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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 22, 2003 - Issue 81


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The Moment of Truth

by Geoff Hampton
Note: In this article, Geoff shares ideas and resources for creating fitness centers, especially in places that may not have have them.

Measuring Up"The Moment of Truth" is a term that has been used in so many ways by so many different people over the last fifteen years that it has almost become nebulous. It's business implication is that the "moment of truth" relates to a "make it" or "break it" scenario that is related to successful customer service.

It is often temporary in its significance and in other instances it is totally illusional. For other business operators the concept is simply a lie designed to disguise a high percentage sales closing ratio. As an industry we need to take a good look in the mirror and decide who we are, where we are going and whom we are going to serve. We are clearly at the most defining Moment of Truth that we have ever faced. In the words of Country Music Singer, Aaron Tippin, "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."

The time has come as an industry to draw the lines of separation and face the real enemy. The real enemy is the catastrophic state of poor health in our nation. The largest cross-sections of casualties in this epidemic are non-traditional health club prospects.

However, this is where the greatest need exists. There will always be a place for facilities that wish to cater to "fitness conscious" individuals. In the health issues test of commitment "fitness" and a beautiful body are not the issues.

The issues are rooted in the willingness of wellness/health club operators to create new programs (not memberships) and ideas that can serve the staggering number of individuals who are currently at risk for catastrophic illness and premature death related to their uninformed sedentary lifestyle. The issue stretches far beyond the historical initiatives that our industry has created thus far.

The reason that a new approach on a grand scale is needed is that in many cases, these at risk individuals cannot afford to pay for "Enrollment Fees" and "Monthly Dues". Many cannot even afford to pay for the programs! With this in mind, behold, The Moment of Truth. This is where the illusionists, deceivers and liars are separated from the committed.

A Time to Take a Stand
Let's all get on the same page. As an industry, a large portion of the for-profit sector has declared a "War" against the not-for-profits. At the same time this same for-profit sector embraces the illusionists who simply want to make money through high-pressure sales techniques, bait and switch advertising and other forms of chicanery. One simple entry into an Internet Search Engine for "complaints" against a large company such as Bally's Total Fitness reveals the depth of deception that is perpetrated on other operators who are led to believe by other industry leaders that this type of operator is an honorable one and one worthy of being associated with. In fact, companies such as this are often allowed to co-exist with other operators in clear violation of established codes of conduct as long as they pay their very large fee. This sends a sad confusing signal to communities and individuals throughout the country who need to address their current state of poor health.

The needs of our nation's (the fattest country in the world) deconditioned men, women and children are astronomical. They do not pertain to closing percentages and slick bait and switch advertising. The fact is that the majority of the at risk individuals that are being victimized by the national epidemic of obesity and related ailments fall into minority groups where poor lifestyle habits have created horrific health conditions. Getting these individuals to change their destiny involves education first and then support based motivation through moderate exercise and graduated nutritional reform. That is where the true need is. Who has tried to serve these populations historically? The purported enemy - the not-for profits. Now, the industry cries out to find help for these at risk populations.

"Men (and women) who walk in the middle of the road get struck by traffic going both ways."-- Chinese Proverb

There is no middle of the road in this battle. You're either in or you're out. Look at all of the information and urging coming from The President of the United States, The U. S. Congress, The U. S. Surgeon General's Office, The CDC (Center's for Disease Control and Prevention), The Department of Health and Human Services, The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, The Diabetes Foundation, The American Heart Association and the list goes on and on. It is in no way about pretty girls in tight spandex. It is about life or death and every day quality of life.

There is an old saying that ironically enough is centuries old. The origin is attributed to an individual who was a medical practitioner. The saying is, "It is important to make time to be healthy now, or you will need to make time for illness later." This is completely applicable to today's health crisis.

There are tremendous sums of Federal, State, Local, Foundation and other funds available to fight this battle with plenty more on the way. The catch? Not-for-profits only need apply (this is the enemy?)! In this instance, don't sound the alarm unless you intend to answer the call in a humanitarian manner. Don't disguise moneymaking schemes as legitimate attempts to serve the underserved. The underserved are already suspicious of the wellness/health industry as a whole. This is the reputation that high-pressure sales, bait and switch operators have branded this business with. Yet the wellness/health community continues to embrace these unscrupulous operators as though they were brothers and sisters in arms fighting for the same cause. The general population are not fools as may be imagined. It's time to make clear this cloudy picture! The "haves" need to now serve the "have-nots" in this battle that simply boils down to common decency.

Our inner cities also need fitness programsIn every community there are many worthwhile organizations that already have 501c3 not-for-profit status. These organizations have the ability to write crisp, concise Grants that can make funding for programs designed to serve these at risk populations available fairly quickly. Recently I spoke with Erindita Abel from the Chicano Federation in San Diego, CA (, and she advised that trying to create a separate 501c3 is not advisable and may actually close doors that may already be open and waiting. Her suggestion was well taken. This may be trying to reinvent the wheel and other established community groups may be seeking the same Grant monies. It may be an organization who could have partnered with you in the quest for these worthwhile funds. In a strategic partnering relationship you both could have realized the financial benefits and been able to better serve the needs of the community.

The key becomes proactively seeking strategic partnerships with open-minded existing community organizations. A great place to start your research is on the Internet. Before you begin, decide which at-risk populations that you want to appeal to. Is it children (the state of obesity in children is more than alarming). Is it the aging? Is it minority groups (minority groups have a disproportionate rate of catastrophic illness and premature death due to lifestyle factors)? Once you have good feel for the local opportunities for the group (s) that you wish to serve a business plan can be created. The business plan must be flexible because you will get a real education as you begin to explore these new waters.

The Internet is not the only means of identifying potential groups and partnering relationships, but it is a tremendous resource. Through any Search Engine (Yahoo, Google, etc.) thought provoking information can be ascertained. For example, if community childhood obesity programs is the direction that you wish to go, simply go to the Search Engine and enter, "San Diego (obviously you enter your locality) children's obesity programs". This should bring up a list of existing or past programs. From these website links you can gather tremendous information and begin to enhance your original idea and avoid creating programs that may clash with existing programs in your community.

As you begin to develop a strategic plan. Think about what will appeal to individuals who have either never been to a wellness/health facility before or who have been and failed to meet their goals and may have a reluctance to return. As mentioned earlier, memberships will not work well. The next best thing is a program. As I met with Maurice Wilson, Director of Employment and Training at The Urban League in San Diego, CA (, he pointed out that even a "program" is not as effective as a "Campaign". His well-taken point was that "programs" are perceived as having a finite life cycle, whereas a "Campaign" is perceived as more ongoing.

As you develop your campaign, it may be multi-tasked and include several at-risk populations. This approach also enables you to create strategic community partnerships with several organizations. The campaign then becomes much more newsworthy. As you develop your business plan, create a Community Advisory Board to be made up of high profile community individuals who have served the populations that you wish to help and contact as many related groups and agencies as you can to meet and discuss ideas.

If You Are Serious They Will Help
Everyone deserves fitness programsAgain, recently in San Diego I spoke with Jeanette Diaz from The San Diego American Indian Health Center ( and she was very supportive of initiatives that The Center could partner up with to make the grass roots efforts to educate and motivate the minorities that they serve more impactive. Health and Wellness Centers have tremendous capabilities to serve the deconditioned population.

The needs are already there. The answers are ready to be discovered. In speaking to Paula Kettula, Services Supervisor for The San Diego Choice Program (serves socially at risk youth and their families) several ideas were discussed. The most important factor is to hear what the particular groups needs are and then think creatively how you can assist them. Most have Grant writers and can help find available funds to pay for the program ideas that you create that are directly related to serving their needs.

What About Involving Politicians?
Absolutely! In speaking to Shirley Horton (, two-term mayor (Chula Vista, CA - 2nd largest city in San Diego County) and State of California Assembly candidate in the 78th District, she is very interested in discussing community-based initiatives that relate to the state of poor health. Shirley is not alone in that sentiment. In speaking to U. S. Congress candidate, Maria Guadalupe Garcia (, she is also interested in discussing new initiatives designed to reach out to at risk individuals.

What About School Systems?
This is one of the best sources! In Knoxville, TN, Scott Bacon, Supervisor of Business Partnerships for the Knox County School System is determined to effect positive health related changes to the students that the District serves. In fact, Scott is so determined that he agreed to serve on the Advisory Council for The Wellness Wakeup Challenge, a National community based health initiative.

What About Nationally Recognized Athletic Programs?
Absolutely. Carolyn Wares, Director of Marketing and Promotions for the tremendously successful University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers Sports Programs agrees that now is the time for dynamic, well thought out community based initiatives, especially targeting children. Carolyn, as did Scott Bacon felt so strongly that she also agreed to serve on the Advisory Council for The Wellness Wakeup Challenge ( ).

"This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done!"
-- Origin Unknown

What To Avoid Along The Way
While the above is a funny story, what makes it so funny is that everyone can relate to it from past, but hopefully not current working environments. People just get disorganized and time passes quickly without enough positive action. In your business plan to fight these national health issues, include a time line for all components and be certain to have regular meetings to track progress. Record all information for Executive Management Team analysis and make effective modifications as they become obvious.

There could be no louder cry for help in this crisis and the cry could not come from more credible sources. It's time to get involved and make a difference in the lives of the at risk individuals who do not the way to better health. It's time to stand for something and not fall for anything! This is THE MOMENT of TRUTH.

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