The Year Ahead – Fitness Business Canada

My thoughts on a forthcoming 2018 article for Fitness Business Canada magazine.

Commit to elevating your business reputation

The health club industry was built with a focus on the tangible experience; impressive buildings, equipment and other assets that attracted customers often on the basis of convenience to home or work. Cultivating a remarkable reputation perhaps was not a strategic imperative when you were the only real choice in town. Now the world is a very different place and consumers are awash with fitness alternatives, some of which are free. As the fitness eco-system enlarges so I believe consumers will increasingly rely on an organisation’s reputation as a way of navigating through a congested marketplace?

Reputation is an emotional reaction towards an organisation and I believe part of the industry has historically paid far little attention to it. Think about the rapid adoption by consumers of the low-cost gym model, which has exploded globally. A part of this growth has been achieved by exploiting the poor reputation of incumbent club operators who had failed to recognise that power was fast-shifting from the providers to consumers. Removing a few staff from the gym floor, failing to refresh and reinvest, cutting a few classes or stubbornly enforcing a contract when a member’s life suddenly changes, may create a short-term win, but at what cost to long-term reputation?

Conversely, what if the ambition to foster an ever-better reputation becomes the catalyst to elevate experiences, to innovate and deepen relationships and as a result create something that becomes truly ‘remarkable’ – defined as worthy of sharing with others.

Health clubs may operate from physical buildings, but their reach and impact extend far beyond the boundary walls. A typical club, for example, has many ‘stakeholders’. When thinking about who may have a ‘stake’ in a club, members, employees and investors will come to mind, but what if we apply a broader definition and say that a ‘stakeholder’ is any person or organisation who impacts, or is impacted by the club. Now we think of communities, the environment, suppliers, competitors, press and other media, government, previous members, former employees and others. Suddenly, the club’s reach and influence become greater. The most successful clubs recognise and nurture this much broader ‘community of stakeholders’ and how their reputation is impacted by every interaction.

So as your club looks ahead to 2018, I urge you always take decisions that are consistent with the expectations of all your stakeholders and continually ask yourself: ‘will this action help to improve our long-term reputation?’