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The topic of rebuilding membership is still hot. As we approach January, I know leaders of community rec organizations are optimistic this January will outperform budget plans and set the stage for a stronger financial year in 2022. The expectations for January are extremely high, but is this realistic?

The answer to that question is challenging because there are so many unknowns and variables that will drive the outcome. Will the Omicron Variant impact health and recreation businesses this January? Will fitness enthusiasts continue to work out at home? When will the new hybrid exercise routines start to take effect? One question leads to a series of new questions and the perpetual question wheel continues to turn round and round.

Here is what I believe. Was your organization experiencing significant growth prior to COVID-19? If not, then believing you can achieve transformational results with the same team, same staffing structure and business processes you had prior to the pandemic is more of a dream than reality. This leads me to a case study I would like to share which highlights how I was able to turn the pandemic into an opportunity of a lifetime as the operations leader for a large impactful community rec organization in South Florida.

YMCA of South Florida Case Study  

The Y of South Florida leadership team decided to take a strategic approach around the impact of the shutdowns and business restrictions that resulted from COVID-19. The team viewed the global pandemic as an opportunity. That’s right, I said opportunity. The CEO said it best, “never let a good crisis go to waste.” That’s the mindset we had, and the results paid off, as the YMCA of South Florida regained 85% of its same-store pre-COVID membership base by August of 2021.

How did the YMCA of South Florida achieve these results?

The Leadership Team Did Things Differently. As the community started to see signs of hope and businesses reopened, the organization implemented a new centralized staffing model/structure to drive membership performance and growth.

Business Processes were Changed. A call center was created to support the operations with customer service needs, lead generation and setting tour appointments for all branches across South Florida. Technology was layered in to accelerate and improve the use of membership systems creating sustainable changes that reinforced new behaviors that drove performance and staff accountability.

A Change Team was organized to develop a plan, align staff around the common cause, and embrace the changes needed for the Y to profit from the strategic investments. Technology was a key driver in the formula for success, including a new automated lead management system and the use of powerful data and analytics from the latest market intelligence sources.

Growth Plan Developed Aligning People, Processes and Technology. The success experienced at the Y of South Florida was the direct result of a team believing in the strategic direction set by the leadership along with a collective daily focus and commitment to executing the plan. The planning process we followed was disciplined, simple and clearly communicated.

The Change Leadership Process

If the questions I have asked and the idea of producing transformational growth in 2022 are a part of your thought process, I encourage you to consider leading a change initiative for your organization. As a leader, you can drive the change necessary to grow your organization in 2022. An important principle I have learned over the years is we must continue to learn and improve as leaders and never allow ourselves to get stuck in the routine of business as usual.

There is no easy path for an organization to follow that will generate impactful results. At the end of the day, to achieve the success we are looking for, we must lead the teams we are responsible for through a Change Leadership process that is carefully planned and executed. I look forward to explaining the concept behind Change Leadership in a future article and sharing how this game-changing process works.


To learn more about REC Business Solutions, Inc., follow on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

Jake Steger

Jake Steger has over 22 years of experience leading Community Recreation Organizations. Most recently, he served as the COO for the YMCA of South Florida, one of the fastest growing YMCA Associations in North America with an annual operating budget of $60 million. Jake is known nationally in the Y movement as a “Membership Guru,” a title which he lived up to with his successful efforts to rebuild membership in South Florida. Jake provided steadfast leadership to the Y of South Florida, resurfacing the organization from the effects of the global pandemic at a record pace. As a result of Jake’s leadership, the YMCA of South Florida rebuilt 85% (same branch sales) of its pre-COVID membership base by August of 2021. Jake led this effort by implementing a new strategic staffing model along with an improved business process that leveraged technology. He strongly believes technology is an “accelerator for growth” and when coupled with the right people and business processes, it can create transformational growth for an organization. With his passion for leading change and leveraging technology, Jake founded REC Business Solutions, Inc. to support the reestablishment of stronger, healthier, and more connected Community Rec Organizations for today’s growing digital economy. Follow Jake: LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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