Club Insider

Leaders Aspire to Inspire

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Frank GuengerichFrank Guengerich

Recently, I was approached by a member, and he was very complimentary about the operation, service and brand delivery at our multi-sports luxury athletic club called VERDURE. I'm always thrilled to hear positive feedback regarding service delivery, especially because our ownership group and management team are very focused on delivering an amazing experience for our members. The member asked me: If I had one piece of advice to provide a new owner or manager in the club business, what would it be? The answer has always been simple for me: To be a Servant Leader. To me, these are the keys to being a Servant Leader:

Be Authentic and Passionate About Your Product/Brand

To be the best, you have to pour you heart and soul into being the best. Your brand has to speak to what you are passionate about, and you and the team have to be committed to doing everything possible to delivering on your promise. Perfection should always be the pursuit and journey. As the saying goes, it's about the journey and not the destination. Pursuit of excellence is inspiring, and a leader should surround himself with others who understand the brand promise and are passionate about it. Our promise is to support our members in their fitness journey and provide them with an outstanding experience along the way.

Our brand, VERDURE, means a condition of health and vigor. We want our staff to be totally committed to not only our members health and vigor but to theirs as well.

I'm obsessed with our brand and product, and I passionately believe in it. I personally work out six days a week in the morning and compete nationally in bodybuilding and physique competitions in the Master's Division. I have never been able to understand how someone in a leadership position in the health and fitness business wasn't totally committed to his personal health and wellbeing. Also, I only want team members to be part of our brand and vison who feel and act the same way.

Being authentic and passionate about your product and brand are vital to being a Servant Leader, because to influence customers and team members, action speaks louder than words.

Being Customer Centric

To see your product and brand through the customer's lens is critical because only then will you truly understand what they encounter every day. How clean is the facility, does everything work, is the temperature perfect, are the team members respectful, helpful and available? The list goes on and on. Just doing a daily walkthrough for 30 minutes doesn't cut it. Use your club the same way your members use the club.

I've heard managers and owners talk about how important it is to conduct surveys for feedback. While I believe surveys are a tool and assist in better understanding customer satisfaction, speaking directly with your members and interacting so aggressively and consistently with them that they want to meet you and tell you about their experience is even more important. Make yourself available and don't sit in your office during prime times. Be on the fitness floor, outside classes when they are done, stand at the reception desk... be available and interact!

Have a rule to never talk negatively about a customer; that's a horribly slippery slope. As a Servant Leader, if you are having an issue with a member, take personal responsibility to speak directly with that member. Do not allow issues to be unresolved, and don't allow staff to talk to each other about a customer. That allows room for a culture that is not respectful.

Support, Interact and Teach Staff

A Servant Leader is hands-on, and no task is too small or too big for them to be involved. At VERDURE, our approach to training and development is to: (1) Tell (2) Show (3) Do. First, we tell them how to do a task. Next, we show them. Lastly, we have the team members do the task in front of us to demonstrate they have an understanding of how to successfully complete the task. This requires a hands-on approach to leading your team.

Just as it is vital to interact with your customers, it is equally important to interact with your frontline team members. After all, they are the ones in close contact with your customers all day. They will make or break your success. They need to exude your culture, and reinforcing the behavior and values you expect is critical. Servant Leaders have zero tolerance for anything except team members who are devoted to customer satisfaction and enjoyment.

A perfect example of this was that, last summer, we had a grill team member at our resort pool complex (which is world-class) who became somewhat of a mascot. His name was Derrick, and he was a barback for our food and beverage operation, which is very large.

Derrick would run all day from bar to bar and customer to customer to make sure they got their food and drinks as fast as possible. But, at the same time, Derrick would take the time to stop and interact with customers. Often, he would even dance with them. Every customer knew Derrick. He always had a smile on his face, he had an amazing attitude and he genuinely loved his job.

Being a Servant Leader takes discipline and focus. It requires relentless attention to detail and an uncompromising approach. However, the satisfaction you and your team will have when you have raving fans as customers will be well worth it.

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