Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of 16 fitness managers and more than 250 personal trainers and group fitness professionals. She is well known as a presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year Award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Fitness Academy, an educational resource for continuing education in the Tampa, FL, area. She can be reached at annfitt@verizon.net.

As each year passes, I can see the evolution of the fitness manager position in the industry. Once seen as a glorified class coordinator and/or top trainer, the fitness manager of 2010 has grown to be a true retention manager, directing members towards numerous services now offered within the walls of the facilities while mentoring a group of hybrid professionals, determined to do what it takes to find solutions for members.

With this in mind, club owners need to remember these things when it comes to this position:

Hire performance-based candidates. Hiring managerial candidates with the right skill sets and an aggressive entrepreneur attitude will be of utmost importance. Sales, time and crisis management experience, along with an ability to inspire and influence, now top the list of attributes owners and top executives look for in their top picks.

The fitness manager must have a clear understanding of all variables that affect the club’s attrition and retention. Most studies show that the decision a member makes to remain a club member or leave the club is affected by personal and relationship factors. Most agree that decisions to leave involve the lack of social connection in the club, a lack of attention from staff and/or dissatisfaction with the club’s programming.

The fitness manager of 2010 is involved in the membership sales process. Having a fitness professional available to identify the member’s fitness needs and goals is the key to a valued membership experience. New members introduced directly to the fitness manager connect with other members faster and are provided with needed mentoring, monitoring and support. For this reason, designing a club experience that involves the entire staff and creating a menu of unique services have become the fitness manager’s focus, first and foremost.

The fitness manager must understand and view programming as a critical part of the member experience. Programming creates opportunities for members to become active in the club. The increase in participation affects retention and revenue goals for the fitness manager. Members who have had a valued experience are more likely to purchase from the fee-based menu selection in the club. Today, the fitness manager coordinates more than just personal training and group fitness programming. Small group fee-based options, wellness programming, nutritional seminars, fitness games or contests, charity events and even adventure outings excite members in clubs run by today’s retention experts.

Today’s manager is involved in all the operations of the facility. Key indicators of success for a fitness company show that the evolved fitness manager is involved in all areas of the club’s operations. Member satisfaction, continuous growth, programming usage, member loyalty, increased non-dues revenue and low staff turnover top today’s fitness manager’s goal list. The job description of the fitness manager in 2010 includes being able to assess all areas of the club, designing new ways of procuring revenue and increasing referrals and renewals.