PSA to Gym Owners: Check Your Ego at Your Door


We’ve all heard it or proclaimed it to our members at some point: “Leave your ego at the door!”  As Coaches, we understand the dangers that exist when one of our members foolishly commit the following:

  1.  Lack self-awareness or refuse to acknowledge their weaknesses.
  2. Attempt challenges in which the proper prerequisites have not been performed.

This is the same criteria I use when working with gym owners whose businesses have gone awry and a reality check is long overdue. During these evaluations I’m constantly asking myself, “Why do some gym owners fall into this ego trap and others avoid it completely?”

Earlier this past year, I had a great insight to help answer this question.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the Box Pro Leadership Summit this past fall with 39 other successful Affiliate owners. And you know what I discovered? Everyone I interacted with had zero ego when it came to discussing business practices. Even more, everyone was beyond accepting to receiving feedback and suggestions from other owners. They welcomed criticism and constructive retort. Every time another owner was speaking on the things that have worked for their business, we all were feverishly taking notes and recording the nuggets of wisdom that were being shared.

By no stretch of the imagination do I believe that anyone left our three day immersion experience, went back to their gym and overhauled their systems based on the suggestions of others, but here’s what I do think happened and what I think ALL good business owners do:

They listen more than they talk. They seek advice. They search for better solutions more than they pronounce their own authority and accept their self-imposed status quo.

This is what all successful Affiliate owners are doing, whether they know it or not.

If you’re not sure which camp you fall into, I’ve created a few scenarios that can help you identify if your ego may be getting in the way of a more successful business:

How do you react when a member or employee makes a suggestion to you? 

Sally from the 5:30 a.m. class makes a snippy remark about the one rower with the squeaky seat. Coach Johnny makes it known during a staff meeting that he thinks your programming doesn’t best reflect the needs of your members.

If your gut reaction is to lash back on the defensive, then we may need to have an ego check.  Sure, no one likes a snippy comment or being called out in public by an employee, but a successful owner looks at these situations as an opportunity to fix a problem that has obviously been flying under the radar. Sometimes we are so busy with the thousands of other aspects of our business that a fresh perspective should be welcomed and embraced.

How do you handle a cancellation email from a member who informs you that some aspect of your service fell below their standard, so they’ve left for greener pastures?

Miss Jones submits her cancellation notice and informs you that her decision was solidified after constantly finding fingernails, skin, used Band-Aids and other body products on the gym floor while doing burpees. She visited another Affiliate down the road during their busy hour and the floor was spotless.

This is a perfect opportunity for a true business owner to accept responsibility for what they’ve failed to deliver and use it as a stepping stone to grow and better themselves. However, many of us are too proud to accept that we failed to do our job at its most basic level. All the amazing programming and impressive equipment inventory will not make up for the fact that you’ve failed to provide a clean and hygienic training environment.

A new Affiliate opens up down the road. They are offering classes at the same time as you, but at a less expensive rate. Do you initiate contact and create a networking opportunity? 

Tim had a similar journey to you. He started as a client at another gym, discovered he had a passion for changing people’s lives and decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. So Tim decides to open up down the road from you because of its great location and market value. Essentially, Tim is a younger version of you — just looking to create an opportunity for himself doing what he loves.

But how some Affiliate owners handle this situation can be very telling…

Here’s the hard truth. Only losers are afraid of competition. Those of you who truly know you’ve created a second-to-none service offering realize that 10 new gyms could open up on your street and it wouldn’t affect your mindset or how you attack your business plan. When you’re confident in your ability to deliver attractive opportunities to other people, you subconsciously put on blinders that make you numb to what the “competition” down the street is doing.

By creating an open line of communication with your surrounding Affiliate community, there’s a ton of benefit potential — Coach share, bulk equipment purchase discounts, group marketing rates, co-op fundraisers, etc. Just because they offer a product similar to yours doesn’t mean they need to be viewed as the enemy. Remember, there’s not a shortage of clients, just a shortage of quality coaching.

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.

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