Gym Owner Musings - Installment #14

Every month or so the “content ideas” page in my iPhone notes app begins to fill up with topics that aren’t quite beefy enough to justify an entire blog, but also a little too bulky to cram into a Tweet or Instagram post. 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 (and notes app).

Here’s your May edition of Gym Owner Musings:

1. On Selling: Don’t Take the Email Shortcut

The opportunity presents itself to me time and time again...

“Would you mind emailing me pricing information for your training services?”

It’s not a rude or unreasonable request. In fact, this is probably exactly how I would go about engaging with my business if I were an interested consumer exploring my fitness options in the area. The problem for the gym owner, however, is that emailing a pricing sheet all but eliminates your opportunity to counter the hesitation we routinely encounter with price-sensitive potential clients.

You already know your premium priced services are justified by the level of attention to detail you deliver, but how are you supposed to convey this message when the email recipient scans the material you sent looking for a dollar sign, and immediately jumps to a conclusion on the viability of you as an option based entirely on a number that comes with little to no context?

You’re doing yourself a disservice by taking the easy way out and sending off that email without requesting an opportunity to jump on a quick phone call to discuss the options available. If you’re going to personalize your training material, you should also make a habit of personalizing your sales pitch.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

You’ll close more sales on the phone than via email…I promise.

2. On Educating: Never Quit on an Intern

A typical internship at Cressey Sports Performance runs somewhere in the vicinity of 100 to 150 days in length, with the shortest period being our summer session. With just over three months to make an impact on a young coach in the shortest scenario, it would be easy to conclude that bad apples come and go, and your best option when one is identified is to make sure said coach isn’t put in a position to hurt anyone or reflect poorly on your business. In effect, sweeping the under-performers under the rug with the mentality that it will all be over soon.

This sucks for a number of reasons, with the first being that the intern in question likely put a number of other opportunities and responsibilities on hold to come learn from you. Often times the worst performers are blissfully unaware of just how far short they are falling in relation to their peers. One-strike policies on underperformance are unacceptable in this realm.

The second reason why you can’t afford to can’t afford to look the other way when an intern fails to meet your expectations is that, like it or not, that coach is going to move on to a next step in the fitness industry and your business name is likely to sit at or near the top of his resume. I’ve written in the past about the surprising lack of reference checks I receive on former interns, despite there being well over 200 of them out there these days. Can you afford for a shitty intern to be presumed competent simply because he apprenticed under your supervision?

All it takes is one coach with a bad attitude to list you as a former employer and quickly eliminate any future coaching opportunities in a given organization for 100% of the fellow intern alumni hailing from your gym. Telling yourself “sometimes we’ve just got to make it to the end of this internship period and move on” is both short-sighted and dangerous for your reputation.

3. On Scaling: The Biggest Bottleneck for Growing Gyms

I’m always looking for trends in the questions presented to me by fellow gym owners, and the latest is regarding how and where to find quality coaches as businesses grow quickly. When we started our business, there weren’t dozens upon dozens of fantastic resources floating around to assist us in scaling as fast as possible. Today, it seems everyone, with the right work ethic and advisors in their corners, can build a viable operation quickly.

You need help designing a logo? Just download a free version of Canva to your phone and throw a nice looking one together this afternoon.

Need help with Facebook advertising? Pop on to your good old Facebook feed and crowd source recommendations for the best free PDF on the topic floating around these days.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

Everybody has “a guy” when it comes to FB ads, and many are delivering free content.

In search of time management hacks and business book recommendations? Do yourself a favor and sign up for Mark and Michael’s (Fisher/Keeler) newsletter over at Business For Unicorns and begin seeing your account flooded with information that probably should cost thousands of dollars entirely free of charge.

Point being, the tools for success are in place and shockingly accessible if you’re in the early stages of business. The road from zero dollars in revenue to, say, $200K+ is far shorter today than it was a little over a decade ago.


I’ve yet to find a free resource that explicitly outlines how to quickly find the perfect coach once you’ve hit capacity on your existing staff. My inbox is filling up with gym owners who’ve achieved early-stage success in a rapid manor, but suddenly hit a wall because they keep striking out on finding competent employees to help them jump past the newbie gains threshold.

Bad news, friends…

The best resources and consultants in the world cannot point you to a shortcut or “learn from my mistakes” solution to creating badass coaches. You want the perfect coach for your operation? You’re going to have to build that person, and it sure as shit doesn’t happen by executing a checklist found in a PDF.

It is for this reason that I advise 100% of my consulting clients to begin outlining some form of an internship or mentorship program starting as early as their first year of operation. This is not to say that I believe a brand-new one-man operation can or should employ interns. What I mean, instead, is that the thought process needs to start long before the need or opportunity presents itself.

Ask yourself: If I wanted to manufacture the perfect employee, what books would I like him to have read? What courses should he have attended? How many hours shadowing on my training floor would be optimal? If I were delivering an online college course touching on private sector strength and conditioning, what would the curriculum look like?

The process of building your dream employee is a long-vision game, and one that needs to be played if you have aspirations of running a seven-figure fitness operation. The best time to begin educating your next perfect coach is days, weeks or months ago. The second best time is today.


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