Keeping Members Happy During Renovations

The first thing you need to remember during any renovation project is that you will never please everyone! This may sound cold, but change is sometimes very difficult for people to deal with. You cannot let the responses or actions of some unhappy members deter you from your goal or defeat the positive attitude that you've worked so hard to acquire among your staff during your renovation.

With those footnotes aside, how do you keep your members happy during renovations? The answer is not that difficult: Involve your membership right from the start.

Advance Planning
Understand exactly what it is that you are attempting to accomplish with your renovation. Are you expanding, remodeling or redecorating? Will it just be new carpet, new color schemes, new walls or a whole new room? You see, each of these will have a different effect on your members. For the most part, the longer and larger the project, the tougher it will be on your members, especially if it directly affects their daily routines in the club, like checking in at the front desk or taking a shower.

Ask the Members
Surveying your membership is the single most important thing management can do to keep their members happy and to avoid a lot of problems down the road. But don't just survey them and forget them. You must keep your members involved in the process from beginning to end.

You also have to consider why you are doing your renovation and make sure it's what the members want or need. For example, have you ever heard of a club that has tried to expand the number of lockers in the same size locker room by installing half or "z" lockers, only to have members rebel because they feel they are being forced to share lockers? I have. This can be a costly mistake: Not only has the club paid to replace lockers, but the members feel that the club doesn't care about their feelings and needs.

Keep Members Updated
Once you have received input from your members on what they want to change, keep them abreast of the club's decisions and timetables. Provide them with a time chart and work schedule of when constructions will begin, where it will be and how long it will take.

Give the members advance notice regarding your renovations. The more information your members have on the what, where, when and how, the less complaints you'll get.

Use signs, posters and announcements in the club, mail announcements about your renovations, use your newsletter to keep members apprised of progress. Use a tripod or bulletin board in your lobby to chart progress, and to show color schemes and samples of materials for members to see and touch.

If you have to move some classes, have extra staff on hand to assist your members with the new locations for the first few days. You need to go out of your way to look at what your members will go through when you renovate, and prepare for everything.

Involve Your Members
Another way to keep your members happy during your renovations is to involve them in a fun manner. Give them hard hats to work out with, have a motivational contest associated with the renovation, or launch a referral contest for new members.

Don't forget to have a grand reopening and show off your renovations. Invite your members, staff and community to see your end results and to thank your members for their support during the renovations.

Remember the key to keeping everyone happy is to ask your members what is important to them and then keep them as informed as possible while going the extra mile during renovations. Try for as little disruption as possible, and go out of your way to make them as comfortable and safe as possible without breaking up their regular routines. Remember to smile, have fun and that tomorrow is always another day!

Jan Rubins is the owner and general manager of LifeCenter Plus Health and Fitness in Hudson, Ohio. He can be reached at (330) 655-2377.


Additional Key Tips

Remember that your goal is to inconvenience your members as little as possible during your renovations, so consider the following:

- Don't take the easy way out. Just because you may be having your group exercise room renovated doesn't mean you can cancel class. Find another place to hold classes, even if it's in a hallway!

- Make it fun and different. For example, challenge your staff to think of new names for classes that may have to be relocated.

- Plan your renovation appropriately. Don't plan on renovating your locker rooms during your busiest season. If possible, do it when the least amount of members will be affected, like July or August. Consider doing some of your renovations when the club is closed. You may end up paying a little more, but you may make your members a whole lot happier, especially if you are dealing with any kind of fumes or major traffic areas within the club.