As an entrepreneur who often markets to gym owners I’ve had the privilege of getting to know dozens of affiliate operators. Although I’ve been lucky enough to live in an area saturated with high-quality gyms, I drop in to a new box every chance I get and meet as many people as possible. Over the years I’ve learned several things about what makes and breaks gyms. So, in the spirit of good will (and good business), I’ll share a few tips for the aspiring gym owner.
1) Get Quality (and enough) Equipment – Trust me, I know about limited capital – but that doesn’t mean I should cut corners when it comes to Battle Bold product quality. You should have the same mentality when it comes to providing for your customers. If taking out a small (or bigger) loan for equipment purchases is what it takes to outfit a gym the way it should be, get it done. The likelihood of you acquiring enough paying customers to help settle that debt will be much greater if you ‘bite the bullet’ and have plenty of quality equipment – and enough space for it. Besides, it will most likely take longer to repair a widespread reputation of a “crappy” gym than it will to pay off just about any loan. Do it right, not just “cheap”.
2) Get Good Trainers – I realize this is easier said than done; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adhere to it. It’s better to coach 10 classes a day yourself than have a lazy, apathetic, and/or unknowledgeable “coach” take your customers through a training session. Look for (demand) specific characteristics of your coaches. Communication, articulation and a general sense of passion for teaching should define your coaching group – as well as a consistent will to learn. Of course, it’s your job to foster such and provide resources for them to do so. Oh, and if it takes a little more money to get quality coaches, see #1.
3) Don’t “Click” – I met a woman once who had recently switched gyms. When I asked why she made such a decision her answer was somewhat surprising to me. “Every time I walked in the owner was with his little ‘click’. He would never talk to anyone who wasn’t part of his crew and that just rubbed me the wrong way.” Although I thought that perhaps she was overdoing it a bit, I’ve asked around and found that this is actually more common than I had expected. So, be careful gym owners. Technically, your “click” is everyone who steps foot in your gym. From competitors to lunch hour athletes to walk-ins, your job is to befriend them all and welcome everyone in to your facility.
4) Don’t Do Drama – Just as cancer can destroy the human body, “drama” can be deadly to a gym. Don’t allow it… or be a part of it. Gossip, maliciousness, infidelity, and persistent negativity are just a few behaviors that will spread destruction throughout the gym body. It’s paramount that such cancers (people) be removed before extensive damage is done to you, and your gyms, reputation. Remember, losing a valued trainer or customer is nothing compared to having your gym be the topic of negative conversation among the community. It’s not always easy, but being an entrepreneur isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Do what’s best for you, your business, and most of all, the majority of your paying customers.
5) Program your Programming – One the worst things you can do is allow your programming to be based on whim sickle assumptions about what might be good for your customers. Programing the daily WODs should be carefully planned out, determined well in advance, and based on intellectual consideration. Sure, you can get by with gut-feeling WODs. After all, a difficult workout is rather simple to design – but “difficult” should not be your own requisite for program design. Do your homework, apply what you’ve learned and stay fully aware that you must be malleable – consistently trying to be better with what you’re putting your customers through.
6) Glorify Others – It’s likely you’ve already got a gym Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter account. If so, I encourage you to use it – but in a productive manner. ALL of your members/coaches are facing different, person-specific challenges. However, the one (good) thing they have in common is your gym. Use the power you have through social media (and general communication) to illuminate and encourage your customers. Focus on their efforts, not just yours. And don’t just show off your best athletes. Yes, I know you want to show the world you have a member who could give Ben Smith a run for his money, but the shy woman who has finally won the battle of being overweight for 30 years is just as (if not more) worthy of your praise. Your customers will notice your compliments… and they will be a member for life.
7) Be Nice – This one is easy for some and more difficult for others (depending on personality). But the fact is, you can’t be an ass and expect consistent, valued growth. Sure, if you’re the only gym in town you’ll survive, but only until a better (and nicer) communicator opens an affiliate down the street. You MUST be prepared to be a “people person” to some degree. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the previous six tips down pat, if you’re an unpleasant person (d!ck) to your customers and/or coaches, you’ll end up another statistic on the failed gyms list.