You have just finished your third class of the day. As happy but exhausted members stream out of the hall, nervous prospects slowly walk-in, awaiting their sales consultation. It hits you that you have an hour at least of sales consultations that evening. After that another hour or so of following up on leads and checking on the performance of your Facebook and Instagram Ads. And after a couple of hours in bed you are up at 5.30 to do it all again.
When you look at the Instagram pages of some of the top fitness franchises in the world, it may look like the dream job. Helping people achieve their fitness goals in a fun, stylish and energetic environment is the direction you want to go when you open a studio for the first time. However, as is often the case, the reality is very different from the dream.
In truth, the day to day effort to run a successful fitness business is hard work. And, at the beginning or as your business grows to the next level, this may seem overwhelming. But even the best fitness franchises across the world were at this stage once.
In this article, we will look at some of the key areas that need to be managed in a gym and then give you some top tips on turning your gym into a well-oiled machine.
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What Are the Key Areas That Need to Be Managed?
A gym or fitness studio is just like any other business. There are a lot of different areas to be managed, and, a lot of different areas that can be mismanaged. Every single department in the business has to be in unison with each other or there will be issues. For a lot of fitness entrepreneurs keeping all these sections of the business pulling in the same direction can be a challenge. In this section, we will talk about the areas of people, maintenance, growth and retention.
One of the big factors in making your business successful is the people that work there. Building an effective team who buy into exactly what your vision is a big factor in succeeding. The first step in creating a great team is hiring the right people. In our article on hiring staff, we went through everything you need to know about getting the best people working in your fitness facility. The main takeaway from this article is that you need to hire people who are not only skilled but aligned with the values you want to be associated with your gym or studio.
In a recent episode of The Fitness Founders Podcast, the Yax Brothers emphasized the importance of this factor when they recalled one of their first experiences with hiring staff. They tell the story of how they hired a person for the front desk when their hiring process less developed than it is now. One day, they walked into the studio to find the front desk unattended, leaving the cash drawer free to be taken by anyone. Searching around the back of the studio they found their absentee assistant smoking. This combined with a separate incident soon led to the assistant’s departure. The lesson they learned? “Hire slow and fire fast”
One thing is very obvious when you set up a fitness business; you need equipment. How much of it you need can vary depending on what type of studio you decide to open. For example, a boutique studio will only need a small amount of space as there is less equipment involved. Most boutique studios have a capacity of around 25 people in class so they need to utilize as much space as possible. Big box gyms on the other hand, need a larger space to cater different types of workout areas. Within these workout areas there are more machines and equipment than there would be in a studio. This is to cater for the bigger membership base a big box gym has.
No matter how much or little equipment that your fitness facility has, maintenance should be top of mind. Especially if you decide to go down the route of buying second hand equipment. As we detailed in our article on keeping your gym safe, you need to make sure you implement regular equipment checks. This should be baked in to the daily or weekly tasks that your staff performs. When it comes to equipment, look out for loose nails, a loose weight, signs of damage, or any sharp edges that could result in an injury.
Simply put; your sales and marketing.
Forget your staff and equipment maintenance for a second – you won’t have either without steady income coming through the door. In theory all you need to do is make your target market aware of who you are and what you offer and then entice them into signing up for your services.
As with a lot of things in business, this is easier said than done. There is alot to manage in this area, and it may take a while to create the perfect process that works.
Sales and marketing is an ongoing process and in truth takes a while to get correct. The most successful studios in the world have developed watertight systems to help them turn prospects into leads and finally into full paying members. To successfully do this requires a well practiced playbook that your staff buys into and a robust software to handle your leads.
Once you have perfected the process of getting members in the door, don’t begin to think that’s the hard work over. The real key to success is retaining these members long term. A key statistic that backs this up is that it costs nine times as much to acquire a new member as it does to retain an existing one. There has also been research that suggests that increasing member retention increases profits by between 25% and 95%. Retention is really the only way to grow your fitness business.
If you are struggling with this then you are not alone. Every year the average health club will lose 40% of its members. Similar to sales and marketing, the best gyms in the world have developed successful systems for retaining members long term. And, if you want to be like them, you will have to also.
4 Strategies to Manage Your Gym Successfully
So now that we have gone through the main areas of a gym that you need to manage let’s take a look at some strategies to help manage your gym successfully.
1. Record the Process
A mistake that a lot of first time entrepreneurs make is that they keep everything in their head. But this can lead to confusion and miscommunication when you try to train your staff or give them direction. If it’s not written down, the message you want to get across can change every time it’s delivered. In another episode of our podcast, fitness business owner Brittany Welk gave some great advice about playbooks. When she hired her first studio manager, she realized that a breakdown of communication had occurred in onboarding. She said that:
“…it really wasn’t until I sat down [the playbook] and I wrote down, and dialed in, and had weekly meetings with her, that we really got on the same page because she understood the process, she understood the job, she understood what needed to be done, and I understood how she works and she understood how I work.”
Document everything, from sales processes to marketing strategies. When it comes to hiring the staff it is especially key and according to Brittany; “documentation and doing your systems are so important, and I would say it is a priority over hiring staff.”
2. Hire the Best People
It may seem simple but as with a lot of things, it’s easier said than done. The process of hiring the right people can be tricky, as the Yax brothers found out. There can be a lot of trial and error in trying to get the right people on board. However, you should lay out the exact qualities that would like to see from staff before engaging in the hiring process. Some particular qualities you should look out for are strong passion for fitness, knowledge and technical know-how, good communication skills and compassion and empathy.
The key task you need to get right is the job description. This will let the candidate know exactly what the job entails. In the description list out exactly what the requirements are for the job and detail any qualifications that are necessary for the role. During the interview process ask for detailed answers on the person’s work history and ask them to explain how they would apply their experience and skills in the job.
3. Delegate Accordingly
Once you have hired a great team and created a comprehensive playbook, the next stage is to actually trust the team you have built. This means delegating tasks where appropriate so you don’t end up doing everything yourself. A bad manager is someone who tries to micromanage their staff. A good manager, however, is someone who empowers their staff to make decisions and take responsibility.
A key position to have on your team is the general manager. As we laid out in our article on hiring the best gym manager, they are someone you can trust to manage the day to day operations of your business and they are key to carrying out your delegation requires. A good rule of thumb is to delegate more important tasks to senior members of your team and to delegate smaller tasks to newer staff to build their confidence and competence.
4. Invest in Appropriate Systems
When starting out, a lot of gyms and studios will run their business with pen and paper or excel sheets or both. However, as a business grows, it needs a gym management software system that grows with it. Sometimes business will go for different solutions to manage a different range of tasks. A better option though is to use a gym management software that can manage all important tasks in one system. Typically, gym management software tracks payments, manages memberships and leads, looks after class booking and scheduling and offers detailed insight into your business.
The biggest advantage of using gym management software is that it will save you a lot of time and hassle. This will then allow you to focus on other aspects of managing a business. The success of two areas we mentioned above – growth and retention – is dependent on having a robust system in place to manage leads and current members.
When you open a gym or fitness studio for the first time, all the aspects you have to manage may seem overwhelming. But, by dividing the work into 4 key areas – people, maintenance, growth and retention – you can get a better overview of what needs to be done. And, by applying the strategies that we have laid out, you will be able to manage these areas effectively.