Active Wellness CEO Bill McBride shares his tips to grow and keep a successful fitness business

By Melania Armento

Published 18 September 2020

Recently we have discussed the most frequent mistakes you make as a gym owner and how to avoid them, especially if you are at the beginning of your career.

Sharing knowledge and learning from each other’s experiences is what makes our industry grow, and this is also the reason why we have launched our FitNation Lunch & Learn webinars.

One of our latest guests was health club industry veteran Bill McBride. He currently serves as the Co-Founder, President & CEO of Active Wellness and has worked in all aspects of sales, marketing, leadership, management, member experience, and operations.

During his career, Bill has served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for IHRSA and MACMA (Mid-Atlantic Club Management Association), so you do not want to miss Bill’s tips on how to grow a successful fitness business.

7 Tips to Turn Your Passion Into a Career

If Bill could pick a motto that defines him, that would be ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. If you ask him ‘Should you make your passion your career?’ the answer will be yes.

We’ll walk you through all the tips he shared with us to ensure you can successfully grow your fitness club.

  • It’s ok not to have all the answers

Have you ever heard of the horizontal leadership style? Contrary to a vertical leadership style, in horizontal leadership you don’t have to have all the answers, you have to focus on having the right questions and working together to get the answers.

If you think that you have all the answers at any stage in your career, you are sadly mistaken and causing yourself a major disservice. It is ok to be unsure, it doesn’t mean you are a bad leader and it will not affect your image among your employees.

Opening up to your staff and saying ‘I want to get here but I don’t know how we’re going to get there’ is totally fine. Even better, your team can help you figure out how to reach your goals.

One of the key things in leadership is being vulnerable at times and saying ‘hey, you know what/? I don’t know what we should do here, what do you guys think?’

  • Find mentors

Because it is alright not to have all the answers, it’s great to find mentors who can help you grow your business and lead you to take your fitness and wellness business to the next level.

Find mentors to help you start a business or who have enough expertise to walk you through the best strategy to make your business flourish.

You can especially benefit from finding a mentor in the industry who works in a similar business niche. If you want to open a yoga studio and boost your online yogi community, then relying on someone who has developed his business in the same niche can be enlightening for you. Follow your mentor’s steps and avoid making the same mistakes.

  • Learn how to receive feedback

Learn to listen to feedback without getting defensive. When you ask for feedback you need to be ready to accept it and see it as an opportunity to learn and improve.

So, first of all, listen actively and surround yourself with frank people who are not afraid to confront you. Don’t be afraid to confront people with different ideas than yours, since it can be very insightful and enriching for you, on a professional and personal level. When feedback is given to you, interpret it positively, it is a change for you to learn and grow.

  • Understand and respect boundaries

Bear in mind that there’s an employer-employee relationship and it’s harder to manage your team if you don’t set clear boundaries.

Healthy boundaries are mutually beneficial and supportive and help you provide a fun and friendly environment without crossing lines that might make you feel ineffective as a manager.

Respect your employee’s boundaries, and ensure they respect yours.

  • Be optimistic (even if times are tough)

There is no better tip than staying optimistic during difficult times. The pandemic taught us that sometimes it feels nearly impossible to be optimistic and positive in the worst of times, but together with your team you can overcome it.

Be an optimistic intentional leader so you can build confidence that things are gonna be okay, even though you might be struggling. If you don’t know how you are going to do it, just admit it and trust your staff. Together you are going to make it.

  • Hire people with complementary skills

Being a leader doesn’t mean that you need to be a know-it-all. It is definitely a strength to be able to hire talented people who are specialists in their own area.

Skilled staff will give you the confidence that you need to build your business strategy and ensure you provide the best service for your clients.

Combine expertise with technology to give clients a great fitness digital experience and make your business future-proof.

  • Combine fitness and mental wellness

Although it has become a very important topic in our daily life, we often tend to forget how important mental wellness is, and that’s a big mistake.

When our physical condition is low, our mental state usually follows. That’s why mental health should become part of your business strategy, if it isn’t already.

Focus on providing social energy, social positivity, emotional support, and mental wellness activities both for your employees and your members.

Schedule mental health initiatives with your staff to improve their well-being, and combine such activities with traditional fitness classes to ensure that your clients can find physical and mental comfort.

If you want to know more about this topic, don’t miss our FitNation event. Join our leadership, inspiration, and educational workshops from key figures in the fitness industry here.

Melania Armento

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