Club Industry is part of the Global Exhibitions Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Managing by Walking Around Will Improve Retention at Your Facility

Managing by Walking Around Will Improve Retention at Your Facility

Recently, I heard a number of clients remark about their management's lack of follow-through on hospitality and retention efforts. I suspect that this is the case with many clubs. A simple way to insure follow-through is for managers to take time each day to manage by walking around (MBWA).

MBWA means that all managers must get out into the club:

  • To observe how the staff is delivering the mission regularly.

  • To observe the satisfaction level of the members.

  • To observe how the staff is engaging with members.

  • To observe the physical appearance of the club for cleanliness, orderliness and safety.

  • To engage with staff to let them know what they are doing well.

  • To engage with staff when they need assistance, direction or correction.

  • To engage with members simply to connect, create and deepen relationships.

To successfully implement MBWA, you should require all management staff members to perform MBWA twice daily for 15 minutes each time. Make MBWA a designated/stated element of the job description for management staff. During MBWA, the manager needs to view the entire club.

Be clear that this time is not simply to socialize but to also insure that all staff members are contributing 100 percent while on duty (not to be confused with micromanaging).

Prior to MBWA time, make a list of the new programs, events or activities going on in the club that you want members to know about. Each week in your management meetings, this should be a topic of discussion. Come up with at least five programs, events or activities to discuss with appropriate members. “Appropriate” means that a Brains, Bones and Balance program should be offered to older members, and a pre-natal class should be discussed with pregnant members.

During your MBWA, you will cross the path of different population segments, so you want to be prepared to talk with them about something that has value to them. The conversation does not have to be solely about events or goings on in the club. Be comfortable simply making eye contact with members and stopping to say hello or introducing yourself.

For example, you see a member in the club that you have seen for many months (or years), and now it is time to be a gracious and professional manager by introducing yourself. Consider saying the following as you make eye contact:

“Hi, there. I have seen you many times in the club, but we have never formally introduced ourselves. My name is (your name), and I manage the (blank) department in the club. And you are?”

“Very good to meet you. How is your workout going today? How is your club experience going?”

Let them respond. Your response should be based on the conversation that is happening, not on a script. Then add:

“Very nice speaking with you, and I look forward to seeing more of you in the club.”

Remember to be conversational and intuitive. There is no script. It is simply you being a gracious and professional manager by taking the initiative to have a conversation. It also is important that you understand when someone does not want to have a conversation and to graciously disengage.

MBWA should affect retention in the following ways:

  • Management will acquire amazing feedback/insight from members.

  • Management will acquire amazing feedback/insight from staff.

  • Management will have the ability to make adjustments quickly.

  • Management will have a huge increase in face time with members. Ten managers at 30 minutes each per day equals 5 hours per day of increased exposure to members and staff, or 35 hours of engagement with members and staff per week. How could an additional 35 hours of dedicated face time with members not affect retention in a positive way?

Have fun, and use MBWA to engage with members as well as to gather information about how to make the club experience better for members.


Karen Woodard-Chavez is president of Premium Performance Training in Boulder, CO, and Ixtapa, Mexico. She has owned and operated clubs since 1985 and now consults with and trains club staff members throughout the world.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.