What does your club stand for? It sounds like such an innocent question, but scratch deeper and it reveals some fundamental truths about the long-term strategy and prospects for a club. A few years ago I decided to conduct research for a Masters degree on an independent health club in Milton Keynes. It was well established with 1,800 members. However, the owner was very concerned as a national operator was pre-selling a large-scale club less than five minutes from his door. He believed his club was going to be seriously affected by the new arrival, even though he had thrived in a city with an abundance of clubs. I thought otherwise and we spent the next few weeks getting close to members and understanding why they loved the club. It soon became apparent to me that the vast majority had no intention of leaving. Members knew the club was not the biggest nor with the latest array of exercise equipment, nor did it have a swimming pool. However, what members loved about the club was its informality. It was a club where they could be themselves and meet familiar people. It was unpretentious and there were none of the unwritten rules found in many other clubs such as dressing up for the gym! They also loved its friendly ambience and its strong sense of community. These intangible aspects of any business are extremely powerful and, significantly, very difficult to imitate.