All articles have been written by the gofitjobs team and originate from decades of front-line operational expatriate experience in the global fitness industry.
As each month passes, our brilliantly successful candidates are beginning new and exciting lives across the globe. Perhaps surprisingly, we estimate that half have never set foot in the country that they now call home.
At first glance, it would seem that seasoned expatriates have an advantage over peers that are relocating for the very first time. However, any westerner transitioning from Dubai to Moscow in February will taste a culture shock of epic proportions, especially when they step on to a snowy Nikolsaya Street in a minus 25 degree Siberian winter!
We've moved around (a lot) in our careers, and thought what a good idea it was to share 7 (well, 8 actually) habits that a new expat would be wise to focus upon when arriving in their new home country...
Buy a SIM card. If your new employer isn't providing a cell phone, we strongly recommend that one of the very first things to do is to invest in a pay-as-you-go SIM which permits international calls and has sizeable data allowances. Being in quick contact with loved ones is obviously important (think about your mum!), however being able to order a taxi, a pizza or open Google Maps when you inevitably get lost is pretty important, too.
Choose your home wisely. If you're not provided with accommodation, spend time searching for the place that you will call home. Speak to colleagues, research local areas and find yourself a reputable agent that has a demonstrable history of working with expatriates. Remember to stick to your budget and always negotiate a release clause in the event of an earlier than planned relocation.
Getting Around. Most major cities now have Uber / Lyft, which is a tremendous advantage for the expatriate with little knowledge of the city or local language. That being said, study the transport network and identify greener options by utilising public transport. If you are going to drive, be certain to familiarise yourself with local driving laws.
Banking. You'll want to secure your banking situation as quickly as possible, and dependent on where you relocate to, might have to wait until your visa / work permit has been issued. Spend this time wisely by understanding which bank works best for you: Are there options to bank in your native language? Can you send and receive cash across borders? Can you bank online without having to visit a branch? (Note: In some countries your employer can only pay salaries into the same bank that they use themselves, check with your payroll department if this is to be the same for you.)
Live Well. It goes without saying; get to the gym quickly and back into your training regime (you already know the reasons why!). The quality of food (and governing laws) varies greatly across the world, so be mindful how you choose your food, look for quality and always research the quality of tap water before drinking. If in doubt, you're probably right!
Health. 99.9% of the time you'll be provided with insurance from your employer as an expatriate benefit. Ask HR the process that you will need to follow should you ever need to visit a doctor or the hospital. Understanding this now could be a lifesaver, so don't put it off.
Build your network. For some this comes naturally, yet for others walking into a room full of strangers and engaging in conversation is about as comfortable as sitting on a chair of rusty nails. Naked. It's never fun to be lonely - make friends.
Our bonus eighth habit is one that makes sense, yet isn't always adopted by the 'newest kid on the block': Research the country that you are soon to be a guest of: learn key phrases and readily accept local customs and traditions. We recommend doing this before stepping on to the plane and beginning your next journey. (Makes sense this one, huh!?)
The life of an expatriate (in one afternoon) can be exciting, infuriating, confusing and serious fun. Grasp the opportunity with both hands and live life to the fullest. In return, you'll be rewarded with amazing experiences, awesome friends and memories that will last you a lifetime!
We approach how to master the science behind multisite management by offering our top 5 guidelines below (in truth, most of these ring true for single-site, too!)
1. Operational Efficiency: We know that overload builds muscle, so what happens when we overload part of a business process? Well, we'd likely see an improvement but overloading more than what the process can administer will ultimately result in failure. Stress-testing each area of every operational process to drive improved performance is a strategic initiative that the very best master over time. It requires patience, careful planning and above all; clear communication and transparency. (Top-tip: stress-test one part of a process by changing one variable at a time to be certain of its impact.)
2. People Pipeline: All too often we see performance falter when a team loses headcount, so we suggest to mitigate risk by owning an internal and external recruitment pipeline. Internally, you might be closely following and supporting the development of your high potential managers (this includes your own successor). Externally, constantly sourcing for talent to compliment your team (even if no budgeted vacancy) could be good practise. From a cold start, it can take up to 120 days to be back at full strength - that's a lot of missed opportunity if neglected.
3. Pulling the Right Lever: We recommend favouring the '4 P's of Business': People, Product, Price and Process as levers to stimulate performance and to understand which to pull when an uplift or pivot is required (and just as important; when to pull it). Each lever might comprise of up to ten 'playbooks', giving you clearly defined go-to plans that instil confidence and direction when needed the most.
4. Time Allocation: At first glance, slicing equal time across your portfolio might seem a fair and reasonable plan, however we suggest this to be an ill-judged approach because it fails to maximise fullest potential. The job of a multisite manager is the deliverance of a consolidated result, therefore ensuring the highest contributors have the tools they need will likely supersede that of a traditional underperforming club. That's not to say we recommend not to improve the lower echelons, just first make sure you're going to achieve what is in your forecast.
5. Leadership AND Management: Ah, the 'Leadership Trap': a well-meaning leader seeks to empower and coach their team with autonomy and vision without managing daily rigour. Or perhaps the opposite is true (the 'Management Trap'). The ability to balance delivery is key, and as is often the case, you will likely have a tendency to default into what is more comfortable for you. To overcome; find mentors and trusted individuals who are willing to support your personal development with radical candour.
One last thing before you go: You're accountable to much and responsible for little, so how you manage yourself is arguably the defining factor to your ongoing successes.
Arriving to a new country can be an exciting and challenging experience as we championed in the 5 reasons to become an expat. Here, we outline how a small amount of preparation can make the early days of your new life so much easier.
Listed as a bonus in The 7 Habits of an Expat (just landed), learning a few words and phrases can help you settle-in much faster and what's more; you'll impress your new teammates with your immediate willingness to integrate!
So, here are 25 Words and Phrases to Learn as an Expat before arriving to your new home:
Starting with what we hope is obvious, never underestimate the value of being polite:
Greetings are next, and even if you just communicate the first word or sentence in native tongue, you'll set the conversation in the right direction:
Once you've mastered how to be polite and greet someone, you'll next want to start gathering information:
Learning numbers is important, and we recommend:
Chances are you'll be relying on public transport for a while, so understanding these words will help:
Finally, we recommend that you always carry a piece of paper with your home address and the contact number of a colleague who can help (top tip: don't just rely on storing this to your phone - the battery can run out!).
Quite possibly the most difficult role in the fitness industry, we explore the seven pillars that help move a General Manager from good to great:
Commercially Focused: Budgeting, return on investments, financial analysis, partnerships and sensible cost control all play crucial roles in the day-to-day performance of a General Manager, but the hunger to generate revenue and the relentless pursuit of consistent cashflow separates those at the very top.
Highly Curious: Asking smart questions and seekers of truth are common personality traits shown amongst the highest of performers. What's more, you'll often witness a steady flow of engaged dialect with customers - sincerely taking an interest in how and why things are the way they are (and how to improve each vertical).
A Strategic Thinker: At high-level, a strategic plan is to analyse ones business and to then establish the directional arrow by which to work toward. The astute General Manager will align his or her employers vision to the core of said plan whilst collaborating with all echelons of the business to cement alignment.
A Tactical Doer: It is never enough to just plan. Indeed the successful execute their vision taking full accountability, and at times, full responsibility to deliver on certain variables. The best always lead from the front - there is no substitute.
Decidedly Agile: Things change, crisis happen and quick-thinking is required. Pivoting between strategy and tactics arrives naturally whilst ensuring the business is lean, prepared and agile to face the challenges of today and tomorrow is always on the mind of the high performer.
Warmly Personable: The GM who emphatically listens at every level and genuinely cares will ultimately win the marathon. Colleagues and customers trust this professional to make the right decision which is always carefully measured against authentic values.
A Talented Recruiter, Coach and Mentor: Building a team with strength in-depth who are provided opportunity to expand and flourish is the final pillar of what makes a great General Manager. Knowing who and when to coach (whilst understanding how) remains prevalent in todays ever-changing landscape.
So there you have it, our seven pillars that help move a General Manager toward international stardom and world class performance! The wisest of managers know of course that ones learning is never done and therefore strive for further knowledge and betterment.