Don’t Paint a Dirty Car

car

“Don’t paint a dirty car. What it needs is a good wash.”

I first heard this quote from a Greg Glassman video in 2013 as he discussed the business model in which CrossFit is founded. Though the original intent of this metaphor had a different scope, I feel it depicts a common issue among the Affiliate owner community.

As gym owners, we have tons of daily decisions to make:

  • Which management software should I use?
  • How should I structure memberships?
  • What’s the best way to compensate Coaches?
  • Should I be doing a boot camp or open gym?

However, many of us are very reactive in nature, which can cause rash decisions. If a gym owner has a slow month in sales or an unexpected spike in cancellations, they instantly think changing the pricing structure or overhauling their marketing strategy is the solution.

A new, well-funded gym opens up in town and our insecurities convince us to spend funds — that are not within budget — on new equipment to play “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Even though these changes may be warranted, the overwhelming majority are reacting to their situation instead of having the foresight to be proactive. Their systems and processes don’t need an overhaul, they need to be dusted off and implemented. They don’t need to spend $10,000 on new rowers; they need a better understanding of operational capacity and workout logistics.

My hope is this article can change the framework of your thinking by enabling you to be more proactive in your business and make rationale business decisions. When your business hits an unexpected bump, don’t freak out and paint a dirty car — just give it a good wash.

So before you commit to a total makeover of some aspect of the business, run through this checklist:

Address the Foundation

Is the gym being opened on time for 5 a.m. class? Are the bathrooms clean? Do your Coaches actually coach, or are they checking their phone, yelling a few “Atta’ boys” and running a clock?

As our business becomes more mature, we start taking on additional duties and our focus can stray away from the fundamentals that successfully grew the business in the first place.

Make sure that your business continues to master the basics and provide a service of excellence that is uniquely attractive to your market. None of your prospective customers are going to give a crap about your new, awesome Wodify system if you can’t answer their emails in a timely manner and your floor is filthy.

Emotional vs. Rational

Spend five minutes on any of the Facebook groups for Affiliate owners and you’ll see this daily conversation:

  • “Help me, I need more members/revenue!”
  • “Do this, it worked awesome for me!”
  • “Great! Where do I sign up!?!”

And just like that, another gym owner is being emotionally reactive to their current situation. The ability to recognize the difference between emotional and rational decisions is crucial if you want to keep your doors open.

Emotional decisions generally occur in an attempt to please certain members or out of desperation for temporary revenue. Lowering your prices on a case-by-case basis to compete with the gym down the street or adding open gym because a veteran member wants to have a place to perform their competitive programming are real examples.

Ask yourself, “Would I have made this decision eventually on my own? Or am I succumbing to the pressures of my immediate situation?” If you arrive at a “No” and “Yes” to each respective question, warning sirens should be blaring.

Do the Clients, Staff and Business all Benefit from this Decision?

After the honeymoon phase of opening your business is over and the reality sets in that you owe a lot of money each month, many owners are on the hunt to find new revenue streams.

Supplements, boot camps, subleasing space, retail and weekend competitions all run through the money-hungry mind of the gym owner. Though all these potential revenue streams could add to the gym’s bottom line, they are not the miracle fix you seek and they may negatively impact the experience of your members and staff.

Before adding any one of these additional services to your gym, make sure the core competency of your service is fulfilling a 360 degree quota — that means you are doing right by your members, Coaches and the business. Any changes you decide to make should be able to add value to each category concurrently. If you can’t figure out if these three categories will benefit from your proposed changes, ask. It’s amazing what your members and staff will confess to you.

Ultimately, it’s your duty as the owner to ensure any changes you make to your business are servicing the customer and creating a desirable workplace for your employees. So before you try to dress up your business with fancy amenities and a new multilevel marketing supplement scheme, take a minute and ask yourself “What can I fix?” instead of “What can I add?”

Stuart Brauer
Stuart Brauer is a 15-year student of strength and conditioning, and he was fortunate to find CrossFit in 2006. Since then he's dedicated his life to building a fitness business simply based on the pursuit of excellence. From humble beginnings making three figures and running park workouts to owning a million dollar gym, he's now ventured into business consulting for gym owners looking to chase their dream. You can find his content on Facebook and Instagram @wtfgymtalk.
Box Pro Magazine