7 Fundamental Rules All Operators Should Follow

For Gym Operators

7 Fundamental Rules All Operators Should Follow

It is essential to the success of any business to have a clearly defined target market. Do not just tell customers about what you do – explain what you can do for them specifically.

To be successful as a fitness facility, clearly define your offerings and market them to your specific audience. The goal you should strive for is to tailor your club to fit your members.

The following is a summarization of an education session from the 2015 IHRSA Convention, produced with full permission from IHRSA. The full-length video is available for purchase at ihrsastore.com.

About the Speaker

Roberta Fordham currently occupies the role of General Manager at WTS International. She has more than 15 years of experience in the sports, recreation, leisure, and fitness industries. She is also a respected speaker and has expertise in managing large fitness facilities.


Seven Rules to Ensure Success

As an operator, there are several basic rules that you should follow to ensure success with your programming, staff, and members. The seven most fundamental rules include:

  • Create a positive experience.
  • Solve a problem for your target audience.
  • Serve the specific needs of your target audience within your club.
  • Be friendly and engaging.
  • Create opportunities to celebrate progress.
  • Inspire by being positive and embracing challenges.
  • Connect with your clients as much as possible.

Target Your Audience

Are you a niche, high-end boutique or a budget fitness facility? Are you catering to a broad variety of people with a collection of different services and products or to a narrow group of people with a standard service? What is your target age group? Are they male, female, or both? What is your pricing model? Your target audience should define your club’s identity.

The key is to know what you do and to whom you provide it. Consulting a demographic study of your market is helpful to determine what type of facility will be the most prosperous within your particular area. For example, you would not want to open a high-end niche boutique in an area with a relatively low median income.

Organizational Structure

The structure of your organization is the foundation that supports everything you do in your business. In building the structure, defining the core functions of your business is critical. Hire appropriate staff with the skills to support the unique functions of your club. Have strategies and roadmaps in place that support measurable objectives. Familiarize everyone on your staff with these values.

You are only as good as your team, so all staff should understand the ultimate goals of your business. Know your key performance indicators (KPIs). Educate your staff on your KPIs and implement a doable strategy rather than an inflated and impractical one.


A club culture that is centered on trust, loyalty, and respect between you, your staff, and your clients is an invaluable driving force for the overall success of your business. Align your culture with your strategy. 

Key Ingredients in Building Culture:

  • Good Leadership: You should hire qualified people and let them do their job – micromanagement can be a put off for talented professionals. Give your staff direction and offer help when needed, but also trust their abilities and skills. This will bolster trust and loyalty within your team. Build success through leadership.
  • Clear Vision Statement: Have a clear vision statement as a view of the future for what you want your club to be.
  • Expectations: Does your team know and understand what’s expected from them? Meet with staff often to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Core Values: Define the company’s core values and demonstrate them. Fit your members with your values.
  • Engagement: Engage with clients frequently to find out what exactly they want and/or need. You can do this through anonymous surveys or with frequent informal face-to-face talks.
  • Encourage and Appreciate Your Team: Reward and acknowledge them. Build relationships with your team. Articulate your goals, expectations, and visions. Make your staff members accountable. Let them know the marketing plan and goals. Instill in them a sense of responsibility for their respective roles and outcomes.
  • Be Positive: Display a positive attitude with both demeanor and words. Communication and organization skills are important. Be willing to make changes and be a part of the team.

Implement these suggestions in how you run your club, manage staff, and interact with clients, and you'll be well positioned for success.