Could Your Gym Survive 100% Employee Turnover in the Coming Year?

Today I have a guest post from my friend and fellow gym owner, Chris Merritt. His business was thrown for a loop in the past twelve months and kept on kicking with barely a hiccup. He’s here to tell you how.


2018 has been an interesting year for our business.  Historically, we’ve had incredibly low turnover of employees, with our two main coaches having been here for the last 4 and 5 years respectively, but 2018 brought major change with three coaches leaving and two coming on board. 

Not that interesting, you say?  Well, what if I told you we only had three employees total? 

Now I know what you’re thinking, with that equating to 100% turnover and all, but it was a series of unrelated events. 

One coach, whom had been here five years, gave us over 6 months’ notice that he wanted to move to North Carolina to be closer to family—and did so in late May.  With that kind of notice we were able to bring a new-hire up to speed and ease the transition between the two. 

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Another, whom only worked here for just over a year, decided she wanted to go into law enforcement and provided about three weeks’ notice that she’d been accepted to the police academy and moved on in July.  That timing left us with zero opportunity to hire before her departure, but we did have a solid candidate in an intern whom would likely be ready by late August.

And the third coach, whom had been trying to get a position as a paramedic for the 4 years that he worked here, finally found out that he landed his dream job in September and would start in October.  And while we knew that he might get the position, he didn’t get confirmation until six to eight weeks before what would be his last day.

So, there you have it—100% of the employees that we started 2018 with were gone between the months of May and September, and new ones started in the final days of May and August. 

To say our systems were put to the test by all of this would be a massive understatement…

My question to you, fellow gym owners, is would your business survive a similar situation?  Do you have the systems in place to keep the ship rolling in times of major turnover?

At the end of the day, that’s your business—a system, or series of systems—and the right people performing them. 

Ours systems, and our team that performs them daily, allowed us to have another record-breaking year of business growth—our 7th in 7 years.

So, what makes a good system?  We’ve found that they should answer the following questions:

  1. What do we do?

  2. What do we say?

  3. If this, then… ?

A good system also leaves nothing implied.  As I learned in geometry: don’t assume, or you’ll make an ass out of u-m-e.  And yet, a good system is also malleable and, when implemented with the right team, leaves room for audibles.

Luckily, we had systems in place for the areas of our business that were impacted by 2018 and all its turnover glory.  I’ll leave you with a few tactics that helped us in developing them so that you can begin the process of documenting yours or improving what you already have.

1. Write down exactly what you do

I first did this is 2013 after reading The E-Myth Revisited.  I was a one-man-band about to hire my first employee.  I literally shut my eyes and pictured opening the gym in the morning and documented every single thing I did—arrive 15 minutes early, unlock the door, hit the lights, check the space to make sure everything is presentable, turn on the music to this station at that volume, pull the clients’ programs and lay them out by hour, greet every single client by name and with appropriate physical contact (fist bump, high five, hand on the shoulder, etc.) as they arrive…the list goes on and on.

This was our original opening system—laid out as a checklist, laminated, and hung on the wall beside the desk our coaches threw their stuff down behind.

 2. Get feedback from others who do the thing. 

Our coaching systems have turned into a full-on coaching manual.  Initially, my business partner, Todd Bumgardner, and myself sat down and compiled an outline of what would need to be included:

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As you can see from the picture, we initialed who was responsible for each section and when it was due.  Once finished, we shared the initial draft with our coaches and asked them to provide feedback:

  • Did we miss anything altogether?

  • Do we need to expand on anything?

  • Any other thoughts/comments/concerns?

3) Continually update your documentation. 

This is something that we’re in the process of implementing as I type this.  Our employees will have access to all of our manuals—management, coaching, program design, sales and consultations—each in a three-ring binder readily available in the gym at all times, as well as access anywhere, anytime, through Dropbox.  The three-ring binder approach allows us to easily pull pages and replace with the most up to date information and Dropbox allows us to immediately share that with anyone impacted by the change.  Don’t let changes pile up, which can result in dated systems.

I see you sitting their shaking your head and saying you already know this. 

Yeah, but have you done it?

Will you be ready if 2019 drops a 100% turnover of employees on your business in just four short months?

If you don’t have your systems fully documented and right people performing them, what do you have?

If you’re craving more detail…

Want a glimpse at our personal development, program design, coaching, expansion systems, and so much more? The Spring 2019 Strength Faction is open for Early Bird enrollment. Learn more and get signed up here.