Jim Thomas is the founder and president of Fitness Management USA Inc., a management consulting and turnaround firm specializing in the fitness and health club industry. With more than 25 years of experience owning, operating and managing clubs of all sizes, Thomas lectures and delivers seminars and workshops across the country on the practical skills required to successfully build teamwork and market fitness programs and products. Visit his Web site at: www.fmconsulting.net.

In working with health clubs nationwide, one thing is clear: Strong leadership and consistent training are the hallmarks of all successful clubs.

Effective club owners and managers engage their staff and thereby improve the volume and quality of their club production. Health club employees are not only motivated by personal gain, they are also motivated by feeling like they are part of the health club. Good health club owners and managers motivate their staff using a variety of skills learned through consistent training.

So why is it then that so many clubs don’t provide the necessary training? And what are the benefits for those that do? Here are nine key thoughts:

1. “What if I train my staff and they leave?” This is the objection I hear the most from health club owners across the country. My reply is simple and straightforward: “What if you don’t train your staff and they stay?”

If we don’t give the staff in our clubs the proper training, we are putting the success of our health club in the hands of unskilled people who have no direction, focus or accountability—hardly a recipe for a successful health club.

2. Your staff is often the only point of contact with your club members and guests. How can you expect them to sell and service to your standards if you don’t show them exactly what you want?

3. Competent health club staff will give the impression of a professional, friendly and well-run club. Members and guests are, many times, willing to overlook the fact that you haven’t remodeled or even added new equipment in the club for a while if the member service they receive is genuinely good.

4. Well-trained health club staff is generally happier, more motivated, more confident and will stay with you longer. This is very good news in the health club industry. These qualities are specifically what we look for.

5. Staff training ensures the standards of your health club are met even when you are not there. It would be great to come back from a day or week off to find that everything has been handled just the way you would have handled it—no long list of complaints from members and staff. It’s far more likely to happen if you train your staff.

6. Training your staff to sell, not just service members, will improve your sales, club performance and profits. At some level, everyone is in sales. Be sure they are prepared.

7. Staff who has never been shown the correct way to tour a guest, give a membership presentation or overcome customer concerns will never allow you to maximize your club opportunity. Improper handling of club guests is like pouring money down the drain.

8. Well-trained staff will have a direct influence on member retention and regular club usage. These regular club members spend more and promote your club by word of mouth.

9. Competent, confident and committed health club staff cares about and takes ownership of the running of your club. They protect the investment. By constantly improving themselves, they allow you to move forward. The strongest teams in a health club are those that have worked together and progressed together over a period of time.