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Scott Poston, M.S.

Founder & President

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Raising the Bar on Self-Serve Fitness Operations

Raising the bar on self-serve fitness ops

The temptation

A growing number of country clubs are eager for fitness to pay for itself, and opt for self-serve fitness facilities (i.e., unstaffed, unmanaged fitness operations). These clubs allow members to bring in their own personal trainers (unaffiliated with the club or its standards) and/or offer a group exercise schedule that never changes. Some of the more progressive self-serve operations will at least employ the trainers, and have him/her report to a non-fitness manager.

Though this business model is affordable, it is the equivalent of a hotel fitness center—and your expectations for member engagement and club value should be aligned accordingly.

To operate a fitness center at a high level requires expertise, industry know-how, and grit. If it were easy to do it well, then every fitness center in town would be booming. We all know that is not the case.

“Eight-one percent of studios close or fail in the first year,” says Ashley Selman owner of Evolution Trainers in Mountain View, CA. Selman recently conducted a webinar with the International Health Racquet and Sports Association (“IHRSA”), “Make Your Studio Stand out from the Crowd,” where she shared the lessons she learned while creating a successful boutique club in a hyper-competitive environment.

“Business is business, and even a proven concept can go off the rails if you’re not prepared.”

A lot of country clubs build a fitness center because they’re excited about the benefits of having fitness (club value, year-round amenities, to pivot to the next generation of members). You should be equally excited about learning the business side of it.

Raising the bar on your self-serve fitness operation requires three changes:

  1. Don’t allow members to bring in their own trainers

  2. Recruit a personal training coordinator to run the business

  3. Require the coordinator to produce at least one newsletter worthy announcement every month

Let’s start with the first change: outside trainers. This should be a no-brainer. You don’t allow members to bring in their own golf pros, or swim instructors, or burger flippers. Why has an exception been made for personal trainers? Stop it! It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway—quality control, service standards, and club branding are being sacrificed.

On to the second change: a personal training coordinator. Post the job and offer ten to twenty hours per week at a reasonable rate, plus commissions, and pat yourself on the back. Recruit from a nearby fitness center (preferably one that is polished), and hire someone that is fit, educated, ambitious, private club appropriate, and has experience building a business.

And finally: marketing requirements. Require your new coordinator to generate one new newsletter worthy announcement per month. The announcements can’t all be sales promotions either. Seminars, workshops, orientations, challenges, and yes—promos, can and should be announced.

The self-serve business model needs to change

Your members may not be asking for it yet, but they will soon enough. The fitness bar has been raised high in the commercial industry. It’s time for your club to rise with it.

About 1000 Hills Fitness

Founded in 2011, 1000 Hills Fitness is a leading private club fitness operations manager and consultant, combining more than 40 years of operations excellence with private clubs and luxury commercial clients. The company has the expertise to cover every aspect of delivering a high value fitness and wellness experience for Members while reducing the high costs and stagnation often associated with the industry. The firm can provide an operations evaluation, staff development, strategic planning, equipment procurement, program development, recruitment, pre-opening of your new facility, and full-service supervision of your fitness and wellness areas in order to elevate the Member experience and enrich the overall value of the Club. For more information, visit or call 303-325-2640 to connect.



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