Several years ago, I belonged to a gym called, Mountainside Fitness. I was a happy member there for several years… until they did something incredibly stupid, and that eventually cost them a lot of money.
I was one of the original members when the gym opened up, and I worked out there six days a week, faithfully, while training for my competitive bike and running races, and triathlons.
The gym was convenient for me… just four miles from home. Oftentimes, I’d ride my bike to and from the gym for a nice warm up before the workout and a gentle cool down afterwards.
The people who worked the check-in desk were always friendly, and for the most part, the members were nice, cordial and friendly. But management? Well, that’s a different story altogether.
Just like a lot of businesses, they ran the gym the way THEY wanted to run it, not necessarily in the way that would be in the best interest of their members. I won’t spend any time writing about all the things that shouldn’t have been allowed to happen at the gym… instead, I’ll focus on one very irritating point that caused several members to leave, and cost the gym considerable dollars that they weren’t even aware of.
When a person joins a group, an organization, or in this case, a gym when that enterprise first opens their doors, as a courtesy, the common practice is to “grandfather” that member’s rates so they’re not affected if there is a rate increase in the future. It’s just a nice thing to do to give thanks and recognition for a person who took a chance on you and got you to where you are today.
Some organizations practice that and others don’t. And that’s okay. What’s not okay, however, is when a member’s rate is increased to pay for equipment or services that don’t affect that member because he or she doesn’t use those things. Such is what happened to me at Mountainside Fitness in Mesa, Arizona.
Mountainside decided they needed some new state of the art bikes for their spinning classes to improve their daycare facility, to offer new and better “boot camps”, and to install some new software on their trainers’ computers. In order to pay for those things, Mountainside raised the membership fees for ALL members.
All that’s okay… for those who would avail themselves of those services. But NONE of those services applied to, or even interested me. I didn’t do their spinning classes or attend their boot camps. I don’t have children that would use their day care, and the last thing I need is for some wet-behind-the-ears “trainer” who took a certification class and who very obviously has spent very little personal time in the gym working on his or her own fitness, to put some numbers in a computer and let it spit out a workout and diet for me to follow.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m not saying I know everything. But having owned two gyms in Long Beach, California, having worked out since a sophomore in high school (52 years), and being a state, national, and World Games competitive bike racer, 5k and 10k running placer, and triathlete, I kinda know what I need to do, what results I’m looking for, and how I need to train to achieve those results.
Bottom line is… I didn’t need, want, or would use ANY of the things the gym raised their rates (for ALL) members to pay for. The amount of the increase? Just $1.50 per month. Not much, I know. But it’s $18.00 per year… for things I didn’t use and would never use.
Mountainside lacked a few pieces of equipment that I’ve used in other gyms and would like to have in this gym. But do you suppose they would buy that equipment for me and the handful of other hard-core members that would use it? And if so, would they “tax” the other non-using members to pay for it? I sure wouldn’t bet on it. So why should what they did to me and the others like me be okay?
So I did a little investigation, created a PowerPoint presentation, burned it to a DVD and passed it around to the others in the gym that were negatively impacted by Mountainside’s tactic. Well, I’m sure you can imagine the fall-out they had because of that.
Now please understand… I’m not a vicious person, and I wasn’t out to destroy Mountainside. But when a company does something like what they did and you attempt to meet with management to express your concern and they either listen to your side of the story and do absolutely nothing, or they don’t even meet with you, that takes things to a whole different level.
So what about you? What about your business, if you’re a business owner? What if you’re a consultant who works with business owners… what can you learn from my experience with Mountainside that you can use with your clients’ businesses?
You can never forget that your customers… the people who pay you the money that they trade their time (read: irreplaceable and un-recoverable part of their life) for, are your biggest assets. If your building burned down, all your delivery vehicles were gone, your equipment, stock and inventory were destroyed, you could somehow find a way to replace those things (insurance, loans, etc.), and be back in business within a reasonable period of time, and continue selling to your customers.
But if all those things just mentioned stayed in tact and it was your customers who disappeared, you’d be left with overhead and no one to sell to or any way of paying your expenses. So your customers have to be the most valuable asset your business has.
The question you must answer is, “What am I doing to make it easier, more beneficial, more advantageous, more fun, more serving, and more profitable for my customers to buy from me and not my competition?”
Consider: “What can I do to make my business so remarkable, so unusual, so special, so what-my-client-wants-or-needs, that they can’t help but talk about me, refer or recommend or endorse me, and want to buy from me?” (Remember, “remarkable” means “to be able to remark” or tell others about you.)
Try putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. Call your business. Pretend you’re a prospect looking for information. What do you hear? That’s exactly what your prospects and customers hear. If it doesn’t reflect what you want or expect, change it. Hire a “secret shopper” to go into your store or business and see how they’re treated. Give them a checklist of things you want them to observe. Have them buy something, then a few days later have them take it back for a refund. What was their experience? If you’re a consultant, do some of these things for your clients. You can learn a lot, and from that education you’ll have a ton of things you can work with your clients on.
Running a business can be a nightmare… or it can be some of the most fun you can have. Consulting with business owners can be the same way. If you have the necessary training and tools, and work with clients who are teachable and truly want to grow their businesses, you can have a wonderful, long-term, profitable business… and you can do it by working just a few hours a day, and a few days a week.
Mountainside Fitness did a dumb thing… and it came back to bite them. They don’t know how much, but whatever it was, it didn’t do anything positive for their bottom line. They’re still in business this number of years later, but they lost out on some income… pure profits… that they didn’t have to. Learn from their mistake and don’t do those things in your business or those that you consult with.
Martin Howey, CEO
TopLine Business Solutions
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