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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Management series: Running like clockwork

When planning a new schedule for your club, it’s important to consider the ‘Four Cs’: consultation, communication, co-ordination and compromise. James Bowden explains

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 9
From parking to lockers, a customer will have experienced at least three or four elements of your schedule before they start their workout session

‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States, scientist, philosopher and inventor. Other great men have also been credited for using a similar phrase, including Sir Winston Churchill. Whoever coined it first, the fact of the matter is it’s true.

But as managers know all too well, planning a club schedule is no small task. While essentially a paper exercise, it involves far more than spreadsheet skills. A good starting point is to follow the Four Cs: consultation, communication, co-ordination and compromise.

Consultation
This is a vital process that precedes a schedule formation or major change. Customers and colleagues’ views can bring valuable insight into how your proposed schedule will work – or not. You may think you’ve thought of everything, but you can easily overlook small details which, if ignored, can become big problems. When planning for Westcroft, we scheduled an indoor cycling class that clashed with another local one run by a dynamic teacher. A potential customer said he wouldn’t join us if the cycling classes clashed. I had a choice: change the schedule or poach the dynamic instructor (I did both).

Communication
Communication with customers, colleagues and suppliers must be clear at the outset, during planning and once the schedule is up and running. Remember: communication is a two-way process – it’s not just about you telling people what’s happening, but about listening to what they think and not being afraid to change your plans if necessary.

Co-ordination
Co-ordination between colleagues can be a tricky business. Initially most people will want their class or activity to be held during the most popular time slots, starting on the hour or half-hour. The reality is you can’t run all your classes between 7.00pm and 9.00pm on a weekday and, even if you had 20 studios to play with, the car park and reception areas couldn’t cope with the influx. Staggering classes by 15 minutes can ease congestion in and around your centre. If clashes are inevitable, arrange same-time activities in separate parts of the building (eg studio, pool and sports hall) to avoid corridor congestion.

Compromise
This is key. You need to consult with plenty of people, but don’t expect to please them all. Share the schedule as fairly as possible so all departments have a mix of prime-time and off-peak slots. Given sufficient notice, people can work around a new schedule, but one of the major errors schedulers make is to bring about change too quickly for people to adjust with comfort.

Smooth customer journey
The main aim of any schedule is to ensure that the customer journey is smooth. An enjoyable fitness session starts by being able to park easily. Moving quickly and cheerfully through reception to arrive in a clean, uncrowded changing room and finding an available locker is next. A customer will have experienced at least three or four elements of your schedule before they start their workout session. Colleagues must be made aware of this: sites can come a cropper if the ‘journey’ to a scheduled session is stressful.

Taking the plunge
The pool is the hub of many leisure sites, with family splash, fitness sessions and water sports all popular pastimes.

A large pool can be cleverly divided so fitness lanes are open alongside other sessions such as aqua aerobics. A rule of thumb is to offer at least three lanes for fitness swimming to allow for slow, medium and fast swimmers and avoid frustrations of customers sharing lanes. 

Ladies-only swimming is increasingly popular, but pay attention to the detail. Where possible, Everyone Active has female lifeguards at ladies-only swim sessions: it can be a scheduling headache, but it pays for itself. I recently heard about two local pools, one of which was far nicer in terms of cleanliness and modern facilities. The pools had a women-only session at the same time, but the less pleasant pool promised female lifeguards and it was their queue that went out of the door. This just goes to show the customer experience is a complex one – the devil is in the detail.

Every minute matters
Every minute spent rearranging space is a minute wasted. When scheduling, look to minimise changeover time between studio classes as well as in the sports hall, where you should aim for one set-up and one pull-down per evening.
Group blocking works well, such as dedicating whole evenings to just one or two sports – Monday night for badminton, Tuesday for basketball and so on. That way you don’t find yourself setting up a badminton court for an hour before having to change it to accommodate a team game, before changing it back again for a later badminton booking. Customers will set a ‘night’ for their activity each week – you can do the same on the schedule.

If you’re still not sure, consider that sinking feeling when just one of four badminton courts is occupied and a five-a-side football team turns up. You have 25 per cent utilisation in the hall as you turn away 10 customers…

Beware the quiet times
Being too busy is not the only thing that keeps schedulers awake at nights: under-utilised space and resources also cause concern. Quiet times are inevitable, but clever scheduling can make the most of them. Off-peak sessions for over-50s and families with pre-school children are obvious. Less obvious is understanding that more unusual sports and activities can be scheduled at off-peak times, as people who want to do these activities are committed to them. Classic examples are water polo, synchronised swimming, scuba diving and korfball.

Essential wriggle room
Don’t develop a complete schedule, especially when it’s brand new. It’s far harder to remove or change a class than it is to add one in. Twenty per cent ‘wriggle room’ on a new class schedule and 10 per cent on an existing plan works well. This allows new schedules to grow and develop, and means existing schedules can flex with the inevitable changes that occur.

Scheduling change
People don’t like change – even if it improves things in the long term – and groups who have had a certain time slot can kick up a fuss. Accept some losses in terms of people not being able to alter their schedule. However, for every person who doesn’t like the new plan, two or three others will prefer it.

Consider a sliding scale to compensate external teachers who may lose some clients as a result of your change. I’d suggest a 50 per cent reduction in the hire cost of your space for the first month to allow for any loss of income they may suffer. In the second month – by which time they will probably have recruited more people – allow a 25 per cent reduction and then, for the third month, 10 per cent. This shows goodwill and, by month four, they should be back on-track with a full class, enabling them to pay the full rate.

Top scheduling tips

- Consult your customers on what they want
- Consider the entire customer journey, from entering the car park to
- leaving the building
- Manage people’s expectations: accept that compromise is inevitable
- Give people time to adjust to proposed change
- Don’t create a 100 per cent full schedule: allow for movement and growth
- Minimise changeover time
- Use ‘quiet times’ creatively

About the Author

James Bowden, contract manager at Everyone Active, has over 10 years’ experience in the leisure industry. He set up the schedules and programmes for the new Westcroft Leisure Centre and Everyone Active Acton Centre and currently oversees the Ealing contract, comprising six sites. His schedules typically involve 120 classes a week, over 50 teachers, and facilities with over 7,000 members. He swears by the Four Cs.

Email: [email protected]
Web: www.everyoneactive.com
Facebook: facebook.com/everyoneactive

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Allow 20 per cent ‘wriggle room’ on new class schedules / www.shutterstock.com/Monkey Business Images
Allow 20 per cent ‘wriggle room’ on new class schedules / www.shutterstock.com/Monkey Business Images
Consult staff over new schedules, but realise you can’t please everyone / ALL PHOTOS: www.shutterstock.com
Consult staff over new schedules, but realise you can’t please everyone / ALL PHOTOS: www.shutterstock.com
In the sports hall, aim for only one set-up and one pull-down per evening
In the sports hall, aim for only one set-up and one pull-down per evening
Unusual sports can be scheduled at off-peak times, as participants are committed to them / Photo: shutterstock.com/bikeriderlondon
Unusual sports can be scheduled at off-peak times, as participants are committed to them / Photo: shutterstock.com/bikeriderlondon
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2014_9running.jpg
When planning a new schedule for your facility, remember to apply the ‘four Cs’, says Everyone Active’s James Bowden
James Bowden, contract manager at Everyone Active,Management, scheduling, timetable, ‘four Cs’
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features

Management series: Running like clockwork

When planning a new schedule for your club, it’s important to consider the ‘Four Cs’: consultation, communication, co-ordination and compromise. James Bowden explains

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 9
From parking to lockers, a customer will have experienced at least three or four elements of your schedule before they start their workout session

‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ is a quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States, scientist, philosopher and inventor. Other great men have also been credited for using a similar phrase, including Sir Winston Churchill. Whoever coined it first, the fact of the matter is it’s true.

But as managers know all too well, planning a club schedule is no small task. While essentially a paper exercise, it involves far more than spreadsheet skills. A good starting point is to follow the Four Cs: consultation, communication, co-ordination and compromise.

Consultation
This is a vital process that precedes a schedule formation or major change. Customers and colleagues’ views can bring valuable insight into how your proposed schedule will work – or not. You may think you’ve thought of everything, but you can easily overlook small details which, if ignored, can become big problems. When planning for Westcroft, we scheduled an indoor cycling class that clashed with another local one run by a dynamic teacher. A potential customer said he wouldn’t join us if the cycling classes clashed. I had a choice: change the schedule or poach the dynamic instructor (I did both).

Communication
Communication with customers, colleagues and suppliers must be clear at the outset, during planning and once the schedule is up and running. Remember: communication is a two-way process – it’s not just about you telling people what’s happening, but about listening to what they think and not being afraid to change your plans if necessary.

Co-ordination
Co-ordination between colleagues can be a tricky business. Initially most people will want their class or activity to be held during the most popular time slots, starting on the hour or half-hour. The reality is you can’t run all your classes between 7.00pm and 9.00pm on a weekday and, even if you had 20 studios to play with, the car park and reception areas couldn’t cope with the influx. Staggering classes by 15 minutes can ease congestion in and around your centre. If clashes are inevitable, arrange same-time activities in separate parts of the building (eg studio, pool and sports hall) to avoid corridor congestion.

Compromise
This is key. You need to consult with plenty of people, but don’t expect to please them all. Share the schedule as fairly as possible so all departments have a mix of prime-time and off-peak slots. Given sufficient notice, people can work around a new schedule, but one of the major errors schedulers make is to bring about change too quickly for people to adjust with comfort.

Smooth customer journey
The main aim of any schedule is to ensure that the customer journey is smooth. An enjoyable fitness session starts by being able to park easily. Moving quickly and cheerfully through reception to arrive in a clean, uncrowded changing room and finding an available locker is next. A customer will have experienced at least three or four elements of your schedule before they start their workout session. Colleagues must be made aware of this: sites can come a cropper if the ‘journey’ to a scheduled session is stressful.

Taking the plunge
The pool is the hub of many leisure sites, with family splash, fitness sessions and water sports all popular pastimes.

A large pool can be cleverly divided so fitness lanes are open alongside other sessions such as aqua aerobics. A rule of thumb is to offer at least three lanes for fitness swimming to allow for slow, medium and fast swimmers and avoid frustrations of customers sharing lanes. 

Ladies-only swimming is increasingly popular, but pay attention to the detail. Where possible, Everyone Active has female lifeguards at ladies-only swim sessions: it can be a scheduling headache, but it pays for itself. I recently heard about two local pools, one of which was far nicer in terms of cleanliness and modern facilities. The pools had a women-only session at the same time, but the less pleasant pool promised female lifeguards and it was their queue that went out of the door. This just goes to show the customer experience is a complex one – the devil is in the detail.

Every minute matters
Every minute spent rearranging space is a minute wasted. When scheduling, look to minimise changeover time between studio classes as well as in the sports hall, where you should aim for one set-up and one pull-down per evening.
Group blocking works well, such as dedicating whole evenings to just one or two sports – Monday night for badminton, Tuesday for basketball and so on. That way you don’t find yourself setting up a badminton court for an hour before having to change it to accommodate a team game, before changing it back again for a later badminton booking. Customers will set a ‘night’ for their activity each week – you can do the same on the schedule.

If you’re still not sure, consider that sinking feeling when just one of four badminton courts is occupied and a five-a-side football team turns up. You have 25 per cent utilisation in the hall as you turn away 10 customers…

Beware the quiet times
Being too busy is not the only thing that keeps schedulers awake at nights: under-utilised space and resources also cause concern. Quiet times are inevitable, but clever scheduling can make the most of them. Off-peak sessions for over-50s and families with pre-school children are obvious. Less obvious is understanding that more unusual sports and activities can be scheduled at off-peak times, as people who want to do these activities are committed to them. Classic examples are water polo, synchronised swimming, scuba diving and korfball.

Essential wriggle room
Don’t develop a complete schedule, especially when it’s brand new. It’s far harder to remove or change a class than it is to add one in. Twenty per cent ‘wriggle room’ on a new class schedule and 10 per cent on an existing plan works well. This allows new schedules to grow and develop, and means existing schedules can flex with the inevitable changes that occur.

Scheduling change
People don’t like change – even if it improves things in the long term – and groups who have had a certain time slot can kick up a fuss. Accept some losses in terms of people not being able to alter their schedule. However, for every person who doesn’t like the new plan, two or three others will prefer it.

Consider a sliding scale to compensate external teachers who may lose some clients as a result of your change. I’d suggest a 50 per cent reduction in the hire cost of your space for the first month to allow for any loss of income they may suffer. In the second month – by which time they will probably have recruited more people – allow a 25 per cent reduction and then, for the third month, 10 per cent. This shows goodwill and, by month four, they should be back on-track with a full class, enabling them to pay the full rate.

Top scheduling tips

- Consult your customers on what they want
- Consider the entire customer journey, from entering the car park to
- leaving the building
- Manage people’s expectations: accept that compromise is inevitable
- Give people time to adjust to proposed change
- Don’t create a 100 per cent full schedule: allow for movement and growth
- Minimise changeover time
- Use ‘quiet times’ creatively

About the Author

James Bowden, contract manager at Everyone Active, has over 10 years’ experience in the leisure industry. He set up the schedules and programmes for the new Westcroft Leisure Centre and Everyone Active Acton Centre and currently oversees the Ealing contract, comprising six sites. His schedules typically involve 120 classes a week, over 50 teachers, and facilities with over 7,000 members. He swears by the Four Cs.

Email: [email protected]
Web: www.everyoneactive.com
Facebook: facebook.com/everyoneactive

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Allow 20 per cent ‘wriggle room’ on new class schedules / www.shutterstock.com/Monkey Business Images
Allow 20 per cent ‘wriggle room’ on new class schedules / www.shutterstock.com/Monkey Business Images
Consult staff over new schedules, but realise you can’t please everyone / ALL PHOTOS: www.shutterstock.com
Consult staff over new schedules, but realise you can’t please everyone / ALL PHOTOS: www.shutterstock.com
In the sports hall, aim for only one set-up and one pull-down per evening
In the sports hall, aim for only one set-up and one pull-down per evening
Unusual sports can be scheduled at off-peak times, as participants are committed to them / Photo: shutterstock.com/bikeriderlondon
Unusual sports can be scheduled at off-peak times, as participants are committed to them / Photo: shutterstock.com/bikeriderlondon
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/HCM2014_9running.jpg
When planning a new schedule for your facility, remember to apply the ‘four Cs’, says Everyone Active’s James Bowden
James Bowden, contract manager at Everyone Active,Management, scheduling, timetable, ‘four Cs’
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Company profile: Pendex Fisio S.L.
Pendex programmes are delivered using 12 smart training machines, the design of which correlates with ...
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Company profile: Premier Software Solutions Ltd
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Click on a catalogue to view it online
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Diary dates
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Worldwide, Various,
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Online,
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ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
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Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
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Diary dates
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tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
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