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These Lessons Are Ones to Live By For Club Owners and Operators

These Lessons Are Ones to Live By For Club Owners and Operators

In my years in the fitness business as a consultant and club operator, I've learned a few lessons to live by that I'd like to pass along:

  • Culture comes first

    Every organization has a culture, whether or not anyone at the company has set it. So be purposeful in establishing your club's vision, mission and, most of all, values. This culture shapes the behavior of employees and customers. It attracts like-minded employees and rejects those who don't fit. It simplifies decision-making and minimizes the issues faced daily by companies with sick cultures.

  • Every organization is perfectly aligned to get the results it gets

    This essentially means that regardless of whether your company is achieving great results, mediocre results or poor results, you are perfectly aligned to get them. Your organization is perfectly aligned to be where it is today in terms of financial performance, customer service, employee relations, reputation in the community, etc. It all boils down to the decisions made leading up to this point about how to allocate resources.

  • Get the right people in the right seats on the bus

    From the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, this concept is one of my favorites. Every long-term success story has the right people in the right seats. Watch problems just disappear when you get the right people in the right seats with shared vision and values.

  • No margin, no mission

    Unless your business is able to generate more income than it spends, it will ultimately fail, and all of the good things you wanted to do for your employees, your members and the community will be for naught. Everyone on your staff needs to be cognizant of this.

  • Begin with the end in mind

    A lesson from “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, this applies to every journey, project and job. You are far more likely to achieve your goals and objectives if you clearly define them at the outset and communicate them to those around you.

  • Definition of insanity: Keep doing things the same way and expect different results

    No need to explain this one.

  • Treat your employees the way you want them to treat your customers

    This seems so simple, yet many managers and owners don't practice this important habit.

  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood

    This is another of the “seven habits.” It pertains to effective listening. In every human interaction, particularly emotionally charged ones, always try to first listen to the view(s) of the other person and try to see it from their perspective before trying to get your own point across. Most of us typically listen with the intent of making our own point, rather than first trying to truly understand from where the other person is coming. Practicing this important listening skill can produce magical results.

  • Share the credit, accept the blame

    Great leaders are masters at this. No matter who is at fault when something goes wrong under your watch, step up and take personal responsibility, thereby shielding your staff from some of the heat. Then, when good things happen, be sure to heap praise on those who contributed and deflect the accolades that come your way.

  • Choose your battles

    So many inexperienced managers want to argue every point. They fail to understand that their circle of influence gets smaller the more argumentative they become. Highly effective leaders understand that you can't win them all and that it's better to give in on some of the less important disagreements but fight hard for those things that matter most.

  • People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care

    This is one of those golden rules that great leaders follow. Whether you are the toughest, meanest SOB or you are a gentle, quiet boss, your employees will respond far better if they know where your heart is in relation to them. If they know that you genuinely care about them personally, they will typically give you far more of themselves in the job.

  • Cleanliness is next to godliness

    Those who live by this simple, yet hard-to-execute, practice generally find themselves far ahead of the competition in nearly every business.


Herb Lipsman is chief operating officer of Houston Oaks Country Club & Family Sports Retreat in Hockley, TX. He also has been a consultant in the industry, specializing in design, development and operation of upscale facilities.

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