Gym Owner Musings - Installment #5

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. Stop Blaming The Algorithm

“If changing your story (and your offering) is the best way to get your message to spread, then that's what you should do instead of whining about how hard it is to get your message out.”

- All Marketers Are Liars: Seth Godin

Rarely does a week pass where I don’t encounter a gym owner bitching about Facebook having changed their algorithm in a way that is making it harder and more expensive to get in front of potential customers. I’ve got some tough news for you, people...the algorithm changed for all of us, not just you.

Your potential clients don’t care at all how difficult it is for you to find your way into their feed. All they care is that once you get there, you tell them a meaningful story about your brand and how you can improve their lives. There’s a pretty good chance that your most recent ad failed to convert because of your clumsy copy and unimpressive visuals, and not because that greedy Zuckerberg guy is trying to dig his hands deeper into your pockets.

Take Mr. Godin’s advice and reassess your product and pitch before blaming the things you can’t control.

2. Embrace the Power of Broke

“I’ve given you every advantage in life except for being disadvantaged.”

- Power of Broke: Daymond John

My buddy Angel Jimenez is a former CSP intern and current successful gym owner. Not long after wrapping his time with us, Angel launched Boston Underground Strength Training. He did it on a shoestring budget, but you’d never know it if you visited his website or visited his space.

Instead of taking out a huge loan and springing for half of the Perform Better catalogue, Angel found ways to get his hands dirty and cut some of the traditional corners that new gym owners have to finance. Rather than shell out cash for a fancy pull-up rig, he had a buddy with welding skills make one. Why buy an expensive plate tree when you can get some lumber yourself and craft a slotted bumper plate holder of your very own?

Nice looking space, Angel!

Nice looking space, Angel!

If you were to walk through Boston Underground Strength Training today, you’d probably find no less than ten examples of Angel’s cost-effective illustrations of creativity. The best part? Clients could never tell the difference between a brand name sled and a homemade one. Instead, they have the pleasure of training in a space that is a truly authentic representation of the person and brand they’ve decided to do business with. When you earn your living in a service industry, authenticity can be the most effective tool in your tool box.

Learn from Angel. Embrace the power of broke.

3. Complexities Are Rarely Necessary

“It's the stuff you leave out that matters. So constantly look for things to remove, simplify, and streamline. Stick to what's truly essential.”

- Rework: Hansson/Fried

Back in late 2015 we started to realize that client training sessions that had previously averaged 75-90 minutes in length were creeping closer and closer to a universal 120-minute mark. It didn’t seem to matter what the client age, injury history, or training objectives were, everyone was taking longer to wrap up their programming during a typical visit to CSP.

At first glance, it was hard to put our finger on exactly why it was that my Office Manager Stacie was routinely explaining to parents that their son’s training session was running just a little longer than expected. Were kids spending too much time socializing between sets? Were we short on equipment, leading to bottlenecks in the gym? What the hell was going on?

Upon closer inspection of the training material, we began to realize that in most cases, we were taking the individualization of our warmups to an extreme.

For the first five or so years we were in business, a warm up typically involved some quality time with a foam roller, 6-8 “meat and potatoes” mobility drills, and a transition into the training space or med-ball area. At some point along the way, we became so caught up in fancy breathing exercises and coaching-intensive complex movements that a warmup for a 14 year old with a clean injury history was trending in the direction of 30+ minutes in length. No bueno.

Comprehensive individualized warmups do have a place in our repertoire as CSP, as we cater to athletes with some fairly extensive injury histories, faulty movement patterns, and flexibility limitations. However, those individuals are more the exception than the rule.

Since identifying this trend, we’ve transitioned to a standardized warm-up that compliments the needs of the majority of our clients. The content changes from one month to the next, and there is a great deal of thought that goes into the structure and format of this material.

By locking down a general warm-up that most of our athletes utilize, we are able to increase coaching efficiencies on the front end of a visit to CSP, ensuring the clients get into the warm up area, get appropriately prepared to move some weight, and get onto the fun stuff.

We removed. We simplified. We streamlined.

Do you enjoy my spin on fitness 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.