — what will you learn this year?

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