Gym Login

Ray Algar reports on Franco’s the remarkable health club that’s been giving back to its community for 26 years.

Last month, I discussed how for-profit business TOMS was leveraging the power of generosity through its ‘one-for-one’ business model, to compete in the fiercely competitive shoe and eyewear industries (see the article below – A Sense of Purpose, Health Club Management October 2014). This month, I want to share the story of how Franco’s Athletic Club, located in the US state of Louisiana, is using generosity to become one of the world’s most admired health clubs.

Community engagement

I first met Sandy Franco, one of the co-owners, when she was presenting at the 2013 IHRSA European Congress in Madrid. Her message was a simple one: invest in your community and the community will invest in your club. Sandy and Ron, her husband, have pursued this strategy for 26 years. The Francos acquired the 2,600sq m (28,000sq ft) racquetball and social facility, originally known as the Bon Temps Club, in 1988. Two years after the acquisition, their world fell apart when their two-year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. The Francos had already made a big impression in the small city of Mandeville and received an outpouring of support – even from people they had never met. As Sandy recalls: “Friends, family, members and the wider community rose up and supported us. They were writing us letters, they were supporting us, they pretty much carried us through this time and it’s something we’ll never forget. It wasn’t a conscious thing when we said ‘let’s start being community players’ – we feel an obligation. They were there for us and we want to be there for them. “Our precious daughter, thank God, has grown to become a vibrant young woman, but we’re constantly striving to fulfil the promise we made at that time – to give back to the community that gave so much to our family.”

For the past 26 years, the Francos have therefore been reciprocating: the more their club has grown, the more they give. Today, Franco’s has grown to more than 23,225sq m (250,000sq ft) of indoor and outdoor space for fitness, sports and recreation, with approximately 15,000 members.

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