Our Salvation: The Fitness Professional of the Future


Bob Esquerre, MA, MES, NSCA-CPT, NASM-CPT, ACE-CES, is a fitness consultant and owner of the Esquerre Fitness Group. Esquerre is recognized by IHRSA as an expert in personal training, program development, club branding, customer relationship management and membership retention.

No matter how we run our club businesses, the “M” word drives our successes and/or our failures: membership recruitment, membership retention and membership referrals.

Our industry is in the business of making a credible return-on-investment (ROI). We define what that ROI should be by analyzing and managing financial benchmarks and key ratios such as: revenue growth; net membership growth; rate of membership retention; revenue per member; non-dues revenue/percent of total revenue; revenue based on indoor square footage; salary, wages and benefits (SWB) performance; and EBITDA performance/total revenues.

The veterans of our industry know that the best way to protect the ROI is by fully integrating new members into our clubs. In fact, the member-integration process must focus on driving our members into both fee-based and non-fee-based programming options. To the extent that we drive our members into fee-based programming options is also the extent that we increase our contributions to the ROI items listed above.

The other two pieces of the equation is not only the “how” of making sure that we have dynamic action plans that focus on keeping our current members integrated in our facilities but also the “who” as to which employees/departments are assigned the task of driving your club’s three-tier “M”objectives.

Consider the following three questions:

1. Has your club fully identified why your new members not only tend to drop out of your clubs but also stay in our clubs?

2. Have you developed comprehensive action plans that have successfully offset/reduced your attrition rate?

3.Has your club considered positioning its fitness professionals to support your membership retention program?

We define fitness professionals as any individual on your fitness team who has direct and indirect contact with your members in either a one-on-one or group exercise capacity.

As a consultant, I have found that most clubs believe that most fitness professionals do not currently have the desire or the wherewithal to support our three-tier membership problem. Typically, the focus of the group exercise instructors has been about their classes and their following. Personal trainers only tend to focus on their clients and how much money they are making as opposed to seeing themselves as part of an integrated solution.

We really want each reader to think about what would happen to our Club’s ROI, if we had the following dream team:

  1. Our group exercise instructors started to tie their individual successes to the success of your club and started to use “we” instead of “I” when they speak to their students.
  2. Our group exercise instructors started to refer their students to your club’s personal training program for additional services because of weaknesses that the instructors saw in their students during their classes.
  3. Our group exercise instructors started to do fee-based group training programs.
  4. Our personal trainers started referring their clients to specific group exercise programs because those programs would supplement the clients’ personal training program.
  5. Our personal trainers started working with their group exercise counterparts to learn how to teach group exercise classes/programs.
  6. Whenever our personal trainers are away on vacation, their clients are encouraged to train with other trainers so that their clients can stay on their individualized fitness programs.

If done correctly, the dream team staff will potentially enable your club to manage member wants, needs and interests. As this happens, the members get their results. If they get their results, why would they leave?

The Hiring vs. Recruitment Concept
The six points that our dream team delivered can actually occur. However, it will never happen without these two steps:

Step 1: Your club’s current employees must be proactively managed or coached to support the new goals, objectives and expectations that you develop to support your club’s member-retention program. Those who do not support the program must be managed out once you recruit their replacements.

Step 2: Your club must develop and launch an employee-replacement process that does not focus on hiring people but instead focuses on selectively recruiting employees who support the new goals, objectives and expectations. In fact, these individuals must possess, as a minimum, these qualities:

  • Think outside-of-the-box
  • Set and share a vision
  • Focus on customers
  • The ability to support and participate in team-building activities
  • Solve problems and make decisions
  • Manage people
  • Take initiative beyond the job description
  • Display professional ethics
  • Managing change
  • Deal with individuals
  • Share information
  • Manage emotions
  • Show compassion

Who is the person, department or team that makes sure that your facility connects with low-usage and non-usage members? Who is making sure that your frequent users remain frequent users and that your low-usage members become frequent users? More importantly, who makes sure that your new members stay “connected” so that they do not become industry dropout statistics?

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