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Ben Lucas. source Instagram

How one founder built a fitness brand clients can’t quit

Every business whether you are selling fitness, food or fax machines should care about world-class customer service. 

Ben Lucas, founder and director of Flow Athletic 

If there’s one statistic the fitness industry obsesses over, it’s retention rate. 

Over the past 11 years, Flow Athletic (one of Sydney’s most famous and renowned gyms) has defied the odds, maintaining an exceptional 97.5% client retention rate amidst a dynamic and ever-changing fitness landscape. This enduring success story traces back to a pivotal decision made by its founder, Ben Lucas, who, despite the thriving nature of his personal training studios, chose to embark on a new venture inspired by a chance encounter with a yoga instructor during marathon training.

This serendipitous meeting was with Kate Kendall, an exceptional yoga teacher, who laid the foundation for Flow Athletic’s unique philosophy of balance and dedication to building an exceptional fitness community. Despite facing challenges such as lockdowns from the COVID pandemic, the company thrived by staying true to its core principles while continually adapting to meet the evolving needs of its community.

‘Building an atmosphere that cultivated a vibrant and welcoming vibe that transcended the mere act of working out has always been our number one goal’ Ben says. ‘We wanted our gym to feel like a home away from home—a place where members felt comfortable, supported, and motivated to achieve their fitness goals’.

Having an unwavering commitment to research and innovation has also been one of their keys to success. Regular excursions overseas to explore emerging trends and concepts ensured that the studio remained at the forefront of the industry. From pioneering hybrid workout concepts to introducing novel amenities like the disco indoor cycle room, Flow Athletic has consistently delivered fresh and engaging experiences to its clientele.

Dynamic Business spoke to Ben, and here are the top reasons why he believes he achieved this retention rate

Key strategies behind flow athletic’s remarkable retention rate

“A large part of our client retention comes from our focus on trainer retention,” explained Ben.  “Many of our team have been with us for 6,8, 10 years, as opposed to the industry average of 1.6 years. We have a stringent hiring policy where we see if the applicant is aligned with our company values before moving ahead.The majority of our team our full-time employees are full-time time which is rare in fitness. It’s a greater investment for us, but it gives them stability and reassurance for the future.”

He continued, “Additionally, we take the time to have sit-down meetings with each team member individually to see how they are going with work, what their goals are and how we can assist them in achieving those goals. We value upskilling and will pay for several courses for our team throughout the year. With the exception of the major ones such as first aid, our team can suggest which courses interest them and that will help determine which courses we book. The whole team is also welcome to come to our team meetings and contribute their ideas to the studio and the community.” 

Knowing your target market 

“Our target market is females 35-50. Yes, we have many members outside this demo, but these are the people who our service is built for and who we consider when making any decisions around the business. What does the studio smell like, what new classes are we offering, what workshops are we running?

“All of this is with our target demo in mind. How did we land on this target demographic? Mainly because we are based in Paddington where there are a lot of businesswomen and mums. Also because yoga is a big part of our program, and while many men love yoga now, less were interested 11 years ago. We also send out a survey to members at least four times per year to see how they are finding things and what we can improve on, and as we have many community events, we can get feedback then too.” 

Focusing on world-class customer service

“Every business whether you are selling fitness, food or fax machines (are they still a thing?) should care about world-class customer service.  We train are team to execute customer service at the highest level. This means being responsive to people in a timely manner, being helpful if someone has a question, trying to come up with solutions for people. We also have systems in place to ensure people are booked in, we know their birthdays, we have easy ways of sharing information with them. All of these elements help us achieve world-class customer service. 

Evolving your business but staying true to your values: 

Fitness trends trend. Right now running and reformer Pilates is hot. Before then it was high-intensity training and before that it was barre. We can evolve our offering to give our community what is popular at the time while staying true to our values of Yoga, strength and spin. Before I had two kids, I did this by travelling overseas at least twice a year to see what is trending and bring it back to Australia. Now I still head over once a year, and then I have people in LA, NY and London who can flag any interesting concepts to me.

Flow Athletic have always been big on evolving and keeping things fresh. We have redesigned our indoor cycle room several times, we had a HIIT room when that was trendy, we have now repurposed it as a Pilates room as HIIT lost steam. We founded the Flow After Dark concept which sold out across the country, Nightclub Spin and more. We are always looking for something fun to keep members engaged and interested. We care about staff performance definitely, but we care about being good humans more. We can grow a good human into being a good performer, but we can’t grow a good performer into a good human.

“Focus on what the person can bring to your community, even if they don’t know how to do every task you require yet. Your team will respond better to working with people that they like, as will your community.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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