Successful Change Management For Fitness Center Growth

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  • Successful Change Management For Fitness Center Growth

To Sprout Roots Is The Essence Of Transformative Change

What got you to where you are now will not necessarily get you where you need to go; this is a lesson that startups in fitness and every other business sector continuously relearn through firsthand experience. An oak tree is entirely different from an acorn; it has to make some huge transformations to become such a great tree.

So, you started a gym, and you have members, you pay your bills, your home mortgage, and usually eat two or more meals a day. However, you realize that you are going to have to make some changes to the business to make the business grow to where you want it to be.

Sometimes Success Means Changing

The problem is that your small team each has unique roles; they make real contributions and have expectations for the future of their careers within your little acorn of an empire. Change is a daunting task that gets ever more difficult the larger your organization.

I tackled the topic of change management before in 2014, and I think that it’s time for an update. For the sake of two years, it seems like the pace of change has accelerated an awful lot. Small gym business owners and managers need to be more proactive than ever to transform into successful fitness enterprises.

Examples of change in the gym

  • Adding your first employees
  • Changing your gym management software
  • Opening a new location
  • Pivoting or expanding to a new business model
  • Buying new locations
  • Franchising into a new brand
  • Getting bought by a brand

What goes wrong?

  • Managers resist changes
  • Nobody understands the plan
  • Staff use shortcuts that undermine your change initiative

How To Approach Big Changes

Driving successful change (Heifetz and Linsky, 2002)

  • Communicate the plan for change
  • Train the changes
  • Help reluctant stakeholders to get on board
  • Get involved in the details
  • Stand back and view the big picture
  • Engage with all your stakeholders
  • Delegate but monitor progress

Managing significant changes initiatives, such as switching out your computer system or licensing a branded fitness regime are actions that will succeed or fail based on how well you lead your people. If your staff doesn’t understand, care, or want to use new systems or software they will find ways around it. When they cope by working around your initiative or just ignore it, they undermine the value of the investments you make, which puts your business in jeopardy.

The people who find that change is happening around them, beyond their control, may respond with hostility. That’s understandable because it’s frustrating when the things you count on change drastically. It gives you an insecure feeling and makes you resentful that your expectations have been betrayed.

Alternate between getting into the mix and standing back to appraise the big picture. You will need to know what is working in detail. Try to eat your own dog food, take part in daily operations, and personally put the changes into action.

Then step back to study the big picture. Take time to analyze reports and determine how well the change is going. The overview will give you a sense of the direction and whether it is going the right way or not.

You need to sell the changes and get commitments from all of your stakeholders. The parties might include your managers and key staff, as well as self-employed trainers who depend on your gym to bring in clients.

If conflicts suddenly pop up don’t be surprised; there will be bugs in any new system. Employees often have the best intentions, but the conflict becomes an internal battle for them. That is why you have to stay in touch with them during and after the changes.

A Case Of Change And Delegation In Gym Management

An example might be that you switch from a policy where they all direct sales inquiries to you, to a new system where you expect everyone to sell memberships, upgrades, and training services. It might be tough for you to let go and delegate. It’s even tougher for staff members to take on this responsibility without any sales experience.

Some of your people will thrive in the new regime, others might leave, but there will also be those who want to try but have bad experiences in their first few attempts. They need your support to get past the stings of rejection and keep working.

If you have a manager that has been responsible for sales, such a change might be very threatening to them. Planning a change where you expect them to begin delegating responsibilities requires that you make the change positive for them and help them commit to it.

Your leadership will be the critical factor in any such change initiative. In this example, and in any situation where you have to change, your acorn business can only put down the roots of future greatness if you take the leading role and drive the change.


Fagan, Lawrence. Change Management For Gym Managers. November 4, 2014. (accessed May 30, 2017).

-. Promote Your Gym Business By Eating Your Own Dog Food. April 25, 2017. (accessed May 30, 2017).

Heifetz, Ronald, and Marty Linsky. A Survival Guide for Leaders. 2002. (accessed May 30, 2017).