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GYMTOPIA


NEVER SAY NO L


Ray Algar reports on the remarkable health club that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years


ast month, I discussed how for-profit business TOMS (www.TOMS.com) was leveraging the power of generosity through


its ‘one-for-one’ business model, to compete in the fiercely competitive shoe and eyewear industries (see HCM Oct 14, p46). This month, I want to share the story of how Franco’s Athletic Club, located in the US state of Louisiana, is using generosity to become one of the world’s most admired health clubs.


Community engagement I first met Sandy Franco, one of the co-owners, when she was presenting at the 2013 IHRSA European Congress in Madrid. Her message was a simple one: invest in your community and the community will invest in your club. Sandy and Ron, her husband, have pursued this strategy for 26 years. The Francos acquired the 2,600sq m


(28,000sq ft) racquetball and social facility, originally known as the Bon Temps Club, in 1988. Two years after the acquisition, their world fell apart when their two-year- old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The Francos had already made a


Franco’s Club donates the use of its facilities to local special needs children


big impression in the small city of Mandeville and received an outpouring


GYMTOPIA – A PLACE WHERE CLUBS DO SOCIAL GOOD


Gymtopia was conceived by founder and chief engagement offi cer Ray Algar, who believes the global health and fi tness industry has enormous infl uence and potential to do good in the world, beyond its immediate customers. The idea of Gymtopia is simple: to curate and spread remarkable stories in which the fi tness industry uses its infl uence to reach out and support an external community in need. It was created with the generous support of fi ve organisations: Companhia Athletica, Gantner Technologies, Les Mills, Retention Management and The Gym Group. Gymtopia received an Outstanding Achievement Award in the ukactive Matrix Flame Awards 2014.


Read more stories and submit your own: www.Gymtopia.org 64 Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


of support – even from people they had never met. As Sandy recalls:


“Friends, family, members and the wider community rose up and supported us. They were writing us letters, they were supporting us, they pretty much carried us through this time and it’s something we’ll never forget. It wasn’t a conscious thing when we said ‘let’s start being community players’ – we feel an obligation. They were there for us and we want to be there for them. “Our precious daughter, thank God,


has grown to become a vibrant young woman, but we’re constantly striving to fulfi l the promise we made at that time – to give back to the community that gave so much to our family.” For the past 26 years, the Francos


have therefore been reciprocating: the more their club has grown, the more they give. Today, Franco’s has grown to more than 23,225sq m (250,000sq ft) of indoor and outdoor space for fi tness, sports and recreation, with approximately 15,000 members.


Creating long-term value When it comes to requests from charities, schools and community groups, the Franco mantra is, and always has been: ‘Never say no.’ Why so generous? Crucially, they do not see these


requests through the lens of random acts of charity, but as investing in a community that creates long-term value for their business. “We believe that, by giving back to our community, we have grown our facility and our membership,” says Sandy. Of course, saying yes doesn’t always


mean writing a cheque – it also includes offering the club’s courts and studio space to schools, dance clubs and sports teams, and donating use of the pools for mental and physical stimulation therapy for special needs children. Sometimes the club just needs to


act as the catalyst and mobilise its army of members, employees and


November/December 2014 © Cybertrek 2014


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