Approaching A Council

Demographics. It is a word that comes up time and time again both in the fitness industry and here at the Gym Owners Forum. 

And it is really no surprise. It is one of the most vital metrics that we have. It is one that the budget-chains have honed in on and for a long time many independent gyms have lagged behind in. 

So today we will be talking about the contradictions inherent to the fitness industry when it comes to age, demographics, generational difference and everything in between. In addition, we will be looking at how independent gyms can make the most out of targeting specific demographics from our experience and collaboration with independent gyms up and down the country.

 

Objective

First it is important to understand what you want to gain from contacting your local council. Every partnership requires a certain level of commitment and it will be important to define early on what you are offering and how this partnership will benefit your Gym. 

Is it purely an increase in paid memberships? If so, think about how best to achieve this with minimal other engagement.

Offering discounted Gym memberships to Council employees is a good start. Furthermore, councils will have existing relations with other aspects of the town infrastructure. Consider asking them if this discount could be extended to say, the local NHS trust, police department or cleaning contractors.

Do you want to set aside an amount of resources to assist in community efforts?

If so, think about what resources this might consume. This could include.

  • Time from your PTs schedules
  • Training areas
  • Class Rooms
  • Equipment
  • Event preparation/Post-event cleaning 
  •  


Consider if you’d be willing to have your staff support efforts in the community? This could include holding events in park spaces or a town centre. Could involve participating/volunteering for events such as Race for Life.

Consider your location within your given town, city or community. If your Gym is in a central location and easy to access location, consider the benefits that this brings in.

If your Gym is out of the way, consider who you are trying to offer this service to within the community with the help of the council. Maybe there are other, equally out of the way communities that do not usually receive support. If so, these might be more appreciative of the facility you are allowing them to access more easily. 

What 'The Fit Club - Redditch' Did:

When we decided to approach Redditch Borough Council, we determined that we were willing to not only offer a discounted Gym Membership Scheme, but that we were also willing and able to assist with broader activities within the community.

As we had already worked on a corporate and business membership package, we knew the approximate rates we wished to charge for this. 

The Fit Club – Redditch is located at the very centre of Redditch, just across from the main Redditch Borough Council offices. As such, it seemed apparent that we were in a prime position to offer their staff a beneficial deal on membership.

Furthermore, due to the central position of the Gym, we knew that it would be an ideal location for community activity and engagement. So we incorporated this into our objectives. 

 

Objectives: 

  • Approach Redditch Borough Council in order to increase our profile within the community and to offer their staff some form of either discounted or paid as benefit membership. 
  • Explore potential partnerships with the Redditch Borough Council

Research

Once you have understood what you wish to achieve through partnership with your local council, the next stage will be to understand more about the council you will be contacting and hopefully dealing with.

You will want to look into:

  1.  What your local Councils current objectives and goals are.
  2. Where their office or offices are based.
  3. What existing fitness partnerships they have.
  4. What existing fitness assets they currently own or administrate.
  5. Who you need to talk to within the council leadership or staff. 

 

Before starting, we would recommend creating a document to store the information that you will be collecting throughout this research task. This will be where you are putting any e-mails, PDFs, objectives or notable people that you discover in your research.


Due to the dense nature of Council websites, you will most likely end up flooded with information. It will be important in this stage to identify what is useful and what is not. 

  1. Thankfully, councils are very eager to proclaim their goals and objectives. This can nearly always be found on their official website. Sometimes it will be slightly hidden or in an otherwise unintuitive place.
    Usually this will be called something like ‘Council Strategic Objectives’ or ‘Community Goals’ or ‘Council Plan’, followed by a spread of years, such as 2020-2024.
 
  1. Understanding where their office or offices are based should be as easy as a simple google search. It may be necessary to make notes if there are multiple addresses.
    Compare the location of the office or offices to where your Gym is.
 
  1. Understanding what existing Fitness partnerships the council has may have to wait until you are in dialogue with the council.
    However some councils advertise their partnerships on their website. If this is the case, research the name of the partner or partners. Understand their location and work out if your Gym or Club is in a better position. Does your Gym cover an area theirs doesn’t?
 
  1. Similar to the partnerships, the fitness venues that the Council own or operate should be clearly displayed on their website.
    Sometimes they can be partially obscured under a separate company, but if a Council has invested or outright owns a fitness institution, they will most likely feature it prominently on their website. 
 
  1. While vital, this one is the hardest to codify with any certainty. It will most likely vary from council to council. Some council websites seem to prominently feature the contact information for departments such as partnership and HR, others will be surprisingly tight-lipped when it comes to disclosing this information.

    If the website is not forthcoming with the information, there are two effective avenues to try. One is to call up the main office and ask for the relevant contact e-mail or telephone number.

    The other is to use a search engine to try and uncover the relevant contact e-mail or telephone number. This could involve using various permutations of terms, such as ‘X council HR department email’ or ‘X Council Partnership Queries E-mail’ 

What 'The Fit Club - Redditch' Did:

Using the same numbering system as above, we will detail what The Fit Club Redditch did when researching Redditch Council in preparation for their partnership offer.


1. When it came to understanding the goals of Redditch Borough Council, our first port of call was their website. From there we looked on the policies section to see if there was a policy webpage dedicated to Fitness in the Community. 

When we saw that there was not, we went to find the published ‘Council Plan’, which was found on its own dedicated webpage and was downloadable as a PDF. From there, we saved the PDF and saw that approximately one of the five pillars of the plan essentially related to fitness in the community. 

This confirmation of their policy focus on this area was immediately reassuring and we set to work understanding what they wished to achieve in this area. 

We learned that one of their goals was increasing the number of active adults in the Redditch Borough area, as well as increasing the number of children and young people with access to sporting development sessions.

Furthermore, we ascertained that there were multiple schemes we identified as being compatible with The Fit Club Redditch.
Redditch Borough Council was running a partially subsidised mini bus system designed to help sections of the community that cannot take public transport to get to certain locations. The initiative was called Dial a Ride.

As The Fit Club Redditch has ample car parking space and already receives visitors, including children and your people, through minibuses.

Another initiative focused on better utilising the public spaces and parks around Redditch. Upon realising this, we planned to offer that we would use our experienced staff and personal trainers to run classes in public spaces.

This was something we had already discussed doing even beforehand. As such, if it could be achieved in tandem with the Council, we considered it an easy win and a no-brainer to add to our list.


2. Understanding where their office was based was comparatively easy for The Fit Club Redditch, given that the office is just across the street from our Gym.
This meant that it was easy to conceptualise how we would frame the service we would provide to the Council Office. Given the location, The Fit Club Redditch was an ideal position for staff at the Council office to go to, either before work, after work, or during their lunch break.


3. For Redditch Borough Council, there are two stated Fitness partnerships on their website. One is with a golf course, which we immediately discounted as not relevant to the service we provide.
The other was a stadium with a fitness facility. This was of more interest to us, as it was much more similar to the service we provide. Through more research, we would learn that the Stadium was actually owned by Redditch Borough Council, governed through another company. As such, we will be dealing with our approach to the stadium under point 4.


4. We looked into the stadium that was owned by Redditch Borough Council through a and discovered that it was a large, new facility on the outskirts of Redditch Town.

While this could clearly provide service to a sizeable number of people, the more difficult to reach location and the impersonal nature of the stadium made us believe that we still had a unique selling point when it came to collaboration with Redditch Borough Council. 

As an institution both in the heart of the town, across from the Council Office we maintained that we were able to offer a unique and valuable partnership opportunity.


5. With increased focus on accessibility, the e-mail addresses for Redditch Borough Council were quite forthcoming with contact information.

This included a HR mailbox, the member of the council responsible for Partnerships and Engagement and the e-mail address that handles inquiries relating to the Council Plan. 

Armed with this knowledge, we were able to build an idea of the service we would be offering and the method we will use to initially approach them. 

Product / Services

Next we worked on constructing the basis of our proposal.

From our research in the previous section, you should know now what the size of the appetite for fitness and sporting initiatives within your local Council.

Given that it is very unlikely that any council would have no fitness or sporting aspirations within their plan, we will be assuming that there was at least some interest within the theoretical council agenda.

Now combine the strengths of your Gym or fitness club and the service it provides with what you have ascertained the Council is looking for.

Maybe your Gym is located in an area that the Council has not formed any significant partnerships within. Maybe they have formed a partnership with a swimming pool but not a fitness centre in the area you operate in.

If you have gathered all the necessary information from the first two steps, you should be able to reconcile your objectives with the research you have done on the council and see to what extent they align. 

 

What 'The Fit Club - Redditch' Did:

While looking into this for The Fit Club – Redditch, we identified that there was seemingly a gap in the partnership services being provided to the Council, as indicated by their public facing literature.

We also ascertained that there appeared to be a significant appetite at the Council for fitness initiatives, given the number of strategic goals and community priorities dedicated to this outcome.

This means we could draft our potential services around their own wording. Mimicking their language to ensure that we are as compatible with their goals and wording as possible.

This is an important step, as it will show genuine engagement with the goals of the Council. The goal here is to create an immediate desire to engage from the representatives of the council who will be reading your contact and proposals.

It is important to appreciate the Council of the UK work on their own highly specialised targets, jargon and metrics. As such, it is important to break down the services and products you are willing to provide in language that will be meaningful and impactful to the Council representatives you’ll be contacting.

We looked into crafting a proposal that covered off all of the goals that we could help the Council meet.

This covered the following goals: 

 

  • “Strategic Purposes – ‘Living independent, active and healthy lives’”

 

This was an easy win. We focused on how our modern and central facility would be a natural hub for activity in the community. Drawing attention to how The Fit Club is very close to both bus and rail links, as well as having its own car park. This means that it is very able to facilitate independent living.

As mentioned earlier in this article, this is where we deployed our knowledge of the Dial-A-Ride scheme that is run by the Council. This will help show our knowledge of their operation and our capacity to support their goals.

  • “Community Priority – Improved Health and Wellbeing”


When addressing this second goal, we were keen to focus on the potential of the location and its ability to aid in the priority of improving wellbeing. 


We highlighted that the Council Plan expressed the desire to ‘Work with partners, including Rubicon Leisure, to increase activity levels in the Borough’.

Because we had done our research, we knew that Rubicon Leisure was the company that administered Abbey Stadium. This is the stadium that we already established earlier was out of town. Therefore, in this section we focused on the fact that we would be covering an area that was seemingly not yet covered by the Redditch Borough Council’s network of partners. 

 

We then laid out how we could support the other, minor goals detailed in the Council Plan. In our case, this was addressing the following:

 

  • Number of people who access targeted activities
  • Increase the percentage of physically active adult
  • Number of children & young people accessing sports development sessions 

 

For each of these we focused on how our facility at The Fit Club – Redditch could assist with their goals. The first two were quite broad in nature, which is both a positive and a negative when it comes to proposing your ability to help fulfil an objective.

It is important to remember that there is a dual purpose to listing these goals. It was not only to show the ability of our Gym to assist, but to show we had genuinely engaged with the material and documentation that the council had published. 

Contact

With their increased focus on increasing the ease of accessibility to government officers, the website for Redditch Borough Council had the relevant e-mail addresses quite clearly presented.

This included a HR mailbox, the staff member at the council office responsible for Partnerships and Engagement and the email address that handles inquiries relating to the Council Plan. In addition we were able to find the email address for the representative running the sporting development initiative, as well as the officer in charge of the Dial-A-Ride scheme.


This gave us a solid base of contacts to begin approaching different departments.

Given that our outreach had several different aims it was necessary to ensure that the right message got to the right person.

For example, when inquiring into the possibility of setting up an Employee Benefit system for paid Gym Memberships at The Fit Club – Redditch, we believed we would be e-mailing a member of the HR department, as opposed to say the Sports Development initiative representative. 

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