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Management Notebook


Rules and codes are essential to clubs today.

It'd be nice if all members were courteous at all times during their workouts and if they automatically knew not to hog a machine during busy hours, but the truth is that members — especially new members — must be advised of a club's rules. While no club owner wants to spend his or her time “policing” the members, you should have codes in place and you should enforce them for the good of your members and your club.

Joe Hotwagner, owner of Pulse Fitness & Health in Dorr, MI, has rules in place at his club even though he says the small-town atmosphere of his market and the smaller size of his club often mean his members are courteous and rule abiding.

“We are fortunate enough to know most people here so you get a little bit more respect on how they treat your establishment,” says Hotwagner.

However, some club owners aren't so lucky. For them, here is some guidance about rules.

Spell out codes. Include your codes with the membership agreement form and go over the codes with each new member. Include in that review any consequences for violation of the codes. Make it clear that when the contract is signed, the member has agreed to abide by these rules.

Explain the purpose of the rules. Let your members know that the rules and codes are for their benefit. They may be more likely to follow them if they are reminded of this. Hotwagner says his members understand the need for the codes and appreciate that they are there for their benefit.

Make sure your employees know the codes. Codes do you no good if your employees don't enforce them, which they won't if they don't know them. Not that employees should be roaming the floor with the specific purpose of seeking out code violators, but if they see someone leave a machine without wiping it down, they need to know that that is a code violation.

Spell out consequences and have a system for keeping track of them. Members must know that you take your codes seriously. Therefore, if a serious-enough violation occurs, you must be able to track it to provide backup should you need to expel a member in the future. If someone forgets to put weights back, it shouldn't mean an automatic suspension from the club, but if someone never puts weights back, there needs to be some sort of action taken. Often, a manager or staff member can politely remind the member of the rule without taking any sort of disciplinary action. If that still does not help, the manager could have a formal discussion with a member about the rules and let the member know that another violation could lead to some sort of action, such as suspension or a revocation of membership. Some violations are so serious (i.e., use of steroids or other illegal drugs) that a one-time occurrence could be reason enough to revoke an individual's membership.

Review the codes occasionally. As technology and society changes, codes must keep up. Just a few years ago, who would have thought that a mobile phone might come with camera capability? Nowadays, that capability is real. The Physical clubs in Hong Kong have responded by prohibiting the use of any cell phones in locker rooms since camera phones are difficult to distinguish from regular mobile phones.

Know your members. Some codes, such as wiping down equipment, are just common sense, and they apply to any gym. However, some codes that work in one club, may not be appropriate for others. A women's-only club may want to ban revealing clothing, but for a “trendy” club, more revealing clothing may be perfectly acceptable. It's important that you are in tune with your members and that you set the codes according to their tastes.

Safety rules are the most important. For liability reasons, you should have safety rules listed along with other rules, and you should post them inside the club where they are seen by members every day. If you have a pool, make sure to post safety rules in the pool area. Rules for child-care facilities also need to be posted.


Picking the right music for your club.

Music is the pulse that sets the tone for your club. The right music for the right audience at the right volume is essential.

For Melanie McClusky, owner/manager of Ladies Workout Express in Lockport, IL, the music is important in her 30-minute circuit training club for women only.

“The circuit revolves around the music,” she says. “Every 40 seconds they change stations.”

Shawn Fongemie, manager at the Gold's Gym in Bristol, CT, agrees that the right music is essential for a club. “It's the vive, the energy,” he says.

To get the right feeling rolling in your club, Fongemie and McClusky suggest the following:

Consider a music service. Some clubs subscribe to a music service that is either piped in over a satellite or sent to them over the Internet. Fongemie gets his music via satellite from the Gold's Gym corporate headquarters. The club manager gets to choose the style of music that the club receives but not the specific artists. As the song plays, members can view the song's video on the 30 TV screens located throughout the club.

Consider playing your own music. For smaller clubs, investing in a music service may not be feasible. Instead, buying a CD player with a good speaker system may be all you need. At Ladies Workout Express, which is a small club, McClusky plays the 20 CDs of her own selection on a 300 CD changer/player. She also exchanges CDs with other clubs in her franchise.

Play the right type of music for your members. Twenty-somethings generally won't appreciate music from the 1950s, but seniors generally would so keep your members' tastes in mind. Because McClusky's members span a wide age range — from mid-30s and up — she tries to mix up the music so that during a circuit, each member will hear some music that she likes.

Since Fongemie began choosing the music, he has been playing pop, dance and techno music at his club. His members, most of whom are 28 to 45 years old, have been pleased with his selections, he says.

“I have people who have come in here and they join after their seven-day trial because of the music,” Fongemie says. They preferred the cutting-edge music at Fongemie's club to the music at their old club.

Poll members. If you want to get a feel for whether you're playing the right type of music, just ask the members. Members generally have strong opinions about what they listen to every day at the club, and if asked, they usually won't hesitate to share those opinions with you.

“You can't please everyone all the time, but at least ask,” McClusky says. “They are paying to be members of your club.”

Decide where you want the music to play. You must decide whether you want music blaring throughout the club or whether certain areas of the club should be designated as “quiet” spaces. Some club owners like to keep the locker rooms or lounges free of music so that members can more easily visit or relax. A club with a spa may want a separate music system from the rest of the club so that it can play soothing and relaxing music.

At Fongemie's club, the music plays everywhere except the aerobics rooms where the instructors use CD players to play their CDs.

Ensure the music's pace fits the workout. When trying to get members to pump up their heart rate, you would be advised to have up tempo music playing rather than the slow, soothing sounds of New Age artist Enya. McClusky only plays music that has 138 beats per minute. Fongemie varies the music depending on the time of day. During busy times at the club, he plays more upbeat music. He slows down the music a bit during less busy times.

Words can be important. Something as small as whether a song has words or is instrumental only can be a big factor at some clubs. McClusky tried playing classical music at her club, but the members didn't respond.

“They like to hear people singing words,” McClusky says. “It takes their mind off of what they are doing and makes the time go by faster.”

Set the volume appropriately. You want the volume to be loud enough that members can easily hear it and get motivated by it, but you don't want it so high that they can't interact with staff and other members. Some cardio and free weight equipment can be loud, especially when it's a room full of the equipment. Fongemie turns up the volume in the free weight area.

The volume level may change depending on the time of day. McClusky has found that members who attend classes in the morning prefer a lower volume level.

Make a point to go around occasionally to each area of the club to check the volume and the ease with which you can carry on a conversation without screaming.

Source of extra income. If your club plays music that isn't mainstream, then you may want to consider selling CDs of some of the artists' music in your pro shop, particularly if your club isn't located near a music store that sells anything but mainstream music. Fongemie plays music not found on Top 40 stations. As a service to members who like the music and want to play it at home but can't find it in local music stores, Fongemie's pro shop sells some CDs from the artists they play.

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