Grow, Learn, Create and Lead

Grow, Learn, Create and Lead

Monday, 03 September 2012 15:28

What do unused gym memberships, staff retention and connected entrepreneurs have in common?

What unused gym memberships and connected entrepreneurs have in common

In my board role as new member integration chair for the Entrepreneur’s Organisation (EO) in Melbourne, my ultimate goal is to help ensure that new members renew their membership after their first year.


The highest drop off risk for any new member is in year one and this has been measured over 25 years (EO is 25 years old this year!).


To help increase the chance of renewal, there are a number of initiatives I can implement, but in a nutshell my role is to help new members engage in the organisation and make the most of the benefits that EO has to offer.


I am the facilitator, which I am extremely passionate about.


In our global leadership conference in Vancouver this year I learned how various chapters around the globe manage their process.


While some simply crack open a slab of Corona’s and get smashed (great idea in Monterrey), another chapter makes the new member invite everyone around to their house for dinner.


We had a good laugh at some clever initiatives, but ultimately our goals are the same.


Here’s an example of my process. When a new member is accepted, I email them within 24 hours with the subject line “your life and business is about to change” and invite them for breakfast.


Once we get to know each other I help explain the benefits and opportunities and outline our expectations.


By this point, I hope that the new members are pumped and jumping out of their skin to get involved. I can’t speak highly enough about my experience.


My role as ‘the connector’


It’s my role to help connect new members with new and existing members. That might be in person at an event or through email. Making introductions that could last a lifetime.


I organise groups to meet for lunch twice a year helping connect new members with existing members who are outside of their monthly forum group.


I also have a schedule throughout the year to help ensure I stay in touch so I don’t lose momentum.


My goal is to achieve a 90%+ renewal rate, so let’s see how I go.


In your company, when a new staff member commences, does the excitement wear off after day one, week one, month one? What strategies do you implement on a regular basis to help keep the excitement high and how do you win the hearts and minds of your team?


In my company, day one and week one are critical moments and I have blogged about this topic previously. I’ve also written about reinforcing the 5F’s during the first 90 days of employment (Fit, Family, Freedom, Fortune, Fun), but what initiatives do you implement on an ongoing basis?


Staff retention


What’s the secret to staff retention? Is it the free alcohol once a year at the annual Xmas party?


Secret number one: Win the hearts and minds of your staff authentically. Notice the italic word, which is in italics for a reason. In fact, go and re-read the bold bit again.


How, I hear you ask?


There’s no secret way. Every company is unique based on their own set of values. I have studied, watched, observed, practised, tried and failed different techniques and while I am very much still a student of the game, here is an example of 10 initiatives that work for me:

    • One-on-one weekly coaching and mentoring sessions.
    • Provide opportunities for your team to connect and build relationships with each other.
    • Be selfless. For example, I am passionate about helping others work towards achieving their career and personal goals and dreams.
    • Celebrate successes collectively on a daily or weekly basis.
    • Highlight demonstrated values of your company and culture.
    • Coordinate monthly and quarterly events off site in a social context – breakfasts, lunches or fun interactive activities.
    • Provide constructive criticism as talented staff will want to learn to improve. I use the sandwich approach, a basic coaching technique: ‘positive – negative – positive’.
    • Recognition. Highlight positive behaviours regularly and in front of other staff at every opportunity.
    • Add a personal touch. I like to recognise birthdays and anniversaries of staff along with their partner’s and children’s along with other key milestones.
    • Connect. Connect. Connect. As the leader, you should have the greatest network. Use your network to help connect your team wherever possible – whether professionally or personally.

      To implement all these initiatives takes practice and a number of learned skills which all leaders should aim to develop over time. One of the things I love doing is sharing my wisdom with those who want to become better leaders.

      In large companies, staff retention is often dumped on ‘HR’ and, in my experience, they continue to get it wrong.


      So what does HR do? They set up formal systems and processes with job descriptions, training, pay reviews and even put chocolate Easter eggs on people’s desks. While these are a great start, HR cannot control the hearts and minds of staff members on a daily basis.


      If I was hired as an HR manager, I would outsource my role in five minutes. I’d send all my leaders to see me or another coach of leaders, every week for a one hour coaching session for a year.


      I’d focus on growing better leaders. Leaders – whether they are supervisors, line managers or senior executives – have the ability to influence on a day-to-day basis.


      Unused gym memberships


      Anyway, so what has this got to do with your underused gym membership which you probably won’t renew when your 12 months expires? Why is my personal training gym and trainer so successful?


      I finally worked it out when I went back to a gym recently and realised I made a horrible decision. St Kilda Sea Baths to be exact. Think before you sign. Please.


      My local gym (Jungle gym in Balaclava which is a cross fit gym), has passionate trainers who connect with members and connect members with other members extremely well without even realising it.


      They build a sense of community. It’s a more intimate experience in a smaller environment. The results achieved are also phenomenal. Sure, the price is higher, but the results are more than twice as high.


      My trainer is super passionate. He loves what he does. He pushes us to the limit. He is caring and sympathetic but pushes us hard. He engages us with other members. If he left, his clients would follow.


      Fitness First (recently bailed out of financial distress) and other gym chains are always chasing new members as their renewal rate is horrific.


      Consider these questions:

      • When was the last time that Fitness First called to ask how you are going?
      • Does the receptionist know your name? Are any of the trainers on the floor ever pro-active and helpful?
      • Has a trainer ever connected you with another member or is it ‘every man for himself’ while hiding behind a pair of earphones?
      • Do you know the names of five members who you see on a weekly basis?
      • Ever been set up with a small group of members of similar fitness to train together?
      • Is anyone actually paid to be responsible for client retention?

      Fitness First signs you up, takes your money and hopes for the best. How many companies do you know who follow a similar philosophy with their new hires! Sign them up and hope they stay!


      There’s a lack of leadership in many companies. That’s the problem with staff retention. It’s not the work or the industry. It’s a lack of leadership in my opinion.


      I’m back at Jungle gym and loving it (please remind me of this as it’s tough going!). I’m connected. I feel loved. I’m seeing results faster. And that’s why I’m on the board of EO and why members renew. And there’s also your three secrets to staff retention.


      Jonathan Weinstock is the co-founder of (formerly known as, Australia’s #1 Sports Deals site and founder of specialist recruitment company Launchtwo People which helps companies find top talent. Jonathan is on the board of Entrepreneur’s Organisation, Melbourne chapter and a mentor to start-up incubator Angel Cube. Jonathan’s blog aims to help others "Grow, Learn, Create and Lead" better.

      Comments (1)

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      Jonathan - excellent article and some great staff retention initiatives.

      I have my own take on staff retention from my work with Integrity and Values, which relies upon the following trio of core initiatives:

      1. Providing a clear vision (of a desirable future). I am constantly surprised how few SME owners have a clear vision of their own future - let alone the ability to communicate a vision to the people they are supposed to be leading.
      2. Guaranteeing clear and open communication and 'a fair fight' to resolve any disputes or disagreements.
      3. Fun - and that doesn't mean beer and skittles on Friday night or an annual barbecue. Those old saws don't cut it these days.

      More info on my website here:


      Chris Blackman
      Chris Blackman , September 04, 2012
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