Collaboration with the competition. For some businesses, it would be a radical — and sometimes unthinkable — idea. Not for Karen Mailen and her colleagues at the recCenters of Lancaster County. The group, made up of four recreation facilities in four different communities, is a collaboration designed to capitalize on shared resources and to enhance the marketability of each center.
The idea for the alliance came out of a conversation Karen, executive director of the Lititz Rec Center, had with a local businessperson. The discussion turned to the challenge that many firms have with corporate recreation center memberships—a single facility might not be easily accessible to every corporate location or to every employee.
For Karen, who as a former YMCA program director had often shared ideas and resources with other YMCAs, the solution came naturally: create a coalition of recreation centers that offered standardized products and services, making each facility more attractive to corporations and individuals.
To offer the best possible package, the fledgling group would include centers that offered similar services, such as a fitness center, a gym, and swimming facilities. As a result, along with Karen at the Lititz Rec Center, the group includes Alan Houck from the New Holland Recreation Center, David Lloyd from the Ephrata Rec Center, and Barry Newton from the Hempfield Area Recreation Commission.
From the start of the process, team members were receptive to the idea of collaboration. Karen says, “They were all very open and very helpful. We have a similar mindset.”
One result of the joint effort is the recAlliance program, which allows a member of any one of the four facilities to receive a discount on fees at the participating centers. As a result, a member of the Hempfield center can take discounted classes that may be offered only at Ephrata or New Holland.
In addition, the group recently launched a corporate membership program in which a company’s employees receive a discounted rate to join any recCenter facility. Since all the centers are available in the program, it makes it easier for an employee to find a convenient location, whether it’s near the workplace or one that’s closer to home.
The recCenters of Lancaster County is starting to see a return on their joint efforts. Karen says, “All of our centers are seeing growth in their memberships.” The group’s collaboration on an advertising campaign has also raised the profile of each facility. “We’re able to do television ads, something that we could never afford to do independently.”
Karen credits the group’s success to the assistance of SCORE Lancaster, a non-profit business mentoring service. To help build upon her initial vision, SCORE assembled a task force that included counselors Pete Faber, Bill Graham, Dave Heckel, and Larry Merris. Karen says these mentors played a critical role in facilitating decision-making among group members. “It’s sometimes hard to get everyone to the same place. SCORE mediated and helped us move forward, even when we couldn’t all agree.”
With SCORE’s assistance, the alliance established their official name as well as a common logo. The process, which took place over a half-dozen work sessions, also included the creation of a marketing plan.
Karen says, “We were very thankful for SCORE’s help and support, and they did it at the perfect price for us — free.”