FitnessFitness ProfessionalsUncategorized

Narrowing the Gap Between Expectations and Results

Whether it’s staff or members, how do you close the gap between what is actually happening and the optimal situation?

Do you ever wonder why some task, procedure or something that seems so basic is not happening at your club? What is the optimal result that you are looking for compared to what is actually happening? This difference is known as the gap, and performing a gap analysis is one of your first steps to shrinking this difference.

Think about your club and things that you believe should be done better. More new members signing up and using automatic payment? Less members canceling their membership? A higher close rate on personal training packages? Staff maintaining their CPR/AED and fitness certifications? Trainers keeping their tattoos covered when on duty? Members putting away equipment, especially weights? Wiping equipment down after use? Returning towels? Members achieving their fitness goals?

These are all common situations club owners run into, but how do you fix these gaps and change behaviors? You’ll need to discover what the causes for the gaps are. Here are four key causes to initially explore and consider for many situations:

  • Knowledge and Skills: Do they know how?
  • Motivation: Do they know why, are they confident to do it, and do they care?
  • Environment: Do they have the right resources to do it (this can also include equipment, time, space, and policies)?
  • Incentive: Are they asked to do it, and are there consequences, positive or negative, for doing or not doing it?

Before you take on every gap, also consider how important it is to close. Of course, safety issues are highly important, but other items may require an ROI evaluation, or you may discover it really isn’t an issue but a personal pet peeve.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these examples to give you an idea of how to look for performance solutions. We’ll start with club and staff related challenges first, but then move onto some interesting issues with members.

Signing up new members with automatic payment.

Your expectation is to increase the number of new members signing up each month by 5% over the previous year, and use a credit card automatic payment system. You are only attaining 65% of this goal, not even meeting last year’s numbers! What is the cause of this gap? Your staff has had very little turn over, so they have the skills and knowledge on how to sign up a new member along with training on the automatic payment system. The system is easy to use, so they are confident and motivated to use it, especially since they won’t have to manually run charges each month. They are incentivized to sign up new members with a generous bonus plan. So what’s left? Environment! The new system only takes two of the major credit cards, and some of the potential new members don’t have these cards. By upgrading the automatic payment credit card options you can close this this gap. This quick fix is probably worth the upgrade cost for the increase in new members. (Do potential members have an opportunity to join and sign up online for automatic payment?)

Cover those tattoos?

You expect your staff to maintain a professional and clean-cut appearance.

Every time you look at your training staff and see their tattoos showing, do you sense you are losing potential training sales and new business? Before you answer that, you’ll have to consider the demographics of your club. If you cater to a younger, hipper crowd, tattoos in the workplace are more accepted, but the older you get, the more objectionable they become, at least according to a recent survey by If you have a more mature member base, keeping tattoos covered may be better for business. So are tattoos hurting your business or is it a personal pet peeve? Realize you’re not alone in your speculations that it could be hurting your bottom line. From that same survey, 39% believed that employees with tattoos and piercing reflected poorly on their employer.

Let’s explore the four key causes to discover what may be causing this perceived gap. Does the staff have the knowledge about the policy on covering tattoos? If you have a policy regarding covering tattoos, this is an opportunity to offer feedback. If you don’t have a policy, maybe you’ll need to consider an update. (This can be a touchy topic, and one that may need direction from your HR team!) Perhaps they are unaware of why they should cover their tattoos. If their clients are younger, there may not be much motivation, but if they are trying to reach older clients for personal training services, they may be more motivated to cover up. Environment is not really a factor (unless temperature and becoming overheated is an issue for covering full sleeve and leg tattoos). If there is not a policy in place regarding covering tattoos, and you haven’t asked them to cover their tattoos, then there is not an incentive or direct consequence in place. This gap looks like one that you’ll need to decide if it is really worth pursuing or accepting it since the “younger generation” is leading the charge in getting inked.

Put the weights away and wipe it off!

Have you solved this one? Everyday I see this at local gyms- members not putting away weights, equipment, or even wiping their sweat off of the equipment. Do they have the skills and knowledge of how to do it? Realistically, if they took the weights off the rack, they can put them back. Wiping up sweat is a rather easy task, too. Are they motivated to do it? This one requires a little more exploration. Do they know why it’s important to put the weights away or wipe the equipment down? Posting professional looking posters near equipment or in the locker room highlighting how MRSA or ringworm can spread, or the trip and fall potential of equipment strewn about might increase personal responsibility.

The environment is also a key factor for this gap. Having cleaning spray and paper towels in multiple and convenient locations can encourage an equipment wipe down. Sometimes there’s not enough room to maneuver around the weight racks to return your weights, or it can be a little intimidating to walk around someone with ear buds blaring doing non-stop bicep curls with 90 pound dumbbells in front of the mirrored weight rack wall. Having a “no lifting zone” marked off near equipment storage racks could be a quick fix. Do members have an incentive to put the equipment away or wipe it down or are there any consequences for not doing it? Punishing members isn’t typically a good business practice. Instead try recognizing and encouraging their efforts. Try a “Caught in the Act” drawing by having staff “ticket” members putting away weights or wiping down equipment. Members enter their tickets into weekly or monthly drawings for prizes. Even handing out branded club merchandise to members doing good deeds is a great incentive!

Member Achievement

Helping members achieve their goals can also be a form of gap analysis. When a member develops discrepancy of where they are today and where they want to be, it is an opportunity to explore the consequences of their actions. This is a key principal in motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing is about discovering the reasons why a member wants to change a behavior and strengthening their intrinsic motivations to achieve these changes. Unless someone perceives there is a good reason to change a health behavior, they probably won’t do it. Just informing someone of the reasons why it would be good to change an unhealthy behavior doesn’t mean they’ll take action. NASM has a Behavior Change Specialization that will educate your staff on how to help members achieve healthy behavior changes. (The program even has CEUs to keep your staff up-to-date on their certification requirements!)


This two-step performance analysis, discovering the gap and the causes, is just one of many approaches to improve what is, or is not, happening at your club. There are many different ways to analyze performance. The goal here was to get you thinking about what may be holding your club back from performing at a higher level and finding simple, first-step solutions to some of the dilemmas you may be facing.

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The Author

Stacey Penney, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS

Stacey Penney, MS, NASM-CPT, CES, PES, FNS

Stacey Penney is the Content Strategist with NASM and AFAA. A 20+ year veteran of the fitness industry, she's worked with the top certification and continuing education groups. At NASM and AFAA she drives the content for American Fitness Magazine, blog and the social media platforms. Stacey received her degree in Athletic Training/PE from San Diego State University and an MS in Exercise Science from CalU, plus credentials in Health Promotion Management & Consulting (UCSD), Instructional Technology (SDSU), group fitness and yoga. Previous San Diego Fall Prevention Task Force Chair, she’s developed continuing education curriculum for fitness organizations in addition to personal training, writing, and co-coaching youth rec soccer.

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