What Is Your Fitness Club Membership Guest Policy?

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  • What Is Your Fitness Club Membership Guest Policy?

Policies Policies Policies

Have you ever heard about black swans? If not it’s because these birds are alien to the Northern Hemisphere. When you think of the graceful birds that inhabit lakes and rivers, you probably think of a magnificent white waterfowl with a long and graceful neck.

These dark, red-beaked swans are native to parts of Australia. If you see one in North America, Europe, or other parts of the world, it’s likely to have escaped or wandered off after being introduced by humans. Most people don’t know that black swans exist until they see one, and not many folks do in this country.

The Darker Side of Insurance Policies

As a gym owner, there are a lot of little details that you have to deal with, and sometimes you only set the standard policies when something happens that forces you to face them. Occasionally these can be very bad things.

The term "Black Swan" has become a label for extremely rare and unexpected events, usually with destructive outcomes. As a label, it was made popular by a financial writer and author, who was commenting on stock market anomalies and crashes. Unanticipated events that only occur once in a few lifetimes are very upsetting when they happen, but that’s why we purchase insurance and make contingency plans for them.

There are policies to plan how to act in situations in response to normal events and insurance policies that protect against the black swans we hope we never see. That is why gym business owners need liability insurance policies that activate if some very strange thing happens.

Fitness Club Membership Guest Policies

In the hotel business and other hospitality industries, the term guest means what gym business owners call club members, clients, or something similar. What I’m talking about here is the friends and family members that your clients want to share time within the gym, show off their memberships, or impress a work associate.

One source of risk that might hit a newly established fitness club comes from having poorly defined guest policies. You don’t want members sharing their credentials so that unknown non-members come in unescorted. However, you want to encourage your fitness club membership to evangelize about your club and prime prospects to sign up as paying monthly subscribers, as long as you can track and market to them.

The temptation is to say, when asked, "Yes, sure, bring your friends!" The thought of exposure to potential new members could make guests of members an inexpensive form of promotion, and it certainly is that. If you ask your insurance broker, more people means more risk.

Consult with your legal advisor and insurance broker before you write your guest policy. However, include marketing considerations when you set standard procedures as policy so that members bring in guests when it’s to your advantage.

Diversity And Harassment Prevention Policies

Have you ever done a harassment prevention course or diversity training? There are consultancy services that post HR training courses online. These are adequate for most small gym businesses with only a few management team members.

All your salaried employees should go through periodic diversity and harassment prevention training, especially with today’s litigious workplace climate. A modest investment in training webinars now could save you from an expensive lawsuit down the road.

Online courses are readily available and worth doing. They tend to be based around case studies of actual situations that went to court, so it’s like listening to story time lessons. Done well diversity training can be helpful, but if it’s done poorly, it can lead to a backlash and escalating tension.

Browse for online training systems offered by HR professionals. When experts do the teaching, you can have the kind of diversity training benefits that big box fitness brands take for granted, without the overhead cost of a head office department.

Shop around to make sure you find something that will be successful. Take the course yourself first and then see what you think. If you believe that it will be well received by your managers, sign them up. Otherwise, keep looking until you find one that will be a better fit.

Concluding Statement

Insurance policies and situational procedural policies are both good planning in any people-oriented business environment like fitness. Yes, it sounds preachy, but as a gym business owner or fitness start-up founder, you’re going to have to expect that a few black swans will pop up now and again.


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Jayson, Scott. Protecting Your Club’s Good Reputation. February 7, 2018. https://clubsolutionsmagazine.com/2018/02/protecting-clubs-good-reputation/ (accessed February 14, 2019).

Kenton, Will. Black Swan. December 13, 2017. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/blackswan.asp (accessed February 14, 2019).

Lindsey, Alex, Eden King, and Ho Kwan Cheung. Two Types of Diversity Training That Really Work. July 28, 2017. https://hbr.org/2017/07/two-types-of-diversity-training-that-really-work (accessed February 14, 2019).

Toll, Eric. How to Make Diversity Training Work and Create Effective Inclusion. December 9, 2018. https://www.diversityresources.com/how-to-make-diversity-training-work-and-create-effective-inclusion/ (accessed Februarry 14, 2019).

Zabonick, Rachel. Ask an Expert: Eric Hoffman on Reducing Liability. January 3, 2019. https://clubsolutionsmagazine.com/2019/01/ask-expert-eric-hoffman-xsport/ (accessed February 14, 2019).