Create New Revenue for Your Fitness Business with Corporate Wellness Programs


Location, location, location. Every expert that you talk to about attracting prospective members to your gym, martial arts studio, or box will tell you the most important thing to think about is your location. This is particularly important if you are trying to capture working professionals who want to workout before or after work or during their lunch hour.

I know from personal experience that if a gym isn’t convenient in my daily routine, I won’t work it into my day. No matter how good my intentions are, both the classes and the location have to be aligned with my work schedule for me to get into my CrossFit box or yoga studio. And this certainly seems true for other folks who hold 9-5 type jobs because gyms and classes are at their greatest capacity during these peak times. If your gym or CrossFit box is located in an area heavily populated by office buildings, it might be time for you to think about branching into the corporate wellness game to capture these potential athletes.

This might sound like a lot of work or something you can’t do, but you’ll be surprised by what a few phone calls or emails to the right people can do. This blog will give you the steps you can take to work with nearby businesses to solve a real problem for them (keeping their employees healthy and happy), while also growing your membership base and increasing your revenue. First, I’d like to explain why the time to do this is now. If you’re already onboard or this background doesn’t interest you, then just skip down to the section titled “What It Looks Like in Practice.”

Why Now is the Time to get Involved in Corporate Wellness

Rising Health Care Costs and Corporate Wellness Programs

Everyone knows our nation has a problem with out-of-control health care costs. The impact on employers is not nearly as well understood. Rising healthcare costs force employers to carry an ever-escalating cost burden to offer insurance for their employees. As an example, just last year, the cost of Zen Planner’s small group health coverage increased 20% over the previous year. And we only had 35 employees at the time. For bigger organizations insuring thousands of workers, these rising health care costs are now a top concern. So it’s no surprise that employers are interested in finding ways to reduce these premiums. One way to do this is by instituting wellness programs that encourage employees to quit smoking, eat clean and exercise.

The connection between inactivity and healthcare costs is a direct one. On average, 20-30% of all health care costs are directly attributed to those with chronic health conditions that could be managed or reversed with lifestyle changes.* Add to that the societal trend of people retiring from work at an older age and you’ve got employers who are carrying a much greater cost burden for a longer period of time. This is huge motivation for employers to want to collaborate with businesses like yours to help solve this problem.

ACA & Government Intervention

Another interesting development in the area of corporate wellness is the introduction of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). First, the ACA says that employers with more than fifty employees must offer group health insurance coverage for everyone. Clearly there’s no getting around the fact that these bigger employers have to bear the cost of insuring their employees. Period.

Second (and this is where you come in savvy fitness business owner) , the ACA gives these companies a break in costs through corporate wellness programs. Specifically, the ACA encourages corporate wellness programs by allowing employers to place more of the cost of insurance on an employee, only if that employee chooses not to participate in a company’s wellness program. In a financial sense, that means an employee would be required to pick up an additional 30% – 50% of a total monthly insurance premium, whereas fellow employees who participate in the wellness program would not be required to pay any additional costs. For employees, especially those in big corporations, this serves as a powerful motivation exercise and make healthy food choices.

We also know that incentives meant to improve employee health will work. Employer wellness programs have already begun to make a real impact on our nation’s epidemic of obesity and chronic disease. That’s because these programs place an employers’ influence on employees when they are still at an age when exercise and diet changes can change long-term health outcomes.* And as a support to what we already know, research shows that an employee’s participation in a wellness program over five years is associated with “lower health care costs and decreasing health care use.”*

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease”~ Edison (taken from Julie Foucher’s Twitter account)

It’s no surprise that about half our nation’s employers now offer some type of wellness program, with larger employers more likely to have comprehensive programs.

What a Corporate Wellness Program Looks Like in Practice

muddy-adventure-raceSo what exactly do these programs look like? The answer depends on the employer, the organization and a mix of other factors. Employees may have access to wellness programs and benefits through their employer, through their group health plan or through an outside vendor contracted by their employer. Normally workplace wellness programs encourage exercise and a healthy diet in two ways:

  1. A reimbursement or payment toward an employee’s fitness membership fees
  2. A reduction in an employee’s cost share of insurance premiums

How You Can Join the Corporate Wellness Movement

Now that you know that there is a clear need for corporate wellness, here’s a step-by-step list of what you can do to partner with businesses in your area. If you’re feeling strapped for time, I’d suggest potentially using an employee or intern to help with some of the legwork.

1. Create a list of companies in your area that you know are interested in corporate wellness.

Some ideas to find these organizations are listed below, but be willing to get creative and network.

  • Regional ‘Healthiest Employers’ competitions are run by business journals in many of the bigger cities. We have a one in Denver and there is one in Dallas, Atlanta, and so on. The interesting piece here is that all the companies in the survey have to self-nominate, so you know they are truly interested in corporate wellness.
  • You will also find employer competitions on the national level. It is important to not count a company out because they have their headquarters in another state. A lot of big companies have offices in several cities. DeVita health care is an example of a company that takes corporate wellness seriously, but has locations throughout the U.S.
  • Look at websites that devote yearly features on healthy employers. Greatist is just one that can be found by a simple Google search.

2. Create a list of companies in your immediate area.

Focus especially on those which are big enough to be required under the ACA to provide insurance for their employees. (Fifty or more full-time employees)

3. Contact the representative responsible for wellness programs at each of your listed companies.

You can call the business and ask to speak to this person or ask for their name and email address. If you’re not getting what you need that way, you can always search for the person on LinkedIn. (This is my personal favorite method of reaching out to people I don’t know). Either way, the job titles you should look for will be different depending on the size of the company:

  • Bigger corporations will likely have a specific position devoted to corporate wellness. Look for a ‘Corporate Wellness Officer,’ ‘Health and Wellness Coordinator,’ ‘Employee Wellness Coordinator,’ and so on.
  • Smaller businesses likely won’t have a position devoted to corporate wellness so ask for a ‘Director of Human Resources,’ or the person responsible for Human Resources.

4. Connect with the bigger insurance companies to form a mutually beneficial relationship.

For example, Blue Cross and Blue Shield works with fitness businesses by offering Groupon like discounts for insured employees. A discount like that would work well is for you to waive an onramp fee or new member initiation fee.With all the changes happening in healthcare right now, the time has never been better for you to consider working with a local business to bring in more members and positively change more lives. Reaching out to local businesses is just another way to let people know about your great programing.

Interested in additional ways you can grow your fitness business? Check out our 10-Step Marketing Guide for step-by-step strategies to effective promote your business, grow your list of prospects and increase your overall member base.

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