So you’ve opened your own gym...
It’s been exhausting. It’s been rewarding. It’s been all that you hoped for and more.
You’ve worked hard to establish a strong culture. Your high-energy training environment is on point. And, most importantly, your clients have an appreciation for the importance of executing programming your way.
Business is finally good enough to justify making a first (or second) hire, and everything seems to be headed in the right direction. Life is good.
Proceed with caution
If you’re a one-man operation that is ready to add a new coaching personality to the training floor, there is little room for error. A bad hire can negatively impact the chemistry you’ve worked hard to establish with your regulars. It can also convolute the overall training philosophy of your business if you’re not careful.
We employ a comprehensive internship program at Cressey Sports Performance which allows us to appropriately screen potential hires to ensure that we find the right fit both philosophically and culturally. This is unfortunately a luxury that isn’t available to most gym owners, meaning that there’s always a chance you’ll bring on a new team member who appears great on paper and in an interview format, but ends up delivering a training experience to your clients that is different from what you anticipated.
It's easy to draft up a decent cover letter. Showing up for an interview dressed professionally isn’t difficult. Preparing to answer a generic question regarding your primary influences in the fitness industry is a breeze.
A little bit of preparation and foresight on the part of a candidate is all it takes to lull you into believing that you’ve found someone who is on the same page as you. What you can’t easily confirm in this environment, however, is exactly how this person is going to handle himself in a busy gym.
Here's an idea..
The next time you're on the cusp of making a hire, instead of staying on script with standardized interview protocols, throw your candidate a curveball and invite him in for an off-hours training session with you. Tell him you just want to get a lift in and talk shop.
There’s no better way to gain an understanding of someone’s approach to fitness than by seeing how he handles himself in the gym during his own time. Is he diligent about his warm up? Is he clearly executing a structured plan, or just winging it based on the available equipment in the moment? Is he tidying up equipment and re-racking weights as he goes, or is he content with operating in a messy gym?
Outside of the execution of the training session, how did he handle himself socially in between sets? There’s plenty of down-time during a typical training session, and social skills are either highlighted or exposed in this type of informal interview scenario. Can you afford to employ someone who couldn’t engage you in small talk in between sets?
I once had an employee whose first rule for evaluating interns for future employment was to ask himself: “Did he participate in staff lift during his time with us?”
As far as he was concerned, the answer “no” was a non-starter. This continues to be an unwritten rule that we apply today as we evaluate coaching talent.
Bad hires can happen from time to time, but they don’t need to be the result of mismatched training approaches. Give the “staff lift interview” a shot the next time you are getting close to making a hire. This should dramatically reduce the likelihood that you find yourself back to the drawing board in search of candidates weeks or months later.