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Keep Your Health Club’s Long-Term Business Plans Firm but Flexible

Keep Your Health Club’s Long-Term Business Plans Firm but Flexible

As a child, you likely had envisioned a plan for your life. Perhaps you were the star player on your school’s basketball team, so you geared your life around practicing your three-pointers and defense, envisioning yourself in your favorite team’s jersey as a professional basketball player. Or perhaps you always had a fondness for animals, so you studied hard in science class and planned to go to the best veterinary school.

But life often has a way of changing plans. Maybe your genetics made it impossible for you to grow past 5 feet, 8 inches tall, so your college and professional basketball dreams faded away. Maybe you realized that as a vet, you would have to put animals to sleep, and you knew you could not bring yourself to do that. Or perhaps you just discovered another passion that led you in a different direction. For whatever reason, where you are in life today may not be where you originally intended to be.

Business is often that way. As a business leader, you likely had a long-range plan in mind when you opened or purchased your facility. Fitness facility operators in the commercial, nonprofit, university, corporate and government markets should create a three- or five-year business and marketing plan. But who would have predicted five years ago the recession the country still battles? The economic downturn likely caused you to revise your business plan.

When it comes to purchasing a facility or a group of clubs, you might think you have it all planned, but the best laid plans can go awry. Just ask LA Fitness, Irvine, CA. Before finalizing its purchase of 171 Bally Total Fitness clubs, one source says the company had 12 people at the ready to handle questions by phone from Bally members. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not aware of these plans, and strong winds blew down phone lines in California, causing LA Fitness to lose phone service the week the announcement was made.

Life Time Fitness, Chanhassen, MN, has a social media policy in place to handle what is posted on its website, Twitter page and Facebook page. However, one of its group cycle instructors tweeted on his personal Twitter account a picture of a McDonald’s sack on a co-worker’s desk with the following comment: “A McDonald’s bag sits on the desk of a Life Time employees (sic) desk at @lifetimefitness aka ‘the healthy way of life company.’ Ah the irony.” You can control your content on your own social media, but when it comes to others, all that carefully planned branding can be lost, and it takes time and effort to gain it back.

Even though plans can go awry, you still must create that original plan so you have a path to follow and so you know where to go back to when things deviate. Reacting quickly to remedy a situation is paramount, but sometimes, you may not want to go back to your original plan. Sometimes when things go awry, it is just that the environment has changed. Sometimes, your plan was wrong to begin with.

So as we start this new year, I hope you have your plan ready. I hope you have the ability to react when things do not go as planned. And I hope you are adaptable enough to revise plans if the world as you know it comes to a screeching halt.

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