How Clubs Can Survive in a Changing Industry

Commercial Fitness

How Clubs Can Survive in a Changing Industry

Change is a difficult but necessary part of business. As the health and fitness industry evolves, particularly with the influx of apps and other digital fitness products, clubs must adapt in order to survive.

As a club operator, it is up to you to set your club on the path to success. The first step is deciding how your company is going to react to change.

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

Stephen Tharrett is the co-founder of ClubIntel, and has over 30 years experience in the health and wellness industry. He has worked as a consultant in areas such as strategic planning, organizational development, risk management, and culture development. He has authored several books related to the health and fitness industry.

How Companies React in a Changing Fitness Industry

4 Ways Companies React to Change

There are four basic reactions to change that determine whether or not a company is successful in a dynamic industry.

  • Market leaders embrace change, and change is part of their cultural fabric. They are always changing, innovating and creatively destroying past norms.
  • Market players embrace change, but don’t usually take the initiative.
  • Market ghosts usually wait too long to embrace any kind of change and are now just surviving.
  • Market extinction refers to the companies that did not believe change was important and so ignored it altogether. They have fallen completely out of the competitive market. Companies such as Blockbuster fall into this category.

Forces Driving Organizational Change

We live in a society constantly changing and improving. This is also true for the health and fitness industry. The competitive landscape, advances in technology, the ubiquitous nature of social media, the economic environment, income inequality, and business culture are some of the organizational changes within the fitness industry. Traditional business models no longer make the cut. To stay relevant, fitness businesses should reevaluate their organizational structure, their marketing efforts as well as their service offerings.

Businesses must change and adapt to be successful. Change is difficult. Greed, complacency, and pride are barriers to organizational change. 

Leading change in staff will lead to change in your organization. As a leader, you must be a champion of culture and a leader of change. The secret to change is to focus on building the new rather than fighting the old. Change is not a single event, but an ongoing process.

Change can be linked to productivity, creating more opportunities and a sense of urgency. Complacency is an enemy of urgency. Being adverse to change and complacent within the industry represents an ongoing challenge. This mindset can only lead to failure. Progress requires change. If you become complacent with your place in the industry, you will never progress.

To better facilitate organizational change, build a team that can create the vision to begin change. Get the vision right. Map out intended changes and your best execution strategy. Ensure your entire staff is aware of and aligned with the strategy for change. Empower action within your team. Recognize individuals for their short-term wins as well as for reaching milestones connected with your vision and change strategies.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

Data is a powerful tool that you should use in your management approach. Put measurements in place to evaluate and determine whether you’ve actually succeeded in improving and changing your facility.

Do not stop making progress. Change is constant, and you have to take steps to make change stick. Effective change provides credibility to your efforts to improve your company and makes change in other areas easier as well.

Be Proactive About Change, Not Reactive

Get a head start on making positive changes. In other words, do not wait for urgency in order to improve. Change yourself first. Change your mindset and attitude, and expect that to affect your organization. Communicate the why and how of your change strategy to your staff and enlist their support. The entire organization must be aligned with your change strategy. Hold staff accountable and celebrate their successes.

As the fitness industry evolves around new technology and consumer expectations, change is a necessity. This is your chance to be a market leader and rise above the slow-to-adapt competition. Take steps to know what is happening in the industry and how you can implement new approaches in your club. By embracing change, your company can not only succeed, but thrive.