Club Management 101: A Blueprint for Success in the Fitness Industry

For Gym Operators

Club Management 101: A Blueprint for Success in the Fitness Industry

How do you define success and, more importantly, how do you achieve it?

A successful fitness club is one that is profitable, employs an engaged and professional staff, and has a community of active, satisfied members. It is possible for every club to succeed in these areas by adhering to the following best practices.

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

About the Speaker

Todd Durkin is the founder and owner of Todd Durkin Enterprises and is an internationally recognized presenter, performance coach, personal trainer, and motivational speaker. He is also the owner of the wildly successful fitness center, FitnessQuest 10. He is a two-time recipient of the Trainer of the Year (IDEA & ACE) award and has produced 43 DVDs centered on strength, conditioning, and functional fitness.

 A Blueprint for Success in the Fitness Industry

Run Your Club with Passion and Commitment

Building a successful business begins with passion. Regardless of the industry, passion represents an important factor that has a significant bearing on success. In addition to passion, a few practical aspects that are important when building a successful fitness business include:

  • Drive revenue. Feeder programs are invaluable. They offer a near constant stream of clients, which in turn generates a constant stream of revenue.
  • Run deals. Special offers and targeted marketing are essential for driving revenue.
  • Control expenses. Generating revenue doesn’t count for much if you’re spending it all on overhead expenses.
  • Take care of your clients. It goes without saying that the client is king. Clients who have their needs met consistently are clients who will remain with you for a long time. The most successful fitness clubs have polite and helpful staff, dedicated trainers, and offer members outstanding customer service.
  • Take care of your staff. Satisfied staff members offer better service to clients. Provide encouragement, acknowledgment, praise, and appreciation periodically to your staff. A small investment in time for encouragement can lead to a large return in staff performance.

Always Be Professional

In the fitness industry, outward appearances are vitally important. A client’s first impressions of you, your staff, and your club matter significantly. Train all your staff to greet clients, be friendly, and offer help. You want your team to connect with clients and prospects on a personal level.

Consider past efforts that have not been successful and work to understand why they failed. This analysis can be used to build relationships with your staff as well as clients and provide better fitness services. Make your specific expectations known to your staff and train them to support those expectations.

A well-defined brand is crucial to success. Develop a world-class brand through exceptional culture and customer service. Be an innovator by providing creative and unique experiences. Be specific and focused in your programming. Success depends upon how you make your clients and prospects feel.

Know That Little Gestures Have a Big Impact

Always be courteous in person, online, and on the phone. Train your staff to do the same. Be mindful of your staff's interactions and your own body language. It is important to make clients feel welcomed and wanted. Your body language can convey this welcoming message. Ensure that staff is friendly and helpful to everyone. Create a comfortable atmosphere using music and optimizing the layout of your facility. Follow up with clients and staff in a timely manner and try your best to resolve issues in a way that leaves your clients happy.

Create the "Perfect 10 Club"

Think of innovative ways to increase retention. Durkin proposes a system called the "Perfect 10 Club." Any clients who come into the club ten times or more per month receives a special reward. It could be something small like a free massage or a coupon for your smoothie or snack bar. Concentrate on current members. Politely ask active members for referrals, thank them for their participation, or offer a small reward, such as a gift certificate.

Promote a Positive Culture – Your Culture Is Your Brand

Put time into leading your team. Team meetings and an open-door policy keep staff connected. People leave when they are not acknowledged and appreciated, so make sure your staff knows they are valued members of your team.

Hone Your Marketing Strategy

Good marketing campaigns are fundamental to success. A marketing strategy must lead to sales otherwise it is useless. Be sure your marketing strategy does the following:

  • Drives results – track your marketing performance to ensure that what you're doing is working and to see where you need to improve.
  • Is bold – you won't capture prospects' attention with a forgettable campaign.
  • Develops client touch points. People require constant accountability and guidance.
  • Provides valuable content to clients.

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool and provides free marketing campaigns, if used correctly. Employ social media to engage and connect with current and prospective members, develop and retain fans, generate lists, grow and shape your brand, and acquire new clients. Use social media to post tips and offers while tracking activity and driving referrals.

Keep these suggestions in mind and set aside time each week to work on business strategies. As you refine your brand and focus your marketing efforts, you should see improvements in your revenue, staff performance, and the overall satisfaction of your clients.