3 Hiring Mistakes to Avoid

On more than one occasion during recent weeks I have found myself saying that I feel like an old man attempting to play a young man’s game.  While 34 years of age isn’t necessarily what most would call old, it isn’t exactly young in the eyes of my clientele.

Back in the summer of 2007 when we started our fitness business Eric and I were both 25 years old; a sweet spot where we were just young enough to be perceived as “cool” by the high school athletes, fairly recently removed from college life, and adult enough to be comfortable looking a parent in the eye and asking them for money in exchange for training services.  Unfortunately, time waits for no man, and I now find myself decades older than some of the athletes walking through our doors today.

This is not to say that I have suddenly become less effective at doing my job.  Instead, the value I bring to CSP’s day-to-day operation has shifted away from intensive client interaction and hands-on customer service, toward a role that emphasizes people management and strategic business development.  This change in job function is possible because we’ve assembled a team that can pick up right where I left off as it relates to blurring the line between service provider and friend.

While identifying quality resumes is easy, finding the right “fit” is a whole other story.  Here’s a look at three of the biggest mistakes a fitness service provider can make when hiring to expand (or replenish) a team:

1. Lack of Diversity in Personalities

If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got.

There’s an understandable comfort zone that comes with hiring people who remind you of yourself.  We already spend more time in a work setting than we probably should, so why not assemble a team of people just like us so that we’re guaranteed to enjoy the company of our colleagues?

This approach is fine if your goal is to remain stagnant as far as typical clientele goes, but businesses need to evolve to survive the test of time.  Ideally, every gym should have a blend of available coaching and personality styles in their arsenal.  You may need a coach who relies on tough-love in communicating the message.  Sometimes it takes a personality with a slightly softer bedside manner to ease a 14 year olds anxiety coming into an uber competitive environment like CSP.  Maybe the key to boosting profits in your boot camp program is finding the biggest, most extroverted personality you can get.

If you simply hire a friend you love training with you are missing an opportunity for your business to accommodate a broader spectrum of clients.  You are also putting yourself one step closer to being dispensable as far as coaching needs go.  Which leads me to…

2. Failure to Embrace Free Thinkers

If your training philosophy isn’t changing in some capacity over time, you’re likely offering a dated training experience.  In discussing programming evolution, Eric once said: “Change is all around us, and if we’re not recognizing that and changing with it, we’ll be in a bad position in no time.”

Photo Credit - adsoftheworld.com

Photo Credit - adsoftheworld.com

When it comes to hiring, bringing on board a “yes-man” will inevitably stifle evolution of your programming philosophy.  I want CSP’s monthly staff programming meeting to be populated by a collection of strength coaches who are willing to rock the boat if it means that they are able to influence appropriate change in our program design offerings.  Conflicting opinions can be a good thing, as long as we collectively agree on a unified approach by the time this type of meeting ends.

3. Missing the Opportunity to Make Age-Appropriate Hires

The further removed I find myself from high school, the more difficult it is to have organic conversations with most of the athletes populating my gym.  When Tony Gentilcore transitioned away from CSP this past fall it both modified the personality of our business, and opened up a spot on the team that needed to be filled quickly.  While I miss getting to hang out with Tony every day, his departure was an opportunity for us to evolve our team in a direction that would compliment the needs of our youthful target market. 

I recently asked Tony if he could put his finger on the moment when he began to feel a little out of touch with our youngest clients, and he said: 

“I was sitting on the wrong side of 35, and clients looked at me like I had three heads every time I made a Party of Five or Melrose Place reference. Today, more than 90% of my clients are over the age of 30 and conversation between sets seems to flow effortlessly.”

We decided to fill Tony’s coaching spot with Nancy, a 22-year-old fresh out of SUNY Cortland’s Fitness Development Program.  Though Tony’s extensive coaching and programming experience will be missed, Nancy will help CSP as a whole to connect more authentically with the athletes who keep us in business.  She will also bring some much needed gender diversity to our coaching staff, better positioning us to capture a piece of the softball-specific strength & conditioning market.

Hire Strategically

On boarding and properly training a coach is both time consuming and expensive.  Take these three potential mistakes into consideration as you review coaching candidates for your business and you’ll be considerably more likely to make a solid hire.