What is in this article?:
- Adding Wellness Services Could Boost Your Clubâ€™s Revenues
- Accidents and Opportunities
- Best of the Best
- Low-impact, Big Rewards
- The Bottom Line
To reach out to a new market, health clubs must make a more concentrated effort to approach members’ well-being as a whole, rather than focusing solely on exercise.
Accidents and Opportunities
Gainesville Health & Fitness, a chain of three facilities in Gainesville, FL, is a shining example of a club with integrated wellness services ranging from aquatic therapy for arthritis, spinal fitness systems and physical therapy to nutrition and weight-loss counseling.
As well-organized as the services are, Gainesville owner Joe Cirulli says his decision to diversify into wellness initially resulted from several random events falling into place.
“I was initially looking at physical therapy as a career before I got into the health club business,” Cirulli says. “Once I started building my own company, I focused totally on the health club and what I needed to do to make it a success. But over time, certain things happened.”
One of those things was that Cirulli broke his knee during karate practice. After surgery, he attended therapy sessions at what he was told was the best therapy center in town. Cirulli didn’t buy it.
“All the time I was doing therapy, I was thinking ‘I can do so much better than this. I can do this in a more inspiring environment, with more inspiring people and do better than just looking at the person as a problem.’
Cirulli went back to his own club and worked on rehabbing himself. And during that time the second thing happened: Cirulli met a physical therapist from Michigan who was in Florida for only a few months. The therapist wanted to work as a personal trainer to take a break from physical therapy, and Cirulli was happy to have him on board.
“I got to know him as a great trainer, and I knew he was a great physical therapist,” says Cirulli. “I said to him, ‘Someday, I’m going to have a physical therapy center, and I’ll call you.”
The third, and final, thing was that through a fitness equipment business contact, Cirulli began testing a line of medical/rehabilitation equipment being developed at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
“The results were phenomenal what was happening to people,” says Cirulli. “And I just got to the point where I thought: ‘I can make this work now.’”
Cirulli called the physical therapist as he said he would and asked him to move to Florida. Then he invested in one of the rehab machines.
The health club was already successful thanks to its fitness facilities and programming, but Cirulli initially found it challenging to compete with already established physical therapy practices for doctor recommendations.
Cirulli and the physical therapist starting holding public seminars at Gainesville about how to reduce or eliminate low back pain. The therapist explained anatomy, physiology and proper body mechanics, and Cirulli talked about the benefits of exercise, demonstrated the rehab machine and explained the research.
“We’d give them all sorts of information and a referral pad and say ‘Go see your doctor.’ And they did,” Cirulli says. “After a while, the doctors started calling me, saying, ‘What are you doing to these people? They’re all getting better.’”
Cirulli invited the doctors in to see the facility and learn more about the program he offered, and Gainesville’s reputation grew. Eventually, Cirulli’s company took over operations of a local hospital’s rehab center. The joint venture, called ReQuest, has locations in two of Cirulli’s clubs and a third standalone physical therapy center.
Riding on the success of integrating physical therapy into his fitness clubs, Gainesville has since branched into many other wellness services. He says what drives his company is simply market need—looking at what the club members and the community need and then designing a program to serve them.
Gainesville offers a wide range of well-designed programs to address specific health issues, such as rebuilding the strength of cancer patients and easing the pain of arthritis sufferers, but it still strives to attract those who just want to get or stay in shape. Its newest plan for this goal is a line of fixed-length, small group classes called Custom Fit. Each has a specific theme, such as helping brides-to-be look and feel great on their big day. Cirulli says Gainesville will soon offer them as packages to non-members.