Editor's Note: Welcome to From the Lip, a semi-regular opinion column penned by industry vet Michael Scott Scudder. Although you may not always agree with Michael's take on the industry (we sure don't), we hope his razor sharp insights will get you thinking about the way you run your business.

It's that time of year once again — trade shows and conferences and various industry experts offering regional seminars. It's also the months following the busiest time of year for clubs.

Club Industry East in New York City was another success, due in part to club operators who do not buy into their own excuses. What I mean is, some people in this industry (unfortunately only about 20 percent of the whole industry) understand the value of putting aside time for education. They make it a priority to attend educational events every year. I've even heard some of them say, “It's the best investment I make annually in my business.”

Which brings up a good topic. Because I have been in the seminar business for more than 15 years (every one of those at Club Industry shows, plus my own annual multicity tour), I think I've heard nearly every excuse on the planet for not coming to conferences and workshops. What all of those pretexts have in common is, “I'm too busy.”

Poppycock. Baloney.

“Too busy” often means “Really, I'm lazy.” Sometimes, it means “I already know it all.” And frequently, it means “I don't understand the value or you bet I'd be there.” But most often, it means that the speaker of those words doesn't understand the huge difference between “busy” and doing “business.” And that's a shame.

Many club operators think that “being busy” justifies not being profitable. Others don't comprehend that busy work is just that — busy work — most of which does nothing to add to a club's bottom line.

Michael Gerber, author of the brilliant books, “The E-Myth,” “The E-Myth Revisited” and “The E-Myth Manager,” says, “Infancy [of a business] ends when the owner realizes that the business cannot continue to run the way it has been; that, in order for it to survive, it will have to change.” I interpret that as club operators need to decide whether they just want to stay busy or start doing business. To start doing business requires being creative; stepping out of the box; and giving up old, antiquated, no-longer-useful ways of thinking.

Gerber goes on to say, “The problem is…that owners…spend their time and energy defending what they think they know.” In other words, “I'm too busy” is a convenient method of saying, “I'm stuck in my ways, and I'd rather fail than admit that I don't know it all. I'd rather be right than smart and successful. I'll stick with my excuses.”

Unfortunately, that attitude permeates this business. I believe it's at the root of our still-too-high club failure rate, our abysmal member-retention statistics, and our questionable industry image. What's interesting is that the successful people in this business show up at trade shows and conferences and seminars. And they're the busiest people there are.

What has yet to be discovered by many operators is that busy, important people create time to learn, to experiment, to dream. They are not caught inside a self-induced trap of chase-your-tail meaningless activity. They know that doing business is at the heart of being busy. For them, being busy is not an excuse, it is a tool.

So, the next time you say you're too busy to attend a seminar, participate in a club workshop or learn something new, ask yourself what you're saying. You'll realize it's some version of an adolescent, “I don't want to.” Substitute “I honestly don't care to grow” and see how it feels.

You seldom hear an industry leader say, “I'm too busy.” I find that interesting. No, I find it remarkable.

Hope you're not too busy to think about this.

Michael Scott Scudder is a 28-year veteran of the fitness industry. He is managing partner of Southwest Club Services, a club management training company. He can be reached at 505-690-5974, by e-mail at or on his Web site at

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