Continually climbing the ladder of success is always a solid goal for any business. For AZ on the Rocks, its version of climbing involves a rock wall, intense concentration and a sharp focus on customer care. Since its inception, AZ on the Rocks has incorporated a number of programs at its climbing gym, but the focus is on the overall customer experience. Attention to detail and customer focus starts with the owners and permeates.
“We are very entrepreneurial and have always wanted to start a family business,” stated Kevin J. Berk of his earliest inclinations of getting into the gym business.
Just like that, the wheels were in motion for the creation of an engaging new business.
“After a day of climbing with our kids, we came back and said, ‘We need to open a climbing gym in Scottsdale.’”
Kevin J. Berk started AZ on the Rocks with his brother, Kent Berk, Kent’s wife Angie and their mother, Joyce Berk who is a minority owner.
The culture at the company is one of enthusiastic customer service.
“We are very much customer service driven,” states Berk. “When hired at AZ on the Rocks, new staff members are told that we are not a climbing gym, we are a customer service organization that just happens to offer rock climbing and Yoga.”
“We also empower our staff to make financial decisions on our behalf. They have the ability to make a visit from a customer right, regardless of what it takes. They don’t need to get a manager’s approval or permission from us.”
It is the fact that the Berks empower their own staff to make sure the guests are satisfied that in turn, creates happy and productive employees.
Over the years, AZ on the Rocks has grown and changed, always striving to be better. Although the entire staff learns and grows with every guest interaction, the safety of guests is always of paramount importance.
“I think we have become better at taking care of customers and their needs. We also have grown a lot from focusing on providing greater value to our guests,” Berk explains. “One of the most important elements to our success is focusing our efforts on first time visitors to the facility and those that have never climbed or even seen a climbing gym before.”
In almost 11 years of business, AZ on the Rocks has seen more than 275,000 climbers, and 95% of them had never seen a gym before.
“We built this facility to appeal to all levels of climbing ability, but particularly those that have no experience. Climbing and our facility truly is for everyone.
Corporate team building exercises at AZ on the Rocks are also a unique experience that can serve to enhance at-work relationships and effective communication and personal strategies.
“Our team building program is truly unique,” says Berk. “I can’t think of another program that builds a team, gets them out of their comfort zone and focuses on so many valuable skills.”
Where else could you let your co-workers hold your life in their hands while hanging 31 feet in the air and held up by nothing more than a 10.3 mm thick rope?
“It’s a great place to ask for a raise in my opinion. If you asked us to remove trust, communication, leadership and other qualities from these exercises, we couldn’t. It’s truly an incredible program that the team will be talking about for months after the event.”
There are many benefits of team building in an environment like AZ on the Rocks. In addition to being a fantastic physical activity (the average female burns more than 700 calories an hour and the average male burns more than 900 calories an hour), climbing is an activity that requires mental focus.
“Climbing really takes most people out of their comfort zone and they typically experience a true breakthrough in what they can achieve,” remarks Berk. “They come in saying things like, ‘I can’t do this,’ and when they finally do it, they are truly changed forever. Climbing is a metaphor for life.”
Keeping in the theme of team spirit AZ on the Rocks has its own league of competitive kid climbers. In 2014, the AZR Ascenders team had a great season and during one of the final competitions at Phoenix Rock Gym the team of 41 kids ages 8 to 19 climbed their way to first place in 8 out of 10 climbing competition categories. For children, climbing allows them to conquer their fears, work on strategy, develop intense concentration and build new friendships.
The AZR Ascenders have produced a world champion, five national champions and multiple U.S. team members. The AZR Ascenders team has been ranked in the top 10 nationally since 2006. They have also been ABS Regional Champions in 2008 and 2009 and SCS Regional Champions 2008, 2009 and 2011.
AZ on the Rocks is also very supportive of its community.
“We are huge supporters of our community and have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in kind to every nonprofit you can possibly imagine,” Berk states.
Some organizations the gym has supported in the past include Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Wounded Warrior Project, Kids With Autism Can, American Heart Association, Arizona Lost Boys Center, Boys and Girls Club, Extended Hands Food Bank, Tumbleweed Center for Youth Development, UMOM New Day Centers, Autism Speaks, Special Olympics and many more
The staff at AZ on the Rocks is an integral part of the success of the business.
“We have a great facility that we all take pride in, but more importantly our employees’ focus on customer service and the overall guest experience is exceptional. Our employees will always go that extra mile for our guests,” Berk states. “Our employees are so helpful. They love to help others learn to love and enjoy climbing and yoga.
“I absolutely have an open door policy and we believe in empowering our staff. Whether it’s an idea for new services or classes, a shirt design or programs, I will always take the time to listen to the staff,” notes Berk.
Since the employees are the ones that are in the trenches, using the equipment and getting to know the guests, Berk is anxious to hear the ways that AZ on the Rocks could benefit from new ideas. The involvement of every staff member is important in helping to always deliver the best guest experience.
As with any successful business, AZ on the Rocks looks forward to challenges as they represent a chance for growth and a way to offer even more to their guests.
“We just brought in a treadwall, introduced a selfie camera and a selfie contest. We’re getting some really fantastic photos,” says Berk. “We also just bought a free-fall device that is similar to a leap of faith. You stand on the rappel tower and jump off. We are also now including the free fall device in our AZ on the Rocks birthday party packages. Our latest addition is a very thick training rope hanging down from the steel trusses in the middle of the gym. This is just like the rope you tried climbing up during P.E. in middle school and give you a shot at redemption…There is no other rock gym that offers quite what we do, plus the expert instruction and service to go along with it.”
The climbing gym also offers a Yoga program entitled, Yoga on the Rocks and recently launched its own clothing line called Yoga Ninja.
In running AZ on the Rocks smoothly, Berk tries to keep everyone on track and the wheels turning smoothly.
“While I love our team, I am aware that my first priority needs to be the guest’s experience. If an employee is late to work or dealing with challenging personal issues, I try to make sure our guests never experience our issues,” Berk remarks.
The team of owners takes pride in what they do and for Berk, he also gets a personal level of satisfaction.
“Working with my team and taking care of our guests is always a thrill and a challenge,” he explains. “It really touches my heart to see our guests face their own fears and get to the top of the climbing wall. It’s even more exciting when they can take their own selfie after their accomplishment.”
14,000 Sq. Feet of Climbing Terrain up to 31” High
Kids Competitive Climbing Team
Exercise and Fitness Equipment
Honors & Awards
One World Champion
Six National Champions
Multiple U.S. Team Members
Ranked Nationally in Top 10 since 2006
ABS Regional Champions in 2008 & 2009
SCS Champions 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014