Home of the SoapBox

Welcome to the online archive of John’s SoapBox.

Featuring the leaders in health and fitness club management

A Message From John…As many of you may know, I publish a monthly blog in which I feature the leaders in health and fitness club management. Since my entree into the industry back in 1984, I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths with many knowledgeable, fun, passionate, motivated and caring people.

These special people have changed the lives of their member’s and now via the SoapBox, we have a way to honor them and share their stories.

We hope to share with you what peers in our industry have found to make their operation work better and more efficient. Continue reading “Home of the SoapBox”

The Benefits of joining a REX Roundtable

A brief talk with Eddie Tock – REX Roundtables CEO  

Recently, I had an opportunity to discuss the benefits of joining a REX Roundtable when dining with a club manager. The club manager has been in the fitness industry a number of years and runs a facility that is second to none. He has done a fantastic job in keeping membership high, providing an unmatched membership experience and enjoying non-existent turnover. So why should he join REX Roundtable?

The short answer is that most industry events and conferences, in every industry , not just fitness, focus on the operational side of the business only – what REX Roundtables call the 1st Agenda. Most businesses have opportunities & challenges in the 2nd – culture, strategy systems- agenda and 3rd – Leadership Development – agendas that greatly affect their 1st agenda decisions. The attached document explains it in more detail.

REX Roundtables has over 125 club owners and executives from all over the country sharing BEST PRACTICES   – they meet 3x per year for 3 days in a Mastermind group. The idea is that the REX Roundtable “ROI is one of the highest investments” an owner/GM can make!

Based upon my conversations with Eddie Tock (REX Roundtables CEO  eddie@rexroundtables.com (914) 643-3207 ) he shared with me the following:

Currently, owners and club executives have the opportunity to join a group of like-minded individuals who want to grow their business. Each meeting they cover the following:

  • Strategy issues for the business to help with blue ocean strategies, growing pains and differentiation;
  • Marketing that helps get more clients;
  • Comparing key business numbers to benchmark best practices;
  • Discovering how to keep members longer;
  • Outside the fitness industry consumer trends that are relevant.

Listen to members talk about REX on http://www.rexroundtables.com/rexweb/main.cfm

If you have a desire to learn more about REX Roundtable, I encourage you to talk with Eddie as to how you can become involved in the “one of a kind” organization.

Highlights from the 37th FitLife Summer Conference


This was the  37th year for the Fitlife Summer Conference (held in Bend Oregon), which rivals IHRSA as the longest running conference in our industry. The conference addressed issues of change which seem to be everywhere. Topics like growing a facility’s membership base, dealing with new categories of clubs/studios that are eroding membership and managing the “Rapids of Change” that permeates the fitness industry were highlighted.

Presenters like Bill McBride from Active Wellness/BMC3 keynoted a presentation on “People Performance” and Sal Pellegrino from Precor presented on “How to Sell and Succeed in Competitive Markets in 2017”. If you ever get a chance to hear these guys present at a conference or event, they will exceed your expectations.

Please keep in mind the FitLife Conference is open to all independently owned facilities, no matter where your facility is located.

For further attendance info, please contact Neal Simpson (neal@fitlifeclubs.com).

From the folks at Augie’s Quest; Awareness for ALS

By Jai Smith


Jay Smith with his wife, Missy, and their daughters Loghan and Peyton.

Howdy!

I’m honored to be writing y’all this month for Augie’s Quest. I vividly remember the first time I heard about Augie. It was a morning in late 2013 and I was getting ready for work. From the bathroom I could hear my wife crying. She called for me to come watch the Today Show where they were doing a story on Augie. I thought to myself, “that’s one resilient dude”, and I went on with my day.

Little did I know that just six months later, at the age of 36, I would be diagnosed with the same disease. I was the picture of health (ok besides my affinity for craft beer), ran my own music technology company, married to my high school sweetheart, and had two young daughters whom I adored. Now facing a diagnosis with an eighteen month life expectancy my doctor told me to get my affairs in order, like anyone knows what that even really means?

Almost four years later I sit here typing to you with my eyes, completely paralyzed while my nurse pours my lunch through a tube in my stomach. Even as I type that it sounds surreal. Despite my condition I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I’ve started a second career as a writer, both to raise awareness for ALS through my blog and for the Huffington Post, and as a fiction writer. I’m developing technology to enable people with disabilities more freedom, and raising two incredible kids.

ALS has taken a lot from me, too much to even begin to list. But it’s also given me a lot to live for. I look forward to watching my girls go off to college, to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary, and to see the day where ALS isn’t a devastating terminal illness. I know that I’ll be around to see that day and I’ll spend every minute leading up to it trying to make the world a better place.

I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, things just happen and how you respond creates meaning. I do know that seeing Augie on TV that day left a profound impact on me. It showed me how perseverance, determination, and hope can prevail over whatever you’re facing. It also showed me that leading by example is the most important thing I could do, and I haven’t looked back since.

-Jay Smith

John’s August Musings

Next to the month of March when IHRSA occurs, I find July to be the second busiest month of the year. Summer Conferences for regional IHRSA organizations like MACMA and Fitlife take place and provide excellent venues to refresh and learn the latest information to provide a better membership experience. And along with the summer conferences, prospects and customers want me to drop by and do a “walk-through of their facility. Three weeks on the road and I finally get to come home for a bit.

Fitlife is the regional conference held in Bend Oregon. Bill McBride was one of the key-note speakers and of course was sponsored by Petra-1. Bill spoke about “People Management”, finding the right people to work “with”, “manage” and “lead”.  We also welcomed Sal Pellegrino from Precor who presented an overview of key trends and how “low Cost”, “big box” and “boutique” expansion is effecting the marketplace. He provided case studies of how facilities hes involved with made adjustments and thrived in their respective marketplace.

The Fitlife conference is open to all “non-corporate” fitness facilities, not only will you find the conference informative but also relaxing as the venue is nestled along five garden-like acres on the banks of the tantalizing Deschutes River.

Continue reading “John’s August Musings”

John’s Musings, By John Mickelson

Soapbox readers

Next to the month of March where we all attend IHRSA, July has become the month for all IHRSA regional conferences and events. MACMA (covers the states of Maryland, Virginia, Washington DC, Delaware and Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and Fitlife (covers the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana) are regional IHRSA organizations that provide conferences that educate and provide a tradeshow venue to view the latest items for improving your membership experience. If you are not a member of these organizations, please email me and I’ll provide you all the contact info.

This month, Will Phillips (Founder, REX Roundtables  will@rexroundtables.com ) has shared with us his perspective on hiring….you hire for attitude, and train for skills. I believe its one of the best written articles on what to look for when hiring a new employee. In being a preferred vendor for the REX Roundtables organization, we have found REX to be an organization where you receive much more than you give. It truly does change lives. If you are not a member, you need to talk with Will or Eddie Tock ((914) 643-3207) about how your facility would benefit by joining.

Bill McBride and Brent Darden have been regular contributors to the Soapbox. Both Bill and Brent along with Allison Flatley will be presenting at Club Industry (October 4-6) the topic of “Leadership Mastery, Leadership – The Direction & Strategy”. We have included a copy of the speaking notes and itinerary. If you haven’t experienced a session where Brent and Bill are presenting together, you need to make sure you attend. Add Allison Flatley of Corporate Fitness Works talking about “Service & Member Experience” into the presentation and you have three industry icons that will exceed your expectations.

Brent Darden – brent@brentdarden.com  Allison Flatley- allisonflatley85@gmail.com Bill McBride – BillMcBride@BMC3.com…

Continue reading “John’s Musings, By John Mickelson”

The Creative Destruction of the Fitness Industry

FitLife will present some new research on fitness trends discussing the various business models, focusing on studios and boutique clubs.

A focus will be on studios and boutique clubs and why they work with the new wave of consumers. We will introduce the subject with some facts on what’s happening now in fitness.  Included are details on the new wave of fitness users (Millennials) including how they are spending their money in our industry. (10 minutes)  The good news they spend much more money of fitness than the baby boomers!  The challenge is delivering how they pursue fitness in a traditional club environment.

Members of the round table were chosen as they represent different types of clubs in our industry and inside the Fitlife Club Network.  Each Round Table Member will discuss what they are doing to offer a unique functional, boutique studio type experience within their business.

  1. Describe what’s new in their business that addresses fitness industry trends/ fitness business models.
  2. What’s working: (Best Practices) and its effect on member attraction, retention, ancillary revenue and operations.
  3. What’s not working (Lessons Learned)
  4. What are you changing to adapt (What’s next)
  5. Open discussion with the audience.

Continue reading “The Creative Destruction of the Fitness Industry”

William Bui from Draco explains what to look for in a Dispenser

I first met John over the phone in 2008. At the time, I just started with Draco with no sales experience and lack the personality. John was the most enthusiastic person I had ever spoken to. Little did I know that Petra had already been doing business with us for 10 years but John spoke to me like he had known me for all those years.

When we think of sales, what does that mean? Certainly, you need to be proud of your products and act as if it’s best thing in world. However sometimes we forget that it’s about solving problem and listening to your customer’s needs. Just offering a price is not sales. Knowing your customers and figuring out what are your advantages is true sales. When someone in my staff tells me a customer is not interested, I always ask why. If you dissect the phrase “they’re not interested”, is it because you gave price and they said no. Or did you take time to find out more about the company, who they buy from, who are the right people to talk to and what problems they are currently facing. Of course we must also find the right customer as well. Once you do, help them grow as best as you can, making money will be a byproduct that will naturally happen.

Check out our first commercial!

Panel Discussion at Fitlife with Greg Dearholt

Medical Fitness Education Foundation will be launching a Medical Fitness Tour, with the help of Fitness Fest (event planner) in February 2018, in Phoenix, AZ. With the goal to travel to all 50 states at some point.

The “Tour” will offer fitness & allied health professionals two, 1-day full workshops and 8 non-competing workshops. Attendees will be granted a one-year professional membership to the MFN (MFN members will be given a large discount)

Topics may include and not be limited to: Active Aging, Alzheimer’s, Arthritis, Autism, Cancer, Diabetes, working with those with Disabilities, Fall Prevention, Fibromyalgia, Heart Disease, Joint Replacement, Mental Health Challenges, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Osteoporosis, Respiratory Disease, Stroke and women’s health issues including pre & postpartum care.

MFN is offering presenters a free opportunity to promote themselves, their course/workshops via a 90-minute workshop and a free vendor table at these events. FitnessFest will have CEC’s set up for the Tour.  Attendees will be granted a one-year professional membership to the MFN (MFN members will be given a large discount)

MFN is looking for venues to donate their location for this educational event. We have a few large fitness clubs, a country club in Boston interested as well as being part of Club Industry Tradeshow fall 2018.

Our vision is to spread this type of education around the country and continue to build the MFN registry of qualified professionals in the area of prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of chronic disease/medical conditions.

Avoiding The Double D Bad Apples

Exclusive for the Soapbox

We hire people for what they know, and we fire them for who they are. It turns out if you hire someone without the right skills or experience you can train them… If they have a good attitude.  If you hire someone with a bad attitude, your chances of changing that are close to zero. Business is in the business of training people how to do things. Business is not in the business of character development.

The Savior Syndrome

Most often when someone is hired with the wrong attitude, their leaders try to save them.  At the least this goes on for months sometimes years. And during that time those engaged in the saving process are wasting their time and not devoting sufficient time to the staff who could benefit from a little coaching and encouragement.  Keeping a bad apple in the barrel is a powerful message to the rest of the apples that bad attitude is acceptable. It can also tell other employees that you really don’t care much about them if you leave someone like this in the organization.  In one organization I had the CEO make a list of all the impacts of a significant bad Apple who was leading a department. We then went back and added a dollar value in terms of wasted time, frustration and workarounds by other executives and staff.  It totaled half a million dollars in an organization with about $10 million of revenue.  He ‘moved on’ shortly afterwards.

To avoid bad apples your mantra must be to hire for attitude, and train for skills. Let the author know if you’d like some more ideas on how to hire for attitude. The rest of this article will focus on avoiding the two worst attitudes in leaders.

Continue reading “Avoiding The Double D Bad Apples”

From the folks at Augie’s Quest; A son’s wish for Father’s Day

Dear Friends,

This month I am honored to write you this email on behalf of the Augie’s Quest Leadership Council. I am a husband, a veteran, a father of three small boys, and in April of 2014 I was diagnosed with ALS. I was only 30 years old.

I mentioned in my introduction that I am a veteran because it is extremely relevant in the battle against ALS. Numerous studies have indicated that military veterans are at least two times more likely to develop ALS, than their civilian counterparts. While we still don’t understand the reason for the higher prevalence among service members and veterans, the cost and toll ALS takes — especially among this community — is devastating. For example,

Since 2001, more veterans have been casualties of ALS, diagnosed with the disease, than overall casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The cost in ALS care to the U.S. taxpayers reaches nearly $450 million annually. The cost to the children, spouses and friends of those affected by ALS cannot be quantified in dollars and cents.

Continue reading “From the folks at Augie’s Quest; A son’s wish for Father’s Day”