When Fitness Management was still in the concept stage, we envisioned it as “the magazine for professionals in adult physical fitness.” We saw the need for professionalism in the industry, and knew a few good examples of it. We also knew that the word “professional” was not the first to occur to the public mind when the word “health club” was mentioned.
With the maturing of the mighty baby-boomer market and the growing necessity to reduce the cost of preventable chronic diseases, a more sophisticated and wary market is putting a higher premium on professionalism in fitness services.
There’s a difference of opinion in the industry about whether providers of fitness services ought to become professionals in the legal sense, with strict licensing codes. But, I have not heard anyone argue out loud that managements and staffs of fitness facilities should not act professionally.
The oldest use of the word “profession” (literally a “public declaration”) was in the Middle Ages, as clergymen put themselves on record as being servants of God. Soon, doctors, lawyers and teachers took on professional status, promising to observe codes of ethics and practice. By the early 20th century, accountants, nurses, engineers, dentists, architects and others formed recognized professions.
Beyond the licensed professions, the word “professional” has been used more loosely — even to indicate someone who plays for money at a game that others play for enjoyment. While money has always seemed to come more easily to people in the professions than to the common folk, that does not seem to me to be the heart of professionalism.
The “virtual professional” (VP) has all the “virtues” of the professional without having to be recognized by a formal body. The key virtue is to put the client’s wellbeing ahead of any personal gain. To support that virtue, the VP is committed to constantly improve their knowledge and skill. The VP conducts his or her activity with the pride and integrity of the pure professional. In quality of performance and ethical standards, the VP does not cut corners. The VP’s sense of vocation and enthusiasm results in the customer’s sensing that the VP cares about their comfort, enjoyment and physical wellbeing.
Money seems to follow professionalism. But hard-sell tactics that make money the first object are corrosive of professionalism, not to mention customer satisfaction and loyalty. If you have read this far, you are not one of the quick-buck operators who are giving the industry a major black eye. You envision your club as professional, but how do you provide sales incentives without getting your sales people more focussed on numbers than on people? The club is only as professional as the front-line people (some major clubs have done away with sales staffs altogether; everyone who deals with clients both serves and softly sells).
Willie Sutton was said to have robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” Though widely quoted, Sutton told a biographer he never said it. He robbed banks “because I enjoyed it.” Now that’s a professional bank robber!
To extend virtual professionalism throughout your organization, support an atmosphere where staff can enjoy doing, and are prepared to do, what’s right for the customer and ultimately what’s right for the company. Make sure the short-term dash for the numbers does not lead your staff to cut corners on virtual professionalism.
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chronic diseases , fitness , health club