At some point, every health club owner does a club renovation. Before you begin your next remodel, do a few things that will make the process easier on yourself, your staff and your members.
The most important thing is to plan ahead. Let your staff know about the renovation as soon as possible, but ask them to refrain from telling members until you are closer to the start of the project. You want staff to be included in the process, but if members know about it too soon, rumors will fly.
After determining the scope of work that will be done for the remodel, talk with your contractor to determine the most time- and cost-effective processes. Then, work with your staff to balance what is best for construction with what is best for the members. Ideally, you should do at least some of the renovations at night when the club is closed. During the bidding process, request a price that involves nighttime work for some or all of the remodeling. This usually increases the price, but often it is worth it.
Find out how long it will take to do each part of the renovation and in what order the work will occur so you can determine how to work around each step.
Do lead-time planning, which involves ordering all items necessary for the renovation early in the process so the items are at your club when needed. Leaving ordering until the last minute can delay the process or can force you to choose a substitute item, which can end up being less effective and costing more.
Obviously, certain areas of the club may have to be closed at times due to the renovation. Be prepared for member complaints about this and other renovation issues. Everyone will be inconvenienced at some point, and some people just don’t like change. Make sure your staff members are good listeners who work to resolve complaints. They need to help you keep members positive throughout the remodeling process.
To help do this, your staff should be prepared to answer some of the typical questions they might receive. Prior to announcing the renovation plans, make a list of all potential questions, determine consistent and accurate answers, then communicate those answers to your staff and ensure they memorize them. Some of the questions will include: When will the work be finished? Why did they choose that color? Why are they spending all this money on new décor? Will our dues increase?
To help alleviate member concerns, communicate with them at every step of the renovation about what is happening so they understand (and get excited about) what is being done, why it is being done and how it will benefit them. Use various methods to communicate with them. Don’t just leave the communication to a sign in the lobby, as some people do not come into your club on a regular basis. Communicate by e-mail, postcards, your Facebook page, your website and phone calls. Repetition is important, especially when heavily used areas of your club (workout areas or locker rooms) must close temporarily.
Help build a sense of anticipation by showing members what the renovated facility will look like. Once your plans are finalized, you can set up a display in the lobby showing a 3D drawing of the renovated club along with swatches of all the new finishes. During the renovation, minimize your members’ discomfort. Dust and dirt are irritating, so keep the club as clean as possible. Consider using paint and adhesives with low odors and low volatile organic compounds, as many people are sensitive to the chemicals in paints, adhesives and new flooring. Finally, safety should be a top priority: make sure ladders, tools, tarps and other items are not placed where people might trip or slip on them.
When you renovate your club, you should look at it as a great marketing, sales and member appreciation opportunity. It is a chance to get members and staff excited again about your club, but if you have not thought out the process, it can create more problems than advantages for your club. Try to see the project from a member’s perspective, and you will be able to better prepare for an exciting new phase for your facility.
Bruce Carter is the president of Optimal Fitness Design Systems International, a club design firm that has created about $650 million worth of clubs in 45 states and 26 countries. He can be reached at Bruce@optimaldsi.com.