22. November 2022, by Andreas M. Bechler
Step by step as a fitness studio to BGM provider
An ageing society and, not least, the Corona pandemic have made occupational health management (or BGM for short) increasingly important. Accordingly, it comes as little surprise that the fitness industry is now also jumping on this bandwagon and sees “BGM as an opportunity” (quote from Refit Kamberovic in the DSSV corner data 2022) for our industry. Overall, 41.2 percent of German fitness providers list BGM as part of their service offering (source: DSSV corner data 2022). The following article explains how fitness studios can build up their own BGM offer step by step.
BGM – meaning and delimitation
A look at the prevention report of the German National Association of Health Insurance Funds shows that before the pandemic, the number of companies reached with occupational health management was increasing almost steadily.
Figure: Companies / locations reached with workplace health promotion (taken from Prevention Report 2021).
Even though a slump can be seen in the Corona year 2020, this cannot necessarily be attributed to a decline in awareness of the issue among employers. Rather, the decrease in companies can be explained by on-site care being made more difficult due to the pandemic.
Occupational health management will continue to be particularly important in the future. However, it is crucial that studios distinguish between BGM and the accessibility of companies through workplace health promotion measures (BGF for short) when setting up their own BGM offer.
BGM is often described as “a management process” (cf. Schäfer & Schaff). It encompasses the comprehensive “planning, control and implementation of all health prevention and health promotion activities within a company”. A BGM is thus the generic term for all “different sub-areas oriented towards health.”
In this construct, health promotion is only one area (along with occupational health and safety and occupational integration management) of health promotion management. However, companies frequently use terms such as “health days, health courses or the free fruit basket” (cf. Schäfer & Schaff) as BGM. There is quickly a misunderstanding regarding this discipline. Accordingly, the figure of 41.2% of the fitness studios with a real BGM offer that fulfils the previous definition may be critically questioned. In the majority of cases, we are probably talking about BGF services.
The four steps to becoming a BGM provider as a fitness studio
After the uniform understanding of the topic of BGM, the next step is to create a corresponding offer.
(1) BGF measures via service providers as subcontractors
At the beginning, the topic of OHM can quickly become overwhelming. It is therefore advisable for fitness studio operators to make an easy start. One possibility is to join a BGM service provider as a subcontractor. Employers or their employees can carry out health days or similar measures in the company on behalf of the subcontractor, get paid accordingly and get to know the basics of BGMS in peace and quiet.
One advantage of working as a subcontractor is that the service provider takes care of the processing, provides checklists and other documents, and is aware of legal hurdles (especially the necessary level of training for employees). In addition, the service provider generates further income.
→ Goal: Getting to know BGM or BGF.
(2) BGF measures themselves as a direct provider.
If operators have gained sufficient experience with BGF measures as subcontractors, they can ask themselves to what extent they would not like to be available as a service provider for regional companies for BGF measures themselves. However, this entails a “rat's tail” of follow-up activities. Now everyone has to work with the health insurance companies themselves, through which the corresponding BGF measures are usually invoiced. It is also necessary to create and adequately implement appropriate concepts for various health promotion measures. This means that the company's own efforts are much more extensive.
The advantage here, however, is that companies appearing under their name and thus also indirectly advertise their facility. In addition, they get to know the work in interaction with the health insurance funds, which represent essential players in the BGM network and are thus indispensable for their work.
→ Goal: First own experiences as a direct provider.
(3) Establishment of own company cooperation
Through the work in step (2), operators can establish their first direct contacts with regional companies. These need to be further intensified. For this purpose, the model of company participation in the membership costs, as offered by the so-called sports aggregators, lends itself well. Theoretically, this would be possible up to an amount of 600 euros per year (or 50 euros per month) (Germany, last update 2021, amount may change over time). However, it makes sense for the employer to pay only part of the membership fee and leave part of it with the employee or member.
The successful implementation of this level requires a change in one's organizational structure. A team is needed to recruit and retain regional companies for cooperation. This creates a key account management within the own company.
The advantage of this stage is obvious. For the first time, employees have direct influence on their own core business, the gym. Employees of regional companies become members in their own right and are thus more firmly anchored in the cosmos of the studio. This is a big step towards becoming THE health service provider for the regional corporate landscape. This stage is an important prerequisite for the last stage (4) of this model.
→ Goal: Close cooperation with companies from the surrounding area
(4) Establishment as a consultant for occupational health management.
The last stage in this model is the supreme discipline. It is about accompanying the management process for “planning, controlling and implementing all activities of health prevention and health promotion within a company”. This changes one's own work enormously in the cooperation with regional companies. Employees become management consultants with a much greater influence on the company.
Management consultancy in particular means one thing. From now on, operators work “on an individual basis” (cf. definition by Lippold), so that this stage no longer allows for a general explanation. The task is to develop specific BGM concepts for the individual company. The challenge to the service increases enormously.
The benefits of these final stages can be extensive. From here on, the work takes place within the framework of an adequate additional business for the own core business. Now a business of its own is created, which can be handled independently accordingly. Daily rates, which can be achieved in a function as a management consultant, stand out clearly from the previous levels.
→ Goal: Establishment as an external consultant with higher turnover potential
A stage model always also offers the possibility of stopping at a certain stage if companies do not want to go any further. This is possible and not at all reprehensible. Fitness studios do not necessarily have to go through these steps individually. Depending on their previous experience, they can also skip individual steps. For operators who want to start with BGM and proceed strategically as well as sustainably, the model is definitely helpful to establish BGM in the long term.
Occupational health management is multifaceted. Fitness studios should therefore proceed step by step to enrich their own service portfolio with this offer in the long term. If operators create a sustainable establishment, they can not only create an opportunity for direct additional turnover. Their own financial balance sheet will certainly also be very pleased about easier customer acquisition and retention.
Haufe Online Redaktion (2021): “Steuer- und beitragsfreie Gesundheitsförderung durch den Arbeitgeber”
Kamberovic, Refit / Kündgen, Florian / Fütterer; Sabrina / Hollasch, Karsten / Ludwig, Stefan / Rump, Christian / Capelan, Ralf / Kobel, Sarah / Marx, Janosch (2022): “Eckdaten der deutschen Fitness-Wirtschaft”
Lippold, D. (2018): “Die Unternehmensberatung: Von der strategischen Konzeption zur praktischen Umsetzung”, Springer Gabler, München
Schäfer, Stefanie / Schaff, Arnd (2022): “Nachhaltiges Betriebliches Gesundheitsmanagement im Handwerk”, MA Akademie Verlags und Druck-Gesellschaft mbH, Essen
Schempp / Nadine, Römer / Karin (2021): “Präventionsbericht 2021“
Andreas M. Bechler is an author, consultant, lecturer, podcaster and YouTuber in the fitness industry. With his podcast and YouTube channel, 'Hashtag Fitness Industry', he pursues the goal of enabling knowledge transfer within the fitness industry. Current trends and developments are as much a part of the content as fundamental strategic questions from the daily business of fitness providers. Further information: https://hashtag-fitnessindustrie.de