I routinely document all of the questions asked of me during business consultations with fitness facility owners. My intention is to use these notes to become more adept at anticipating questions in future consults, while also generating ideas for quality blog content. The list is growing at a steady pace, and one specific question has found its way into more than 75% on the conversations I’ve had. It sounds a whole lot like this:
While we were able to open the doors on Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) back in 2007 with me serving as our full-time “business guy”, I understand that this isn’t the reality for every new fitness facility. In fact, I’d strongly advise against it. I was fortunate to have Eric hand me a client roster with 47 names on it, along with the keys to his own personal brand. I wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. Unless one of your co-founders has a name which carries some brand recognition within this industry, bringing on a full-time business guy or Office Manager is not going to be a practical decision on day one.
For most facility owners, the goal is to achieve growth which will all but mandate an expansion of your team to include an Office Manager. The introduction of such a team member will allow an owner to focus a little more on business development and a little less on business maintenance.
If you are able to answer yes to ALL of the following five questions, then you are likely ready to “make the jump”.
1. Have you outlined a job description for this position?
I understand that you could be more productive if you had someone else to worry about managing the schedule and chasing clients for payments, but is that actually enough of a burden to justify adding a body to your payroll? If you want to attract a quality employee with an impressive work-ethic, it is going to take more than a list of the stuff you hate doing during the interview process. You’d better be prepared to articulate the day-to-day responsibilities and nitty-gritty tasks associated with the position during the search for a new staff member. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with a disgruntled employee as you begin dumping unannounced busy work in their lap
There is nothing wrong with asking your Office Manager to inherit some of the tasks that keep you from finding the time to do what you do best (get clients results), but you need to make sure that your employee doesn’t feel that they’ve been misled when that time comes. As Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.”
2. Are all of your coaches operating at or close to their capacity?
If your coaches have down time in their day, then you already have a hybrid Office Manager on-staff. There is absolutely no reason why a strength coach can’t be asked to “sit out front” and gain an understanding of the customer service demands associated with operating your business. It is actually fairly common for us to assign a coach to front desk duties at CSP. By giving each staff member an opportunity to function within this role from time to time, we can ensure that they are familiar with our price-points and comfortable giving the pitch or closing a sale on little or no notice.
Can you comfortably say that each of your team members have a stacked to-do list during all of the hours you are paying them to be on the clock?
3. Is your office environment hindering your ability to sell effectively?
We took on an Office Manager at CSP back in 2012 when our business was just a shade under 5 years old. We had officially hit the point where I was spending more time managing administrative tasks than I was engaging in business development efforts. A change needed to be made to allow for us to continue pursuing the growth pattern we’d become accustomed to.
Foot traffic at our facility was at an all-time high, and I was finding it increasingly difficult to give the sales pitch effectively while in the center of a congested office. With a wide variety of athletes training at CSP, we offer a broad spectrum of price points. When a considerable chunk of your clients live below the poverty line (i.e. minor league baseball players), you need to be flexible with your cost structure. When asked what it costs to train with us, my answer is always going to be “it depends”. The last thing I need is for clients to start comparing costs because they overheard me explaining discounted pricing to an undrafted free agent who earns roughly $12,000 for the entire calendar year.
If your gym is packed and parents are overwhelming your space as you attempt to run the business, it is probably a good time to take a step away from the front end and into a corner office.
4. Have you identified someone who truly understands your culture?
If there is one huge mistake you can make in hiring an Office Manager, it would be selecting an individual who is unfamiliar with your business’ unique culture. We hired Stacie after she spent close to a year training with us. When she finally came on board, she had already fallen in love with the team, training model, and our “CSP-Family” concept. As a result, all we had to worry about was introducing her to our systems during the training process.
Since you can’t necessarily force an appreciation for a very specific culture, it’s risky to hire an Office Manager from outside of your existing fitness community.
5. Are you prepared to relinquish your “face of the business” status?
Until now, you’ve had complete ownership of your client’s first impression of your business. From the way calls are answered, to the way clients are greeted and future training sessions are scheduled, you’ve been running the show. When the time finally comes for you to hand this responsibility off to another, it requires an immense amount of trust. Your new Office Manager instantaneously becomes the face of your business from a customer service perspective, so there’s no room for error during the selection process.
If you are comfortable stepping away from the front-end and allowing someone else to be the eyes and ears of your business, then you can finally begin putting your time and energy toward business development instead of customer service.
So, can you say that you answered YES to all five of these questions? Don’t feel bad if you couldn’t, as handing over the reins to an Office Manager can be about as nerve wracking as dropping your child at daycare for the first time (believe me, I know).
If you were able to slap a check mark next to all five, it seems to be about time you get back to working on your business, as opposed to in it. Don't waste time, because there's an opportunity cost associated with dragging your heels.