Everything’s in flux, and gyms are looking hard at their books to get the most bang for their buck. ROI is the name of the game in this changing business climate.
But in our quest to run lean and make our money work for us, some gyms are putting all the emphasis on short-term return. And this can be at the expense of one long-term investment that’s the real make or break when it comes to a successful fitness business: our people.
The independent gym is a bricks and mortar, analogue business at its heart. Excellent customer service and a premium in-person product will always be what sets us apart from the competition – and this will be our strength now that clients are looking for someone to trust in these uncertain times.
“Create a feedback culture that values high-quality conversations.”
So however good your back-end, auto-text, email campaign, all-bells-and-whistles automation is, if your people aren’t on point, you’re squandering the biggest strength of your business model. You need a team who are happy, motivated, challenged, and in flow. And you need a leader (you) who’s on point, up to speed, and continuing to learn and grow.
Put aside your urge to hold everything up against a direct ROI mirror and invest properly in your people. You won’t regret it.
So what does this look like?
See people as an asset
Your business functions because it possesses a number of assets: the physical premises, the kit, your brand, your client list, etc. You and your team are right at the top of this list of assets. In other words, the success of the business hinges on all of your ability to perform your roles successfully. This means that just like doing essential maintenance on your premises, or investing in decent kit, you also need to look after your people as an essential component of the business. If a window got smashed at the gym, you wouldn’t ignore it – you’d repair it. Likewise, if you or your team have needs, you need to make sure they’re met – for the good of the entire business.
Create people systems
Good systems, great business. Just like everything else in your business, you should have a systematic approach to your people. This means having a clear plan and process for every aspect of your people management.
Recruitment and onboarding: Proactively create a talent pipeline so you have the personnel available and up to speed by the time you need them in the business – don’t wait ‘til you’re overwhelmed before hiring someone, then get frustrated because they can’t hit the ground running from day dot. Understand how to attract the right people by establishing a credible employer brand and communicating the opportunity in the right places, to the right audience.
Contracting: At every stage of the process, be clear about the terms of the relationship, both verbally and in a written contract. Think an offer of employment, a staff contract, a job description, and a staff handbook.
Performance management: Set up a formal review process that puts you and your staff on an upwards trajectory when it comes to development and performance. Pair this with a feedback culture that values high-quality conversations and makes communication and transparency part of your day-to-day functioning.
“Invest in your people, and great things will happen.”
Incentivise and motivate
There are three areas of incentive that staff need to do their job well, month after month. Don’t forget that these things are also necessary for you as the gym owner and/or leader. Neglect your own needs and wellbeing at the peril of both yourself and your business.
Both you and your team need to feel respected, valued, and supported. Your relationships should be a two-way, ongoing conversation, with both of your needs in the frame. A staff rota that allows your team some free time, holiday allowance so they don’t burn out, and a sense of community at work are all necessary to get high staff satisfaction and retention.
Very few people are content to go into a job and stay in it without progressing, year after year. The best people are likely to be ambitious, enjoy a challenge, and will need to see a journey laid out for them. Professional development opportunities, an increase in responsibility over time, and the chance for promotion into more senior positions are all part of this. A staff development pathway is a great way to systemise this progress. Again, don’t forget yourself here. You are arguably your business’ biggest asset, and need ongoing investment to bring the highest return over time.
Most people get into this gig because they want to spread the power of good health and fitness. However, feel-good vibes alone aren’t going to cut it when your staff are approaching 30 and they’re still not being properly remunerated for long hours and hard graft. Your staff salaries should be one of your biggest outgoings – don’t forget, they’re your biggest asset.
Marketing is important. Sales are important. Your premises are important. But none of this will amount to anything if you can’t give your members a top-notch training experience and excellent customer service that keeps them coming back. Your staff are the foundation of making this a reality.
Invest in your people, and great things will happen.
The small group Modern Training Gym model is ticking all the boxes when it comes to the reduced capacity, high yield per client approach demanded by Covid restrictions. Make a solid investment in your business and work your way through the IFBA Fitness Business Accelerator: the most comprehensive course for fitness business leaders to level up their performance and profitability.
You could also consider putting your coaching team through the IFBA Foundations and Advanced Coaching Courses. Using online theory and exams combined with in-person practical teaching and assessment, these are the gold standard in coaching the Modern Training Gym small group model.