Health Club Administration

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A family run club often has the difficulties of a disjointed command, as owners disagree about aspects of their operation; and this may confuse employees. There may be problems arising from nepotism or favoritism; but I prefer that to working for a corporation. When I became Coordinator of the Pilates Department at the Bay Club Marin, the chain of clubs was a privately owned business. When I started, I worked for the son of the owner. I wanted to work my way up to General Manager. However, once the Company was sold to a corporation it became a very different place to work. If you’re considering entering health club management, here are a few words of advice.

First, in terms of earning potential, the pay hierarchy is: General Manager, Sales Representative, Fitness Trainer, and lastly Department Head. Yes, a trainer can earn more than his supervisor! If you plan on moving up the ranks, know that Fitness Managers and Group Exercise Directors seldom go on to become executives. A more assured route to becoming the boss is to manage the Club’s facility/operations or to work your way up through the business office.

Middle management for a health club is thankless. One’s staff is paid as employees, but they don’t think of themselves that way. Supervising trainers or class instructors is like herding cats. As part-time personnel, they each consider themselves sole proprietors of the their own time and business; and they must conduct themselves as such in order to survive financially. Their conflict of interest with the Club’s profit goals is inherent in the system and very difficult to manage.

How do you make peace with the conflict of interests?

Above the department head, the executives have their own conflict of interest. One would think that the big bosses want to satisfy customers, the Club members; but that is secondary on their agenda. First and foremost, the corporate club executive aims to increase shareholder value. This places the department head who works for the executive in a tight squeeze, trying to please members and staff while being beholden to a budget that works in the opposite direction.

What advice can you give teachers in this environment?

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