We seem to be getting more inquiries about expansion and getting into the health club business than at any time in the last couple years. Is it time to expand your health club?
Certainly no one is in the health club business to fail and most health club owners view success as the ability to successfully grow their company. There are many ways to grow a health club. The key is to manage the growth in such a way that it can be controlled. Keep in mind that growing your health club too rapidly can be more devastating to your company than not growing at all.
Each of you as a health club owner must assess whether or not growth is for you. It’s not for everyone. If so, what are the alternatives and the most appropriate methods for the expansion of your health club?
Have your legal pad handy
Health club owners should keep a legal pad available in order to write down unique and creative ideas that may be promoted through the health club. For me, my most creative ideas come in the night when everything is quiet. I have found that it’s a good habit to keep a pad and pencil on a nightstand. These ideas can take many forms, some are tried and true and have been proven in other health clubs, some may be spin-offs from your current operation while others may be more innovative.
Be sure you have a plan of action
If you are currently operating a health club, I hope you already have a written business plan, or some type of written plan of action, to guide the direction of your health club operation.
A well written business plan or plan of action clearly defines the goals of the health club and outlines methods for achieving these goals. Simply stated, the plan of action helps you understand where you are and how to get to where you want to be.
Do more with less
Most of us get excited about growth opportunities and the possibilities for expansion. However, health club operations should remain simple until the business of the health club is up and running economically and efficiently.
Always be seeking financing
In order to grow your health club you will most likely need to raise money to finance your expansion plan. There are many alternatives to financing your health club business, including taking on partners, establishing a corporation and selling stock, or borrowing money from family, friends, or a bank. In addition, you may want to talk to a venture capitalist. No matter what, you will need to write a loan proposal which describes your health club business, explains how you plan to use the money, and your plans to repay the money. In asking for financing, you need to be very simply and specific about how much money is needed. Provide accurate projections and don’t be shy about asking for exactly what you need to optimally operate your health club business.
Get feedback from those you trust (not just those who agree with you)
When a health club owner decides to take on an expansion project, the current health club operation becomes the main source of support. You will need to determine the strength of this support, as well as the health club’s ability to accept such a risk. This will require an internal assessment of your health club operation which may include a personal evaluation, management assessment and/or departmental feedback. Once the feasibility of your expansion plan has been decided, a growth team should be established.
Develop a marketing and promotional campaign
Planning ahead is important to get the most for your marketing and promotional dollars. Deciding where and when to market is crucial to your continued success. Some of the issues you will want to consider are:
- Analyzing the media available to you
- Developing a marketing plan and budget
- Measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts
Network, network and network
Networking, if done correctly, can greatly expand your health club business. Done poorly, it is a waste of time and effort. To get started, you may want to structure your efforts through a trade association like IHRSA or local networking groups. Be sure to include such social networking sites as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
As a health club owner, you should consider purchasing a daily planner to keep yourself organized. It does not matter if your system is old style manual or a computer program. The system does not have to be elaborate as long as it will help to manage your busy schedule. Develop a system for profiling and tracking your progress. For me, it works with a laptop computer, legal pad and a day minder.
Stay aware of industry trends
Most successful health club owners read trade publications and newspapers weekly and many books relating to the health club business. Becoming an authority on issues related to the health club business is crucial for the success and growth of your health club.
Benchmarking is the process of identifying and learning from the best practices anywhere in the health club industry… and is a powerful tool in the quest for continuous improvement. Benchmarking uses qualitative and quantitative performance measures to establish goals for improvement in your health club.
Don’t let ego stand in the way of getting outside support. The key? Don’t surround yourself with people who simply agree with you. You want the truth and you want to be challenged.
Now, go grow your health club.
Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: www.fmconsulting.net or www.jimthomsondemand.com