Spinning Plates is a Bad Idea

Are you spinning plates?It was a Monday. My gym had been open for just over a year, and from my perspective, it seemed that we were hitting our stride. Our membership numbers were steadily increasing each month. We were starting to make enough money to make some much needed equipment upgrades, and I finally had another Coach with whom I could share the teaching workload.

I remember this Monday very clearly. Around 4:30 in the afternoon, in the middle of teaching a class, I realized that I had somehow forgot that I needed to pay the pile of bills that had been sitting on my desk for nearly a month. I also needed to, again, reschedule the dentist appointment I had for the next day due to the fact that I had double-booked myself. While I was trying to figure out how I could teach the class and handle these two very pressing issues, someone walked in wanting information on how we get people started with membership, and before I could give him my lightning quick information dump, my phone (which doubled as our gym’s iPod) began to ring, thus killing the house music. It was my mom. There was absolutely no way that I’d get a chance to workout on this Monday…

In the industry, they call this “spinning plates.”

Out of necessity, and also due to my ignorance, I was spinning every single plate required to run my gym — which led to this beautiful Monday madness. I was doing everything. And I was doing everything poorly. I’ve since learned and adjusted, and would like to offer some insight so that you don’t fall into the same pit I did.

Delegate responsibilities, not tasks, to trustworthy individuals.

If you’re merely delegating tasks to your staff, then you’ll never be able to fully stop spinning the plate. Make sure they understand and stand behind the vision you have for your gym, and then begin to train them for important roles and responsibilities. Give them responsibility. Give them the freedom to succeed or fail. More often than not, they’ll succeed, and you’ll have more freedom.

Of course, you’ll need to check in from time to time to make sure that you’re not being taken advantage of, and that they’re keeping the quality high. But having a trustworthy staff will free up your time and your mind to be able to create something new, spend a little extra time with your family and friends, or just relax every now and then. Additionally, you’ll be giving them an opportunity to build a career instead of just another cool part-time gig.

We did this by making two specific hires.

The first hire was a bookkeeper. We recognized that everything related to our accounting was getting pushed to the bottom of our priority list, or off the list altogether. As long as there was money in the bank at the end of the month, we felt pretty good. Without knowing it, however, I had gobbled up almost all of my available credit due to my poor planning. I was at the point that I had no idea how we were going to come up with the money needed to pay our Affiliate fee and insurance. I started meeting with my bookkeeper twice per month and he organized our financial picture for us. He helped us set up a budget with a long-term vision and gave me easily applicable ways of keeping up with it. Finally, he ensured that everything we did was officially right and legal.

The second person we hired was a secretary/assistant. This has saved me more time than I care to admit! She was given the responsibility of answering the phone and responding to emails, directing each item to the appropriate person, and acting as a filter for all the time-wasting spam that I was dealing with on a daily basis. She also handles all of the details regarding enrolling new memberships, making appointments, following-up leads and office organization.

Currently, I’m spinning two plates. Both of which are in areas that I am excellent at as well as enjoy. And I have a team of studs who have taken those roles and responsibilities that I have always struggled in and are making sure that my gym continues moving forward with the highest quality. My team has saved me from losing my mind, going bankrupt and drowning in inefficiency. They have saved my gym!

Charlie Sims was the owner of CrossFit Regeneration in Louisville, Kentucky.