Are you a club owner who never has problems? Equipment never breaks, members are always happy, employees are constantly productive and the memberships just keep rolling in? If so, I want to go to Las Vegas with you because you are a very lucky individual!

Most of us are confronted with problems that need to be solved on a daily basis. Operating a fitness center has a unique set of challenges. Two significant - but very different - problems we encounter are maintenance of equipment and interviewing potential staff members.

Cleaning House Because of the nature of the business, our facilities incorporate many complex pieces of equipment. Some remain operational with little or no maintenance, and some seem to cause problems all the time! Depending on the qualifications of your personnel, many problems can be fixed internally. However, always remember that the safety of your staff and your members is of paramount importance.

One of the first things you should do in repairing equipment is check your warranty policy to see if the repair is covered. If it isn't, check the manufacturer's instructions and don't be afraid to contact the company for assistance.

Proactive maintenance is another key step: Anticipate breakdowns and be prepared for when they occur. Keep spare parts of the most utilized items - treadmill belts and decks, stepper springs, etc. That way, should the unfortunate occur, the downtime is minimized.

Utilize hourly, shift, daily and weekly chore lists; a visual inspection of the equipment needs to be done hourly, but the treadmill hoods may only need to be cleaned weekly. If you keep on top of preventive maintenance and cleaning, your equipment will last longer and work better. And don't forget to keep those maintenance logs up to date! If a piece of equipment breaks down and a member gets hurt, you may need to prove that equipment maintenance was done on a regular basis.

Hiring the Best Staffing your club can be your biggest expense and a potential cause of problems. To cut down on costs, don't wait for the applications to start rolling in - go out and recruit potential employees. And keep your eyes open. Your members constitute a large base of potential staff. Quite often a good member can become a great employee.

Use your existing staff for referrals, as they know the type of individual you would hire for the club. Offer a "referral bonus" to anyone who recommends a potential employee whom you end up hiring.

Since the interview process is often the only face-to-face contact you have with the potential employee, try expanding your list of interview questions and include open-ended questions. Too many times in interviews, the interviewer does all the talking when it should be the opposite.

By asking someone, "What is your favorite color and why?", you are doing more than determining hue preferences - the answer (or lack of it!) will show how this person will interact with your members. A one-word answer would indicate that the person may be reticent and possibly not able to interact with members as well as you would like.

Take your time. When you hire out of convenience ("John just quit! Check the applications on file and get someone in here now!"), it invariably comes back to cause problems. You may have to put in some major overtime to take up the slack, but a judgment made in haste is going to cost you even more time. Sometimes your biggest friend when interviewing is your gut - if it doesn't feel right, listen to that feeling.

Maintenance and interviewing potential staff are both key components of your club. All of us confront problems in these and other areas on a daily basis - no two days ever seem to be the same! A key to success is to anticipate problems and do your best to prevent their occurrence.

Myth #1: "I can motivate people."

Not really. People have to motivate themselves. You can, however, set up an environment where your employees best motivate and empower themselves.

Myth #2: "Money is a good motivator."

In a manner of speaking. Things like money, a nice office and job security can prevent people from losing their motivation, but these things usually don't help people to become more motivated.

Myth #3: "Fear is a good motivator."

Yes, it is. But fear only works for a very short time.

Myth #4: "I know what motivates me, so I know what motivates my employees."

Different people are motivated by different things. A key goal of all owners/managers should be to understand what motivates each employee.

Myth #5: "Increased job satisfaction means increased job performance."

Research shows that increased job satisfaction does not necessarily mean increased performance. If the goals of the organization are not aligned with the goals of employees, then employees aren't effectively working toward the mission of the organization.

(Source: Carter McNamara, MBA, Ph.D./www.mapnp.org)