Gym Owner Musings - Installment #2

I’ve accumulated a boatload of random lessons learned in (nearly) a decade of operating a fitness facility. Some warrant entire presentations, podcasts, and blog posts; others carry plenty of value but can fit within the confines of a 140-character Tweet. 

Here are three quick insights that fall somewhere in between Twitter-friendly and ”blog-worthy”:

1. Everything works, but not everything works for you

If you’re one of the thousands of fitness enthusiasts currently in the business plan design phase of opening your own gym, this is a very important message. There are dozens of different training philosophies and coaching models at your fingertips, but that doesn’t mean that you should arbitrarily select from the buffet of options and expect everything to work out.

I recently published a post discussing tips for transitioning a personal training model into a semi-private service offering, given my area of expertise in operating the latter. My buddy, Chad Landers, a gym owner in California, was quick to point out that not only is the group training format not a fit for every gym owner, but also not always a fit for the people you intend to serve. He made a great point when he said: “I think a big mistake is for a trainer to adopt a model they aren't passionate about because it might make them more money. It's really about finding the right fit for you and then kicking ass at it regardless of how you deliver the goods.”

The takeaway? Many models may work, but not all models will work for you.

2. Marketing your gym is more about documentation than creation

I often hear other gym owners speak of intentions to kick up original content creation efforts in an attempt to drive business. While I believe in this strategy, and encourage my staff to publish content regularly, it isn’t the end-all-be-all in drawing attention to your gym. Preparing a blog post outlining a revolutionary approach to mobilizing your hips may garner social media shares and impress your industry peers, but it is unlikely to serve as a call-to-action for the housewife with a few pounds to lose living just around the corner.

We’re in an age of free and easy content publication thanks to the accessibility and creativity of various social networking platforms. Assuming you are currently delivering a service and training environment that you’re proud of, your marketing can be as simple as publishing a video of the gym during your busiest time of the day. The insightful blog posts coming out of CSP about arm care might catch the eye of heavily-involved and well-read baseball dads, but the kids who are actually in our gym on a daily basis are considerably more likely to engage with a video of their buddy doing heavy lunges with loud music playing in the background.

While documentation of your gym in action might not be the most intellectually stimulating tool in your marketing toolkit, it just may be the most cost-effective and direct path to attracting the attention of your ideal client.

3. There is no replacement for learning by doing

One of the best moves Eric Cressey made when CSP was getting off the ground was letting me awkwardly battle my way through our business pitch both in person and by telephone. Our first facility actually featured (roughly) 100 square-feet of “staff offices” where we each had a desk. Eric and Tony used their workspaces to process assessment notes and prepare programs, while I used mine to manage all things administrative pertaining to running our business. Having to work in such tight quarters meant that I had no choice but to give the sales pitch while sitting roughly three feet away from two guys with thousands more hours logged in the fitness industry than me.

Instead of compromising my credibility by micro-managing my delivery of this information in the moment, the guys let me make the occasional mistake with exercise terminology or articulation of our training philosophies. They were kind enough to wait until the conclusion of a call or face-to-face conversation to step in with a teaching moment. In doing so, I was able to craft my own selling approach while implementing their insights incrementally.

As it turns out, you can be especially effective at selling fitness instruction without ever having instructed fitness, but you won’t get there without executing a couple hundred less-than-impressive sales pitches.

In hindsight, Eric’s approach to teaching me to speak the language of fitness was no different than that which he applies to supervising a new intern on the training floor. The anxiety I felt delivering the sales pitch on the phone while my business partners listened to every awkward word was extremely similar to the level of discomfort a new intern feels when instructing a deadlift with Eric standing just feet away.

If I put all of my energy in to explaining our services exactly the way I imagined Eric would, the effectiveness and authenticity of my approach would be compromised. Similarly, our interns aren’t best served to mirror 100% of Eric’s mannerisms and coaching attributes on the training floor. We all need to be our own person as we inform and coach clients, and Eric has a profound appreciation for that. As I said above, everything may work on its own, but not everything works for you.

Do you enjoy my fitness spin on business concepts?

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