101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager from Jeffrey Keller


 I read this the other day and just had to borrow it.

Everyone likes tips.  They’re simple, easy to digest, and sometimes, for some people, Earth shattering.  General Managers (and Owners) get so caught up in putting out fires, dealing with employee issues, and worrying about making budget that they forget even their jobs can be broken down into the simplest of tasks.  Below are 101 nuggets to help you be a better General Manager.  You may know some of these, or even a lot of these, but odds are you haven’t used them in quite some time.  So read, learn, and be successful.  As always, I’d love to hear your advice.  Email me with your nuggets of wisdom.

  1. Treat your great employees like gold.  They’re your best asset.
  2. Set the bar high for customer service. Then, show your employees what you mean by living it.
  3. Survey your members for expectations. Design programs that exceed them.
  4. Consistently read fitness industry journals and magazines for new ideas.
  5. Make customer complaints easy to file and never miss a chance to follow-up with the member.
  6. Share your ideas with people in different lines of work.  They may have great suggestions.
  7. Reward those employees who challenge the status quo.
  8. When launching a new service, plan, plan, plan, rest, and then plan some more.
  9. Always have debriefings after seasonal events to learn how to do them better.
  10. Never lose sight of your goal.  Tailor anything you do to meet that goal.
  11. Remember, the “next great thing” may be the “next great failure”.  Always ask, “Will it help me meet my goal?”
  12. Don’t just ask your employees what they think.  If the ideas are good, act on their ideas.
  13. Hire people whose skills complement your strengths, not just those who agree with you or fill the qualifications.
  14. Create performance evaluations that link your employees to the facility’s goal.
  15. Learn about technology and watch for new trends that will help you.
  16. The best-laid plans fail when you don’t have the courage to execute.
  17. Create milestones for achieving goals and publicly acknowledge those who contributed most to hitting those milestones.
  18. When changing things, employees can tolerate almost any what or how if they know why.
  19. If you ask everyone for 3 suggestions for a problem, never accept 2.  That’s not what you asked for.
  20. Use local networking groups to advertise your services to other businesses.
  21. Have an actual marketing strategy.  Don’t just try to increase sales the way the guy down the street is doing it.
  22. Reward members for good attendance.  They will refer new members without any other encouragement.  It’s amazing how giving a free t-shirt will inspire referrals.
  23. Send your best employees to an employee-coaching seminar so they can learn how to teach others how to be great.
  24. Use multiple medias for marketing, not just mailers.
  25. Volunteer to write articles for local newspapers and magazines.  They may give you free advertising on top of it.  At the very least, ask for it.
  26. At your next networking meeting, ask someone you respect and admire if he or she will be your mentor, even if he or she isn’t in the fitness industry.
  27. Never let a possible new member leave empty handed.  If he or she isn’t going to join then, offer a free guest pass or personal training session to get him or her to come back.
  28. Create and invest in an amazing New Member Booklet that has several guest passes, some coupons, and tips on being successful at achieving fitness goals.
  29. Train sales staff to ask questions about a possible new member’s goals.  Make sure those goals are recorded and passed on to the Fitness Department.  Let the trainers help bring the prospect back in the door.
  30. Create small spending accounts for your Fitness Department staff to spend on supplement, smoothie, or drink giveaways to clients.
  31. Discuss corporate agreements with as many local physicians as possible.  Referrals like this have more punch and you’ll know the prospects hot buttons when he or she walks through the door.
  32. Don’t be afraid to reward new members who prepay an annual membership.  A lot of money is spent each year chasing bad debt.
  33. Send a Welcome Letter to all New Members within one week of joining.  Make sure it’s hand-signed by you.
  34. Send a “Checking Up on You” Letter to all New Members one month after they join.  Put a couple guest passes in with the letter.
  35. Follow-up with all New Members 6 months after joining to make sure they’re happy.
  36. Review member check-ins to determine those who haven’t attended in the last 3 weeks.  Send an email to them encouraging them to return.  Members don’t value what they aren’t using.
  37. Sell themed t-shirts to members who attend themed classes like Bootcamp.
  38. Give your best local suppliers a free month membership in exchange for their supply suggestions based on their experience as a customer.
  39. Don’t be afraid to barter for good deals with vendors.  Plenty of privately owned businesses still do this.
  40. Send “Holiday” cards or emails to your members with a 1-week FREE pass or link they can send to friends and coworkers as gifts.
  41. Create a branded gift bags for New Members.
  42. Partner with local realtors to bring their clients by for a tour and a FREE smoothie.
  43. Host a Charity EXPO with the local chapters of a couple dozen non-profit organizations.  Piggy back a free guest day onto the EXPO and collect the contact info of all the friends your members bring.
  44. Host a local physician for a free-to-the-public seminar on the medical specialty of the physician.
  45. Always remember, people hate to be sold to but they love to buy stuff.
  46. When a New Member joins, that’s the best time to ask for a referral.  At that moment, the New Member is totally committed and will want to share with a friend.
  47. Interruption marketing doesn’t work anymore.  Permission marketing does.  Develop relationships, not just sales strategies.
  48. Gain a potential customer’s trust and he’ll buy most anything from you.
  49. Don’t try to differentiate yourself on price.  It will just make you and your immediate competition race for who can go the lowest.
  50. Customer satisfaction is the bare minimum.  Customer loyalty should be your goal.
  51. Make sure your Sales Staff knows the characteristics of potential customers who will be coming in the door.  This will help them overcome customer objections.
  52. Never blame someone or something else for not meeting a goal.  Be accountable.
  53. Carrying business cards may be antiquated, but it’s embarrassing to be caught without one.  Never leave the office with an empty pocket.
  54. Make a full walk-though of your facility at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon.  Carry a checklist or notepad to write things down.
  55. The best way to sell a New Membership is to be friendly.  People like to do business with friends.
  56. Encourage your Sales and Fitness Staffs to use Facebook and other similar online services to market themselves to friends and friends of friends.
  57. Success in business is not who you know.  It’s who knows you.
  58. Create an infomercial about yourself for networking situations.  Rehearse it.  Make sure it’s no longer than 30 seconds.
  59. When networking, be the first one in the door and the last one to leave.
  60. Hold regular feedback sessions to make sure employees are on track.
  61. Whether you use the advice or not, ask your staff for it in situations they have expertise in.
  62. Never lose sight of your goal.  Always think in terms of meeting that goal.
  63. Be inspirational.  Others can contribute a lot to the success of the facility.
  64. Publicly share the credit for successes.  Most of the time you didn’t do it alone.
  65. Address difficult “issues” not difficult “people”.
  66. The number one thing you can say to an employee is “thank you”.  Say it at least 10 times a day.
  67. Generally speaking, you need to reach a customer on average 10 times to make a sale.  Use as many possible approaches as you can to stay in front of a customer.
  68. Proof read ALL emails.  Nothing makes you look more incompetent than grammar and spelling errors.
  69. Manage your time effectively.  There’s plenty of new technology out there to help you.
  70. Make a commitment to respond to everyone within 24 hours.  You’ll be amazed at what it does for your reputation.
  71. Over invest in your employees’ development.  Their growth is as important as your customer’s loyalty.
  72. If possible, prepay an annual amount for a service rather than monthly installments.  Usually it’s cheaper and you won’t spend time every month paying an invoice.
  73. Get an email address from EVERY New Member.  Email invoices and late notices to save on stamps, paper, and envelopes.
  74. Don’t have a staff meeting unless you need a staff meeting.
  75. Offer a FREE smoothie coupon for members who go online to your website and fill out a Customer Experience Questionnaire.
  76. Keep in mind, good employees leave bad managers, not clubs.
  77. Choose your measurements of success carefully, then pay attention to them.  Religiously!
  78. Categorize your members by zip code or residential development.  Research the total households in your market and target areas you seem to not be reaching.
  79. Create a member participation incentive program that has a “bring a guest for double points” day.
  80. Learn more about yourself.  Take the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile quiz.  You can find it online for free.  You’ll learn a lot about yourself.
  81. Buy an employee lunch at random and ask to pick his or her brain for ideas.
  82. Recite the mantra every day, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.”
  83. Hang a dry erase board over your desk to track ideas as they come to you.
  84. Spend at least an hour every week strategizing on how to adapt your plan to what is happening in the marketplace.
  85. Learn to understand the stock market and the indices.  They’ll tell you a lot about the economy and what to expect in the long term.
  86. Break down the price of a smoothie into the costs of all its ingredients.  Standardize the recipe for employees so you know exactly what the profit will be.
  87. Statistically speaking, if you make a compelling reason for someone to join your club, approximately 5% will join.  Speaking to large groups will maximize your time.  A group of 100 equals 5 New Members for an hour’s work.
  88. Commit to selling the best product possible you can rather than focusing on providing the lowest cost to the customer.
  89. Invest more money in a “pre-qualified” mailing list rather than a lot of money in a fancy mailer design.  The list you can keep and use over and over.
  90. Rent a CFO once per month or quarter.  They can seem expensive, but the amount of money you’ll reap in return will be 10 fold.
  91. Stop the membership revolving door.  Spend half of what you spent on selling new memberships last year and put the remainder into member retention efforts.
  92. Find one of your Front Desk Staff who has a great memory for names and make them Customer Service liaison.  Give him or her a raise to greet every member by name.  It will make your members feel great.
  93. Ask your website provider for a way to track an email forwarding function for your email blasts.  Give members a 10% off coupon for forwarding to a friend.
  94. Use a “FREE Download” as a way to get website visitors to sign up for your mailing list.
  95. Track the demographics of your members coming in at certain times of the day.  Have the desk staff change the overhead music to age appropriate when necessary.
  96. Make the effort to personally visit with members.  They want to know you’re available to comment to.
  97. Make an impression.  Dress like an executive, with a jacket and tie if necessary.
  98. Buy a smart phone and set up a Google account.  It’s free and you can keep the phone on your hip for reminders.
  99. Sign up for multiple email newsletters from marketing and sales consultant websites even outside the health club industry.  Learn what others are doing.
  100. Sales is work.  Break down the sales process for your staff.  Understand their personal performance indicators, then reverse engineer their goals for the day and hold them accountable to them.  It adds up.
  101. Pay it forward.  Help others be successful and they’ll help you.

3 Responses to “101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager from Jeffrey Keller”

  1. mboyle1959 Says:

    You know what I mean.

  2. […] 101 Tips for Being a Great General Manager by Jeffrey Keller  […]

  3. -At your next networking meeting, ask someone you respect and admire if he or she will be your mentor, even if he or she isn’t in the fitness industry.- This was my favorite out of the bunch. We can learn so much from other people in so many areas of life. I was inspired recently by an elderly man at church last week for a benefit (he refused to sit down until everyone that came through the door was settled and had a plate of food and a space to sit–mind you, throughout all of this he was smiling and gracious and giving). I may have gone a little off the beaten track here, but this excerpt stuck a chord in me. Great article.

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