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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Never say no

Ray Algar reports on the remarkable health club that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 11
Franco’s Club donates the use of its facilities to local special needs children
Franco’s Club donates the use of its facilities to local special needs children

Last month, I discussed how for-profit business TOMS (www.TOMS.com) was leveraging the power of generosity through its ‘one-for-one’ business model, to compete in the fiercely competitive shoe and eyewear industries (see HCM Oct 14, p46). This month, I want to share the story of how Franco’s Athletic Club, located in the US state of Louisiana, is using generosity to become one of the world’s most admired health clubs.

Community engagement
I first met Sandy Franco, one of the co-owners, when she was presenting at the 2013 IHRSA European Congress in Madrid. Her message was a simple one: invest in your community and the community will invest in your club. Sandy and Ron, her husband, have pursued this strategy for 26 years.

The Francos acquired the 2,600sq m (28,000sq ft) racquetball and social facility, originally known as the Bon Temps Club, in 1988. Two years after the acquisition, their world fell apart when their two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

The Francos had already made a big impression in the small city of Mandeville and received an outpouring of support – even from people they had never met. As Sandy recalls: “Friends, family, members and the wider community rose up and supported us. They were writing us letters, they were supporting us, they pretty much carried us through this time and it’s something we’ll never forget. It wasn’t a conscious thing when we said ‘let’s start being community players’ – we feel an obligation. They were there for us and we want to be there for them.

“Our precious daughter, thank God, has grown to become a vibrant young woman, but we’re constantly striving to fulfil the promise we made at that time – to give back to the community that gave so much to our family.”

For the past 26 years, the Francos have therefore been reciprocating: the more their club has grown, the more they give. Today, Franco’s has grown to more than 23,225sq m (250,000sq ft) of indoor and outdoor space for fitness, sports and recreation, with approximately 15,000 members.

Creating long-term value
When it comes to requests from charities, schools and community groups, the Franco mantra is, and always has been: ‘Never say no.’ Why so generous?

Crucially, they do not see these requests through the lens of random acts of charity, but as investing in a community that creates long-term value for their business. “We believe that, by giving back to our community, we have grown our facility and our membership,” says Sandy.

Of course, saying yes doesn’t always mean writing a cheque – it also includes offering the club’s courts and studio space to schools, dance clubs and sports teams, and donating use of the pools for mental and physical stimulation therapy for special needs children.

Sometimes the club just needs to act as the catalyst and mobilise its army of members, employees and supporters. A recent demonstration of this compassionate activism involved fundraising for a local cancer centre: organising a gala dinner for the first time, the club set itself a target of selling 300 tickets and raising US$75,000, but instead sold 500 tickets and raised US$185,000. Will this drive short-term membership sales? Probably not, but the club’s reputation has just been given a steroid-like boost.

Franco’s has now raised more than US$1.5m for a wide range of non-profit organisations and donated significantly more from in-kind use of its facilities.

Respecting your club’s ethos
During Sandy’s Madrid presentation, she shared the story of the time Franco’s was looking to expand into a second site, explaining that they faced tough competition from a much larger national chain seeking the same property.

The property landlord couldn’t decide between the two businesses, so a representative visited Franco’s to better understand its operating philosophy. A tipping point came when, during the visit, he was captivated by a studio class for local children with special needs. Franco’s was awarded the lease to operate the new club, leaving the larger rival with a far stronger balance sheet surprised and perplexed.

Sandy summed it up: “People who appreciate your efforts will want to be a part of your club and to do business with you.”

Beating the odds
Something remarkable is occurring in the Franco’s catchment area where, according to a local report in 2009, more than 26 per cent of the population belonged to a health club. The US national average at the time was 14 per cent, not to mention the fact that Louisiana as a whole has the sixth highest adult obesity rate in the United States (source: The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America).

So what’s driving this remarkable level of engagement? I’m not sure I know, but what is clear is that the team at Franco’s have spent the past 26 years getting out of their club and into their community.

GYMTOPIA – A PLACE WHERE CLUBS DO SOCIAL GOOD

Gymtopia was conceived by founder and chief engagement officer Ray Algar, who believes the global health and fitness industry has enormous influence and potential to do good in the world, beyond its immediate customers. The idea of Gymtopia is simple: to curate and spread remarkable stories in which the fitness industry uses its influence to reach out and support an external community in need. It was created with the generous support of five organisations: Companhia Athletica, Gantner Technologies, Les Mills, Retention Management and The Gym Group. Gymtopia received an Outstanding Achievement Award in
the ukactive Matrix Flame Awards 2014.

Read more stories and submit your own: www.Gymtopia.org

Ray Algar
Ray Algar

WHAT’S YOUR LEGACY?

Each year, IHRSA selects one club from across the US to receive its Outstanding Community Service Award. The award is presented to a club committed to making a difference in, and beyond, its community.

Franco’s was the deserved recipient of the award in 2013, but it was Ron Franco’s comments during the acceptance video that revealed their driving motivation: “Everyone in life wants to leave a legacy. I think getting involved in the community, doing good things for your community, reaching people, touching lives – that’s a legacy you want to leave. It’s not how much money or how many clubs you have, but the effect you have had on people.”

So how would you sum up the legacy of your business over the past five to 10 years – and more importantly, what’s the core story that others are saying about your brand right now?

Leaving a legacy: The Francos
Leaving a legacy: The Francos

IN A NUTSHELL

Project by: Franco’s Athletic Club
Website: myfrancos.com
Project status: Ongoing and long-term
Charity supported: Various
Impact: US
Gymtopia keywords: Clothing & Shelter, Education, Food & Nutrition,
Health & Wellbeing, Helping Children, Medical Research

500 tickets were sold for a recent fundraising gala dinner, raising US$185,000 for charity – more than double the target
500 tickets were sold for a recent fundraising gala dinner, raising US$185,000 for charity – more than double the target
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/819558_968008.jpg
Ray Algar reports on the remarkable health club in the US that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years
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features

Never say no

Ray Algar reports on the remarkable health club that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years

Published in Health Club Management 2014 issue 11
Franco’s Club donates the use of its facilities to local special needs children
Franco’s Club donates the use of its facilities to local special needs children

Last month, I discussed how for-profit business TOMS (www.TOMS.com) was leveraging the power of generosity through its ‘one-for-one’ business model, to compete in the fiercely competitive shoe and eyewear industries (see HCM Oct 14, p46). This month, I want to share the story of how Franco’s Athletic Club, located in the US state of Louisiana, is using generosity to become one of the world’s most admired health clubs.

Community engagement
I first met Sandy Franco, one of the co-owners, when she was presenting at the 2013 IHRSA European Congress in Madrid. Her message was a simple one: invest in your community and the community will invest in your club. Sandy and Ron, her husband, have pursued this strategy for 26 years.

The Francos acquired the 2,600sq m (28,000sq ft) racquetball and social facility, originally known as the Bon Temps Club, in 1988. Two years after the acquisition, their world fell apart when their two-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

The Francos had already made a big impression in the small city of Mandeville and received an outpouring of support – even from people they had never met. As Sandy recalls: “Friends, family, members and the wider community rose up and supported us. They were writing us letters, they were supporting us, they pretty much carried us through this time and it’s something we’ll never forget. It wasn’t a conscious thing when we said ‘let’s start being community players’ – we feel an obligation. They were there for us and we want to be there for them.

“Our precious daughter, thank God, has grown to become a vibrant young woman, but we’re constantly striving to fulfil the promise we made at that time – to give back to the community that gave so much to our family.”

For the past 26 years, the Francos have therefore been reciprocating: the more their club has grown, the more they give. Today, Franco’s has grown to more than 23,225sq m (250,000sq ft) of indoor and outdoor space for fitness, sports and recreation, with approximately 15,000 members.

Creating long-term value
When it comes to requests from charities, schools and community groups, the Franco mantra is, and always has been: ‘Never say no.’ Why so generous?

Crucially, they do not see these requests through the lens of random acts of charity, but as investing in a community that creates long-term value for their business. “We believe that, by giving back to our community, we have grown our facility and our membership,” says Sandy.

Of course, saying yes doesn’t always mean writing a cheque – it also includes offering the club’s courts and studio space to schools, dance clubs and sports teams, and donating use of the pools for mental and physical stimulation therapy for special needs children.

Sometimes the club just needs to act as the catalyst and mobilise its army of members, employees and supporters. A recent demonstration of this compassionate activism involved fundraising for a local cancer centre: organising a gala dinner for the first time, the club set itself a target of selling 300 tickets and raising US$75,000, but instead sold 500 tickets and raised US$185,000. Will this drive short-term membership sales? Probably not, but the club’s reputation has just been given a steroid-like boost.

Franco’s has now raised more than US$1.5m for a wide range of non-profit organisations and donated significantly more from in-kind use of its facilities.

Respecting your club’s ethos
During Sandy’s Madrid presentation, she shared the story of the time Franco’s was looking to expand into a second site, explaining that they faced tough competition from a much larger national chain seeking the same property.

The property landlord couldn’t decide between the two businesses, so a representative visited Franco’s to better understand its operating philosophy. A tipping point came when, during the visit, he was captivated by a studio class for local children with special needs. Franco’s was awarded the lease to operate the new club, leaving the larger rival with a far stronger balance sheet surprised and perplexed.

Sandy summed it up: “People who appreciate your efforts will want to be a part of your club and to do business with you.”

Beating the odds
Something remarkable is occurring in the Franco’s catchment area where, according to a local report in 2009, more than 26 per cent of the population belonged to a health club. The US national average at the time was 14 per cent, not to mention the fact that Louisiana as a whole has the sixth highest adult obesity rate in the United States (source: The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America).

So what’s driving this remarkable level of engagement? I’m not sure I know, but what is clear is that the team at Franco’s have spent the past 26 years getting out of their club and into their community.

GYMTOPIA – A PLACE WHERE CLUBS DO SOCIAL GOOD

Gymtopia was conceived by founder and chief engagement officer Ray Algar, who believes the global health and fitness industry has enormous influence and potential to do good in the world, beyond its immediate customers. The idea of Gymtopia is simple: to curate and spread remarkable stories in which the fitness industry uses its influence to reach out and support an external community in need. It was created with the generous support of five organisations: Companhia Athletica, Gantner Technologies, Les Mills, Retention Management and The Gym Group. Gymtopia received an Outstanding Achievement Award in
the ukactive Matrix Flame Awards 2014.

Read more stories and submit your own: www.Gymtopia.org

Ray Algar
Ray Algar

WHAT’S YOUR LEGACY?

Each year, IHRSA selects one club from across the US to receive its Outstanding Community Service Award. The award is presented to a club committed to making a difference in, and beyond, its community.

Franco’s was the deserved recipient of the award in 2013, but it was Ron Franco’s comments during the acceptance video that revealed their driving motivation: “Everyone in life wants to leave a legacy. I think getting involved in the community, doing good things for your community, reaching people, touching lives – that’s a legacy you want to leave. It’s not how much money or how many clubs you have, but the effect you have had on people.”

So how would you sum up the legacy of your business over the past five to 10 years – and more importantly, what’s the core story that others are saying about your brand right now?

Leaving a legacy: The Francos
Leaving a legacy: The Francos

IN A NUTSHELL

Project by: Franco’s Athletic Club
Website: myfrancos.com
Project status: Ongoing and long-term
Charity supported: Various
Impact: US
Gymtopia keywords: Clothing & Shelter, Education, Food & Nutrition,
Health & Wellbeing, Helping Children, Medical Research

500 tickets were sold for a recent fundraising gala dinner, raising US$185,000 for charity – more than double the target
500 tickets were sold for a recent fundraising gala dinner, raising US$185,000 for charity – more than double the target
http://www.leisureopportunities.com/images/819558_968008.jpg
Ray Algar reports on the remarkable health club in the US that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years
Latest News
Mid-market health club operator Total Fitness has acquired Pro-Fit Personal Training. The deal follows a ...
Latest News
PureGym is set to become the second largest fitness operator in Europe, after revealing plans ...
Latest News
The Glass House Retreat, a new eco-friendly health and wellness retreat, has opened in Bulphan, ...
Latest News
A large-scale study on genetics has shown that being more physically active reduces the risk ...
Latest News
The Gym Group has confirmed plans to roll out a new small box format in ...
Latest News
Representatives from the three main political parties have backed the view that physical activity has ...
Latest News
Life Leisure is expanding its facility portfolio with the launch of an independent boutique fitness ...
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Featured supplier: Gympass expands in Ireland with flagship operator Gym Plus
Gympass, a leader in corporate fitness sales, has expanded its network to Ireland following a new partnership with Gym Plus.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: CIMSPA Youth Panel to give real insight into Gen Z at active-net 2020
It’s just months away until active-net 2020, the two-day educational, networking and business meetings event, which attracts professionals from across the leisure sector.
Company profiles
Company profile: Focus Training
Focus Training is a leading provider of Active IQ and YMCA Awards certified Personal Trainer ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Netpulse
Founded in 2001, Netpulse is the world’s number one provider of branded mobile apps for ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Management software
Fisikal: Management software
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Professional services
Deloitte UK: Professional services
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Whole body cryotherapy
Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
Spa software
ResortSuite: Spa software
Fitness software
Go Do.Fitness: Fitness software
Audio visual
Hutchison Technologies: Audio visual
Direct debit solutions
Debit Finance Collections: Direct debit solutions
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
21-23 Jan 2020
Harrogate Convention Centre, Harrogate, United Kingdom
Diary dates
28-30 Jan 2020
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
29-30 Jan 2020
Holiday Inn San Francisco-Golden Gateway, San Francisco, United States
Diary dates
23-25 Mar 2020
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Diary dates
25-26 Mar 2020
Eastwood Hall, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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tbc, Beijing, China
Diary dates
04 Jun 2020
Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
10-27 Jun 2020
tbc, Pinggu, China
Diary dates
13 Jun 2020
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
17-18 Jun 2020
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Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2020
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Diary dates
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NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
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