How to Create and Automate Business Systems

business systems
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The majority of small gym owners I talk with are stretched thin and strapped for time. Instead of being able to focus their energy on growing the business, much of their time is spent on repetitive, time-consuming tasks.

The hard truth is you’ll never grow your business to its potential if you’re constantly buried in busywork.

This is where systems come in.

What exactly are systems? If you ask me, a system is just a fancy way of describing the process of how to do things.

Here’s a more detailed definition of a system: “an organized process for dealing with common business aspects in a well-thought-out, repeatable way.”

At CrossFit Stamford, our systems weren’t just for optimizing our time. They alleviated stress and played a key role in staff and member satisfaction. Here are a few of the benefits:

  • The staff has a clear understanding of their responsibilities and are trained properly.
  • Maintain a schedule and have time to plan ahead for events.
  • Avoid problems that stem from unclear rules. Example: When and how does a new member pay?
  • Keep things from falling through the cracks.

Setting up a good system takes time and planning, but it is time well spent. Create it once and you don’t have to stress or spend any more mental energy on the issue.

In today’s post, I’m going to help you get started with creating your own systems so you can stay organized, create more time and focus on growing your business.

Now, where to start? What issues should you create systems for?

1. Systemize important business that happens regularly.

For example, I like to start with two key issues: how a new member joins and how a current member cancels or modifies their membership.

At CrossFit Stamford, the manager handled member cancellations. Here is the procedure he/she would follow:

  1. Member is required to email their request to cancel 24 hours before their auto-renewal date.
  2. Reply to the email wishing them well, and ask the reason for cancellation, unless it was already stated in the email. Let them know they are always welcome to visit as a drop-in.
  3. Remove from auto-renewal membership in gym management software.
  4. Remove from the “current member” email list and move to “former member” email list.
  5. Make an entry in the monthly member-tracking spreadsheet along with the reason for cancelling.
  6. Optional – manager may email a heads-up to the Coaches and let them know the member is leaving.

This system was used as a checklist. It ensured nothing fell through the cracks and we could avoid any potential problems — like a member saying they cancelled via off-hand conversation with a Coach last month or the staff not knowing whose job it is to take the member off the auto-renewal.

Other common systems in this category would be training new staff, hiring/firing employees, salary/raise structure, financial reporting and paying taxes.

Planning out all of the steps ahead of time removes having to rely on your memory. After enough repetition, the system becomes an automatic habit.

2. Systemize issues that take a lot of time and planning.

Programming the weekly workouts became a time-intensive responsibility as our program became more complicated with multiple options. The solution was to create repeatable templates with daily themes and preplanned waves.

Now instead of having to come up with each week’s plan when I sat down at my laptop, I had a yearly plan in front of me and all I had to do was fill in the blanks.

Planning events is quite time consuming. An example of an invaluable system can be as simple as making a repeatable calendar. Creating a yearly calendar with all of our events — competitions, nutrition challenges, clinics, Coaches’ meetings, workout traditions, holiday party, social outings, etc. — gave us enough time to plan ahead and stay organized.

3. Systemize smaller daily tasks.

Examples of common daily time-consuming tasks would be opening and closing procedures. Create a step-by-step list of exactly what needs to happen each day when opening and closing. Post it somewhere for your Coaches to refer to. Or, better yet, create a checklist that requires physically checking-off each item with a signature and date every time.

Another simple example would be putting all of your common items like cleaning supplies, chalk, bathroom supplies, water and energy drinks all on auto-deliver. You won’t run out or waste time individually ordering products or going to the store.

4. Systemize your support staff.

These are chores you can pay someone else to do. These include your cleaning crew, administrative tasks for your manager/front desk person and social media/website.

If you are paying someone to take on some or all of the social media responsibility, then you need to have a clearly defined process prepared. For example, post one picture each day on Instagram at 7 a.m. and one story at noon. If you’re struggling with what to post each day, download my free Social Media Daily Calendar for Gym Owners.

It takes some initial time and effort to create your systems, but you only have to do it once and set them on autopilot. Each system you create and implement will free up time and allow you to focus more mental energy on big picture issues to grow your business.

Andy Parker and his wife Kristie opened CrossFit Stamford in 2006. They were also business consultants, hired to assist launching Solace in New York City. In 2018 they sold their Affiliate and moved to Tampa, Florida. Since then Andy has founded Next Level Affiliates, a website dedicated to helping small gym owners and Coaches improve all aspects of their business. He’s also created the Business WOD, an affordable online business course created specifically to teach owners how to open, grow and eventually sell their gyms. For more details and to connect with Andy, please visit