Protecting Your Gym’s Secret Sauce - Worth the Hassle?

“We’re hoping to have our gym compete on merits without “giving away our secret sauce”. More specifically, we want to emphasize our competencies without publicizing our process. Any tips on how to do so?”

This is an email I recently received in my consulting account, and it isn’t the first time a question of this nature has been sent my way. Since I’ve found myself explaining my position on the subject on more than a few occasions, I thought it may be helpful to share with a wider audience.

If I were to prepare a canned response to this type of a question for safe keeping in my Gmail account, it would look something like this…

Dear Fellow Gym Owner…

Appreciate you reaching out. We need to stick together, as this game of business is tough.

My initial inclination is to tell you that any gym owner who makes a habit of fiercely protecting his "secret sauce" will never successfully position himself as a thought leader in his community. Taking the "we're the best, just trust us" approach to promoting your business is considerably less effective than simply being the best.

You’re probably overvaluing your intellectual property.

You’re probably overvaluing your intellectual property.

The actual mechanics of instructing fitness are rarely a strong enough differentiator in our field, even if you do truly believe yourself to be superior to the competition on this front. Potential clients want to feel like they're doing business with relatable people, not gurus who have superstar athletes and a methodology that they keep in their "pay-to-play" vault.

If you look closely at the way that we manage our social media and marketing strategies at Cressey Sports Performance, you'll see that we go out of our way to discuss our approach to assessment, program design, and coaching instruction. We're an open book, and it results in lead generation, fully booked seminars, and an influx of internship applications.

I recently stumbled upon a quote in the book Good to Great from an executive at Merck (the pharmaceutical company). In it, he explained why his business decided to distribute a cure to an illness called River Blindness to extremely poor individuals in the Amazonian area entirely free of charge despite it being the only product available:

We try to remember that the medicine is for the patient....It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we remembered that, they have never failed to appear. The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been.

This resonated with me, as I've been asked in the past why I put so much time and energy into preparing business content without an obvious game plan for immediate revenue generation.The way I see it, if I can easily help up and coming gym owners avoid common mistakes, then I should take a stab at doing so without fixating on profits. With this system in place (blogs, podcasts, etc.), the revenue tends to follow in the form of paid consulting inquiries, and I believe everyone wins.

Time to shift your approach?

If you’ve made a habit of keeping the special recipe to your training philosophy on lock down in the past, and you find yourself fighting a never-ending battle against an increasingly competitive landscape, it may be time to make a change. Share your wisdom with the world, and the leads you’re afraid of missing out on just may find their way to you.


If you enjoyed this, or any of my other “hot takes” on fitness business ownership, I think you’d enjoy our upcoming Business Building Mentorship. Eric Cressey and I are hosting this event once again on April 7th at our facility in Jupiter, FL.  

Please shoot me an email if you’d like to discuss further. We’d love to have you.