This past week we attended the IHRSA show in San Diego. IHRSA, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities throughout the world. With less than 6% of the world having a gym membership (in the U.S. it’s higher, but only 20%), this organization is focused on bringing more physical activity to everyone on the planet. Thousands of people attend this event and while it’s in our own backyard, it’s amazing to see just how many people come from all over the country and from around the world.

The keynotes are always fantastic and this year did not disappoint with two extremely successful entrepreneurs, Leah Busque, Founder & Executive Chairwoman, TaskRabbit and Josh Linkner, Author, and Five-Time Tech Entrepreneur & Hyper-Growth CEO. They shared their stories of failures and success, and the sometimes serendipitous  nature of business. They pushed the audience to get out of our routine, to think differently, to be innovative.

The trade show this year was one of the biggest in years. It’s always fun to see the latest equipment, the crazy ideas, and the many characters as well. This year we didn’t see as many “interesting” workout outfits, if you can call them that, or gym rats, roaming about the room. The industry has really become so much more professional over the last several years. People are there to learn, to network and to share their knowledge and information.

The trade show is also a great lesson in how to sell, or how not to sell, how to engage with potential customers and how to forge lasting relationships. In our business we are usually on the “selling” end, and it’s so important to step into the shoes of a customer and be reminded of what works, and what definitely does not. A few interactions really stood out as we made our way through the trade show. Most of the reps were fun, engaging and informative but not pushy. We also enjoyed catching up with people who have been in the industry for years, and heard fascinating stories of the original trend setters in fitness.

We made our way to the booth of a product we’ve been dying to try. The company is fairly new but their products are hot right now, and with good reason. They are smart, effective and easy. We have purchased several in fact, but this new one we wanted to try is not available to buy yet. Of course we’re excited; we share how much we love the other products and how many of our clients love and have purchased their products. Our excitement is met with a somewhat pompous attitude from the sales guy. He looks to be about 12 years old (ok, maybe 22), and this quite possibly might be his first job out of school. He’s working for a company that he hasn’t built from the ground up, but it’s his job to engage the customers and share their excitement. Instead he acts like a little kid that has something that we don’t, like an entitled brat (Eddie Murphy’s ice cream song came to mind).

This interaction was such a good example of how important it is to have great people representing you and your business. In good times, selling is easy; a good product will often times sell itself. In bad times, if you have not created strong relationships, if you don’t care about your clients and customers, you will not be successful. As we’ve seen a few times in our business, the economy will not always be thriving. We have to stay focused everyday on how to take care of our people, our clients and our community so the loyalty will remain in any economic situation. Putting the time in now will pay off huge in years to come.

Our IHRSA experience was fabulous. We learned, we engaged with others in our industry and we were reminded of the good and bad in sales. Anytime we are away from the business, we never worry; we know we have great people who will do the right thing in any situation. It was a nice reminder of how blessed we are to have the trainers, staff and clients who are AXIS.