Each new year begins with expectations. And because I tend to be an optimist, I came into 2010 expecting it will end as a better year for the economy and the industry. I don't expect an immediate turnaround, but I do hope it's coming.
With those positive thoughts in mind, I put together a wish list for the industry for 2010:
1. The economy will turn around, businesses will stop laying off employees and they will start hiring again. This wish goes for health clubs and fitness equipment manufacturers, as well as businesses in general.
2. Feeling more confident about the economy and their job security, people will start buying memberships again, leading to a record year in club memberships for the industry, and club operators will start buying equipment again.
3. Banks will loosen their grip on their money and start lending again to businesses, including fitness facilities.
4. Good clubs will not go out of business, but poorly run clubs and unethical operators will be pushed out of the business by well-run operations. This eventually will lead to a better image for the industry. And when these bad clubs close, I hope they won't do so unexpectedly, leaving just a note on the door and bad publicity for the industry.
5. Retention rates will soar as clubs implement true new member integration programs that take members by the hand into all areas of the club. These programs will include follow-up with members through phone calls, e-mails and face-to-face communication, and they will get people involved in the club community so they want to come back.
6. Front desk staff at every fitness facility will actually offer a warm hello and sincere goodbye to every member.
7. Members will follow club etiquette, clean up after themselves in the locker rooms, return club towels and actually put personal items in locked lockers.
8. More club owners will install automated external defibrillators (AEDs) and train their staff on their proper use.
9. Fitness facilities will be free from any injuries, natural disasters or random acts of violence.
10. A manufacturer will release a truly new product in the industry that will create a stir unseen since the release of the elliptical.
11. The fitness industry will come together and decide the best way to proceed with certification of personal trainers — and how to deal with trainer licensing legislation.
12. The medical community will view the industry as a worthy partner, leading doctors to participate in the Exercise Is Medicine campaign waged by the American College of Sports Medicine and other groups to help combat obesity.
13. Business owners will truly see the importance of corporate wellness programs to provide a healthier work force and lower insurance costs. This realization will lead business owners to say “yes” to fitness facilities that offer wellness programs to them.
14. The obesity rate will drop for the first time in years, leading to a healthier population and less spending on medical issues.
I know that I won't get everything on my wish list, especially those wishes that seem too fantastic, but wouldn't it be great if at least a few of these wishes came true?
I'm sure you have your own wish list for the year. Let me know what's on your list, and I'll share those items on our blog.