Operations: Assessing Current Circumstances to Make Improvements By Lindsey Rainwater

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We’re nearing the end of the year and ’tis the season to take stock of our current situations — in our personal and professional lives — to determine whether we need to make a change. November and December can be a drag in the club world, with current member attendance slowing for the holidays and many new prospects waiting until the new year to join. Take advantage of the downtime and use it to plan ahead — come January when those prospects are ready to join, you’ll be glad you did!

Any successful business person knows that to keep the same operating plan year over year is asking for trouble. To keep the status quo is comfortable, but it’s also dangerous to your business. So if you want to improve, where do you start? In his book “Good to Great,” James Collins discusses an approach for businesses in just that situation.

The first step in bringing your club to the next level is to start asking questions. Formulate a list of key questions and ask them of yourself and of those around you — colleagues, employees, and even patrons — to get the most accurate view of things as they really are. Your questions should foster dialogue and collaboration, not arguments, and you should never go into conversations believing that your way is the best. As Collins puts it, “good-to-great leaders engage staff in finding data-driven solutions to corporate challenges.”

Don’t shortchange yourself by reviewing the past year in general terms. Get granular! For example, don’t just estimate that 20 people attended bootcamp class when your instructor can give you an exact headcount. Don’t assume that patrons want new equipment every year — study usage patterns and you might find that the tried-and-true leg press machine is the most popular one on the floor.

These honest assessments will reveal areas where your club was successful, areas that need improvement, and things you tried this year that didn’t work at all. For the things that won’t make next year’s business plan, Collins recommends to “conduct an autopsy,” exploring mistakes and understanding why the strategies behind them didn’t work out.

In short, achieving success with your club does take planning and foresight, but for long-term success? The cornerstone is actually hindsight.