Building a great culture

I think today more than ever all that matters is the experience that people have when they walk through your door. Even great results won’t be enough to keep them coming back if they don’t feel good and love your environment.

I think today more than ever all that matters is the experience that people have when they walk through your door. Even great results won’t be enough to keep them coming back if they don’t feel good and love your environment.

I find more than ever even in my own purchasing decisions, I gravitate to the little guy who makes me feel like I matter — if you’re selling a high-end service, it only works if people continue to want it.

Here are five odd little things that have greatly enhanced our culture.

Now these are not the only things needed to create an amazing culture but they all one off things that have played a unique role in the feel of my Red Deer facility. As we’ve applied these in coaching clients, facilities and in my new Edmonton facility, I see first hand the impact they can have in the evolution of your atmosphere.

Set a public mission and core values; live and die by them

Don’t take this lightly and it’s not an afternoon project. Carefully craft a public mission statement and a list of specific values by answering the questions: what do we want to accomplish? And: How will we do it?

For example, in Red Deer my public mission set in 2012 was to help 10,000 local people reach their fitness or weight loss goal by 2015. The statement was intended to show that we are committed to helping people beyond our four walls since we can’t possibly train that many people in that time frame.

So we have to think of ways to get involved in our community and continually provide content to help the world. We do this by reminding ourselves of our core values, which the first is to exceed expectations.

It’s not an easy thing to do these days but what it has done for us is to try to predetermine a plan for how we can always do one better in any situation, even when someone might not be happy.

Gold stars

Quite possibly, this is one of the most valuable culture things we’ve ever done. We use craft foam from Michael’s to create six-inch bright yellow stars. Add ribbon and a marker and we have an instant reward medal.

You’ll find rounds of applause, photos, see them on Facebook and, even better if you’re new and visiting our facility, you’ll see two walls as soon as you’ve walked in plastered with thumb-tacked photos of our gold star recipients.

It’s not by accident that our public mission happens to be posted on the same wall either.

Mirrors and markers

I swear I returned to my childhood when I learned they made dry erase markers that would write on glass. Our mirrors in our boot camp room now look like graffiti and it adds a whole new sense of character.

Yes, we write the workouts on the mirror, and birthday greetings and inspirational comments, and ask questions and let people answer, “I love boot camp because?”

The point is it’s become a point of engagement. In the workout room, you might see a trainer or a client scribble on the mirror in front of them, “ONE MORE REP!” or “Every time I read this my body is changing.”

Display your lighter side and the culture wall

In one area of our facility, we have one big wall covered in a cartoon super hero mural, we have posters like, “Always be yourself unless you can be Batman, then always be Batman.”

Another nearby wall is covered in photos, shirts, bibs, flags and more from all the charity events, team events, client feats (like climbing Mount Everest) and even our new client goal and reward board.

Everywhere you turn we want to know that were about having fun and experiencing the world in any way we can.

Random and unexpected reward

Giving out swag is nothing new but how you do it might be.

It’s pretty typical to reward people for signing up or at specific intervals, and unfortunately I find this has little value.

We’ve opted to do it differently: we simply have an budget for swag and we buy random things in random quantities at random intervals. We try to have small items that we can give away any time we feel like, and then we try periodically to buy unique items that we find fun and creative ways to give away.

We don’t always have enough for everyone and we rarely do the same thing twice. We’ve found this has upped the level of appreciation and value with our clients.

You’re continually learning new strategies to attract more clients; if you can add continually improving retention to that, you will live a long life of prosperous growth and profitability!

Cabel McElderry is a local personal trainer and nutrition coach. For more information on fitness and nutrition, visit the Fitness F/X website at

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