Gym Owner Musings - Installment #13

In this thirteenth edition of Gym Owner Musings, I’ve got some thoughts on improving client retention, being more memorable in your networking efforts, and how to make the most of an initial client assessment.

Here. We. Go.

1. You’ll never get a second chance to make a second impression

Your first inclination was to say that I messed up a common saying, right?

Well I didn’t. I’m all about second impressions. I believe the second visit to my gym is far more important than the first. You see, convincing a client to sign on for month one following an initial assessment is among the easiest of tasks we encounter. The biggest challenge we face, as it turns out, is convincing a client to sign on for month two.

The move from month one to month two is a difficult one, as four weeks often isn’t a sufficient window of time for an athlete to see what he considers to be significant results. While our coaches know that progress is being made, and a foundation for success is being laid, this big picture vision isn’t always common with young athletes. As a result, it is imperative that we show additional value in the form of exceptional customer service.

When you employ a personalized programming approach like we do at Cressey Sports Performance (CSP), a fair amount of one-on-one instruction is involved with new clients. While this hands-on approach to coaching is optimal from a program execution standpoint, it hinders our ability to make staff-wide connections with a single athlete in week one. As a result, we need to be deliberate about ensuring that all employees engage with a new client during his first training session following an initial assessment, regardless of whether or not they’ve been assigned to the athlete.

Here’s an important reminder I share with my team on a regular basis: You start selling month two on day one of month one. Waiting until the last week of a paid month to focus on driving value is a fast track to crummy retention figures.

2. Great networking is about creativity

Let me start by saying just about any networking effort is time well spent. However, some networking approaches are better than others.

Until this week, few things made me happier than receiving an unexpected book in the mail from a friend with a nice note saying something along the lines of: “Thought you might enjoy this one.”

This week I arrived back to work following a family vacation to find a small box on my desk. It featured the return address of a fellow gym owner who I connect with periodically, and was just about the size of a typical book. I popped that baby open thinking I had an idea of what was coming, and soon realized a new standard for networking creativity had been set…

In this box, I found a Nintendo Game Boy, including a copy of the classic game Tetris. Significant chunks of my childhood came rushing back all at once as I handled this beautiful grey device. The hand-written note included read as follows:

“Pete - Hopefully you can dominate your boys in this and enjoy some free time away from the gym.”


For the rest of the work day after opening, every colleague who stepped into my office immediately asked about the Game Boy, and multiple clients even found their way into my office after hearing about the archaic device sitting on my desk. Time after time, I found myself explaining why I have it, only further extending the reach of a well-placed networking effort.

If you’re going to work to foster and develop a strong network of relationships in this field, the most impactful way to do so is to catch people off-guard with generosity and thoughtful creativity.

Well played, Justin Kavanaugh. Well played.

3. Day one should be about more than working through an assessment checklist

We love individualized program design at CSP. In fact, we’ve built nearly our entire business around this approach. As a result, we have to execute a fairly thorough initial screening process upon starting new clients to ensure that the material we prepare is appropriate for the athlete based on injury history, training objectives, sport of choice, etc.

This being said, we also know that it is easy to fall into the habit of over-complicating day one with endless movement screenings, measurements, and complex tests. When this approach makes up for the entirety of the client experience, you’re more likely to send someone home feeling like the subject of a science experiment than you are to make him feel like an athlete.

This is why we (CSP) dedicate at least 50% of the initial assessment process to executing a thorough warm-up in line with that which every client completes prior to a session, and a taste of the strength training experience.

If you have the time and resources to do so, get the health history, movement screenings and postural analysis out of the way, and move on to the fun stuff that brought your client through the door in the first place. In doing so, you’ll allow the athlete to understand a little bit of what can be expected during the sessions to follow, and also likely gather some additional insights into the direction you should go with the programming once you see just how coachable the athlete is upon stepping up to a loaded bar.

One last thing…

My business partner Eric and I are looking forward to hosting our CSP Business Building Mentorship at our Florida facility on Sunday, April 7th. We’ll spend a day digging deep into everything from lead generation, to pricing strategy, gym design, and everything in between. If you’re interested in learning exactly how we’ve attacked building and maintaining the model we’ve had in action since 2007, this packed day of information is for you.

Check out all of the details HERE, and make sure to shoot me an email ( if you have follow-up questions.