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How to assemble the right staff team for your new gym


From our Fitness Founders series, Mehdi Elaichouni of Carpe Diem Jiu Jitsu Singapore shares his experience on how you can build a cost effective and efficient staff team.

Hiring quality people with the right attitude, salary, and at the right time is a difficult task. It’s tempting to forge ahead and fill those vacancies fast. But if you do, it will cost you more time and money to fix mistakes or start the hiring process all over again.

As a new business owner, you’ll be heavily involved in daily operations. It’s important to leave enough capacity to manage your business instead of spending most of your time on repetitive tasks. Your time is better spent on priorities that keep the business on the route to profitability. Money can buy you time, but only if it’s spent wisely.

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1. Key considerations when hiring gym staff

Assembling a cohesive team will allow for smoother operations, good customer experience, and a conducive work environment. A great team should have the following qualities:

  • Cost effective to hire and operate
  • Efficient in assigned tasks
  • Reliable to perform and show up
  • Adaptable to needs of team and business
  • Able to accept constructive feedback for personal growth and team performance

Hiring process

A thorough hiring process will include key steps such as

  • Putting together a job description
  • Setting a budget for each candidate
  • A thorough interview process
  • Background screening and reference check

As you hire more staff, you will adjust and perfect your hiring process to fit your business. A point to note is if you meet someone without the experience or education but has a deep passion and willingness to learn, put them through the interview process anyway and you may find yourself with a star team member.

Interview format

With COVID-19, many of us are now used to online meetings but it should not be your default interview format. Gyms are face to face businesses so make sure you have face to face meetings. It is the best way to get a sense of the personality of your candidate. 

This is the structure I usually follow when conducting interviews:

  • Start by introducing yourself, so they get a quick overview about you. This also helps to break the ice.
  • Thank them for taking the time to meet with you, so they know you appreciate them taking the effort.
  • After your initial introduction, pass the time over to the candidate. Ask them to tell you about their background and experience.
  • Move on to Q&A, with you asking questions first. Here, you may want to stress test with some tough questions to see how they respond under pressure. 
  • Finally, check if they have questions for you.

To help distinguish between candidates, I classify required skills into “Doing” and “Being”. “Doing” is their craft – hard skills that they need to fulfill the job, while “Being” are personal traits – soft skills that determine if they fit the role and if they can work well in the team. 

Meet with other business stakeholders

If you have other business founders or staff, let the candidate meet with them. Your team members may spot things that you may miss, and this is also a good test to see if they can fit within the team.

Ask for a demo or assign a test

Sometimes the best way to determine if someone is suitable for the role, or if they can live up to expectations, is to ask them for a demonstration or put them through a test. When I hired yoga instructors, I invited them to conduct an actual class for my team of Jiu-Jitsu coaches and sought feedback after. 

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This worked well for Carpe Diem because we were introducing a new discipline to our base of Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who have little or no experience in yoga. You should always pay the instructor for demo classes, to appreciate the time and effort put in to create and conduct the class. 

For non-coaching hires, you can create a brief for a task and get your candidate to propose a solution. For example, a customer service role can be given a difficult scenario and asked to present how they would resolve the situation.

2. Identify gym staff hiring needs by function

As a new business, you should hire only if you really need to. A need can be based on skills you may lack, or time that you need to recoup. For a start, these are the key departments you should focus on.

  • Gym operations
  • Customer service
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Coaching, if you are running a class based gym

I prefer to identify hiring needs based on function, then create a role that encompasses functions that go well together. An additional benefit of this approach is that it gives your gym staff a more comprehensive job scope.

At Carpe Diem, the operations team are also instructors. This arrangement is possible because they have a passion for Jiu-Jitsu and a desire to learn how to operate a gym. I also built in certain elements of customer service to fall under the operations team, so that the people who spend the most time with members are able to deliver high quality and consistent customer experience.

3. Hiring gym staff at the right time

There are two milestones for hiring staff. The first is when you have decided, pre-opening, that you need to have a staff team ready for the opening. The second is based on needs post-opening.

Hiring before your gym opens

Here is a guide to the hiring timeline:

  • 8 weeks before opening: start posting job openings
  • 4 weeks before opening: make offers to your selected candidates
  • 2 -4 weeks before opening: start staff training and onboarding

Hiring after your gym has opened

Keeping costs lean in the early stages of a new business has worked well for me. When it comes to hiring, even after opening, I prefer to hire people with hybrid skills and interests, so they can take on multiple roles.

For example a founder can take on tasks, such as sales, marketing, and customer service, that involve spending and are key to lead acquisition. By taking care of leads before they even set foot in the gym, you can then entrust the team onsite to focus on functions that deliver the product. These responsibilities would include gym operations, maintenance, cleaning, coaching, onboarding new trials or members, and so on. Make sure to keep an eye on the workload and hours your employees are clocking. When employees are overwhelmed or overworked, quality can start to drop.

Once you become profitable, you can relook roles and responsibilities to break down functions into separate roles.

In Summary

When it comes to hiring, you need to get three things right: people, time, and cost. 

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"I think Glofox speaks to lots of different fitness businesses. I looked at a few options, but the Glofox positioning was more flexible. Without it the business wouldn't be scaleable”
Mehdi Elaichouni
Owner at Carpe Diem BJJ

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