Today's economy has challenged everyone to become more flexible in their approach to business. For today's club owners, managers and leaders, this means learning to adjust, adapt and overcome.

As the economy creates stress, opportunities will be created for those who are bold enough to take advantage of them. But first, you must take an objective, hard look at the way you do business.

How efficient is your marketing and sales process? How much value are members placing on their experiences at your club? Are you providing genuine customer service, or is it just lip service? Are you settling just for customer satisfaction, or are you striving for customer loyalty? Have you learned to adapt to your changing market, or do you just blame lack of sales on increased competition?

You must answer these questions, adjust your thinking and step outside the box to find a solution before adapting a new strategy to be competitive. The following are strategies that some clubs already are implementing.

1. The economy creates stress in people's lives. Promote a package that focuses on stress management: massage, meditation, cardio, yoga, speakers on stress, etc. Start re-selling members on why they should continue memberships, so they don't fall apart as their worlds fall apart.

2. Sell to niches. Rethink your promotions and programming. Forty percent of people in a USA Today survey said they were under increased financial pressure. Anger, irritability and fatigue have risen, as has difficulty sleeping. Programming is a need that your members and potential customers have. Are you serving it, or are you pretending that people's stress levels haven't increased? Move from a reactionary business model to an anticipatory one that allows you to experiment.

3. Actively listen to members and staff. Do member and staff surveys, offer comment cards and suggestion boxes, survey focus groups and member advisory boards, and employ mystery shoppers.

4. Set the right service foundation. Create a culture, not a club. This means developing a mission statement, credos, core service philosophy and management objectives.

5. Make sure you have passionate, committed leadership, with dedication to member service.

6. Offer management training that involves goal setting, coaching skills, quality control, being proactive, establishing a service manual and communications training.

7. Hire correctly. To do this, you need recruitment commitment, interview techniques, multiple interviews, reference checks and trial periods.

8. Hold orientations for new hires. Training should include employee handbooks, staff and member introductions, job descriptions, new hire checklists, boot camp, homework and mentoring relationships.

9. Require departmental training, including training checklists, quizzes, evaluations, individual weekly meetings and role playing.

10. Offer continuous staff training, including sending them to conventions, seminars, training meetings, personal presentations, outside speakers, club visitations and retreats, as well as creating a reference library. Also send staff to certification training.

11. Evaluate, measure and communicate with staff. It can come as monthly audits or evaluations, staff newsletters, service committees, the member service manager and meetings.

12. Recognize, reward and promote staff with retention-based pay, results compensation, superstar-of-the-month contests, service contests, thank-you notes, praise, club prizes and other incentives.

Ed Tock, president of Eddie Tock Health Club Sales and Marketing Consulting, specializes in on-site seminars and performance/profitability programs. He can be reached at 845-736-0307 or eddie@eddietock.com.