After five years as Club Manager, you are promoted to Vice President. Your first task is to fill your position and find someone to manage the club. Do you:  
·         Promote your top trainer or salesperson to the position and hope for the best?
·         Conduct an external search to hire a manager since you have no qualified employees?
·         Continue to perform the management duties on top of your new tasks as VP?
·         All of the above?
Answer: All of the Above
To reward our top-performing trainers or sales professionals, we promote them to Club Manager. We assume that their competence and success will continue in their new position. However, their skills and talents do not necessarily transfer, leaving them ineffective and discouraged in their new position. They become miserable and consider leaving the company, and other employees, who are affected by the change, threaten to leave if things don't get better. You lose customers and revenue, since many became or remained members because of their relationship with the trainer-turned-manager. Without that relationship, they consider joining the less expensive club which is closer to their home.
After recognizing that there is no one in the company with the skills necessary to be an effective manager, you begin to recruit external candidates. This takes a considerable amount of time and money. You identify a handful of professionals with prior managerial experience, but it's difficult to be sure they will be a good "fit" with your company. Some employees plan to leave, resentful about being overlooked for the promotion and concerned about the inevitable changes that an "outsider" will bring.
During the recruitment and interview process, you take on your new duties as Vice President, while continuing to perform your job of Club Manager. After a while, the company president decides that, since you have been performing both roles successfully, there may be no need to hire someone else. They change your title to Vice President and Manager of Operations. Then, you burn out quickly and begin looking for a new position elsewhere.
This scenario, while slightly extreme, is not unique to the fitness industry. A successful classroom teacher is promoted to Assistant Principal without any training or support. The teacher suffers, as do the other school personnel and the students, whose education is compromised. Here is another example: A top salesperson is promoted to District Manager without any training in management, leadership or budgets. The revenue once enjoyed from his or her sales is lost, and the company soon closes due to the poor decision-making and fiscal management of the former sales leader.
An Alternative to Double Duty
A different approach is to be more proactive in preparing your team of trainers or sales professionals for management. It's not necessary to send them for their MBA at a top business school, but everyone will benefit if they are offered some training in management basics, such as leadership, team-building, operations, marketing and sales, budgets and customer service. Courses are available through local community colleges and universities, or customized programs can be delivered at your club location by corporate trainers or industry educators, such as World Instructor Training Schools (WITS). WITS has created a new Fitness Management Certification program, which is offered at universities and community colleges across the country. The program uses the new text, Fitness Management by Stephen Tharrett and James Peterson, a comprehensive resource that provides practical, cutting-edge information on developing and managing a successful fitness club team and business. The program can also be customized and brought directly to in-house training programs. The program includes 30 hours of instruction plus testing and certification providing an introductory overview of the role and responsibilities of the club manager.
You wouldn't consider having your manager go on the floor to train members without the proper education and certification. Your members' health and safety depends on it. Make sure your management team is also prepared — your club's financial health and safety depends on it.
Dr. Amy Hyams has two decades of experience in adult education and training, an MS in Sport and Fitness Management and a doctorate in Educational Administration. She has partnered with WITS in developing their new Fitness Club Management Certificate. For more information about the WITS Fitness Management Certificate program, visit their website or call 888.330.9487.