3 Ways Climbing Can Surge Up Teamwork.

3 Ways Climbing Can Surge Up Teamwork.

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For every key I type there is a small sting in the “distal phalange” of my fingers. In other words, each and every joint in my fingers are aching. And you know what? For the story and team bonding experience that I am about to share—it is totally, absolutely, 100% worth it.
So, here’s the gravity of the situation. Before I was a master of fearing heights, I was a veteran of never turning down the opportunity to spend time with others. Part of having a detail oriented filter is this urge to learn more, from both myself and the people around me. So, who was I to say no, I don’t want to do this awesome thing that could potentially open my perspective? I said yes before I could remember what yes means and then spent the remainder of days dreading my amiable tendencies.
But I climbed. I climbed a fifteen-foot wall. A tanned fifteen-foot wall stapled with brightly colored stones, some in the shapes of dinosaurs—and others, just stones. I would soon come to identify these as holds. I learned the name as our instructor waved his hand along a path of said colored stones and said “each hold has a color grade and route.” He proceeded to explain that the color hold you start with helps determine your route for as far as you can go.
So, for example, you choose a green hold, you should ideally reach for nothing but more green holds. My mind has a detail oriented filter (as I’ve mentioned) so learning how much color and design is put into indoor climbing was pretty impressive. Some holds looked like flaming heads and some looked like turtle shells. However, color coded holds are not the part of this story that I will be detailing further. This was just an opener to explain how there’s so much more to climbing than a surface observation. What it takes to climb is courage, confidence, trust, and most of all, good teamwork because when you climb, you don’t climb alone. It takes teamwork. Yes. It takes two to climb.

Be the Belayer. Support Your Team.

To climb, there must be two people, each with a role and title. The first, naturally, is the climber. This is the one who embarks on a journey upward. The second, is the belayer. This lucky penny is responsible for pulling a rope connected to the climber as they climb.
The more rope the belayer has under their arms, the safer the journey down for the climber when they choose to descend. It sounds easy in theory, but in action, quite stressful, yet exceptionally rewarding. Being the belayer is being both a physical and mental cheerleader for the team. Each pull on the rope is a cheer of support for your colleagues. The more support given to your colleagues the quicker they can reach their goals and also recover from any fall.simplified illustration of people climbing a rock wall

Be The Climber. Trust Your Team.

As the climber, I constantly felt the rope of my harness pulling back, ensuring my safety as I slowly reached higher and higher. It was a noticeable pulling sensation at first and then it became a second thought as I continued to climb. Later I realized that was trust. Reaching ahead towards your goals without looking back but knowing there is someone there to help.
Of course, we all have our moments of doubt that suddenly come back full force. When I reached the top it happened, I froze and my mind went blank. There was nothing I could do alone because the next step for me was to lean away from the wall as if I was…. you guessed it, falling. Except I wouldn’t fall. The rope being pulled by my belayer slowly, safely reeled me down and I felt like a bird safely floating on a tree branch. It felt easy. With trust teamwork is easy. Though full disclosure, I didn’t lean back immediately after reaching the top, but after an experience of good sound teamwork, there will be no hesitation.

Be The Volunteer. Motivate Your Team

You already know, I wasn’t on board with climbing in the beginning and I probably would have never tried it on my own. But there was something that made me agree to try and that was the enthusiasm of my friend who asked me. My friend the volunteer. It was through their energy that I agreed to partake in an experience that would completely enhance the bond between us.
So what’s the message here? It’s to be the volunteer. Be the one who ventures and asks and occasionally dares. Rock climbing is not the obvious solution to stronger team building but it is a good example of those looking for new team building activities. From freeze tag to charades, there’s a chance you’ve played a game that tests the bond between you and your coworkers. While you may think the best way to enhance that bond is to keep playing the same game, the better solution is to instead try something completely new. New experiences and challenges help us improve our skills, so why not add “rock climber” to your team player description? It’ll surely stand out on any resume!

gym healthcare

Workplace Wellness Programs: Value of Investment Over Return on Investment

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If you’ve ever contemplated partnering with businesses to offer employer-sponsored fitness programs, there’s no time like the present. No, really — there’s no time like the present. According to the ninth annual Willis Health and Productivity survey, 2015 is a “watershed year” for employer-sponsored health and wellness offerings. As has been the case for a number of years now, employers increasingly are offering programs designed to help employees achieve and maintain better health. But now employers have begun looking beyond the financial gains of such programs. “Given a choice, respondents focused on the value of a health management program…over program cost,” the report states.

What it comes down to is this: More organizations are turning away from expectations of an immediate return on investment (ROI) for their wellness programs and turning toward the value of investment (VOI) of such programs. In other words, they care less about reducing medical costs and more about boosting employee morale, increasing worksite productivity, reducing employee absence, and keeping employees safe. The Willis report states that, of 703 survey respondents, 64 percent have VOI-focused wellness programs, compared with 28 percent that have ROI-focused programs. For health clubs, gyms, and fitness centers, this means greater opportunities to provide quality programs to workplaces.

Interestingly, the report also notes that “Of those organizations without a wellness program, the majority of respondents (29%) stated that they do not have enough time or staff to start a program.” Again, this is an opening for health clubs, gyms, and fitness centers. Consider how your facility might put together predesigned packages — and customized packages — that provide full workplace health and wellness programs, including physical activity, healthy-eating plans, weight loss and management, tobacco-use reduction, and the like. Then consider the ways in which you could market such a program to businesses in your area. Knowing that companies are more interested in VOI than ROI, you might make increased productivity, better self-care, and higher employee morale some of your selling points. You might need to educate your potential partners on the advantages of focusing on VOI over ROI. You could sum those up the way the Willis Report does: “Organizations with a Value of Investment (VOI) focus tended to be more satisfied with the impact of their programs.” And you’ll definitely want to point out the time, staff, and other resources the businesses would save by partnering with you.

One thing to keep in mind is that, according to the report, “Forty-three percent of the respondents have implemented a health club reimbursement subsidy or corporate discount, and 35 percent have implemented a health club corporate discount.” Offering the businesses in your area a discount for their employees gives you a low-maintenance way of providing businesses with the health and wellness programs they want but don’t have the resources to incorporate on-site.  Make sure your club management software is capable of tracking these corportate or business membership programs. For example, a good management software system will make it simple to pull reports for each corporate plan and allow businesses to easily calculate employee reimbursements. All in all, now is the perfect time to assess your existing plan for partnering with businesses to offer workplace wellness programs or to develop a new plan — and then to get out there and sell those programs. Businesses are hungry for them.

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Finding Time to Combat Epic Gym Fails

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Most gym enthusiasts will, at some point, observe an ‘Epic Gym Fail’ whilst working out. With smart phones in hand, there is plenty of supporting evidence that more and more people are being captured executing what can only be described as ‘Gnarly maneuvers’. These videos range from misfortunate to downright stupid. To add insult to injury (which is very likely) these videos end up online for all to see.

Putting aside the ethical debate of posting these videos in the first place, it’s clear from reading viewers’ comments that some people find these clips comedic gold. On the flip side, there are others that suggest the people capturing these videos would be better off giving advice rather than jeering at these poor souls’ lack of education and safety training.

Other than the humiliation and obvious risk of serious injury to the gym member, you have to ask what it’s saying about the facility these events take place in. Imagine signing up as a new Gym member and then witnessing some crazy guy doing a Tarzan impression with a weight machine on your social media feed? I know I’d certainly question whether the staff are giving the right advice, let alone, if I’d made the right choice in signing up for this gym.

Having witnessed several gym fails for myself, I’ve often wondered why there are no staff members monitoring the floor at all times. Surely if more staff were around they would step in to educate, combat and eradicate these events from occurring in the first place.

So how does one go about finding time when resources and budgets are already stretched thin? Make no mistake; it’s not easy juggling schedules, payments, memberships, attrition rates, marketing, disparate systems and other managerial duties involved in running a Gym. It’s no wonder some Gym’s find it hard to balance a good mix of monitoring their members whilst adhering to all the other business processes required! I’m sure, if given the chance, all Gym owners would love to find more time to nurture the wellbeing and success of their clients’ goals by giving hands-on help at all times – sadly that’s not always an option.

So my point is this: How do Gym owners and their staff free more time to spend with customers, ensuring safety, good customer care and, most importantly, no Epic Gym Fails?.

There are two very simple answers: The more obvious one is to employ more staff, which we have already established isn’t always a viable option due to lack of funding. The second less obvious answer is to work out how to streamline, consolidate and automate some of your business processes to free up valuable time and resources. As with any business the first place you can always look to do this is by assessing the software you use to run your business.

Generally speaking, finding an all-in-one software solution is usually the way to go. Having a unified system to manage all aspects of your business will always significantly increase efficiencies/productivity, save time and, ultimately, money.

Luckily, here at EZFacility, we offer exactly that! If you want to benchmark your existing systems to see how much time we can save you, then sign up for a free demo/trial and assess for yourself what EZFacility can do for your business! Streamline, grow, nurture, inspire – it’s EZ


Train Employees Efficiently—Online

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If you run a sports facility, fitness center, or gym, you’ve probably embraced technology—these days, it’s impossible not to. You have your social media sites streamlined and constantly updated. You have your employees carrying around tablets for instant accessibility and communication. You have gym members uploading data from their personal fitness devices into your club management software. You might even have your fitness studios hooked up so members at home can stream classes. But have you thought about online training for your employees?
In this industry, training is crucial for some skills and types of knowledge. Think of pool management, for example. No matter what type of facility you run, if you’ve got a pool, your aquatics team needs to know, for starters, how to circulate and filtrate water, how to test for contamination and handle disinfection, and how to understand water chemistry concepts and calculations. Maybe you have the in-house resources—the time, the personnel—to pass this knowledge along.
If you don’t, signing your employees up for online training courses is the most efficient and effective way of getting them up to speed. Athletic Business runs a pool management course in partnership with the National Swimming Pool Foundation. Eight hours long, the interactive class promises to give your employees all the information they need to operate a pool expertly. The Aquatic Training Institute also offers a course, culminating in pool technician certification. Universities and MOOC (massive open online course) providers, such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, are likely to offer free online pool management classes of their own.
In fact, universities and MOOC-providers are go-to web presences for all of your facility’s training and professional development needs. Personal trainers can find specific classes to address areas of knowledge they may be lacking, such as how to work with elderly or disabled populations, how to incorporate high-intensity training into existing workouts, and how to work with injured athletes. In this age of the Internet, almost any skill you or your employees need to develop can be learned cheaply and effectively online. You might have to invest some time into researching the options, but the investment will pay off in spades when you find yourself with a crew that knows what it’s doing (or knows how to find out what to do when it doesn’t know what it’s doing).
So how do you begin to incorporate online training? Whenever it makes sense, require new hires to educate themselves via courses you specify or allow them to choose from. This is an excellent way, in fact, to use inevitable downtime during the first couple weeks of employment, when new hires are learning the ropes. For existing employees, offer incentives. Give them a day off in exchange for completing a course, or throw a giant staff appreciation party—maybe even consider paying a small amount for each class an employee takes. It won’t be long before your staff realizes that, in addition to boosting your facility’s overall performance level, you’re offering them an opportunity for personal growth.

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Retaining Employees

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Some of the challenges fitness centers, gyms, and health clubs face are seasonal: getting members into the facility when the weather turns warm, dealing with the New-Year’s-resolution rush, running a member-recruitment campaign. But the challenge of holding on to valuable employees is perennial. After you’ve invested in a costly advertising and interviewing process, you spend a great number of resources training your staff and giving them time to acclimate. How do you then hold on to them for as long as possible?
Some club managers focus on keeping personal trainers happy. Gerard Oliver, General Manager of the Al Corniche Club Resort & Spa in Kuwait told IHRSA in a blog post that his facility keeps its fitness team incentivized by deemphasizing the revenues generated from personal training sessions. Without the pressure from the club to chase money by packing in as many sessions as possible, trainers are free to concentrate on the quality of their work. As Oliver says, “They have the desire and the time to education themselves, and interestingly enough, they have increased our revenues… They help members achieve the results they want and this helps with member retention, which is our top priority.”
For Aydin Buyukyilmaz, General Manager of Renewaclub in Turkey, the key strategy for successful employee retention is establishing a performance system that depends not on the budget of the club, but on the relative performance of the employees. Offering a competitive salary and a strong benefits package, while paying attention to market dynamics and making frequent adjustments accordingly, makes employees feel valued. But most of all, Buyukyilmaz says, the club works hard to create a sense of family among employees, which keeps them feeling connected and also benefits the club.
Lisa Welko, President of Ellipse Fitness in Appleton, Wisconsin, says the key is mentorship. “Build confidence in [employees’] abilities and allow them to grow within the organization,” she told the IHRSA blog. “We place special emphasis on training and continued development of everyone’s skills.” Fostering employees’ professional development increases their loyalty and keeps them motivated, Welko says.
One strategy might be to fire all these guns at once: Free your personal trainers from the pressure of increasing their number of sessions, focus on your employee compensation and performance packages, consciously create a sense of family among your staff, and emphasize mentorship and the development of specialized skills. Doing any one of these things takes time, money, effort, and a certain amount of vigilance; doing them all certainly will complicate a manager’s workload. But the potential payoff is huge: money saved, investments coming to fruition, and loyal expertise on staff. What more can a fitness facility ask for?
No doubt you have your own strategies for retaining your best employees. What are they? Share your best practices, and others will share theirs.

Reflect on Your Business Decisions

Consider Your Business Decisions

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If you own a health club or sports facility, you know that about 98 percent of the job consists of making decisions. In any aspect of life, decision-making can be challenging, but in the context of running a business, it can be especially nerve-wracking. The success of the business, your livelihood, the livelihood of others—all of these things depend on you making sound decisions (and, when we’re talking health clubs and sports facilities, the health and happiness of a lot of people also can depend on those decisions).
IHRSA’s blog recently ran an interesting piece featuring three health club owners and the business decisions they’re most proud of. Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength in Plymouth, Minnesota, said that he’s proudest of his club’s decision to make the development and treatment of staff its highest priority. “Our increases in revenue always seem to be linked to our investment in our employees,” he says. “We started with only part-time employees. As soon as we created full-time, career track, salaried positions, our revenue dramatically increased…. When we gave our staff budgets for travel and continuing education, our revenue increased even more. Every time we make an effort to improve our staff and demonstrate that we care about them, they seem to be increasingly effective with our clients.”
Floriane Chatron, Founder of Aquaflorès in Paris, France, says she is proudest of launching an aqua-wellness facility in a difficult market with many low-cost competitors. “I am proud to have taken up this challenge, which, to most observers, seemed doomed to fail,” she says. And Jason Cerniglia, owner of Hoover Fitness in Hoover, Alabama, said he’s proudest of his decision to write an exercise and diet book. “First,” he noted, “I can help people anywhere and anytime, regardless of whether they are members or not. Second, instead of paying for a one-hour diet consult, people can buy the book and get the information they need. Third, it’s a great retention tool for my club because it helps members get results. Fourth, it can be a retention tool for other clubs. Most of all, the book can help deconditioned people, because it teaches how to get results and still enjoy life.”
While each of these decisions offers good ideas to other business owners (definitely prioritize your employees’ well being, don’t hesitate to launch something you believe in even if no one else seems to—and maybe it’s time to start thinking about writing a book!), the lesson here really is that, as a health club or sports facility owner, you can benefit from taking a moment to reflect on business decisions you have made. Which one are you most proud of? Why? Which one has been the least effective? Why? Jot down answers to these questions, and then take some time to analyze the processes you used while making your best decision and your worst one. Were other people involved or was it a solo choice? How did you conduct research before making the decision—or did you? Do your colleagues agree with your assessment of your best and worst decisions? Do they have ideas for how to continually make good ones? What have you learned from the decisions you’ve made?
The thing is, decision-making is tricky—enough that it’s its own field of study within cognitive science research. No one really understands how it works. The more familiar you are with your own decision-making processes, the more likely you are to have an immediate answer (or so many immediate answers that you might have trouble deciding which one to give) the next time someone asks you what business decision you’re most proud of.

Planning for Emergencies

Planning for Emergencies

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My son is eight years old, the age at which curiosity, acquired knowledge, and a total fascination with disaster scenarios come together beautifully and lead to all kinds of thought-provoking (and sometimes horrifying) what-if questions. What if the house blew up just as we were about to step inside of it? What if a tornado ripped through town unexpectedly while summer camp was in session? What if we went to watch a baseball game at Yankee Stadium and an earthquake happened in the first inning?
That last one gave me pause. What if an earthquake did happen during a baseball game? What if you run a sports facility or a recreation complex or, for that matter, a gym, health club, or fitness center and you’re faced with a major emergency? How do you prepare yourself? How do you even begin to think of something as massive, and as potentially devastating, as an earthquake?
Kevin Bryant, a senior facility manager for the Gordon Faber Recreation Complex in Hillsboro, Oregon (which boasts a 3,700-seat baseball stadium, a 7,200-seat football/soccer stadium, and six softball fields) addressed such questions in a recent article for Sports Venue Safety, a supplement to Athletic Business. Bryant has encountered a number of extraordinary situations at his facility: a drunk and belligerent spectator, drug-use by a semi-professional sports team in the locker room, lights going out during a stormy, night-time, high-school football game. None of these are on the scale of an earthquake, but they got him thinking about the importance of being ready should a major emergency occur.
In order to frame out a coherent emergency plan, including an evacuation strategy, Bryant and his team—full-time and part-time staff—engaged in a months-long effort. Starting with the simple plan they already had (and you no doubt have at least a simple one of your own), they called upon the expertise of police and fire first-responders, city staff, and school district personnel. They researched actual emergencies that had happened at other facilities, used virtual reality software, and good, old-fashioned brainstorming to imagine potential situations. At the end of the process, they produced a carefully crafted, solidly tested, emergency and evacuation plan.
Bryant offers some useful advice. The first step, he says, was getting practical training for all full-time staff so that, at the very least, everyone knows how to administer basic first-aid and everyone has some AED and CPR training. Whether you run a sports facility or a gym or health club, you’ve probably prepared key staff members for simple emergencies in similar ways. But it’s worth asking yourself whether you’ve trained enough staff and whether new employees need training. Do you have a plan for yearly refresher sessions?
After training, Bryant and his team made a list of the exact types of emergencies they might encounter at their facility and then researched preferred ways of dealing with those emergencies. They looked into bomb threats, critical operations shutdowns, fires in and outside the stadium, extreme weather situations (including, yes, earthquakes), medical emergencies, and even nuclear fallout. They outlined, among other things, what the immediate reaction to each type of emergency would be, who would be responsible for what, and how the city and first-responders would be involved. The take-away here is that different kinds of disasters require different kinds of responses. At your facility, you must have a specific plan for each kind, and all the players must be clear on their roles.
Once you’ve got your written plan, you need to start another round of training—this time stepping through the actual plan as if an emergency had occurred. Bryant’s staff went through a fire drill. On a day when there was no event, they pulled the fire-alarm, role-played responses, and then discussed how it all went. The exercise revealed the importance of communication in the midst of chaos, noise, and stress, and showed Bryant that, while a written plan is crucial, realistic training is the only way to get all players on board with how to manage an actual situation.
Another great thing about eight-year-olds is that they’re convinced they can overcome any disaster scenario they might have to face; when my son explains how he’s going to deal with the tornado-at-summer-camp, or any other similar situation, he always describes his own deeds of daring and his phenomenal, heroic triumphs. I love his confidence and optimism, but I always try to remind him that he has a good chance of succeeding as long as he has a carefully thought-through plan.


New Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Commission Seeks Collaborators

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By now, you’ve probably heard of the report recently released by the Vitality Institute, a New York-based organization made up of leaders in both the public and private sectors. Their main focus is to strengthen the evidence base of what works and what doesn’t in health promotion and disease prevention. The report, Investing in Prevention: A National Imperative, offers recommendations on these topics. A particular recommendation that has people talking is one that some may find controversial: Companies should report their employee health metrics just as they report their financial earnings.
Eighty percent of non-communicable diseases could be prevented, the report states. Preventing these diseases by 2023 could save the United States between $217 billion and $303 billion per year—about five percent to seven percent of annual healthcare spending. How do you prevent the diseases? By collecting data on individuals’ health profiles, identifying who might be at risk, and presumably then encouraging healthy habits.
Any time an individual’s private data is collected, it’s controversial. But the report seems to argue that health-related data isn’t merely private—the information that it contains could reveal ways to help strengthen society at some of its most fundamental levels. “The consequences of non-communicable diseases have short- and long-term effects by forcing individuals to exit the workforce prematurely due to their own poor health, or to care for ill relatives,” the report states. “Lower productivity and higher absenteeism, combined with soaring costs of treatment, impede innovation and crowd out productive investment in education and research and development.” In light of that, the Vitality Institute argues, it’s imperative that we know the state of health of America’s employees.
Why should you care about all this? The commission that put together the Vitality Institute’s report represents high-powered public- and private-sector organizations, such as Microsoft Corp., IBM, AARP, Humana, Johns Hopkins University, Qualcomm, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. These organizations have promised to carry out four initiatives meant to revolutionize the prevention of diseases and the promotion of health in the United States. To launch these initiatives, the commission is seeking collaborators — and what businesses are better positioned to collaborate than gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, and sports centers, which already work toward disease prevention and health promotion? Now is the time to get involved.
In addition to building a Corporate Health Leaders Program comprising evidence-based workplace health promotion training courses for small, medium, and large employers, the commission also plans to “convene a workshop on ethical, legal, and social issues with respect to the use of data collected by personal prevention technologies.” Another initiative aims to strengthen leadership and advocacy through networks. All in all, these are sweeping ideas that could have a huge impact on the future of fitness in this country. That’s where you come in. And here’s an interesting idea for you: What if your company were one of the first to voluntarily begin reporting employees’ health metrics? You’d sure get noticed.

Bringing Sales to the Next Level

Bringing Sales to the Next Level

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I have a friend who works in the sales department of an education publishing company. Recently, she won an award for having the highest monthly sales for six months running. She and her three colleagues all went through the same training, but she consistently outsells them by significant amounts (and she didn’t even have sales experience when she was hired). She told me that one of her colleagues asked her, “What is it about you? How do you do it?” My friend says she has no idea, but I do: It’s just who she is. She’s friendly to everyone and always upbeat. She really listens to people. She’s a great problem-solver. She never says no to anything. (Yes, I realize how lucky I am to have her as a friend.)

Wouldn’t it be great if she were working for your facility? Chances are, you already have some high-quality salespeople on staff. But how can you help them be even better? How can you take your sales staff from good to great?

1) Start with professional training for your sales leaders. This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re hiring experienced people and you’re confident about their ability to cinch a sale, the need for training could be overlooked. In fact, there’s a reason teachers, doctors, lawyers, and others have to fulfill a certain number of professional development hours each year. We all get rusty; especially in sales, when someone is making the same pitch over and over again, it’s easy to lose some of the vitality and charisma — that stuff my friend has—that is crucial to a successful transaction. Plus, the better trained your leaders are, the better trained your whole sales team will be: Solid skills and best practices trickle down. Ideally, you want to let your sales leaders choose their own training programs, ones that suit their personalities and styles.

2) Look for passion and interpersonal skills more than sales experience. Experience comes with time, but passion about fitness? An ease with people, a willingness to see each individual as unique and to truly listen to them, and the finesse required to help customers get their needs met? Those things are hard to fake.

3) If your sales numbers aren’t high enough and training isn’t producing the results you desire, you might have to ask yourself difficult questions. Do you have the right people on staff? Might you have to let a weaker employee go, or find a position that better suits his or her strengths? Do what you can to help naturally good salespeople get better, but know when it’s time to shake up the team.

4) Finally, focus on relationship-building. You want to think about this on a couple levels. First, what is your relationship to your sales team, both the leaders and the people who work under them? Do you have a personal connection to them? Do they know what your goals are and why those goals are important to you? Do they trust you? Second, what is your sales team’s relationship to prospects? Do they make an effort to connect personally? Do they listen to their needs and do whatever they can to fulfill them?

Keep in mind one more thing: Your facility and your staff are going to reflect you. As a manager or owner, you set the tone. If you (like my friend) are open and upbeat yourself, if you really listen to your employees and you tackle problems in creative ways, you’re likely to find that your sales staff (and, for that matter, other employees) do too.

The Right Hire For Your Gym

The Right Hire For Your Gym

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If you’re a fan of reality television, or even if you’re not, you have probably heard about the recent episode of Inside Job that featured New York’s David Barton Gym. Inside Job’s premise is that a company seeking to fill a position agrees to let the show’s producers select three candidates. Those candidates live together for a week and undertake challenges that supposedly reveal their worthiness for the job. A fourth person also lives in the house, someone already employed by the company who presents himself or herself as another candidate for the position. That person is the insider, reporting back to the CEO about the candidates and choosing one of them to recommend.
Well, that’s one way to hire an employee. For those of us who don’t have the opportunity to get to know job candidates quite so intimately before we hire them, we need other approaches. Since so many staff positions at a fitness center or sports facility involve direct interaction with members and clients, it’s crucial to hire carefully. Moreover, hiring is an expensive process; you want to get a good return on your investment.
What can you do to ensure you’re hiring well? To begin with, craft an excellent, clear, and precise job description. The more specific your description, and the more explicitly you define what you’re looking for, the better your chances of finding appropriate candidates. If you need a marketing person with social media experience, don’t just put, “Five years marketing experience”. It’s better to write, “Experienced marketing professional with social media expertise.” Also, be sure to stick in a few words that convey the sort of work ethic you’re looking for. If you want to scare off potential loafers, then change that wording to “Dedicated, experienced marketing professional with social media experience, a can-do attitude, and the willingness to stick it out when things get tough.”
Once you’ve collected your applications and narrowed the pool down to a handful of candidates, line up your interviews. Let me stress on the word “handful”: At this point, you don’t want to bring in too many people. Start with your top three or four choices; if you can’t find what you’re looking for among them, you can always call in others.
No doubt you’ve conducted interviews before, so you know the drill. Still, there’s one thing that’s easy to forget: Interviews are not effective if you’re focusing only on the science behind them — the questions you should and shouldn’t ask, how you read a résumé, what answers a candidate gives to your questions. More effective is to focus on the art of interviewing. This means paying attention to how a candidate answers your questions more than what they say. Did you get an answer — but not to the question you asked? Were there inconsistencies in the candidate’s replies? What was the candidate’s body language saying, what were the unconscious reactions and gestures? These will help you better understand who the person is (rather than just what he or she has done).
Once you make an offer, be prepared to negotiate. Any candidate worth hiring is probably going to come to you with a counter-offer. Remain open to the offer. Often, it reflects what the potential employee truly thinks he or she is worth. You might not be able to meet the counter-offer, but you might gain some clues about what alternative offers the candidate might be willing to accept. If you really want the person, you’ll have to find a way to make him or her happy.
Which brings me to my final point: Keep your employees happy. The gym and sports industries by nature face high turnover (how about a reality TV show that addresses that fact?). When you’ve invested the time, money, and energy to hire the right candidate, you want to do everything you can to make sure he or she stays. Create an open, warm workplace that makes relationship-building a priority. Recognize and reward good work. Consider perks such as tuition reimbursement, free lunches, and employee-of-the-month programs. The investment in human capital is worth it.

Fill Positions And Keep Them Filled

Fill Positions And Keep Them Filled

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There’s a particular kind of frustration that all business owners have experienced: You spend time and money searching for the perfect employee. You make a promising hire, invest valuable resources in training, and finally breathe a sigh of relief — and then your employee moves on. So how do you fill positions and keep them filled?

At fitness centers and sports facilities, certain positions are especially hard to keep staffed. Over on the IHRSA blog, three fitness/sports center owners recently answered questions about the positions they’ve repeatedly had difficulty filling. For Telos Fitness Center in Dallas, Texas, the trickiest position is the front desk. “By nature, [it’s] entry-level and offers competitive, but minimal, hourly pay and ‘front line’ responsibilities,” says Brent Darden, the center’s owner/general manager. At Riverside Health Club in Mount Vernon, Washington, owner Karen Westra has found the facilities manager position most challenging to fill. Joe Cabibbo, owner and general manager of Odyssey Athletic Center in Waldwick, New Jersey, struggles with personal trainers leaving because they lack skills to market their services.

Whatever position you struggle to keep properly staffed at your own facility, there are some general steps you can take to improve the situation. First, take the time to analyze all of the tasks that the position in question is responsible for. You might find that you’re consistently hiring people with the wrong experience, or that the tasks can be split between two positions, making it easier to keep the troublesome one filled. That’s what Westra discovered when she sat down and listed out everything a facilities manager would have to do in order to keep up with preventative maintenance demands at her club. The solution? Hire a facilities assistant, and consult regularly with the facilities manager about which tasks can be delegated.

Next, rather than investing resources in a particular individual, invest in systems and training. This approach works for Darden with the font desk job. “We have found the best solution is to invest heavily in the systems and training of front desk staff in order to maintain consistent service, despite frequent turnover,” he says. In other words, even if you have to make a new hire for the front desk position, or any position, every six or nine months, having seamless systems in place and a rigorous training program will ensure that members’ day-to-day experience doesn’t change much.

Finally, for personal trainer positions or similar ones that require self-promotion, make sure your hires are equipped to engage in self-promotion. As Cabibbo puts it, “Regardless of the extent of their certification, personal trainers seem to have difficulty applying their knowledge in a marketing/sales aspect.” Where certification programs fail, you might have to be prepared to teach. Keep your coaches, personal trainers, and perhaps other employees up-to-speed on the best ways to attract and keep clients. You’re the one who will benefit in the end, because you won’t have to worry about replacing the employees who aren’t keeping themselves busy enough.

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The CEO Pledge

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Have you heard about the CEO Pledge? It’s a campaign promoted by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) to encourage CEOs to recognize physical activity as an important driver of employee health and business performance. In other words, it’s a great opportunity for health clubs to connect with corporate clients.
The idea is that company leaders promise to make their employees’ health and wellness — and their own health and wellness — a priority by providing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during, or after the workday. They agree to implement at least six strategies from a list of suggested strategies to create a workplace culture of physical activity. The list of strategies is broken into three categories — behavioral, educational, and environmental/policy — and participants are encouraged to choose strategies from each category. Some of the suggested strategies include “organize onsite fitness classes,” “reimburse employees for purchases of fitness equipment or physical activity-related programs,” and “create an onsite fitness area or reimburse/subsidize the cost of an offsite fitness center membership.”

This is good news for fitness facilities, particularly because the campaign is pretty ambitious — its goal is to get every CEO in the United States to take the pledge. Why not make it easier for them to do so? Now would be a great time to reach out to companies in your area, asking if they’ve heard about the pledge and are willing to take it, informing them about it if they don’t already know, and offering special deals to organizations whose CEOs sign up.
While you’re at it, it might be a good time to review your corporate outreach program in general. Do you have one? Have you considered how corporate sales could positively impact your facility, and whether you have the infrastructure to support such sales? If you already have a corporate outreach program in place, is it robust enough? Have you kept up to date on the latest workplace fitness programs, read the studies about physical activity in the workplace, understood the issues, and come up with strong sales pitches?

With the CEO Pledge campaign under way, there’s an opportunity in front of you. Polish up your connections to corporate clients and knock on the doors of those CEOs getting ready to sign the pledge.

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How Do You Let Employees Know They Are Valued?

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“The quality of any club’s performance is directly related to how the employees are treated every day.” That’s Bill Brackman, Sports Manager of the Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY, responding to a question posed recently on the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association’s (IHRSA) blog. The question? How do you let employees know they are valued?

It’s a crucial issue. If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to make a health club successful — you can’t do every job that needs to be done yourself, after all. But it doesn’t take just any village; it takes one that’s dedicated, caring, loyal, energetic, driven, self-motivated, and content (for starters). How do you ensure that your staff is all of those things? Small, fun rewards help. At Brackman’s club, employees and their guests were invited to an open-bar dinner party at the clubhouse when Golf World Magazine named theirs the “Best Private Club in the U.S.” Also, the club provides a couple annual staff appreciation events — a poolside barbeque, a holiday party.
But be careful. You have to already have thriving employees before you start offering such rewards; otherwise, you might end up with a disgruntled crew feeling like you’re trying to buy their happiness without paying attention to their real needs. Are your employees fairly compensated? Do you offer them the best benefits you can? Do you appreciate their lives outside of work, and let them know it? Do you praise their accomplishments publicly (both the work-related and the personal ones)? Perhaps most importantly, do your employees voice to you their concerns? (If they don’t, don’t fool yourself into believing it’s because they don’t have any; it’s impossible to be an employee without having them. But if you’re not hearing about them, that may be a sign that the staff doesn’t feel free to come to you with them.)

Darren Kanwisher, owner of the Fifth Avenue Club in Alberta, Canada, takes a pretty radical approach to ensuring employee satisfaction: “Our members don’t come first—our employees do,” he explains on the IHRSA blog. “…[E]mployees know—even before they’re hired—that they’re our priority in terms of time, attention, and care.” Putting staff before customers, and boldly declaring that you do so, might seem like a risk, but think about the trickle-down effect: If your employees know how important they are to management, they have a model for understanding how to let customers know how important they are to your employees. At Kanwischer’s club, the importance of staff members’ personal lives is placed above the importance of the business — there is a sense that they are humans before they are workers. This must work wonders for morale, and the day-to-day positive effects of a high morale cannot be underestimated.

In general, giving positive feedback, emphasizing the importance of each employee, letting staff know they can approach you at any time with any concern, making sure their basic needs are taken care of, and giving them small extras all go a long way toward creating an upbeat, fulfilling place to work — and that goes a long way toward creating a successful business.

Helping Your Clients Through Injuries

Can Your Staff Adapt to Client Injuries?

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I had a nice little visit to the emergency room the other day. I injured my foot, and I wish I could say I did so while training for a marathon or participating in an Insanity workout or some such thing, but truthfully I was just racing my seven-year-old downhill, and I landed on it awkwardly.

Needless to say, the seven-year-old won. As for the injury, it’s thankfully only minor, but I still have to go easy on it for a few weeks. The first question I asked the doctor: Do I have to stop working out? She told me I could continue with my usual routine — as long as I put absolutely no pressure on the foot.

I had no idea how to do both things at once — continue with my usual routine and put no pressure on the foot. Thank goodness for my gym. That’s where I headed straight from the ER. First I asked to speak with the Fitness Concierge. She sat down with me right away while I explained that I injured my foot but I still wanted to work out and I wasn’t sure how to go about it. She offered me some water, cracked a few jokes, and did me a world of good just by listening. Then she squeezed me in for a consultation with a personal trainer who had experience dealing with injuries and with a physical therapist. The trainer gave me tips for adapting my workout. The physical therapist showed me simple stretches I could do to speed up my recovery (and made me promise to take it easy for a few days). I left the gym feeling like one very lucky patron.

What is it like at your facility? Do you offer such immediate, personalized care? Can your staff adapt to client injuries? Can you reassure an injured client and help him or her figure out how to push ahead with workout goals safely, despite the injury? Can you offer something we don’t usually expect from places of business — a sympathetic ear and a comforting presence? I can guarantee that if you do, you won’t ever have to worry much about member retention.

Preventing and Handling a Tragedy

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In February 2012, a tragic event occurred: A 22-year-old woman collapsed in a stall in the women’s locker room at a Planet Fitness in Bay Shore, New York. An hour later, she was dead. The family of the woman is now suing Planet Fitness, claiming that the sole staff member on site at the time did not help her. That staff member, according to reports, was male, and when he was alerted by a female member of the gym that a woman had collapsed, he replied that he was not allowed to enter the locker room.

Her death is a horrible and unfortunate thing (it turns out she had a heart attack, caused by an underlying condition that had never been diagnosed). It would have been horrible and unfortunate no matter where it occurred – but what if it had been at your facility? What would you do if a tragedy occurred at your gym or health club, and you were facing a lawsuit? What steps should you take? And, perhaps more importantly, how can you prevent such a thing from happening in the first place?

Prevention begins with preparation. If possible, always have at least one male and one female staff member on site at a given time. More importantly, make sure that all staff members know emergency procedures. Make sure they recognize when an emergency situation, such as the collapse of a gym member, trumps the usual rules, such as no men in the women’s locker room. Also, have on site at all times an automated external defibrillator (AED) and an employee who knows how to use it. Train your staff in first aid. Teach them that, if they’re wondering whether to call 911, it’s better to err on the side of overreacting.

If the worst thing happens despite your efforts, your attorneys will work hard to achieve fairness and keep your business going (make sure you have good ones). Meanwhile, focus your energy on open and honest communication with your members. Try to make sure they find out from you, before they find out from the media or from rumors, what happened. Be clear about any oversights that might have occurred on the part of your facility and explain the steps the facility will take to avoid such oversights in the future. Reassure them that your business will recover from any blows and will be stronger from the lessons learned, and apologize for any discomfort or doubt the incident might have caused. Invite them to speak with high-level staff members to share any concerns they might have.
If the press gets involved, follow the advice of your attorneys, of course. Convey as much detail about the situation as you are able to, with an emphasis on steps you are taking to fix any errors. Deal with reporters straightforwardly.

The tragic incident at the Bay Shore Planet Fitness will be remembered and mourned. It will also be learned from, assisting other gyms owners in preventing and handling a tragedy in the future.

Happy Employees Means A Healthy Business

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The fitness industry is winning accolades in the press these days. In this space a couple of weeks ago, we highlighted an article in Forbes that lauded the industry for its useful website content and its ability to make that content go viral. Now another magazine, Minnesota Business, offers praise of a different sort: Anytime Fitness has won recognition as the best Minnesota company to work for in the large business category.

Headquartered in Hastings, Minnesota, Anytime Fitness has 110 employees locally and more than 500 nationally. Each employee, first and foremost, receives a free gym membership. In addition, employees can take part in a special program that encourages them to try out a whole range of new activities, including, to name a few, onsite fitness boot camps, weight loss competitions, volunteer opportunities, skydiving, blood drives, and gardening. Thanks in part to the program, Anytime Fitness employees participated in more than 28 classes, wellness initiatives, activities, and charity programs in 2012.

The company makes relationship-building a priority. Through a peer lunch program, it pairs up two employees who do not interact with each other on a daily basis and sends them for an off-site lunch. Also, it hosts an annual conference, during which franchise employees, corporate staff, vendors, and members from all over the world come together to connect. Last year’s conference in Chicago saw more than 1,100 attendees, a record.

Finally, the company invests in its employees, encouraging professional development through a tuition reimbursement program and highlighting not an employee of the month but a “Hero of the Month.” What’s most appealing about the Hero of the Month program is that it calls for staff to nominate their peers for the title, encouraging not only pride in one’s own work, but also pride in one’s colleague’s work.

As with most fields, best practices — or, as I once heard a coworker say, “better practices”: “It’s more hopeful,” he explained, “because it implies that we can always find new and better ways” — all right then: As with most fields, better practices in the fitness industry are always worth studying. We all know that happy employees means a healthy business. Are there any Anytime Fitness practices you can adopt and adapt for your own fitness facility? If you do, who knows, you might find your business’s name splashed across a magazine one day too.

Workers Need You

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Yesterday was International Workers’ Day, a holiday created to commemorate Chicago’s Haymarket Affair of 1886 and the events leading up to it. The long and short of it is this: in 1867, the federal government passed a law guaranteeing federal employees an eight-hour work day; all Illinois workers were covered by a similar law. But the government failed to enforce its own law, and workers in Illinois were forced to sign waivers of the law as a condition of employment. So, on May 1, 1886, labor leaders organized a protest to demand adherence to the eight-hour rule. It ended badly, a few days later, with riots, police killing protestors, and someone throwing a bomb into the crowd.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well, it seemed like a good day to talk about a recent study that found out what today’s employees desire most: onsite fitness facilities. In a way, this could speak to the failure of the demand for eight-hour days so long ago; although eight hours is still the law, millions of salaried workers work ten- or twelve-hour days, or even longer, and just a few months ago Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, called for ending overtime pay for hourly workers. Clearly, employees need a way to shake off the stress of their long days.

But more than that, it speaks to our present-day understanding of how crucial fitness is to health, and the link between fitness and productivity. According to the results of a survey, titled Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers, twenty-five percent of workers who did not have an onsite fitness facility in 2012 wanted one, up from 19 percent in 2011. (The second most desired benefit was fitness center discounts; twenty-three percent of workers who did not have an onsite fitness facility in 2012 wanted those).

Now, only 12 percent of workers who participated in the survey said their company offers an onsite fitness center. What does this mean? There’s a demand for your services, and so far the demand is going unmet. Have you visited local companies to talk to Human Resources folk about how you might be able to help keep their employees happy, either by bringing your business into their building or offering discounts and opportunities in your facility? If not, it’s time to think about doing so. And then go ahead and knock off of work early today—you’ve probably been there for too long already anyway.

Safety Training First

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A few weeks ago, at a 24 Hour Fitness club in Costa Mesa, California, a 67-year-old man exercising on a stationary bike keeled over, apparently suffering a heart attack. What did the club staff do? They kicked into high gear. One employee called 911. The service manager alerted other staff members to the medical emergency. A team raced to the man’s side. While a personal trainer began to administer chest compressions, the fitness manager grabbed an automated external defibrillator (AED) and applied it one time. Then, the paramedics arrived. Under their guidance, the personal trainer continued with chest compressions and assisted with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the AED.

The man’s life was saved, and he is in stable condition. After delivering him safely to the hospital, the paramedics returned to the club and thanked the staff for its good work. If they hadn’t thought on their feet, acted quickly and selflessly, and worked as a team, the paramedics told them, the man would be dead.

How did the staff know what to do? Preparation and training. How can you ensure that your own fitness center employees will know what to do if a similar emergency arises under their watch? Preparation and training. Everyone on staff in your facility should be certified in CPR. If they’re not, arrange for a group training as soon as possible. Contact the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American Safety and Health Institute, or your local Department of Health for information on how to arrange for proper instruction and certification of your employees.
Do you have an AED on hand, as 24 Hour Fitness does? And do you have enough people on staff who know how to use it? If not, time to get one, and time to train. Same goes for first aid practices. Your fitness managers, instructors, personal trainers, service managers, desk staff — pretty much everyone — should be schooled in the basics. All should know to pick up the phone and call 911 before doing anything else. These things might seem pretty elementary, but don’t take for granted that your employees know what to do. Make it your responsibility to train them.

It’s only through preparation during nonemergency times that emergencies can become averted crises. Then your staff, like the staff at 24 Hour Fitness, will be celebrated and hailed as heroes too.

Helping Your Customers Adapt to Change

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One of the most challenging aspects of managing your relationship with customers is when you have to help them adapt to change.  Change can come in many forms.  Sometimes it’s positive, such as when you open a new sports facility location, add a new class to your gym schedule, or hire new staff for your personal training studio.  And sometimes…it’s not. Regardless of the “why”, there are a few things you can do to make the transition a positive one.

The Boy Scouts motto says it best: Be prepared.  A well thought-out plan of action is the best tool you can have.  Spend the time now to brainstorm about what changes you may encounter, both good and bad, and how you will need to deal with each.  Remember that adapting to change is a team effort, so make sure that everyone on your team knows their part in the plan.  Being prepared will give you and your team the confidence to guide your customers through the process.

Once you have a plan, open the lines of communication with your customers.  Don’t wait until the last minute to let them in on the news!  Dealing with change can be stressful, so the more time they have to prepare, the better their experience will be.  This is your chance to set and manage their expectations, so be proactive and follow up with reminders often.  It’s also important to remember that when speaking with customers about change, you want to stay positive but be realistic and prepare for some pushback.  Even if it’s a positive change, a customer’s first reaction might be to fight against it.  Be prepared to help them accept the change as necessary and how it will ultimately benefit them in the long run.  Here, a little empathy goes a long way.

Finally, fight the urge to turn back time.  Once there is an established routine, any change to that routine requires effort.  Adapting to change is your opportunity to improve your gym or sports facility, so just trying to go back to “the way it was” for the sake of avoiding change wastes both that effort and the opportunity.  Moving forward with confidence will send the message to your customers that you have the situation under control and will ease their uncertainty.

Because every sports or fitness business will eventually encounter the need to deal with change, it’s important to tackle those challenges head on.  If you prepare early, communicate effectively, and stay committed to your goals, you can lead customers to success no matter what comes your way.

Hiring the Right People in order to Create the Perfect Team

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The average staff turnover rate is 50% or more for many businesses in the US, which means staff turnover can be expensive due to the time and resources spent training replacement personnel. The truth is traditional hiring doesn’t always work well, so we recommend you try a different tactic to lower the turnover rate for employees in your business.
Behavioral Interviewing                
While traditional interviewing focuses on education and career goals, behavioral interviewing asks candidates to tell and show you how they would apply their past performance, job skills and life experiences to challenges they will face in your business. This technique will help you pick new employees based on their demonstrated success in taking on situations required by the position you’re filling.
Sample Questions

  • Ask potential sales managers to explain how they have handled performance issues with reps.
  • Ask wellness coaches to tell you how they worked with an especially challenging client.
  • Have billing clerks tell you about the worst customer experience they have had and how they were able to handle the situation.

Example Demonstrations

  • Request that trainers show you how they would explain the same technique to different level of skill players.
  • Ask yoga instructors to show you how they would instruct a client to properly perform a specific pose.
  • Have fitness instructors show you how they would modify a class for attendees with ROM (range-of-motion) limitations.

By asking the right questions during the hiring process, you’ll find your business will run with ease because you have the right people working for you. These simple questions and techniques can make the difference in creating the perfect team to help you run your fitness or sports business successfully.

Handling Difficult Customer Situations

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We’ve all had to deal with difficult customers at some time in our lives; it comes with the whole “running a business” responsibility. At some point you have to ask yourself if this difficult client is really worth having around. Are they mistreating your staff? It’s essential to keep your staff positive and uplifting, but having one truly bad client can cause the mood to go awry.

Before jumping to the conclusion of eliminating this client from your business, there’s a good chance you can solve the problem by having your staff get down to the root of it. So how do you empower your staff to handle difficult situations like this?

  • Set boundaries – tell staff exactly what they can or cannot do. Role playing for this particular situation can be helpful to get them used to different scenarios.
  • It isn’t personal – remind staff that the issue with the client isn’t personal. Relieving their self-doubt or impatience is one step towards enabling them to confidently take charge of the situation.
  • Coach your staff – let them know that listening to the client more so than speaking can lead to an easy way of turning the situation around. If the client feels like they are being listened to, it can set things back on track for the difficult customer.
  • Support them – ensuring your staff that you will support them in difficult situations with this client will in turn, empower them and give them the confidence to better deal with the client.

Once you give your staff the tools they need to deal with difficult customers, you may soon find that you don’t need to step in as often, and turning a fussy customer into a happy one will begin to happen more often.