Culture Eats Strategy for lunch.
– Peter Drucker
Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts is in the 97th percentile of clubs (of 2,475 clubs) in the Anytime Fitness franchise system and quite easily achieved status as a Platinum Club. Several metrics combine for this designation: member retention, financial results, team member retention, and their PLEASE scores, which are based on the club’s alignment with corporate values.
I have a colleague who likes to say, leaders get the organizations they deserve. Owners Jacqui Bliss and Renee Reed have a lot to be proud of and they are getting exactly what they worked hard for and thus deserve.
The Platinum Club accolade does not surprise me one bit. I’ve been a member of AF BAD (Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts District) for two years and from the moment I walked in I could feel the culture. My experience and their offer continues to improve, so I conclude that I was not shown dogs and ponies. It’s also an easy place to be; the community is friendly and eagerly supports your goals. Even with the neighborly atmosphere, the sweat pours, heart rates rise and strength is built.
The Big Ideas of this Podcast:
- How to achieve a High-Performing Culture
- Ways to stay relevant in the changing world of fitness (or any industry!)
- How business partners navigate difficult times by staying focused on the future and leaning on each other’s strengths
A Culture that Works at Anytime Fitness Bishop Arts
Jacqui and Renee are doing so many things right, but I’m highlighting a few of the ones that stand out the most in this interview.
Establish and Keep Rhythms
Experts on business execution and operational excellence agree on the value of setting and keeping rhythms. The right amount of structure will set an organization free. Here’s how:
- Rhythms cut down on reactivity. The organization is constantly updating and reporting on important information rather than responding to last-minute, ad hoc requests. Keeping on top of strategies and initiatives reduces fire drills.
- Honored rhythms build trust. When meetings with employees are given priority rather than scheduled over, the leader is sending the message that the employee, and the team, are valuable and key to the organization’s success.
- Regular meetings give team members a reliable communication channel to discuss issues that impact them.
- Team members share knowledge such as successes that can be amplified, and mistakes so they avoid being repeated.
- Meeting rhythms cut down on last-minute and ad hoc meetings so that more focused time can be devoted to the most important work.
The AF BAD club’s meeting rhythm includes weekly meetings with the entire team to cover general updates and operational topics. They discuss the successes and challenges they observe with individual members and check in on the PLEASE values set by Corporate, focusing on how the values are being implemented at their location, with their members.
Weekly one-on-one meetings are also held with every team member. Anything is open for discussion at these meetings: personal/professional development, career goals, personal check-ins, individual projects and initiatives, complaints, requests and so on.
A Creative vs Reactive Orientation
Jacqui and Renee articulated over and over what they cared about and what they want to bring into being during our conversation. This way of thinking is called a Creative Orientation. Quite simply, keeping your sights on goals, vision, values, and purpose results in more passion and less drama; more sustainable results and fewer rollercoaster rides. Leaders who lead this way build motivated, inspired and high-achieving organizations.
A Focus on the People
Jacqui and Renee keep a larger than normal staff so that 1) members have consistent access to trainers and the club manager when they have questions, and 2) so that the team members have colleagues working with them most of the time. As they say in the interview, it’s no fun being the only employee at work! While one can argue this has a short-term negative impact to the bottom line, it results in long term employee and member retention.
An Inclusive Environment
Inclusion and diversity are powerful words these days. The AF BAD club is a microcosm of Oak Cliff, with all the shapes, sizes, ages, races, gay, straight, trans, and decorated people you can imagine. If you’re not comfortable with all that, this probably isn’t the place for you. Lately, the most impressive form of diversity I’ve experienced are folks coming in that are highly ‘deconditioned’, meaning significantly out of shape. The story I tell myself is that they have been made to feel welcome here. Both Renee and Jacqui have shared that the stories they’re hearing about the visions people want for themselves and their lives has been touching and inspiring.
Inclusion is good for business and good for humankind.
Most industries have experienced significant shifts in the past decade or so – just look at the retail, taxi, and news industries as proof. The fitness industry is no exception. Any business wanting to thrive in today’s environment must innovate and find ways to stay fresh and exciting.
Renee and Jacqui stay relevant by:
- Investing in leadership and organizational development. An organizational coach taught them about meeting rhythms and tracking and communicating metrics.
- Committing wholeheartedly to their decisions. I see many individuals and organizations who invest money for development but then either don’t stick with it or they improv. Improvising means that they implement only part of the recommendation, or they combine advice from several experts rather than stick with one approach. Renee talks in the interview about burning the ships – giving themselves no way out except through to completion. 100% Commitment.
- Employing new technology that gamifies working out with friendly competition and reports meaningful statistics to the users.
- Updating equipment and renovating the space.
- Always researching and learning. “Jacqui is the gas”, says Renee. They, and most people on their team, have advanced degrees and are continual learners. Each team member has a history as a college athlete or a story of personal transformation. Jacqui and Renee have built a fantastic, high-performing team.
- Using Social Media in positive ways to tell good stories.
If you want to make it in today’s world it requires constant evolution.
Many small, independent businesses are run by owners who are also life partners. The current statistics on divorce rates hover somewhere around 50%, which poses an additional test for these business and life pairings. What happens to the business when the personal relationship falters (and vice versa)?
Renee and Jacqui beautifully illustrate a new composition. With the same dedication and commitment with which they seem to run the rest of their life, they have made their way to a very positive and respectful business collaboration. They are also parents to an exceptional son and they’re doing a fantastic job in their shared parenting – vacationing and spending holidays together as a family.
Based on the success Jacqui and Renee have experienced in their situation, here are a few questions to consider if you find yourself in one that is similar:
- Re-assess your vision for the business. Do you still feel strongly about it and want it to succeed? Do you want to continue to be a part of it?
- When the emotional dust particles settle, is your business partner someone who you respect and who you feel has a similar work ethic? Was the business partnership working, even if the life partnership wasn’t? Are you a good team?
- Are you willing to ‘do your work’ and learn about your contributions to the breakdown and declare to improve in those areas?
- Can you move past the hurt and work without resentment?
- Can you (eventually) be ‘all in’ again?
I’m not an expert in this matter, but it seems if you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions you have a good starting point for the next iteration of your evolving business.
I’m glad you’re here, and always remember… Elevate Your Part of the World!