Gym Owner Musings - Installment #18

I’ve recently come to realize that Twitter is my favorite testing ground for new material. When an idea begins to take shape in my head, I take a few moments to articulate it concisely enough to fit within the confines of a single Tweet, and then see how it plays on that social platform. Occasionally I say something that drives higher engagement than normal, and choose to take the thought a few steps further by elaborating here in the blog.

I’ve once again hit that point, meaning it’s time to unload a couple of quick-hitter discussion topics that have been kicking around in my head, my notes app, and on my Twitter feed.

Here’s your October edition of Tweet-fueled Gym Owner Musings:

1. Your gym’s training outcomes might be hindered by your overzealous chase for revenue.

Keeping your gym profitable a logical goal, and this often requires that we compromise on the type of client we service. For example, you might want to be known as the best football combine-prep service provider in your area, but you also need to make payroll next week, so you’re not going to turn away the father of the JV quarterback on principal. Any revenue is good revenue, right?

Not so fast.

The problem I’m seeing again and again in struggling gyms is a willingness to step far outside of one’s scope of practice and make promises that the training model is not prepared to deliver on. More specifically, I am tired of seeing gym owners with personal training certifications delivering their own interpretation of physical therapy in scenarios where they know, deep down, they are overstepping their professional boundaries. Whether you’re in the red or not, there is never a time where it is okay to put your revenue-generation objectives ahead of the best interest of the client in front of you.

This also applies to the gym owners who agree to deliver “individualized strength training” to 8 and 9 year old children while knowing full well that it is unproductive and irresponsible. Showing up with cash in-hand can’t be the only pre-requisite for working with you..

If you continue to accept business that isn’t properly served by your existing model, you’ll continue to generate undesirable results at best. At worst, you’ll hurt somebody. Do the right thing and point these leads in the direction of a properly-equipped service provider.

You had a full knee replacement two weeks ago? Sure, my personal training can get you back to 100% in a couple of weeks! BRING MONEY.

You had a full knee replacement two weeks ago? Sure, my personal training can get you back to 100% in a couple of weeks! BRING MONEY.

2. There’s a disconnect between what you think you’re selling and what clients think they’re buying.

If you follow ten gyms on Instagram, I’d guess that five of them routinely advertise the training programs they deliver, the skills of their staff, and the equipment in their gym. These businesses are deaf to the fact that most of their clients don’t see themselves as buying supervised exercise or the tools used to execute it.

Instead, they’re paying for the opportunity to immerse themselves in a positive training environment. They’re paying to feel like a part of something bigger than themselves. They’re paying for your staff to serve as role models for their impressionable children.

So why aren’t we all highlighting these characteristics in our marketing and social media efforts?

The next time you sit down to design copy or visuals for your next Facebook ad, fight the urge to assume what your target audience is looking for and instead walk into the weight room and simply ask your clients what they value most in your professional relationship. I’d imagine there will be some answers that catch you by surprise.

Hopefully you’ll find a way to pivot your approach and take their feedback to heart.

3. Great systems are useless without decent culture.

Nearly every conversation I have with newly encountered consulting clients (gym owners) starts roughly the same way:

I want to replicate your gym’s success…what kind of scheduling software are you guys using? Can I get a copy of your programming template? What kind of power rack do you think I should buy? How should I go about automating my billing? Should I be running weekly payroll? Bi-weekly? Is monthly an option?

All of these questions matter for sure, but do you actually believe them to be the key to my gym’s success? Every single one of them could be sufficiently crowd-sourced with a crafty Facebook post on your personal page.

So what is “the right” question to ask?

Okay, so I also have mentors in my life who run wildly successful gyms. Here’s my favorite question to hit them with:

It seems to me that everyone on your team genuinely likes one-another. What strategies do you employ to ensure such a cohesive team dynamic in your space?

I ask this because I believe culture to outweigh systems by a significant margin. Systems can be fixed, designed, or deployed in as little as a week of research and hard work, but culture takes time to develop and nurture. Chances are that the gym you see as “successful” is similar to yours structurally, but different in the culture that they’ve crafted.

Ask about that topic the next time you grab a cup of coffee with another gym owner and you’re sure to find answers that don’t populate page one of a Google search..


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