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New CEO’s People-powered Transformation Reverses Total Fitness Decline In Membership

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By David Saunders, Health Editor | UPDATED: 08:28, 05 June 2020

Total Fitness, which operates 17 health clubs across the North of England and Wales, has reported a dramatic turn-around in its fortunes less than 12-months after its new management team took charge.

Following Sophie Lawler’s arrival as CEO in June 2018, the company has reversed a steady decline in membership, without discount incentives, with figures showing a membership growth of 6,000 in 2019 to date.

In the first two months of this year, Total Fitness added three times as many members as the same period in 2018.

There has also been a dramatic rise in the satisfaction scores from members, with a 28% rise the business’ net promoter scores (NPS), leading to fewer membership cancellations.

As a result, Total Fitness has halted a long-term decline in its overall membership base, which had seen a 10% reduction in the 12 months to May 2018.

Remarkably, the company reports that this turn-around has been achieved through ‘people-power’, supported by tactical investments to fix critical issues. The CEO’s aim was to put the fitness product back at the heart of the investment strategy and give the teams a fighting chance.

Sophie Lawler, Total Fitness CEO, says: “It was clear that we had some great people with real positive intent and a great deal of love for the business, but they were highly disengaged. There was a lack of trust – of both the centre and the future – of clear purpose, and of belief.

“We began by listening to the teams out in the clubs to understand their key challenges. We reacted quickly by fixing critical issues, addressing immediate performance challenges, and communicating clearly and honestly about our future, it’s challenges, and how we’ll find the answers. But all of this is just good management and will only get you so far for so long.

“We’ve been building the foundations for more leadership at all levels of the business ever since – beginning by reclaiming our great purpose, building behavioural values that will bring it to life every day, and re-engineering our entire operation around them.

“I’ve been astonished and humbled by the results which proved that we have a bright, engaged, and resilient team determined to build a brilliant business. Our members can feel the difference and our NPS scores are demonstrating it, as well as areas where we can continue to grow. And, of course, what follows employee engagement and member engagement is commercial performance – we’re in a much stronger position for the future.

“At just one year together as a team, facing an uphill struggle in a challenging market position, we’re already planning future investment and transformative growth plans. As a new CEO I couldn’t be prouder.”

The first evidence of this investment is a £500,000 injection into Total Fitness in Altrincham, which has been used to carry out notable refurbishments including a new open floorplan, with upgrades to the top and bottom gym floors, and a new mind and body studio.

The new developments look to expand the brand’s all-encompassing fitness offering, putting the fitness product back at the heart of the investment strategy, to meet the individual needs of its members and help them take on day-to-day challenges.

Sophie comments, “Our clubs are now in much better shape for the challenges to come and the planned investment will consolidate that position.

“We have the most purposeful business in the market – providing the widest possible variety at the lowest possible cost to as many different groups as we can – and we have the people and the platform to deliver it.”

The company plans to further its recent successes with a continued focus on the development of its people. Employees will continue to be offered leadership and engagement opportunities at all levels of the business, to ensure Total Fitness’ growth is both long-term and sustainable.