Retention, marketing, sales, customer service, programming. These are words that fitness facility owners and operators think about every day. They are areas of your business about which you worry, try to improve upon, attend seminars and read books. They are constants in our industry.
That became even more apparent to me as I interviewed past publishers and editors of Club Industry's Fitness Business Pro magazine for the 25th anniversary story appearing in this issue. Throughout the 25 years of the magazine's existence, the editors have covered many issues and featured many people on our pages. However, when I asked each editor and publisher about the issues they remember covering, they all mentioned retention, marketing, sales, customer service and programming.
It seems that no matter how much the industry has changed — how much club operators have matured and become more professional, how much the business world has started to view the industry more seriously, how much research has shown that exercise can improve longevity and quality of life — the industry still comes back to these basic issues and how to improve upon them. For me, their re-appearance in the pages of our magazine year after year shows the importance of these issues, and perhaps the fact that the industry has yet to master them.
Several of the editors noted that they felt silly reminding people every year that good customer service involved answering the phone with a smile, using members' names when they check in and wishing members well as they leave the facility. However, visits to fitness facilities during the past 25 years have shown that not enough club operators are teaching their staff these basics. Therefore, these issues continue to be featured in the magazine and now on the Web site each year.
That doesn't mean nothing has changed in the industry during the past 25 years. Yes, some of the same people are still here, but plenty of new faces have come on the scene, too. The number of fitness facilities in operation has grown to more than 30,000, many of those in the form of new types of clubs — women-only clubs, express or circuit facilities and low-priced clubs that offer no frills. The number of health club members has grown to more than 40 million. Equipment and entertainment technology have advanced, as has the science behind exercise. Club design has become more sophisticated.
In addition, the industry wasn't talking about the obesity problem in the 1980s. However, since the mid-1990s after the Surgeon General's Report showed rising obesity levels, that topic has been the overriding issue looming over the industry, which has so far been unable to curb the crisis.
Just as some things have remained the same and other things have changed in the industry, the same can be said of the magazine. What started as a bi-monthly print publication has turned into a monthly print and digital magazine, two trade shows, an e-newsletter, and a Web site with original editorial content and a blog.
We've all come a long way, haven't we? It's exciting to see the changes and to think about what is yet to come. But regardless of what the future holds, I'm sure the industry will always come back to the basics of retention, sales, marketing, customer service and programming. And that's why we will, too.