Andrea Wardinsky by Andrea Wardinsky

 While the title of fitness manager or director may sound appealing, the unique tasks and challenges you will face are very different from the responsibilities you have as a personal trainer or group fitness instructor. The skills required to be a trainer or instructor don’t necessarily translate into being a successful manager. In reality, making the tough decisions isn’t always the most glamorous job. At the same time, calling the shots to create change in a world where obesity rates are continuing to rise can be extremely fulfilling.

So, how do you know if you are ready to make the move into management and lead a team?

Let’s take a brief look a few requirements of management to help you answer that question.

#1. You have a desire to lead others and create synergy.

Successful managers understand that their most important focus becomes the team they have assembled and cultivated. You will likely be in charge of hiring, training, supervising and ensuring each team member works to hit the goals you have helped create. While member retention remains the overall goal, pouring energy into hiring people with the right attitude and aptitude is critical. The time you spend supporting and encouraging them to do their job with energy and enthusiasm will in turn translate to member retention. Creating a team atmosphere among employees that largely work independently frees up energy you can then spend on other responsibilities. And you’ll have your work cut out for you: In today’s workforce there is a wide variety of both personalities and generations. You may have both Baby Boomers and Millennials on your team, so learning communication techniques for each generation is in your best interest.

#2. You know your strengths and really feel you can make a difference.

The responsibilities of a manager vary depending on the company’s mission and organizational structure, but understanding your role and where your strengths lie is critical for success. Are you expected to be the visionary of the program and create unique programs, services and offerings? It certainly helps to have a creative mind that can generate a lot of ideas! Or are you tasked with executing the vision of management above you? Are you there to train existing team members, carry out the programs already in place, assemble reports and analyze statistics, run payroll and handle day-to-day operational tasks? Will you be calling all the shots and making tough decisions, and ultimately be responsible for the program’s profitability? In most cases, your role will probably involve a blend of being both the visionary and executor. Regardless, strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to handle and prioritize often-competing tasks are all necessary to achieving results.

#3. You understand that a salaried life is quite different than a commissioned life.

As a trainer or instructor you probably have the ability to adjust your clients or class schedule around the needs of your personal life. Beyond designing new programs, planning and rehearsing classes, and ensuring a superb experience, you are more or less able to leave your work for the day once your class or trainings are finished.

With management, it is typical to work office hours and be expected to teach classes or train clients. A full-time management position is often exempt from overtime and requires work beyond 40 hours a week, as necessary. And you may or may not have the most predictable schedule. You may be in charge of securing substitute class coverage or teaching on the fly in an emergency. Or you may be putting out fires or tending to an upset member. There will always be something that doesn’t go as planned—a sick team member or equipment malfunctions, for example. Being caught off-guard and able to “roll with the punches” is necessary, along with the ability to display a calm demeanor in all situations.

As for compensation, you may receive a base salary plus commission for clients or classes, or perhaps a bonus for meeting established criteria. Depending on your geographic location and company structure, compensation may or may not be as profitable as full-time personal training or group fitness work. However,, you might be able to contribute to a 401K retirement plan. And with the Affordable Care Act, if you work 30 hours per week or more consistently, you may be eligible to enroll in your company’s health benefit plan or another health benefit exchange.

#4. You are self-motivated.

Being the fitness manager is sometimes a thankless job. You may get recognition from a positive comment here and there, but you eventually realize that the pat on the back comes from your own hand when you see more members participating in personal training sessions or taking classes.

As the manager, you may be the first point of contact for all fitness inquiries. You may be assigning clients to trainers or helping members decide which classes are appropriate for them. You may be determining which classes to program to ensure a variety of options; you may also be analyzing class counts and making the tough decision as to which classes to cut if they are not meeting the desired capacity. You may be evaluating member penetration by hour and offering promotions to increase participation in personal training. This work can become routine and often goes unnoticed. But empowering your team to deliver a top-notch experience will likely translate to increased member retention and profitability, which is your job description in a nutshell.

All things considered, it can be extremely rewarding to be a fitness manager, but it certainly doesn’t come without its own challenges and lots of blood, sweat and tears. At the end of the day, it is the dream team that you have built that makes the job enjoyable. Going to work every day feeling like you can make a difference—and seeing your team members succeed—is when you know you are on the right track!

If you are a fitness professional who is aspiring to be or is currently in a management role, take our “Fitness Business Management” Online Course to learn about a variety of aspects of managing a fitness facility.

If you are a fitness professional who wants to learn how to be successful in a health club setting, register for our “Strategies for Success: Navigating a Health Club as a PT or GFI” Webinar on September 24, 2014.