I’m here to tell you that I’ve allowed us to get a little off course.
This summer I spent some time walking in the shoes of our staff, clients, and even former clients in hopes of finding a few points of friction or areas of improvement for our leadership team to work on. What I got was profound insight. I spoke with our trainers, asked our current and former clients questions, and I listened. The phrase I heard most? “AFS is starting to feel less personal than it used to.” You could’ve told me just about anything else and I wouldn’t have been phased; after all, running a business comes with its fair share of bumps, but those words hit me like a ton of bricks.
How We Got Here
The increase in competition year after year paired with the need to get our new locations to take hold has thrust AFS into an acquisition war with chain competitors like Orange Theory Fitness, Fitbody Bootcamp, Title Boxing, etc. In the interest of enrolling more clients and making our model more “efficient” to better compare with our competitors, we’ve slowly taken an incredibly valuable resource away from our clients and staff: TIME. What was once a 60 minute new client orientation is now 30 minutes, 30 minute meetings with your coach have become a rushed 15, the “under the radar” moments we spend in the lobby with our clients between classes have slowly vanished as our staff rushes off to their next task. Slowly but surely connections are weakening because we don’t have the time to form them. Why? Well, as we’ve grown, we’ve been trying to be something we’re not.
Last year we raised prices and sent out a link so that you all could compare our service “apples to apples” against all the rest. We wanted you to see that we provide the most individualized classes, more guidance behind the scenes, better assessment tools, more class times than everyone else, and the most supportive community while still charging less than or the same as our competitors. Since AFS started that’s been a true point of pride for me, but over the years that approach has put our staff at risk for burnout, it’s de-personalized our on-boarding process, and put a dent in that special feeling you get when you walk into AFS. I’ve been down the road we’re on (see first paragraph of email) and it’s not where AFS was meant to go.
Pardon the symbolism, but we cannot survive as an “apple.” We’re an orange. We admire the apples for their scalability and their success, but we’d rather be patient and make a bigger impact on the lives we touch by spending more time with our clients. Having said this, in the coming months and years, you will see a shift: The AFS model in the future will be geared toward quality of client experience rather than quantity of clients enrolled: the type of service that I’m sure many of our long standing clients reading this have been missing the past few years.
Upcoming Pricing Change
On December 1st, our Weight Loss Solution classes will go from $8 to $10. That’s the only change. I want all of our clients to know that we’ve done everything we can to keep costs reasonable. Remaining at the current price point isn’t sustainable because it would require me to continue asking more and more from our employees and that added pressure would result in further degradation of the client experience. I must make the work experience better so our employees can make your overall experience better. I’ve already communicated this message to our weight loss solution clients and so far It’s been very encouraging to receive emails and calls in support of the direction we’re moving. It tells me that those reading this believe the same things about AFS that we do.
There are certainly several possible reactions to a message like this and I acknowledge the validity of each and every one of them. My hope is that as you digest this message you can empathize with me/us. We’re going to be working diligently in the next year on the following key pieces of client experience:
- Practitioners consistently teaching more classes
- More staff availability before and after classes for interaction/coaching
- Higher level certifications for all staff (paid by AFS)
- Lowering client load per practitioner (allows for more personalized interactions)
- Slowing the fast pace our entire team is working at (which will increase the quality of all interactions).
- Revamped & more immersive onboarding/coaching experience
It’s important to note that the changes we need to make can’t be completed overnight. Therefore, I don’t think it would be honest or genuine to tell you that your AFS experience is going to change tomorrow or next week due to this uptick in pricing. We know how profound we want this experience to be and we’re dedicated to getting there, the hope is that you’re already finding enough value in the experience to stick it out with us. If you’re not, that’s certainly on us and is indicative of why we need to make these changes as soon as possible.
I’m adding my personal email and cell phone information to the bottom of this message for anyone who wants more clarity around this message, or the direction we’re going as a company. I don’t want any of you to feel like you aren’t important to us.
The AFS story started with a young trainer who wanted to do things differently and provide “more than fitness.” I sincerely thank YOU for connecting with that notion and being less like “clients” and more like family along the way.
Questions & Concerns
Mike Stack Contact Info
Cell: (734) 788-4595