The 5 Love Languages for Employees

You’ve no doubt heard of the wildly popular self-help book “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate” by Gary Chapman.  It suggests that every person has a  primary language that “speaks”   more deeply to them than others in terms of communicating love.  I won’t weigh in on the validity of this theory as it pertains to personal or romantic relationships, but when it comes to how our employees receive “messages” that communicate their value or standing within your organization, there are definitely different primary languages.  What works or is clear for one employee can be ineffective for another.  Since today is all about love, it’s a great time to take a look at the 5 love languages for employees.  Surprisingly, apart from one of Chapman’s original 5, the languages are identical!

Words of Affirmation- Using words to build up the employee.

Do you think an employee does a great job?  Do you appreciate their contribution?  Then this one is pretty simple—tell them!  Better yet, tell them with an audience from time to time.  A quick shout out in a meeting or a mention in a company email does so much to validate an employee’s efforts.

Gifts- A gift says, “They’re thinking about me.”

Gifts are symbolic.  If you purchased something for an employee, it shows that you remembered them.  It’s less about the value and more about having a tangible “thank you.”    Gift cards, hand-written thank you notes, or items for their workspace work well.

Acts of Service- Doing something for your employee that you know they would like.

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.  It’s one thing to say you appreciate your team; it’s another to put those words into action.  Little things like providing lunch, bringing snacks, hosting employee appreciation functions, and putting on team challenges go a long way.  One of the best ways to speak this language is to get in the trenches with them.  When work loads are massive and hands are short, roll up your sleeves and hop into the fray.

Quality Time- Giving your employee your undivided attention.

Yep, it’s all about face time. One of the common complaints from employees is they feel that their supervisor can’t be bothered to sit down with them.  Carve out some time to sit and talk with each of your team members on a regular basis.  It can be something as quick as a small check-in each Monday.  Just make sure it is indeed quality time.  This means turning off your email notifications and putting away your phone.  Technology is a significant deterrent in relationships both personal and professional.

A Bright Future- Being forward focused WITH the employee shows that they’re part of the big picture.

The standard 5th love language is physical touch.  You can see why that would prove problematic in the workplace.  I’ve replaced it with what I consider the most widely desired and most satisfying of all languages when it comes to a career, a future.  It’s up to you to show an employee where they’re headed and make them feel confident in the fact that you’re committed to taking them on that journey.  No one likes to guess about their future, and in the absence of communication, employees are left to fill in their own blanks. 

There you have it.  Hopefully, you’ve already tackled taking care of the loved ones in your personal life today (or have a plan in place to do so).  Now it’s time to loop in your work team.  What can you do today to start speaking their love language?

conversation hearts.jpg

13 Ways to Improve Written Warnings and Manage Employees Better

We don’t often “recycle” content on our blog, but this post was too good not to share. Why reinvent the wheel when you find a perfectly great wheel right in front of you? Employee documentation is an area on which we get a ton of questions, so hopefully you find this information useful. While one of the steps involves dealing with unions (a loop through which we aren’t forced to jump in the fitness industry), the other twelve steps are solid. It’s a nice part two to the previous post we did on Communication.

Written warnings are meant to help document employee behavior or performance problems, but they can fall short. They are usually the second step, after verbal warnings, in progressive discipline policies .

When they include vague references to "insubordination" or "falsification of records" without giving the specifics of what led to discipline, or if there's too much information that doesn't relate to the behavior, then red flags go up, and employees can be confused about what sparked the warning―and then plaintiffs' attorneys can use that information in lawsuits against the employer.

Here are some recommendations on how to improve written warnings so that employees can improve their behavior, managers can better manage them—and the company can stay out of the courtroom.

1. Be specific about the offending conduct. For both the manager's and employee's benefit, include details about what exactly happened to prompt the warning. Maybe the worker didn't fully realize the seriousness of the misstep. With a warning, the employee can learn exactly how he or she missed the mark, which gives the person more of a chance to improve.

But should the employee sue, this record will be valuable. "Since courts give more weight to contemporaneous accounts of what happened than subsequent explanations articulated during litigation, it is key to include as much information as possible" about the misconduct, said Nina Maja Bergmar, an attorney with Burr & Forman in Atlanta. Explain how and why the conduct rose to the level of the stated offense. That way the company can pre-empt debates during litigation over whether there was insubordination or falsification of records.

2. Provide the real reason for the warning, not the reason that sounds better. Because discipline can lead to termination, employers sometimes provide a reason for a warning that they think sounds less confrontational. For example, they might say "personality fit" is the problem, rather than "threatened co-workers," Bergmar noted. The employee should know for certain what he or she did to prompt the warning. This promotes honest discussions within the workplace. Plus, the true reason is likely to surface in any subsequent litigation. Shifting explanations for discharge set an employer up for claims that its reasons for discipline and termination were pretext for discrimination.

3. Connect the employee's conduct to the company's policies. Clearly explain which policies the employee violated. This will help strengthen the company's defenses in the event of future litigation and ensure the policies are not flouted.

4. Describe the impact of a policy violation if the effect is readily ascertainable. For example, an employer might choose to describe the financial loss of an employee's walking off a production line, Bergmar noted. And employees should know how their actions affect their co-workers and the company at large.

5. Avoid unneeded commentary. Keep the discussion focused on the specific wrongdoing. Bringing up other matters may make it hard for the employee to focus on what's important and what he or she needs to do to get back on track. Don't go much beyond detailing a description of the offending behavior, referring to the policy violated and describing the discipline, Bergmar recommended. Additional commentary could create unnecessary liability. For example, if an employee is disciplined for failing to provide required documentation for an excused absence, the employer should avoid discussing the employee's attendance in general. "Discussing the general attendance in the write-up could be problematic because the absences may be protected by federal employment laws, and referencing the absences in the write-up makes it seem as though the employee is really being disciplined for taking federally protected leave," she explained.

6. Avoid legal conclusions. For example, if an employee is facing discipline for violating the employer's anti-harassment policy, identify the specific policy violation rather than including generalized statements about the employee harassing or discriminating against other employees. Such statements could unnecessarily offend the employee. Moreover, employers' policies often are more expansive than the law requires. "Legal conclusions regarding 'harassment,' 'discrimination' or 'retaliation' run the risk of being interpreted as [employers'] admissions of legal liability as opposed to what they really are: internal policy violations," said Ursula Kienbaum, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Portland, Ore.

7. Don't attach supporting documents. Providing supporting documents in addition to the warning "is almost always overkill," said Robert Boonin, an attorney with Dykema in Detroit and Ann Arbor, Mich. The examples of errors and misconduct should be placed in the personnel file or, depending on the state, in an investigative file, he stated. Don't make the interaction with the employee overly litigious. After all, the goal is for him or her to improve, and if the employee does, the working relationship will continue and even thrive. The written warning shouldn't be an obstacle to that possibility.

8. Mention previous verbal or written warnings. If there is a record of prior warnings, Kienbaum recommended, include the prior warnings if they are relatively recent—within the past five years—and "at least somewhat related" to the conduct at issue in the current discipline.

9. Ask a union representative to be present when the employee is given the warning. The warning should include signature lines for both the employee and the union steward to sign, Bergmar noted. It also should set forth the specific provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) supporting the disciplinary action, she added. For unionized employees, the employer needs to carefully check the CBA for any procedural requirements for discipline, Kienbaum said. "These can include strict timelines for issuing discipline, progressive discipline or even procedures for investigatory interviews," she stated.

10. Issue written warnings promptly. Letting bad behavior fester will only lead to more problems later. Timely warnings demonstrate that concerns are legitimate and not pretext for alleged discrimination or retaliation, said Lynne Anne Anderson, an attorney with Drinker Biddle in Florham Park, N.J.

11. Follow through with the steps outlined in the warning. If the warning states that a supervisor will have weekly follow-up meetings to monitor an employee's progress, make sure those meetings happen and are documented, said Keerthi Sugumaran, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Boston. Similarly, if the warning states that an employee will be terminated the next time he or she engages in a particular form of misconduct, the employer should follow through with that action, unless extraordinary circumstances dictate otherwise, she noted. Send the message that follow-through is expected throughout the organization from top to bottom.

12. Give the employee the opportunity to provide a written response. This promotes good employee relations. If the employee does submit a response, HR should review it to see if any follow-up is needed, Anderson said. For example, if the comments indicate that the performance issue is due to the employee's medical condition or a situation covered by family and medical leave laws, HR should reach out to the worker to get the necessary medical documentation to determine whether the individual is eligible for Family and Medical Leave Act time off or a reasonable accommodation.

13. Ensure consistency. When issuing written warnings, employers should provide the same discipline for employees engaging in similar conduct, said O'Kelly McWilliams III, an attorney with Mintz in Washington, D.C. Otherwise, the employer may face discrimination claims and be viewed as unfair by colleagues of the disciplined worker.

This article was written by Allen Smith, JD and feature on the Society for Human Resource Management website.


Time Flies When You're Working Hard: GYM HQ Turns 4

Saturday was GYM HQ’s 4th anniversary.  It's great taking time annually to remember our humble roots.  We started with a team of 9.  On a Saturday, a little less than two weeks after launch, we rented a Uhaul, bribed our spouses, and moved our meager start-up belongings out to our original space in Norcross, GA.  We found a cute 1,500 square feet sublease in an office building on Craigslist and got to work.  It wasn’t long until we were bursting at the seams!  We picked up another 800 square feet across the hall and “made it work.”  By the time we moved into our current location in 2016, we had a team of over 20 people in just over 2,000 square feet!  Needless to say, we didn’t need to hold team roundups to ensure we stayed connected.  We were almost literally all connected at the hips.

Starting a new business is hard.  It can be very rewarding, but it’s not without major sacrifices and stress.  When you don’t have a parachute, you’re forced to figure out how to fly.  With a great team and a lot of hard work, we found our wings.  Two acquisitions later (we were acquired by ClubReady March 2016 and Clubessential January 2018) we continue to push to remain the gold standard for back-office services in the fitness industry.   That’s why we’re always striving for better-- better solutions, better service,  and better support because good is never good enough.  We take our responsibility to the now nearly 1,300 fitness locations we support very seriously.  We're honored to be YOUR HQ and look forward to what's just over the horizon for GYM HQ and YOU!

Helping hand.jpg

Protecting Your Business as I9 Audits Increase

Here it is, another article aimed at keeping your business out of trouble.  Boring.  After all you didn’t open your club to worry about forms and regulations.  We get it; that’s why GYM HQ exists!  But if there is one thing that we know business owners hate more than boring paperwork, it’s paying large fines to Uncle Sam.  So, consider this your heads up for what’s coming this summer.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wants employers to understand that, going forward, the agency will increase Form I-9 audits, conduct more worksite raids and promote involvement in the government's voluntary compliance program (E-verify).  Under the current administration, audits are expected to go up 4000%.  It’s also important to note that civil penalties associated with violations have increased.  Current penalties are between $224 and $2236 per violation (employee).  Now more than ever, it is important that employers ensure that Form I-9’s are being completed accurately and on time for each new employee.


So what can you do to prepare?  First, ensure that any employee hired moving forward has a proper I-9 completed.  Here are some of the most common mistakes:

  • The employee not checking a status box or checking more than one status box
  • The employee not signing or dating the I-9
  • Not completing List A, B or C correctly or not completing at all
  • Attaching documents as a substitute filling out section 2.
  • Not using the updated version of the form
  • Not filling in the employee’s hire date in the Certification section
  • Not completing the Business/Organization name and address section completely
  • Filing Form I-9 with the government. Form I-9 is meant to be kept by the business in case an audit is conducted. Should an employee leave the company, the business must retain the forms for a period of up to three years from the date of hire or one year after the employee's final day, whichever is longer. 

Note: Form I-9 cannot be utilized in any capacity prior to making a job offer to a potential employee. Doing so could violate restrictions regarding discrimination against workers based on their ethnicity, race or other identifying factors. 

Remember, the few minutes you spend reviewing the I-9 could potentially save you thousands of dollars in the future!

Next, conduct an audit of what you have on file for current staff.  If you’re missing an I-9 for an employee, ask the employee to complete Section 1 of the I-9 immediately and present documentation as required in Section 2. The new form should be dated when completed—never backdated. If an employee has been working without documentation authorization, this could be because an I-9 form was not properly completed in the first place, or because the employee’s work authorization has expired. If this is the case, notify the employee (in private) of the discrepancy.

You should provide the employee with a copy of the I-9 and any accompanying paperwork. Then ask the employee to provide correct or updated documentation. In either case, if an employee cannot present proper documentation, you should terminate the employee immediately. If you don’t, you risk penalties for “knowingly” continuing to employ an unauthorized worker. Be sure to apply this strict termination policy consistently to avoid potential claims of discrimination.

You may not correct errors or omissions in Section 1 of the form. If you discover a problem in Section 1, ask the employee to make the correction. Employers may only make changes in Section 2 or Section 3 of the I-9.

Employees needing assistance to correct or enter information in Section 1 can have a preparer or translator assist them.

In either case, the individual making the correction should:

  • Draw a line through the incorrect information;
  • Enter the correct or omitted information;
  • Initial and date the correction or added information.

The time you take now to review your personnel files and ensure a solid process for reviewing the I9 when onboarding new team members will more than pay off should you face an audit! 

Need help with HR or payroll? Let us know. We help thousands of fitness owners nation-wide navigate the less than fun aspects of their business!


GYM HQ Client Spotlight: UFC GYM Rocklin

Back at the beginning of 2016, industry vet Mark Polli and his wife, Kim,  set out to presale memberships for a new (to them) concept to add to their fitness portfolio, UFC GYM Rocklin. They enlisted the help of our team here at GYM HQ to tackle all of their back-office needs.  The journey so far has been a blast!  We love working with the Polli's.  It's been awesome to watch their progress as the location has matured.  We sat down with Mark to learn a little more about him and his views on the industry for this month's GYM HQ Client Spotlight.

UFC GYM 1.jpg

GHQ: How did you get started in the fitness industry?

MP: I have been in the Fitness business since 1981.  I was in my senior year of college in Upstate New York, and my Brother called me from California to come work with him at a health club in Foster City, CA.   I went out on my winter break and sold memberships for 3 weeks.  The Vice President asked me to stay, but I wanted to get my Bachelor’s degree in Business/ Marketing, so they agreed to pay my way back out there after my final semester.  I worked for that company for 5 years.  I took a break from the fitness Industry to become a stockbroker in 1985, just in time for the Black Monday crash in 1987.  I pushed through until 1991 when I was contacted by Mark Mastrov and went to work for Mark when 24 Hour Fitness only had 9 Clubs.  I worked at 24 Hour Fitness for 18 years as a Regional Vice President before I started with Crunch Fitness in 2009. Mark Mastrov helped me get involved with Crunch and we opened 5 clubs in the Sacramento area. Mark reached out to me again in 2014 and invited me to the UFC GYM convention, and it was an amazing experience. I was able to see and feel the difference between regular health clubs and “Training Different” at UFC Gyms.

There was 7,000 SF of space available next door to the Crunch Fitness in Rocklin and on the other side was a Century Movie Theater. The spot between the two was an “A” location, and I started negotiating with the landlord. I also had to get approval from UFC Gym Franchise and Crunch Franchise to have the clubs next door to each other. After a lengthy negotiation, we got the deal done and then the Landlord offered us an additional 3,000 sq. ft. which we agreed and so glad we did!  We are running out of room even with the extra space.
My wife Kim and I went down to Anaheim for the Franchisee Training and it was a great experience.

We contacted Melissa Knowles at GYM HQ to do our back-office work and it was one of the best decisions we made. We would have had to hire 3 full time people to do all of the work that they do for us and at a very reasonable cost.

GHQ: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen occur in the industry over the years?

MP: The biggest changes I’ve seen in the business are technology, equipment, and marketing strategies. I am not sure how we even did it in the 80’s with only a fax machine and corded phones. Equipment was more about looks than functionality with most all machines made of chrome and only 2 lifecycles in the clubs for cardio. Marketing today is an entirely different, especially with Social Media. But the best ever marketing in the clubs has never changed and that is referrals from current members.

GHQ: Why did you choose to go the franchise route and why did you choose UFC GYM?

MP: Working for a large fitness company had its benefits, and it was a great experience to help a company grow from their humble beginnings. Owning my own franchise is getting up every morning knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of my employees and our members. I take pride in every square foot of every club and working for myself means I answer to the community and the employees. UFC GYM offers an experience like no other club offers. 

Mark Mastrov was talking to me about doing UFC GYM franchise clubs in the Sacramento area while Urijah Faber was getting ready to do a signature club in Downtown Sacramento. I did some research and was on board with starting to check out potential locations.   I was on vacation in Hawaii and stopped into the BJ Penn UFC Gym and my wife and I were amazed about the classes going on and we were both surprised how many women were attending the classes.  When my wife saw all of the women in the classes, it completely changed her perspective about UFC GYM and she was all in! 

GHQ: What makes UFC GYM unique?

MP: UFC Gym is unique in every way. It’s a tight-knit group of members that you know every one of them by name and get to watch them as they improve physically, emotionally and reach goals they never thought were attainable. The Coaches take great care of the members and they live and breathe the UFC Gym brand.

GHQ: What do you currently have in the pipeline for growth and expansion?

MP: We have a lease signed in Folsom, Ca and it is going to be 12,200 sq feet.
We are very excited about bringing this brand to Folsom.

GHQ: What is the UFC GYM experience for members?

MP: The experience for members is amazing. Watching all of the new members come into the club and they are a bit nervous about what is going to happen is great. No one leaves the club without being dripping with sweat and a smile that says “I did it!” We have members that have lost over 75 pounds and others that have put on size and increased their strength dramatically. The skills classes have brought both men and women that had never worn boxing gloves and are now in the octagon or on the BJJ mat competing and winning.

Watching the kids program is especially exciting as we see them grow from tumbling to takedowns to submission holds. Their self-confidence grows on each visit as they learn BJJ moves and respect for the sport as well as respect for the other kids.

GHQ: What have been the most challenging aspects of the business?

MP: The most challenging part of the business is driving New Member Sales daily as we try to limit attrition. The other hard part is changing people’s perspective about the gym being a fight club. We have been successful with our outreach in the community by setting up Women’s Self Defense classes as well as Anti-Bullying classes in schools.

GHQ: How important are back-office functions for the business and why did you decide to partner with GYM HQ?

MP: Choosing GYM HQ was one of the easiest and best decisions we made. There was no way I could drive new business, work with our existing members and be present in the club if I was doing back office work. From Payroll to Accounting, Accounts Payable and HR they are a terrific group of people who are always available and quick to respond. 

GHQ: What gems of advice would you like to share with others looking to own their own fitness business?

MP: Be Present in the club.  Build the culture in your club yourself and make sure you are in the club working with the employees, members, and guests.  Be part of the community and do everything you can to help people in the community by donating time and resources to local charities.  Hire great people who are passionate about Fitness and live the brand.  Treat everyone with respect and deliver a great product and service that outshines all of the competition.  There are a lot of fitness clubs out there and the biggest difference maker in the club is YOU! 

ufc gym kids.jpeg

Employee Recognition and Rewards Part III: Creative Ideas From Top Companies

As promised, our third and final article on employee recognition highlights businesses successfully utilizing non-traditional methods of rewards and recognition.  While some of these may not be a great fit for your business model, I hope they encourage you to think creatively when contemplating a recognition program for your team. 


Bonusly is an employee recognition software that allows employees to award points to their peers.  Peer-to-peer recognition is very impactful and will likely become increasingly important as younger generations move into the workforce over the coming years.  Bonusly pairs P2P with a social network platform which is also a win with the younger elements of the workforce.  Points are redeemable for gift cards and prizes from major retailers like Uber, Nike and Starbucks.  A few companies using Bonusly: Hulu, Chobani, SurveyMonkey, Oracle and ZipRecruiter.

Flexible Hours

Dallas Web Design Inc. uses flexible working schedules as a way to motivate staff to become better.  They claim an 80% increase in productivity!  According to a 2016 Gallup survey, 51% of employees said they would change jobs for one that allowed them to work more flexible hours, while 37% would change jobs if they could work from where they want at least part of the time. Job seekers are demanding a flexible work environment, and if you don’t offer that in 2018, you will lose talent to your competitors who are. Use this as a perk for top performers who can be trusted with remote work or handling a non-traditional schedule.  Keep in mind, this may not work for all staff who must be onsite to directly interact with members/clients.

Training Responsibilities

At GYM HQ, we made our own employees subject matter experts in designing our employee training program.  We asked our top performers to assist in developing our onboarding process for new hires.  This practice fulfills two functions: recognizing the employees for their strengths and developing our company-wide training program.  It also allows employees to be exposed to additional functions and responsibilities which is vital for employee growth and development. 

Create a Company Mascot

At Moncur, they have a biweekly employee award program where team members pass a little wooden statue they call Peggy to another member who has done outstanding work or showed incredible acumen.

Being a digital and creative agency, they take it to the next level by requiring each member to dress Peggy up in a style that reflects the awardee and encouraging them to post her “adventures” on a designated Instagram channel.

Access to the Leadership

Many leading companies such as Whole Foods and CarMax, open up access to their senior leaders for all employees.  Whether its town hall meetings, cookouts, or visibility into company decisions, it’s clear that employees crave this access.  Consider sharing more that you’re comfortable sharing if you want your employees to commit to the cause.  One of your future members of leadership is likely sitting amongst your current ranks.  Access to senior leadership is one way to ensure the right exposure is happening long before succession planning is even a thought.


Recognizing employee anniversaries is still important.  At Groupon, instead of the traditional certificate or pin, yearly milestones are recognized with a top-of-the-line, bright green Adidas track jacket. Employees can even personalize their jackets with unique nicknames and receive star patches for each additional year at the company.  These personalized jackets are great daily reminders to new staff of what they’re striving for and a source of pride for veterans. 

The take away after three articles on recognition is that your company should have a program!  From a team to 5 to a team of 5000, recognition is important.  It helps retain and attract the best talent, sets you apart from your competitors, and encourages a positive, perhaps even fun (gasp!) work environment.  There’s a reason why the top 100 companies to work for are just that.  Employee perks, programs, environment and recognition all play a part in employees being excited to go to work every day!

thumbs up.jpg

Employee Recognition Part II: Who's Your MVP?

While installing a rewards and recognition program does take effort, it need not be overly complex or time-consuming.  And the positive effects are invaluable!  Think of recognition as a communication tool which helps to reinforce the behaviors and outcomes your organization values most.  It provides a pathway for you to say, “YES, that’s exactly what we’re looking for.  Do more of that!” This article is the second in a short series on Employee Recognition and Rewards. Today we focus on two ideas that bridge the gap between the old-school and the new.  In a workplace that consists of several generations simultaneously, it’s important that your program speaks to everyone!

First the old tried and true Employee of the Month.  The calendar naturally provides us with 12 smaller times frame during which to measure success.  Dedicate a few moments each month to recognize one outstanding team member and crown them your MVP.  This team member should be recognized in front of the entire team (at a meeting or morning stand-up).  Make sure to clearly outline why this person is such a vital part of what makes the company great and how their actions contributed to success during the month.  Complete the recognition with a certificate and reward (bonus, gift card, prize pack, etc.).  This adds a formality to the presentation and makes it feel “official.”  Consider a wall of fame to showcase the current month’s MVP as well as past superstars.

Formal monthly appreciation is great, however, while the month flies by, don’t forget to give out praise DAILY as opportunities arise!  The best leaders don’t make team members wait to let them know they’re doing a great job.  They recognize achievement as it happens.  So, while you may be keeping score internally for your monthly MVP, don’t forget to give frequent pats on the back when any team member exemplifies your brand ethos, hits a milestone, or goes above and beyond.  The best part about daily praise is it’s free!

While your younger team members will undoubtedly appreciate being recognized via the non-digital channels above, don’t forget to speak to them in their language as well and hit social media.  Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the company website is a great platform to broadcast “shout-outs” to a much broader audience.  Hit millennials with praise where they live!

Your company homepage and blog are prime real-estate.  Dedicate a portion of them to your hard-working employees.  Use these areas to highlight team members and provide their backstory (accenting their passions and unique life histories).  This not only allows for recognition but also showcases your valuable team to your clients and potential clients.  After all, for most fitness businesses, people are the number one differentiator! 

Don’t forget social media!  Nothing is better than watching a post on which you’re featured rack up likes and shares.  This will help supplement your in-person efforts and ensure everyone sees the contributions your team members are making.  This is especially important if your team works in multiple locations or you have remote staff. 

Next month we’ll conclude our employee recognition series with a curated list of non-traditional methods of recognition being successfully used by top companies.  Get ready to think outside of the suggestion box!


The Formula for Successful Customer Service

The fitness industry is ALL about service first.  While your facilities may boast the latest in advanced technology or the best in equipment, it’s your people and their interactions with your members that matter most.  Today’s post looks at 12 key ingredients that must be included when creating your perfect formula for successful customer service.

1.    Be friendly first.  Service starts with a familiar person with a warm smile who offers welcoming words.  Make sure the team members manning your front desk are service obsessed.  Each member should be greeted (preferably by name) when they enter your club.  This level of interaction should trickle down to every employee.  It takes little effort to smile and say hello, and it makes a huge impact.

2.    Attitude precedes service.  Your team’s positive mental attitude is the basis for the way they act and treat members.  Your team should carry a member first mentality into the club every day. “You become what you think.” 

3.    Your team’s first words set the tone.  All encounters with members are theirs to control.  Even a seemingly negative contact, like a service or billing complaint, can be turned positive by the way it’s handled.  First words can either disarm or aggravate.  If your team learns to see each interaction as an opportunity to win a member for life, it shifts the approach dramatically.

4.    Know how to service in terms of the member.  They don’t care what your situation is; they only care about their situation.  So your billing system made a blunder, and they were billed twice, or the new janitor assigned by your cleaning service isn’t up to snuff, that’s not the member’s concern.  What can YOU do to ensure they’re happy and your day-to-day business hiccups don’t impact them?

5.    The member has lots of problems besides you, and may just be using you as a frustration vent.  Don’t take it too personally if a member flies off the handle.  Behind every seemingly minor complaint, there is real stress.  Your team’s job is to serve as a stress reducer.  After all, that’s why many people come to your club!  Offer solutions, not excuses.

6.    The member doesn’t want to hear why you can’t.  Don’t tell them when or why you can’t; tell them when and why you can—enthusiastically!  In every situation, there is something that can be done for the member, make that your team’s focus.

7.    Recognize members for what they are, the lifeblood of your business and your team’s paycheck!  You don’t pay your team’s salaries, your members do. 

8.    Don’t confuse company policy with customer service.  Don’t quote policy or hide behind it.  Policy is there as a guide, not a prescription for member success.  Listen first, and then determine where the request fits into your standard procedure.  If you adhere to your contract rules 100% of the time, you miss tremendous opportunities to win with your members.  You may win the battle, but you’ll lose the war.

9.    When a member walks away angry, it’s twelve-to-one they’ll leave forever or at least be leery.  It takes 12 positive impressions to overcome a single negative one.  In this day and age of social media, every interaction counts and has the possibility to impact far more than one member’s opinion of your business.

10.  YOU are responsible, or it won’t get done.  Individual responsibility leads to a happy member.  No one likes to be passed off for help. 

11.  Take your job seriously, but don’t take their complaints personally. If you take it seriously, it’s you with them.  If you take it personally, it’s you against them.  

12.  Teams are made up of individuals who work together and get their own jobs done.  Never underestimate the impact of a single team member.  If each link is strong, your entire chain will be secure. 

If you embed these 12 values into your club’s culture, how can you lose?  Would you be happy supporting a business with this outlook and attitude toward customers?  Would you encourage friends and family to join you in your support?  At its core, excellent customer service starts with the golden rule.  Treat your members the way you would want to be treated.

Need help with member services?  GYM HQ offers solutions designed specifically for fitness businesses.  Contact us to learn more about how we can help with member requests and all of your back-office needs.  Click on the “contact us” link, email, or call 404-921-2269 today!

Customer Service Front Desk.jpeg

GYM HQ Client Spotlight: Sky Fitness & Wellbeing

Two years ago, a great team out of Tulsa, Oklahoma joined our family of clients, Sky Fitness & Wellbeing.  From our very first call with owners Jay Wagnon and Travis Wood, we knew we were in for treat!  These guys truly "get" the fitness business.  Each interaction is a pleasure and we look forward to continuing to support their business as it grows.

Sky Fitness & Wellbeing operates two high-end facilities in Tulsa, OK and recently opened a third location in Broken Arrow.  

Sky BA Front of building.jpg
At every interaction, on every day, we go out of our way to provide an exceptional experience for every member.
Our mission, vision, and beliefs all share a common focus: to “Wow” our members. We want to surprise, thrill and inspire our members with truly exceptional service and we understand that an exceptional experience is not a goal, it’s an ongoing process.

We sat down with Travis Wood, Vice President of Operations, to learn more.

GHQ: How did you get started in the fitness industry?

TW:  I started in the fitness industry almost 20 years ago in Fayetteville, AR.  I started as an “opener” at the front desk and worked my way up through a myriad of positions including Member Service Manager, Program Director, and Asst General Manager.  I took over as a General Manager at a facility in Ohio and moved on to Sky in Tulsa to become the Vice President of Operations in 2009.

GHQ: What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen occur in the industry over the years?

TW:  Obviously, the popularity of different modalities change almost yearly but, the number one thing that I’ve seen change in my career is the sheer amount of knowledge and education that the member is now coming into our facility with.  They are performing exercises that would have been advanced for Private Trainers just a few years ago. 

GHQ: Where did the Sky Fitness brand come from?

TW: As odd as it may sound, Sky was conceived from a combination of standards and frustration.  One of the owners, Jay Wagnon, was working with a franchise and becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of emphasis being put on the member “experience.”  After a few months into the building process, Jay broke from the franchise and instead created a new brand – Sky Fitness & Wellbeing.

GHQ: And what does the Sky brand stand for?  

TW:  While I’m sure that every gym in the industry would like to think their employees make the difference because of their personalities, Sky focuses on being a piece of a bigger puzzle.  We focus on creating what we call an “Exceptional Member Experience.”  This is more of a holistic approach that goes beyond just a friendly smile.  It includes education, the fitness offerings, nutrition, and stress management (Sky’s circle of success) in a setting that is clean and welcoming. 



GHQ: What do you currently have in the pipeline for growth and expansion?

TW: We recently opened our third location in the Tulsa area and have plans to grow more in the near future.  We’ve made the commitment that Sky will grow with an importance on quality, not quantity.  We try to take a little extra time to make sure each location is not only profitable but set in the standards that helped create Sky.  With the competitive landscape becoming more and more crowded, our focus is even more important.

GHQ: What have been the most challenging aspects of the business?

TW: The most challenging has been, is, and probably will continue to be the communication and execution of the brand ideals.  It’s easy for us to spout what we’re about, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to educate the public in this climate of “information overload”.  Price and location are no longer the first two criteria from a prospective member, it’s now reputation and presentation.  Of course, it’s also critical to never take your current membership for granted.  Loyalty to a business is a fading ideal and we are constantly having to challenge ourselves to not accept the status quo and try to reinvent our offerings.

GHQ: How important are back-office functions for the business and why did you decide to partner with GYM HQ?

TW: Anyone that is in our industry that does not understand the importance of ‘back-office functions’ is basically on a list set for extinction.  From HR to A/P to Payroll, today’s workforce will not tolerate anything less than uber-professionalism.  This is exactly why we decided to partner withGYM HQ.  The idea of keeping up with the ever-changing laws was daunting enough that we knew we needed an outside vendor that specialized in it.  We looked at it like this; Our members expect a level of professionalism, knowledge, and expertise that they couldn’t obtain on their own so why would we differ in regards to our back office needs?

GHQ: What gems of advice would you like to share with others looking to own their own fitness business?

TW:  Gems, huh?  We’re still trying to figure it out as we go, but if I were asked what I’ve learned?

1.    This is not a hobby or “passion project”, it’s a business.  If you treat it any other way, you will get eaten alive. 

2.    The minute you stop advancing, you will be passed by someone who is.  New classes, new equipment, and reinvention of your offerings are a day-to-day operation.

3.    Many years ago when I was a novice to this business, I was lucky enough to have some important “nuggets” passed on to me by a trusted friend.  None of these stuck with me more than the following:  “Don’t f#@% with the money.”  Trust is such a vital part of the relationship now, as soon as you create a crack it will explode into a rift.  Be upfront with the dues, have open access to the billing history, and teach everyone on your team not to be scared about a member’s money.  Money is not a “dirty little secret”, it’s the absolute core of any business and avoiding it or treating it like it’s not important is a recipe for disaster.

Learn more about Sky Fitness & Wellbeing by visiting their website.

Learn more about GYM HQ and the solutions we can provide for your business by requesting a discovery call

Sky BA floor.jpg



The Dreaded Chargeback

You’re happily growing your business—signing up new members and growing your draft—when bam, you see a negative amount show up on your remit or merchant statement.  You didn’t provide this member with a refund, so what could this be?  Meet the dreaded and largely misunderstood, chargeback.  Unfortunately, this little hurdle is a part of running a business.  And like most things in business and life, the more you know about it and the process behind it, the better off you’ll be.

Let’s start with the definition for a chargeback.  A quick Google search provided this handy definition. “A demand by a credit-card provider for a retailer to make good the loss on a fraudulent or disputed transaction.” Simply put, it provides the consumer protection and a pathway for recovering charges that they don't believe are justified.  So why do members chargeback payments?  There is a litany of reasons.  Perhaps they don’t believe they are getting the services they were promised.  Maybe they think they’ve properly canceled their contract yet are still being charged.  Possibly they want to cancel and are being held to the terms of their agreement (which you’re validly enforcing). Whatever the reason, when members initiate chargebacks, they’re basically saying, “I’m not going to take responsibility for paying this charge on my card because I don’t think it’s valid.” 



The process begins when your member, the cardholder, “files a chargeback” – this means the cardholder notifies his or her bank of a transaction alleged to be in error. The cardholder’s bank (called the “issuing bank”) usually has its own internal process for pre-screening a disputed charge, and, if the issuing bank finds the charge to be valid, the cardholder will be charged. Typically, a processing fee is added. If, however, the issuing bank finds sufficient evidence to support the cardholder’s claim, it will open a file, notify the merchant’s bank of its findings, and temporarily re-credit any disputed funds to the cardholder’s account pending the outcome of the dispute. The merchant bank will then do its own investigation. As part of this process, the merchant bank may collect evidence in support of a disputed charge. Where the merchant bank deems the evidence collected as sufficient, it will present its findings, and the proof, to the issuing bank. If the issuing bank approves the merchant bank’s findings, the cardholder loses, and he or she will be liable for the charges and any associated fees. If, however, the issuing bank disagrees with the merchant bank’s findings, then the cardholder wins, and the recredited amounts will stick – the cardholder will not be liable for the charges.


Resolution of chargeback disputes can take anywhere from six weeks to six months. We generally see chargeback disputes resolved in about 45 to 60 days. This is a complex process that involves multiple parties; it’s not something that resolves quickly.


Glad you asked. Yes, there absolutely is. Keep in mind; the ability to defend yourself in a chargeback dispute will only be as good as the evidence you can present. And gathering that evidence starts at the club level. What you need, more than anything, is documentation which tends to prove the legitimacy of a charge. This could include:

▪ A signed and dated Membership Agreement, or PT Agreement, showing the cardholder as the “Buyer.”

▪ A written notice of cancellation signed and dated by the cardholder, detailing the reasons for cancellation.

▪ A checklist signed and dated by the cardholder showing receipt of legal agreements, or acknowledgment of key provisions.

▪ Email correspondence between you and the cardholder regarding the substance of the disputed transaction.

▪ The cardholder’s check-in history or PT session bookings log.

▪ Any notes in your club management system as it relates to a disputed transaction.


In addition, here are a few more best practices you can follow:

▪ The more you can resolve through customer service channels, the less likely it will be that you get hit with chargebacks. Take the time to properly train your customer service teams.

▪ Be thorough and complete in your approach to getting agreements signed. Make sure names are correct, payment terms are correct, and cancellation policies are clearly stated and adequately explained.

▪ Make sure the name on the credit card used by your member or client to pay for services matches the name on the agreement, whether as the “member” or the “buyer.”

▪ If you change your business practices in a way that materially changes your products or services, you should notify all members in advance of the change and, in some cases, get signed agreement modifications or new agreements altogether.

▪ Don’t load pictures (i.e., .jpg) of contracts to the system. What you need is the actual signed agreement as a PDF document.

▪ Please make sure all documentation is legible, and that there are no blank spaces in contracts.

▪ If you’re in a chargeback dispute, please respond to all requests for more information as quickly as possible. A delay could result in a missed deadline and a lost chargeback.



Chargebacks aren’t always fair, and the decisions made by the member’s issuing bank may not be just either.  Remember, even when you do everything right, there is always a chance a member will chargeback a payment and win. In the end, you have to chalk these instances up to the cost of doing business.   The goal is to limit the number of chargebacks you have to fight and when you do face a chargeback, to have a full arsenal of facts and documents at your disposal to fight it. 

Don’t want to handle the chargeback process on your own?  Find help.  Several club management softwares offer solutions that will manage the chargeback process for you.  ClubReady’s fully managed software and billing platform takes this burden off your shoulders and works to fight any disputed charges on your behalf.  To learn more about this feature or the other solutions ClubReady offers, visit  In addition to billing assistance, ClubReady can also assist with other core back-office functions such as accounting, payroll, HR, operations, and customer service through their professional service division, GYM HQ.  Learn more about GYM HQ at

credit cards.jpg

Business Back-Office Trends for 2018

What a difference a year makes.

Last January I put together a list of the top 10 mistakes gym owners make to kick off the new year.  While the vast majority of the items on this list still ring very true (you should review all 10 here), we find ourselves heading into 2018 with several very new areas of focus to add to this list. Here is what’s trending for 2018.

Pay Equity

In 2017 more and more states adopted a ban on previous salary questions on applications and during job interviews.  This trend is likely to continue this year. The intent is to eliminate the influence of gender and race on the wage-setting practices of businesses.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, “Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the sole or co-breadwinners in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men. IWPR’s report on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.”  This disparity in pay is still very prevalent for minorities as well.  It will take the next 44 years for women to reach pay equality, but Hispanic women will have to wait another 215 years and black women another 106 years based on IWPR’s research.

Other trends emerging in this arena are blind hiring and pay transparency initiatives.  Many companies are employing techniques that anonymize or “blind” demographic information for a candidate during the initial screening process. Pay transparency policies are becoming increasingly popular and more businesses (e.g., Google, Whole Foods, and Buffer) have begun to display salary info next to job postings or even lifting the lid on what employees within the company earn. This practice pushes businesses to do a better job explaining how pay rates are set.

Paid Sick & Family Leave

 Several years ago only a few states had mandated paid leave specific to personal time for illness or family care.  This is changing.  Eight states and Washington D.C. currently require paid sick leave (AZ, CA, CT, MA, OR, RI, VT, WA, and DC).   Moreover, five states and DC have paid family leave (CA, NJ, WA, NY, RI, and DC).  2018 will likely bring additional states to the table, and there is growing pressure to refine and implement a national program.  

Employers should be mindful of changes in their state’s requirements and ensure, where required, proper accruals and tracking are in place for their employees.  Failure to comply can come with stiff penalties.

Sexual Harassment Training

 Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last several months, you have undoubtedly already recognized that ensuring a safe and harassment-free work environment for ALL team members is more important than it has ever been.  From a risk management perspective, ensuring you have a comprehensive sexual harassment policy in place is imperative.  However, having a policy in your handbook is not enough.  Training of management and all staff on a consistent basis takes the necessary next step to ensure your team is well-versed in your policy, and your management team is capable of properly tackling issues as they arise.  Policy is all but useless without buy-in from your team and consistent application by your managers.  Not only is this the smart thing to do, any owner worth their salt should see the importance of their team feeling safe and comfortable while performing their job duties.


The fitness industry has a somewhat spotty track record and a tendency to lag behind other sectores when it comes to the adoption of technology.   It is incredible to me how many clubs are still utilizing paper agreements!  However, the tide is turning, and even in our industry automation and paperless everything is becoming the norm.  With better tech solutions available, we find ourselves faced with a new dilemma, ensuring our members’ data remains private and safe.  Data security breaches are becoming more commonplace even at seemingly well-protected organizations (see the Equifax debacle), and legislation is rapidly being written to combat this issue and force companies to take additional protective measures.  A recent example of this type legislation is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which goes into effect May 2018.  Even if your business is 100% US-based, the GDPR may still affect you.  Say you sell a temporary pass or membership to an EU citizen; you may be held accountable for complying with the GDPR rules.  These include provisions on encryption of data, tighter definitions of consent, and a broader view of what constitutes personal data.  It even codifies a “right to be forgotten” so individuals can ask a business to delete their data. 

While there are still many questions surrounding this new law and its application for US businesses, it is certainly worth a place on this list and your radar for early this year.  As with most regulations, failure to comply carries massive penalties.

The most important thing to remember is that the climate is ever-changing when you own a business.  Having a solid back-office team in place and having access to expects is vitally important.  When the stakes are so high, there is no room for guessing.  Have a safe and prosperous 2018!


Santa's Naughty List, Fitness Business Edition

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the gym,

Memberships weren’t selling, and margins were thin.

Year-end deadlines were looming in the cold winter air,

In hopes that miracle revenue soon would appear.

You know the old poem.  And hopefully, the above scenario doesn’t apply to you.  Perhaps you are swimming in the black and 2017 has been a banner year.  Or maybe you’re hoping 2018 will be your year.  Whatever your scenario, we’d be remiss if we didn’t provide you with an annual list for contemplation.  After all, we’re fast approaching the month of months for lists, goals, and positive change.  While we can still hear sleigh bells, let’s close out 2017 with one final, holiday-themed, post.  Here are is our list of five things that will land you on Santa’s naughty list.

Not Paying Your Taxes or Paying Them Late

This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often we’ve had to intervene to assist an owner in resolving taxes that haven’t been filed or paid.  Most of the time the misstep isn’t willful, but the state and federal governments aren’t very forgiving of even the most innocent of mistakes.  Late payment penalties and interest really rack up!  For example, say you file your federal business taxes three months after the April 15th deadline.  Your penalty would be five percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month your tax return is late.  If your gym owed taxes of $30,000, your fine would be $4,500!  Remember, each state also has their naughty list fines.

The worst idea for solving for a cash shortage is to delay paying the IRS the employees’ withholding amounts from payroll.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before after taking over the back-office for a business.  They were never able to get ahead of the sins of their past and ended up closing their business.  What’s worse than shutting your doors?  Dealing with the IRS for the foreseeable future.  This is a big no-no that can cost an owner their personal assets and often carries criminal sanctions. 

Employee Misclassification, Independent Contractors

We get it; the urge to pay out wages via the much loved and regularly abused 1099 is real.  After all, you save on employer taxes, and there are no pesky state and federal quarterly reports to file.  Heck, you don’t even need to use payroll software!  But 99% of the time this is a great way to find yourself on the wrong side of the IRS and state.  Very, very rarely are you ever legally justified in paying your team anything other than W2 wages.  See our previous article on this.  The fines are stiff and criminal charges can apply.

Employee Misclassification, Exempt vs. Non-Exempt

The guidelines on who may be compensated via salary and not track time are fairly ironclad.  Be careful here, or you’ll find yourself faced with the gift of a wage claim lawsuit.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving (hire a lawyer) and giving (rack up a healthy legal bill) and giving (pay out a huge settlement or judgment).  Read more on employee classification here.

Incurring a Ton of Debt with the Hope of Future Revenue

The tried and true advice to never to count your eggs before they hatch is timeless financial wisdom.

So is the exercise of prudence when it comes to credit cards and lines of credit. While using credit cards responsibly is a normal business practice, it also exposes you to the risk of deep debt if mismanaged.

Because credit cards are so convenient to use, many new business owners fail to see that they're compounding their expenses and incurring interest charges every time they leverage their credit line and don't pay off the full balance each month.  See more big money mistakes like this here.

Trying to Do It All

The greatest mistake business owners make is believing they can do it all by themselves. While you can do almost everything, you end up doing almost everything poorly. Just like any other person, you likely have one or two natural talents. As an entrepreneur, it is your job to identify those talents and focus on them to your fullest. Surround yourself with people who are strong where your talents are weakest. Great companies are built on the foundation of exploiting a few strengths, not on trying to be masters of everything. 


Need some help?  What’s on your help wish list this holiday season? Now is the time to make a change for 2018.  GYM HQ can take many necessary, but very time-consuming tasks off your hands next year.  Imagine having payroll, accounting (from all your financial reports to payables), business registrations, HR documentation and compliance, member issue resolution and late membership dues management all taken care of by your new back-office, GYM HQ!  We can be here for all of that and much more—like making sure you don’t make any of the mistakes on this list!  Visit our site today to learn more!


GYM HQ Gives Thanks

As we move into the holiday season, we find ourselves at a natural place for contemplation.  Thanksgiving asks us to look at our lives and find things for which we’re thankful.  Christmas and Hannukah gather friends and family, allowing us to bask in their company and the cheer of the season.  Right behind that is New Years.  We consider what the new year will bring.  Who will we be?  What can we do better? 

Our careers and businesses play such a role in our lives that surely, they must be mentioned when we’re rattling off our gratitude list or setting goals for next year! I came across the following on from 2015.  In it, Janine Popick, CMO for Dasheroo and founder of VerticalResponse, shares five things to be thankful for this holiday season in your business.

If you're running a business you know there are ups and downs - the good, bad and the ugly. Things can be great, and things can be tough, but when it all comes down to it you've got to ask yourself: are you happier running your own business than working for someone else?

If the answer is yes, it's that time of the year to look on the bright side of things and give thanks. There are those out there that aren't as fortunate as you, so it's a good time to reflect on the things that matter, the things that make your business the success it is today.

What's simple? Shoot an email to those that helped put you where you are.

1.    You are alive and kicking - Thank a higher power.

2.    Your business is doing well - Thank your employees.

3.    You've got some great partnerships - Thank your partners. Thank you, Inc.

4.    You've got money in the bank - Thank your investors for believing in you.

5.    You've got revenue coming in your door - Thank your customers.

This year at GYM HQ, our list looks pretty similar to the one above.  It’s been a fun and very busy twelve months! We’ve brought on some great new team members and have watched our veterans develop and take on new roles.   We’ve helped over a thousand business owners run their clubs and studios.  I’d venture that we’ve freed up nearly a million hours of time for owners and managers by tackling necessary, but unpopular, tasks such as reaching out to past due members (almost 180K members to be precise), processing payrolls (so many payrolls), paying vendors, navigating tricky HR challenges (someone make these employees stop texting!), generating financial statements, calming angry members, fixing agreement issues, reviewing KPIs, and tackling business registrations (in almost all 50 states)—just to name a few!  Because of this, these owners were able to focus on why they opened their businesses in the first place, selling membership, changing lives, and growing ($).   We’re honored, with each and every task we accomplish, that they’ve put their trust in us! 

We have big plans for 2018, and we look forward to continuing to support the best in the industry!  With that closing sentiment, we’re off to prepare for tomorrow’s GYM HQ #teamsgiving.  What are you thankful for this year?


Need help with payroll, accounting, member services, operations or HR?  Tired of handling it by yourself?  Wondering how you were suddenly expected to manage your own mini corporate office?  We can help.  Give us a shout! or 404-921-2269


ACA Reporting Requirements for 2018

If you’re like many business owners, your attention span and patience for understanding the current Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements wore thin long ago.  Will it be repealed? Replaced? What changes will we see? What are you required to do under the current legislation?  The only thing that may seem clear at this point is that nothing is clear!  Meanwhile, the IRS has announced that it is still moving forward with ACA reporting on the 2017 tax year with the 2018 deadlines. During the first week of October 2017, they published final forms and instructions to help employers prepare for reporting on health coverage they offered to their employees in the 2017 year. While Congress hurls daggers back and forth across the aisles, we’re here to arm you with the latest guidelines and reporting requirements so you may prepare for year-end 2017. 

ACA Reporting Deadlines for 2018

FORM 1095-C and FORM 1095-B

Due to employees Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Employers are responsible for furnishing their employees with either Form 1095-C or Form 1095-B by Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Employers are still responsible for filing copies with the IRS by Wednesday, February 28, 2018, if filing by paper or Monday, April 2, 2018, if filing electronically (same as Form 1094-C or Form 1094-B). 

Which do you file?

Companies providing minimum essential coverage to an individual during 2017 must file an information return reporting the coverage. If an employer had at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) on average, the employer is considered an Applicable Large Employer (ALE), is subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions of the ACA, and is required to file Form 1095-C.  Employers with fewer than 50 FTEs are not subject to the shared responsibility provisions.  If no minimum essential coverage was provided to employees, no reporting is required.  If coverage was provided, Form 1095-B should be filed.

These forms help employees complete their individual tax returns by providing important information regarding their health coverage for the previous calendar year. On Line 61 of individual tax returns, employees must show whether they or their family members had minimum essential coverage.

Employers should report the following:

  • Proof of Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC)
  • Employee ID number
  • Social security numbers of the employee and his/her dependents (not spouse)

FORM 1094-C and FORM 1094-B

Due to the IRS via paper: Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Due to the IRS electronically: April 2, 2018

This form functions as “proof” that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) provided the coverage they were required to under the Employer Shared Responsibility Mandate. It also functions as the cover sheet used to transmit forms 1095-C or 1095-B to the IRS.

ALEs with more than 250 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) are required to file electronically.  Those with fewer than 250 may file on paper or electronically.

Employers with less than 50 FTEs who voluntarily provided minimum essential coverage and therefore filed Form 1095-B for all covered employees, should also file Form 1094-B.

FORM 8809 (Extension Request)

Employers who expect to miss the stated deadlines should file for an extension.  To apply for an extension, submit FORM 8809 on or before the due date. 


Failure to file complete and accurate Form 1094-C or Form 1094-B by the form deadline will result in penalties equal to $250 per form, not to exceed $3 million per year. Failure to file and furnish correct information on Form 1095-C or Form 1095-B could result in a $500 per form penalty for employers.

Since the required reports are somewhat time-consuming to complete manually, consider outsourcing the process to a 3rd party.  GYM HQ utilizes Paychex as our preferred payroll platform for our clients.  They offer ACA reporting as an add-on service.  This is a great way to ensure that reports are accurate and timely.  If you’re preparing the filings in-house, start preparing now. 

  • Ensure you understand how to complete all the required forms.  Instructions can be found on the IRS website.
  • Start determining the reporting you’ll need to pull from your payroll software and benefits website in order to complete the required forms.  Sometimes this involves building out custom reporting. 
  •  Determine if you qualify as an Applicable Large Employer (ALE). See our guide on this.


  • Start communications with your staff on what they should expect.  Three primary messages to convey are: what form they’ll receive (Form 1095-C or 1095-B), why they should care (information is needed to file their taxes), and when they should expect to receive this form (by January 31st).

ACA Requirements: Are You Considered a Large Employer?

As you gear up for year-end and all the important reporting requirement hoops through which you’ll need to jump, now is the perfect time to start getting prepared for compliance in 2018!  Time spent preparing now will make year-end 2018 a breeze. In the meantime, we still have 2017 to consider. Over the next several weeks, we’ll post helpful articles to aid you in the process.  First up, the Affordable Care Act. One of the biggest reporting and compliance demands comes courtesy of the ACA.  As we head into year two of the full reporting requirements, one of the first items you’ll need to determine is if your business qualifies as an Applicable Large Employer (ALE).  Two of the ACA provisions apply only to ALEs:

  • The Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions; and
  • The employer information reporting provisions for offers of minimum essential coverage (MEC).

Your determination as an ALE happens yearly and depends on the average size of your workforce during the prior year.  If you had fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), on average, during 2016, you wouldn’t be considered a ALE for the 2017. If you had more than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), on average, during 2016, you would be considered a ALE for 2017 and be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions and the employer information reporting provision. 

To determine your workforce size for 2016, add your total number of full-time employees (30+ hours per week on average or at least 130 hours for the calendar month) for each month of 2016 to the total number of FTEs for each calendar month of 2016.  Divide this total by 12.  If you were only in business for part of 2016, use those months during the calculation and divide by the total number of months you were in business.

An FTE is a combination of part-time employees who, in combination, are equivalent to a full-time employee. To determine your number of FTEs for a month, combine the number of hours for all non-full-time employees for the month but do not include more than 120 hours per employee. Divide the total by 120.  The resulting number is your FTE count.  It should be noted that FTEs are only relevant in determining if you’re an ALE.  If you’re determined to be an ALE, you DO NOT need to offer MEC to part-time employees. 

Example 1 – Employer is Not an ALE

  • Company X has 40 full-time employees for each calendar month during 2016.
  • Company X also has 15 part-time employees for each calendar month during 2016 each of whom have 60 hours of service per month.
  • When combined, the hours of service of the part-time employees for a month totals 900 [15 x 60 = 900].
  • Dividing the combined hours of service of the part-time employees by 120 equals 7.5 [900 / 120 = 7.5]. This number, 7.5, represents the number of Company X’s full-time equivalent employees for each month during 2016.
  • Employer X adds up the total number of full-time employees for each calendar month of 2016, which is 480 [40 x 12 = 480].
  • Employer X adds up the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of 2016, which is 90 [7.5 x 12 = 90].
  • Employer X adds those two numbers together and divides the total by 12, which equals 47.5 [(480 + 90 = 570)/12 = 47.5].
  • Because the result is not a whole number, it is rounded to the next lowest whole number, so 47 is the result.
  • So, although Company X has 55 employees in total [40 full-time and 15 part-time] for each month of 2016, it has 47 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) for purposes of ALE determination.
  • Because 47 is less than 50, Company X is not an ALE for 2017.

Example 2 – Employer is an ALE

  • Company Y has 40 full-time employees for each calendar month during 2016.
  • Company Y also has 20 part-time employees for each calendar month during 2016, each of whom has 60 hours of service per month.
  • When combined, the hours of service of the part-time employees for a month totals 1,200 [20 x 60 = 1,200].
  • Dividing the combined hours of service of the part-time employees by 120 equals 10 [1,200 / 120 = 10]. This number, 10, represents the number of Company Y’s full-time equivalent employees for each month during 2016.
  • Employer Y adds up the total number of full-time employees for each calendar month of 2016, which is 480 [40 x 12 = 480].
  • Employer Y adds up the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of 2016, which is 120 [10 x 12 = 120].
  • Employer Y adds those two numbers together and divides the total by 12, which equals 50 [(480 + 120 = 600)/12 = 50].
  • So, although Company Y only has 40 full-time employees, it is an ALE for 2017 due to the hours of service of its full-time equivalent employees.

Employer Aggregation Rules

You should also be mindful of the Employer Aggregation Rules.  If your company is part of a larger organization or a collective of companies with common ownership and/or functioning under the same management, then the combined number of full-time employees and FTEs for the group are considered when determining ALE status.

New Employers

If you’re a new employer and weren’t in business on any day in 2016, you should use the 2017 calendar year to determine if you’re an ALE.  Consider if you reasonably expect to employ or actually have employed at least 50 full-time employees or FTEs.

Failure to Provide Coverage

What if you qualify as an ALE but fail to offer any MEC to at least 95% of full-time employees? 

If you fail to offer MEC to at least 95% of your full-time employees (and their dependents) and at least one full-time employee receives the premium tax credit for purchasing coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you will be required to pay a shared responsibility penalty.  This payment is equal to $2,000 for each full-time employee, with the first 30 employees excluded from the calculation.  This calculation is based on ALL full-time employees (minus 30), including full-time employees who have MEC under your offered plan.  Example: You employ 62 full-time employees.  One employee receives the premium tax credit when purchasing coverage.  Your fine would be 62 total employees- the first 30= 32 employees for which the penalty applies.  32 x  $2000= $64,000. 

If you do offer MEC to at least 95% of your full-time employees (and their dependents), you may still be liable for the second type of employer shared responsibility payment if at least one full-time employee receives the premium tax credit for purchasing coverage through the Marketplace.  This penalty is equal to $3,000 but only for each full-time employee who receives the premium tax credit.

Minimum Essential Coverage

A plan meets the standards for minimum value if it covers at least 60% of the total allowed cost of benefits that are expected to be incurred under the plan.  Since you likely do not know the household income of your employees, you can rely on affordability safe harbors. These are Form W-2 wages, an employee’s rate of pay, or the federal poverty line.  If you have questions concerning if the coverage you offer meets the MEC standards, consult your insurance broker.

Tax Credits for Small Employers

If you have fewer than 25 full-time employees, including FTEs, you may be eligible for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to cover the cost of providing non-mandatory coverage.  Learn more here

Reporting Requirements

All ALEs are required to file Forms 1095-C and 1094-C.  Employers who are not ALEs but chose to provide MEC to full-time employees are required to file Forms 1095-B and 1094-B.  Reporting requirements and deadlines will be discussed in detail in our next article.


Interest in learning more about how GYM HQ can help keep you compliant and take some work off of your plate?  Contact us today: or 404-921-2269.


Seven Musts for a Healthy Draft

The monthly draft is the lifeblood of most fitness businesses.  You put in the work to grow your member base and achieve your business model’s goal for recurring revenue.  When you finally attain it, you breathe a little easier.  The draft is there like a big blanket—keeping your business warm and cozy during the coldest nights.  Or, as is generally the case in fitness, the slower sales months of summer.  Something so precious to your business should always be top of mind.  You should nurture it with new sales (obvious), mind your cancellations (still obvious), and ensure you have a good system in place to pick up missed monthly payments (totally obvious, right).  That last piece is where we’ll focus today.  Because, while obvious, chasing past due payments is something that frequently falls by the wayside for many fitness businesses.  Somewhere between driving new sales and running your club, this vital process gets relegated to a task on the front desk staff’s daily task list.  Maybe it gets done, likely it doesn’t. 

A healthy draft requires a systematic approach and constant work.  Our Past Due Communications team here at GYM HQ works with successful ClubReady clients across the country to ensure no member is left behind!  But, if you’re stuck tackling the chore yourself, here are seven key steps to ensuring your hard-earned draft doesn’t slip through the cracks.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The absolute best way to maintain a healthy draft is to prevent past due payments from ever occurring.  Ensure that good billing information is captured at point of sale.  If your billing system allows for two payment methods (ACH and credit card), obtain both.  Inquire if your system or merchant provider can set you up with an account updater service.  This will help pick up the new card data for many cards (due to changes in card number or expiration date).

Make sure you can reach all your members.

Capture ALL contact information from ALL members at point of saleIn order to clear up a past due balance or update billing information, you must be able to get in touch with the member.  It’s also a great idea to run member rosters from time-to-time and spot check the data.  Is your team filling in real email addresses or  Are they capturing cell numbers?  The more contact points available, the more pathways you have for resolution.

Have a system and schedule for contacts.

How often will you contact your members?  After how many days past due?  For how long?  How will you make contact (email, phone, letter, SMS)?  What will your message be?  In business, everything needs a process and this is no different. To be effective, it should be clearly mapped out and followed consistently. This includes considering which team member(s) is responsible for making the contacts. Dependable, consistent contact provides the best chances of successful resolution.

Trust but verify.

Once you have a system in place, it can’t be “set it and forget it”.  Just like any other task you assign your team, it’s going to require some degree of monitoring and oversight.  How do you know calls are being made?  Insist that your staff notate all contacts on the members’ accounts.  This way you can audit the process anytime you’d like.

More contacts x more ways = more money.

Phone calls are great, but some people respond better to other channels.  Text is a great tool as most of your members always have their cells in hand!  A personalized email explaining the amount due and who to contact to make payment can also be effective.  Make sure your team is utilizing all methods of contact to maximize the impact.

Start early.

Why allow a past due payment to languish for weeks on end?  The longer a balance ages the smaller your chances are at resolving it.  Your process should start outreach within the first few days of the missed payment.  The golden rule in successful billing resolution is contact early and often. 

Consider outsourcing.

Numerous club management software providers offer billing support as an additional service.  This is well worth exploring.  While prices can seem prohibitive at first glance, the amount of draft saved and the missed payments collected generally far outweighs the costs!  Many operators find it challenging to micromanage the process internally.  Staff members aren’t incentivized to succeed and it takes away from new sales.  Outsourcing the process eliminates this headache.  Regardless of who is minding your draft, what’s ultimately important is that these past due accounts are receiving attention.


Bonus. Utilize a collections firm for later stage balances.

After 90 to 120 days, the soft approach used by your team or the software/billing company has lost its impact.  Every effective process needs a closed loop.  For past due members, this is determining when to walk away.  There are varying opinions on the use of collections agencies.  Many owners would rather write off the loss than deal with the fallout from heavy handed collectors.  However, the right firm can be effective and help return some of that lost revenue back to your bottom line!  Consider these key factors when selecting an agency:

Skip those who charge a fee when you remove someone from collections.  You should always be able to pull a former member who is causing bad press for your club or who wants to come back into the fold without a fee being associated with it!

Ask your trusted fitness network for references.  The sales guy will always tell you they’re the best.  An owner will be honest about performance and any issues they’ve had with agencies. 

Ensure you can reach an account manager.  Will you have a direct point of contact when you have an urgent question?  Will they be responsive?

It all boils down to people (who’s working the accounts), process (how are they working the accounts), and profit (retain more of that hard-earned revenue).  Want to talk past dues?  Shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to help or connect you to someone else who can!  Tasks others loathe, we love at GYM HQ. 

past due.png

Top 10 Mistakes Gym Owners Make

It’s that time of year again!  Time to look back on 2016, find opportunities for improvement and plan for a bigger, better 2017!   We work with many operators who are doing some really exciting things.  Some have gotten it nearly right from the get- go and others have learned from a few bumps along the way.  Getting to be at the helm of the behind the scenes team here at Gym HQ as these businesses grow and prosper is a fun, fulfilling, and exciting experience.  I’d like to pass along some of the big no-nos we’ve seen and areas we’ve noted many owners have questions.  I’ve included notes on what we’ve uncovered in businesses throughout the years as examples or steps to take on each item.  While space won’t allow for a full workup of each topic, hopefully these will give you a few items on which to focus in the coming year.  You work hard to drive revenues at for business; we want to make sure you hang on to them!  Here are our Top 10 Mistakes Gym Owners Make.


Timely P&Ls ensure that you’re keeping an eye on your margins each month so that adjustments can be made accordingly. 

What we’ve seen:

With no clear understanding of the business’s performance, it’s fairly common for an owner to overestimate performance (revenue) and underestimate liabilities (expenses).


Without knowing your numbers, business analysis and action planning is impossible.

In one instance, after a single month of analysis for one business, we found:

  • High instance of client “no-shows”.  Cost to business $2100/month.
  • Average price per session was too low.  $5 below targeted margin. $28,000/month. 
  • Average trainer rate was too high.  $1 above target margin.  $3,000/month.


There is no such thing as a “1099 employee”.

What we’ve seen:

Multiple employees being paid as 1099 Independent Contractors.

It’s important to do an analysis of each position from a behavioral, financial and relationship stand point.


Exempt vs. Non-Exempt Status

What we’ve seen:

Multiple employees misclassified and exempt staff being underpaid.

All job descriptions and pay should be reviewed regularly for compliance.


Coaches, trainers and fitness instructors are an especially touchy area.

What we’ve seen:

Trainers being paid by the session and not utilizing a time clock.

What you should know:

We’ve been very attentive to the recent case law in our industry.  There have been multiple class action law suits concerning trainer pay in the last several months:

In March, a class of more than 80 personal trainers seeking a jury trial in federal court against a Gold's Gym franchisee group over alleged unpaid overtime wages scored a legal victory in the case. The judge ruled that the defendant, Gold's Texas Holdings Group Inc., cannot use an exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to defend itself against allegations of employee misclassification should the case go to trial.

In February, Equinox Holdings Inc. settled a class action lawsuit for a maximum of $4 million brought by former employees who alleged the company failed to pay them fully or provide breaks.

In January, a federal judge in Illinois denied a group of four former Life Time Fitness personal trainers' motion for conditional class certification in a lawsuit alleging unpaid minimum wages. That case is currently stayed pending the outcome of private mediation, according to court records.


  • Pay hourly and required clock in/out.
  • Provisional bonus pay is okay.


Does your staff have a playbook?

What we’ve seen:

No existing Employee Handbook and incomplete New Hire Packet materials.

Steps to take:

Think of your Policy and Procedures Manual and/or your Employee Handbook like the playbook for your business.  They lay out expectations for team members, explain the business objectives behind those expectations, and provide the framework for how to carry them out.   Sitting down and committing your business essentials to writing is important for several reasons:

  • It causes you to really “think through” how you’re carrying out the   day-to-day. 
  • It memorializes when a policy was put in place.
  • It gets everyone on the same page, literally.


Do you know the rules of engagement for your state?

What you should know:

  • Each state has different requirements for business                           registration.
  • Some states hold fitness businesses to special requirements underHealth Spa Statutes.  These states require specific language for membership and service agreements and sometimes require businesses to hold a bond (especially for presale).
  • The application of sales tax to products, memberships, and services varies by state. 


Issues are inevitable.

What we’ve seen:

  • Open permissions allowing staff members to cancel agreements and invoices.  In one example we found an auto-renewal percentage s at 6% vs targeted 20% for the sales model due to sales people cancelling draft and creating new agreements.  $13,000 in draft impact + overpayment of commissions
  • Not adhering to cancellation procedures outlined in member agreement.


Where? When? Why? What’s the fix?

Steps to take:

  •  CS volume through all channels should be measured and root causes for complaints tracked:
  • Reason for complaint (staff, facility, contract)
  • Staff involved
  • ClubReady notated
  • Cancellations are categorized by type.
  •  Data is analyzed on a regular basis (calibration calls) and action plans deployed.



Getting members up-to-date is vital for a healthy draft. 

What we’ve seen: 

  •  Lack of system or schedule for follow-up.
  • No process for mandating contact information capture at POS

While this list may seem a bit daunting at first, you'd be surprised how much traction you can gain but simply starting with one area. Happy 2017--may your business thrive this year!




Achieving Customer Service Gold

With the Olympic Games fast approaching, our attention will soon turn toward watching the world’s best athletes compete.  Those who are the best-of-the-best will walk away with gold medals.  It’s truly impressive to watch performance at such an elite level.  So much time and preparation has gone into a just few moments of competition.  We respect the effort and marvel at the results.  Shouldn’t we be striving for the same level of performance in our businesses?  Don’t our members deserve such a diligent effort and commitment to excellence? 

As you consider your commitment to providing an exceptional member experience, here are five factors to consider.

Have a plan.

Think through how you deal with the business’s most common issues.  While we don’t ever want to be in the habit of merely quoting policy to a member, we do need the framework of policy to serve as a guide for decision making.  It creates an environment of consistency and consistency is easier to scale and replicate—thus enabling our business to grow. We should also carefully consider each policy to ensure it makes sense for our specific business model and isn’t simply the fitness industry norm.

Clearly worded membership and service agreements.

While we know that most states mandate specific language and guidelines for fitness contracts, we’re not required to word our entire agreement in foggy legalese.  Why not simplify the terms?  Strip down the superfluous text?  Make it easier for our members to understand?  If we’re asking a member to jump through a series of hoops to manage their relationship with us, we should at least clearly lay out those hoops.

Have a system.

A sure fire way to botch the handling of a member’s account is poor communication.  What was discussed?  When?  With whom?   Our system should be easy to use (or it won’t be used) and should ideally allow for follow-up and interaction directly within the system.  When it comes to account changes, clearly notating a member’s profile is a key first step to ensuring that what was “promised” is delivered.  Member history should be accessible to all necessary staff members. 

ClubReady has a very simple, yet detailed member tracking and interfacing platform embedded directly within their club management software.  The easy to use interface, WorkIt,  allows for the addition of client notes, the ability to send out a text or email (which automatically saves as a copy to the member’s notes), notate a phone conversations, add a member alert to ensure all team members are aware of important details, and set follow-up tasks assigned to specific team members.  It also allows for easy contact reporting so management can monitor and direct all interactions.  Speaking of reporting…

What’s measured is improved.

One of the biggest mistakes we see owners making is simply not knowing the volume or causes of member issues in their clubs.  How do we get better if we have no knowledge of what’s wrong?

A good analysis starts with identifying what should be measured.  What’s import for our business?    What’s our retention goal?  How many cancellations are we seeing each month?  What is causing them?  Are members able to easily contact us and get a resolution to their issues in an acceptable time frame?  What is an acceptable resolution time?   Targets should be established, an information collection protocol developed, and reporting templates produced.  From there, let’s institute a consistent schedule to review, analyze, and improve.  For example:

Joe’s monthly cancellation target is less than 25% of the new member packages sold. So, if he sells 100 new memberships, he hopes to only see a fall off of 25 or less from his total member count.  Last month he noticed that his percentage of cancellations had climbed to nearly 50%.  He pulled the cancellation roster from his club management software to review.  He was happy to see that his staff had properly tagged each cancellation with a cancellation type.  However, he was concerned to learn that a significant number of cancellations stemmed from members moving to a defaulted status because they hadn’t made payment in 90 days.  From there he accessed his past due members report and reviewed outbound contacts made by his staff.  It was uncovered that they weren’t hitting their outreach target for billing issue resolution.  He scheduled a meeting with his GM to address this.  During the meeting, it was determined that the lack of contact stemmed from an oversight during a staffing change.  Outbound contact had once been the job of the afternoon front desk rep.  When she left and was replaced, the task had never been reassigned.  Joe and his GM established a new protocol of weekly contact auditing, assigned the task to the new front desk rep and reassessed the results until the process was back on track.

In our example, Joe started his review thinking only about cancellations and soon realized that it was unresolved payment issues causing his current cancellation spike.   Proper reporting is like a treasure map.  It guides us to the important areas for exploration and can uncover a wealth of information.  Sometimes that information isn’t positive, but knowledge is always a good thing.  And if we keep looking, we’re bound to find the path to gold!

Look in the mirror first.

Finally, we should always hold our facilities, team and services up to the light first, before addressing a member’s concern.  Have we delivered what was promised?  Are we being fair?  Sometimes members’ reasons for leaving are very valid.  It’s easy to employ a strict letter of the contract approach to how we deal with these concerns, but I’d argue it’s far less likely to have positive effect in the long run.  Let’s listen to complaints focused on resolution and improvement.  The value that exists in a lost member is learning how to prevent it from becoming lost members

Document! Document! Document!

If I have one phrase I utter more often than any other while navigating our wonderful business of fitness, it may well be some variation of:  “Is it documented?”    I get it; no one wants to take the time to write it all out.  It's time consuming and you could actually be 'doing' it rather than writing it down.  But here’s the thing, it’s absolutely key to your long-term growth and success that anything essential to your business’ operations or health be in writing.   To get you started on your adventure into the world of proper record keeping, here are three areas in your fitness business where I consider proper documentation to be of paramount importance:

1.       Policies and Procedures.  Think of your Policy and Procedures Manual and/or your Employee Handbook like the playbook for your business.  They lay out expectations for team members, explain the business objectives behind those expectations, and provide the framework for how to carry them out.   Sitting down and committing your business essentials to writing is important for several reasons:

·         It causes you to really “think through” how you’re carrying out the day-to-day.  Do your policies make sense?  Are they easy to adhere to, manage, and, in some instances, measure?  Are they legally compliant at both the federal and state level? 

·         It memorializes when a policy was put in place.  As yours manuals are updated, the latest versions should be time stamped.  This ensures that should you need to follow-up on when a new initiative went live, you can do so easily.  Example:  Knowing when a PTO policy went into effect and having it clearly detailed in writing, makes it easy to explain when a team member questions their balance.

·         It gets everyone on the same page, literally.  A written policy eliminates mistakes and misunderstandings.  It creates consistency among different supervisors and as the members of your team change.

2.       Employee Issues.  Inevitably issues with team members will arise.  Hopefully,  you have a solid Employee Handbook in place which addresses how to deal with these issues.  Most businesses strive for a system of progressive discipline.  This involves a series of procedures for dealing with shortcomings in a team member’s performance.  A good policy should provide for a method of documenting all employee dealings relating to performance (both positive and negative) and require signatures where appropriate.  Clear and consistent documentation ensures the employee understands the reasons for your actions and what your expectations are of them moving forward.  If the time comes when employment must end, it also provides a history should a claim arise (unemployment benefits, discrimination, wrongful termination, etc.).  Side note:   Many managers equate the word discipline with punishment versus thinking of it as the process of helping an employee understand their role and how to perform more effectively or efficiently.    If meetings with a supervisor involving documentation are always viewed as negative and seen as a threat, that’s exactly what they end up being and the policy loses any potential positive impact.  You end up with a too little, too late situation because even you avoid discussing employee issues!

3.       Member Relations.  Did your front desk person have a conversation with a member about freezing their account?  Where is that conversation notated so other team members can see it?  Hopefully your club management software offers basic CRM (customer relationship management) functionality.  Use it!  It’s extremely important that you’re tracking member interactions through clear notes on accounts.  This helps to provide the member with consistency in experience and prevents them from having to relay the same information multiple times.  It also eliminates the “he said, she said” trap in which we sometimes find ourselves by making it easy to look back on what was discussed during previous member interactions.  Bonus:  If your software allows for follow-up or ticketing, it makes it much easier to schedule any necessary tasks concerning members’ needs with your management team.   A system of proper notation and follow-up ensures nothing falls through the cracks.


So roll up your sleeves and grab your pen!  With some upfront effort to create clear policies, the discipline to adhere to those policies, and the dedication to follow through with consistent documentation, you set your business up for success.  

10 Tax Time Tips for Your Fitness Business

With April 15th fast approaching, now is a great time to start the prep work for filing your business taxes…for 2016.  If you’ve waited until now to start preparing for your 2015 filing, you’ve already missed the proverbial buck.  As with all other aspects of your business, organization, proper planning, and consistency are hugely important in making tax season as painless as possible.  Follow the tips below to ensure that next year’s filing is smooth sailing.

1.       Prepare early.  Not surprisingly, this ranks top on our list.  Procrastination will not serve you well when it comes to ensuring the documentation needed for your taxes are in order.  Late filings and amendments can cost time and money.  When you fail to file a Form 1120 (due March 15th for corporations and April 15th for LLCs), the corporation is charged a monthly penalty that's equal to 5 percent of any income tax that remains unpaid.  In addition to the penalties for failing to file, the IRS can charge the corporation a separate penalty for paying taxes after the filing deadline. This penalty will increase the amount of tax that the corporation owes by one-half of a percent for each month it remains unpaid.   

2.       Be consistent.  Ensure that your accounting and bookkeeping practices are accurate and occurring on a schedule.  Make sure your expenses are reconciled, tracked and supported with receipts.  At a minimum, spend time at least monthly to review your accounts—receivable, payable, credit card transactions, cash flow, etc.  You also want to ensure that all expenses and revenues are booked according to the same system each month.  Keep a depreciation schedule for all major asset purchases.  Make sure the schedule includes:  date put into service, original cost, accumulated depreciation up to this tax year, business use percentage (if applicable), recovery period of the asset.  You’ll also need any Section 170 Expense taken in the first year of service.

3.       Make sure you have W9s on file.  If you’re paying anyone as an independent contractor and their total payment exceeds $600 (or the payment is for legal services),  you’ll need to provide them with form 1099-MISC by January 31st.

4.       Take advantage of your liabilities.  If you’re on an accrual basis, make sure you accrue liabilities that occurred within the fiscal year to the take advantage of the tax deduction.  If you’re on a cash basis, make sure you stroke a check for any outstanding liabilities prior to year-end to reduce your profit.

5.       Be mindful of state apportionment.  Have locations in multiple states?  Then you need to prepare for state apportionment.  Make sure you’re dividing your revenue, expenses, and payroll appropriately throughout the year.  

6.       Don’t forget about the ACA reporting requirements.  Do you understand what your business’ requirements are under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)?  Reporting was due to employees in January.  The filing due to the IRS has been extended from March 31st to June 30th (if filing electronically) and from February 29th to May 31st (if not filing electronically).  Penalties are in place this year for failure to report or provide adequate coverage.  Make sure you look into the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit which is in place to help small businesses with low-  and moderate-income workers afford the cost of coverage.

7.       Avoid payroll mistakes.  Payroll tax compliance is something that many small business owners struggle with. The financial consequences of getting it wrong aren’t pleasant either. Statistics show that approximately 40 percent of small businesses incur an average of $845 per year in IRS penalties (not to mention issues with the states in which they operate). To make sure that your payroll taxes are deposited correctly, consider outsourcing your payroll function. The benefits often far outweigh the fees.

8.       Ensure your SUI rates are accurate.  Each year, the state(s) mail out a new unemployment experience rating for the coming year.  Make sure you update yours with your payroll team.  Failure to do so can result in under paying and receiving a nice bill, with interest, or overpaying and jumping through the hoops required to get a refund back from the state.

9.       It isn’t only the IRS.  The IRS is only a piece of the tax puzzle.  You’ll want to be mindful of other tax obligations like property, payroll, local taxes, excise tax, self-employment taxes, etc.  Failure to meet deadlines can result in some serious fees. 

10.   If you’re not prepared, file an extension.  If you haven’t heeded our advice and find yourself staring down a rapidly approaching deadline, probably the easiest way to avoid late-filing penalties is to file Form 7004 to obtain an extension of time to file. If the 7004 is filed by the original tax return filing deadline, you'll have an additional six months to file the Form 1120. However, the extension doesn't give you more time to pay the tax you owe, so it's best to estimate how much tax is owed and pay as much of it as possible by the original filing deadline to minimize late-payment penalties.


The beginning of the year is a great time to do a vital statistics check on your business.  Many of the practices required to satisfy Uncle Sam will benefit the overall health of your business.  So consider each of these pointers as time well spent.  Happy tax planning!