Gym Owner Musings - Installment #4

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. A Story

It appears that my own brand of creativity tends to strike in conjunction with Dupuis Family excursions to the grocery store. This time around, I wasn’t able to make the trip. A 24-hour bug ran through our home like a freight train this past weekend, and when it came time to buy food for the week, I was the one on the couch at home curled up in a ball. My wife was left with the unenviable responsibility of knocking items off of a grocery list with a toddler and a 5-month-old in-tow.

In order to make this happen, she had our big guy situated in the standard shopping cart seat, and the little man comfortably resting in his car seat inside the main basket of the cart. Space was tight, meaning that the rarely used bottom shelf was being put to use as she transported groceries from store to car.

Just steps into the parking lot, a gallon of milk went rogue, bouncing off the bottom shelf and onto the pavement. A passerby kindly stopped to pick it up and assist my wife, who clearly had her hands full. It took just a moment to realize that the container had broken, and milk was leaking on to the pavement.

“I’ll be right back! I’m getting you a new one.”

My wife was floored. “Wait. What? You don’t have to do that.” That didn’t stop her. She was gone before Katie could convince her otherwise. A few minutes later this woman managed to track her down in the parking lot and deliver a fresh gallon of milk with a smile on her face. “I had young kids too, once.”

Katie told me about how this experience made her day, and here I am telling the story to you. We could all stand to be a little more kind at unexpected moments, as the ripple effect of a nice gesture can be immense. Apply this mentality in both your personal life and your business and you’re likely to feel a whole lot better about the world around you. As Mother Theresa once said: “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”

2. A Tip

Look for opportunities to involve your employees in setting their own goals

Liisa Joronen, CEO of SOL Cleaning Services once said: “People are ambitious and unrealistic. They set targets for themselves that are higher than what [we] would set for them. And because they set them, they hit them.”

In mid-January we on boarded a new CSP Strength Camp Coordinator named Frank Duffy here in Massachusetts. During our first weekly “State of the Strength Camps” strategy meeting, I told him that my big vision is for him to 3x our participant headcount between now and January 1st of 2018.

“I’m going to do that by July 1st,” he declared. “In fact, throw me a little bonus incentive and I’ll make it happen by June 1st.”

Frank’s goal initially sounded ambitious and unrealistic in my head, but may not be so far out of reach after all. After just a shade over two weeks of his hard work and networking, Frank is already 20% of the way to his target. Whether he makes it there in the proposed tight window or not, the lesson I’ve learned is that I need to stop assuming my employees’ potential, and start asking them to outline it for me.

3. A Clarification

During that same aforementioned State of the Strength Camps meeting with Frank, we came across the discussion of free trial sessions. He was quick to point out that he was aware of my policy on not offering free consultations at CSP, and that it wasn’t his intention to utilize that selling tool in building his program. I stopped him there.

When it comes to our Strength Camps, I am open to the occasional free initial visit.

There’s a dramatic difference between our semi-private training model (featuring individualized program design), and our morning group-training service. The nature of our morning supervision format allows for us to offer the occasional free trial session without compromising our ability to maximize the profitability of a given hour. More specifically, CSP Strength Campers don’t eat up the same resources on day one as our semi-private clients do during the afternoon and evening hours.

An initial assessment during our afternoon hours typically locks down a full-time coach and an intern for upwards of 90-minutes. This reduces our promised 5:1 client-to-coach capacity dramatically. In order to justify the limitations this places on our athlete capacity during a given training slot, we charge a $99 initial assessment fee.

I should also note that we occasionally allow a potential Strength Camper to pay a one-time $20 day-pass fee to give our program a try before committing. If they choose to sign on for a full month, I apply this initial payment toward the initial trial month fee.

Free sessions and day-pass trials are just two of the many tools I can use to convert leads to a group-training program. I am not married to any single approach given that every sales pitch is unique. Until we are operating close to full capacity as we often are in our semi-private model, I can be okay with the occasional freebie if it allows me a better chance to enjoy the lifetime value of a client.

Do you enjoy my fitness spin on business concepts?

I publish my “Friday Four” newsletter at the end of each week featuring links to useful articles and insights on applying concepts from each to your own fitness business endeavors. Check it out here!