Performance Optimization Tips for Owners and Operators

Lacrosse player

We're asked to create Performance Optimization Plans for many different types of projects each year - ranging from state-of-the-art community recreation centers to massive tournament destinations. The most common reason for hiring SFM to perform this study and subsequent plan is to help the facility is improve their performance in one or more of its key performance indicators (KPI's). The most common KPI requiring improve is profitability or self-sustainability.

During the 4-6 week study, our team of Operational Advisors reviews existing financial data, guest reviews and online reputation, marketing systems, policies, procedures, and more. Additionally, our team travels on-site to perform user group engagement, staff interviews, and client meetings as well as complete a thorough facility evaluation and market tour. The result of the study is an Optimization Plan that outlines strategies and tactics for improvement in key areas including organizational structure, marketing and business development, maintenance, technology, and more.Here are a few common themes - and tips - for facility owners and operators:

Team Member Alignment

There are hundreds skilled and well-meaning teams operating recreation centers, event facilities, and sports complexes. What's not always in tune is how each person "fits" into the mission or goal fulfillment. In a streamlined organization, each team member understands how they fit into the greater goal. Think about the story of when John F. Kennedy visited the NASA space center, he saw a janitor carrying a broom and walked over and asked what he was doing. The janitor responded: 'Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon.'" Would your front desk receptionist and aquatics director respond with "changing lives through sports/fitness" (or insert your mission here). In addition to missional alignment, each person must understand their KPI's and revenue responsibilities. At SFM, we often use a modified organizational chart called an accountability chart - wherein key team members are identified not just by name and title, but by revenue and expense responsibility as well.

Missing on Marketing

Marketing is an ever-evolving discipline with many areas of focus. With often limited marketing budgets, sports, recreation, and wellness facilities require an extra-savvy approach. Is your marketing manager working from an annual strategic plan? Without a plan, how do you measure success? How do you know your organic social media is adding to your overall brand and community engagement goals? Every facility should have a strategic marketing plan, even if it's a simple one. Another opportunity to improve is to understand that marketing is not a one-person job. From the General Manager to the front desk associate, every staff member is a representation of the brand and is an opportunity to enhance or detract from a guest's experience and influence one of the strongest marketing channels of all - word of mouth.

Too Slow to React

Market conditions, guest preferences, facility conditions, and trends change...all the time. From programmatic choices to lackluster reviews, it's a missed opportunity if you aren't able evaluate and react to changes in your facility ecosystem. For example, a new boutique fitness competitor starts edging in on your community recreation memberships. If that's the case, it's time to look at your own value propositions and differentiators. What makes your facility a valuable community asset? How can you co-exist, collaborate and not compete with this facility? The answer might lie with a switch in sports programming, group fitness classes, or a new marketing approach focusing on the whole-family-experience. The important thing to remember is that the only constant is change - and your team needs to be able to change along with it.

These are just a few of the themes we see when conducting an optimization study. It's important to keep in mind that requesting an independent evaluation as an owner or asking for fresh perspective as an operator could be the next step to (finally) making those year-end revenue goals, community engagement metrics, or maximizing whatever your most important KPI might be.