When you speak to most club owners about their biggest challenges, the word competition inevitably comes up. To stay “competitive,” you must constantly change and adapt. Those who adjust, survive.

Every club has three challenges to staying ahead of the competition:

  1. Putting in place successful business systems.

  2. Attracting nonexercisers.

  3. Differentiating your club from the one down the street.

Each of these relates to the type of club you are and the image you project to you market. Most club owners tend to focus only on the third aspect (the actual competition down the street), which is the one they have the least control over.

However, the primary challenge is looking inside your business and objectively deciding whether you have the right systems to be successful in sales, customer service, fitness, new member integration, retention and management, just to mention a few.

How does management focus on the primary challenge so that its sales, marketing and customer service systems are the best that they can be? It all comes down to changing and training to stay a step ahead.

CHANGING THROUGH TRAINING

Proactive leaders recognize that change challenges people to grow and adapt or be swept aside, especially in the mind of the consumer. To compete in the industry today, you must strive to be different or unique. Everyone says they're “the best,” but since the consumer has heard that phrase from everyone in every business and has not always found it to be true, most consumers are somewhat skeptical. To gain our market share, we must expand our knowledge, sharpen our skills, and manage our time more effectively.

To change often requires an investment of time and money in your business and your staff.

Let's say that you've cut your business expenses aggressively. You're looking hard at ways to increase your club's revenue. In a still-sluggish — although recovering — economy you're told it is an ideal time to invest in training your employees, your response might be, “Are you kidding?” But it should be just the opposite if you want to make a difference in your bottom line for the long run.

The most profitable companies consistently invest in their employees. They don't stop during tough times.

In 2000, the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) studied training practices in 575 U.S.-based publicly traded firms. The top 50 percent in spending on training had 86 percent higher total shareholder returns than the bottom 50 percent and 45 percent higher returns than the market average. This year, another ASTD research report found that training investments are holding their own despite the recession. Whether it's to build skills in sales, customer service, management or other essentials, you need to be thinking about how to enhance your employees' talents — regardless of the state of the overall economy.

A commitment to training can help your business not only survive but thrive.

What most people call training, we think of as ongoing, focused learning. Only you can determine the type of learning you need. Learning is just like exercise: it never stops. Learning is a partnership. Teachers can't change you, but if you're willing to change and learn, you can improve. An environment needs to be created in which you can discover and practice new ways of thinking. When done effectively, training is enriching to your employees and your bottom line. It helps ensure your club's continued good health. You'd never say to your member, “Don't exercise anymore. You're done.” That is the the way to think of your staff's training…they are never done learning and improving.

The key to producing consistent and predictable sales numbers is creating, growing, and nurturing a healthy sales pipeline. A properly managed pipeline will ensure that you meet your revenue and sales goalwhile hopefully reducing revenue peaks and valleys. You need a training program designed to create sales professionals and provide them with a framework and methodology to design a model that will virtually guarantee attaining of sales goals and improving budgets.

Smart organizations ensure their sales staff is always mastering new methods and new ways of doing their job. That mastery can only come through training.

Through training, you and your staff gain knowledge. Knowledge is power. You must first learn all you can to be effective and get results in every area of your business. Once this has been done, you and your staff must have the training to be able to consistently execute that knowledge.

Ed Tock is a partner in Sales Makers, a marketing and sales training consulting firm, which specializes in on-site seminars and performance and profitability programs. Ed can be reached at 800.428.3334 or at eddie@sales-makers.com.