When we first became gym owners, I was obsessed with the Barbell Business podcast.
They had knowledgeable people on the podcast who knew what they were talking about and who had been in the fitness industry for years, if not decades. I loved having access to people who had been there and done it. Anytime I was in the car, I’d resume the last podcast I was listening to, and later that evening, I’d enthusiastically share what I had learned with Lee.
“Run the gym, don’t let it run you.”
Etc., etc., etc.
I was like a kid in a candy shop. This tip! That tip! We’re going to be successful gym owners in no time!!! Because if there’s anything I’m good at, it’s gathering and processing information. (I guess I am a robot after all.)
About a year into running the gym, we were making improvements, but we were still pretty clueless on the bigger picture direction the gym should take, so we brought on a business coach. He gave us a lot of checklist items to do…
“Run the gym, don’t let it run you.”
Etc., etc., etc.
It was all good stuff. Some things we implemented, some we didn’t. Honestly, it was just nice to have a knowledgeable person hold us accountable and make sure we weren’t walking off a cliff without realizing it.
But eventually, I’d get to a point where I was a little tired of the podcasts, the coaching, the “word” on the streets.
There was only so much of other people’s advice I could take, before I needed a break. I don’t know how other people feel about these things, but I know for Lee and I, we got tired of hearing how other people did it right and how we were doing it wrong.
Maybe part of that is because we’ve always marched to our own drum beat.
In our respective experiences, particularly in the military and in corporate America, there was only so much of the Kool-Aid we were able to drink. At a certain point, we just had to go off the rails. Tinker around ourselves just to see how it went.
I believe learning how other people are running their businesses successfully is very important. Businesses thrive and fail based on the immediate competition, and it’s important to know what’s going on.
But after a certain point, you have to ask yourself:
“What works for me?”
“What doesn’t make sense, and why?”
“What am I happy to implement today but also support for years to come?”
For example, for us, we just couldn’t get enough emotional steam within ourselves to implement contracts. In simpler terms, we didn’t care enough. We understood, although not everyone agrees, that if you want to make your business appealing to sell in the long run, you have to have contracts. You have to prove you have recurring, reliable income, especially if you have any goal to eventually sell your gym.
[insert crying baby gif]
But we just didn’t wanna.
It seemed like more of a headache, having to get people to agree to a long-term commitment, but also discovering, on our end, the boundless creativity people express when it comes to getting out of that commitment.
Don’t get me wrong. There are pro’s and con’s to either decision, but that is beyond the purview (or interest) of this article. I’m not saying either decision is right.
But I’m definitely not saying either decision is wrong.
It’s ultimately a question of what is right for you.
If you are authentic to yourselves, you will always have the conviction to stick to your decisions for the long-term.
It’s that consistency and authenticity that will ensure your business stands the test of time, not simply following other people’s tips and strategies. While one thing may work out for another gym, it simply may not work for you.
How do you know what’s right for you?
This question of what’s right for you is a tough one. How do you know?
Ultimately, you have to understand what principles and values you fundamentally operate on. Sometimes these are life principles that you’ve always believed in, and sometimes these are values you gain from experience in your field, learning from setbacks, maturity, and intuition. All these things will help to solidify what you stand for, what you’re willing to deal with, and what you’re not.
So I cannot tell you to ignore the experts in your field, nor would I ever tell you to do so.
It’s like a 7 (or 17) year old kid who doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. That kid’s idea of what he wants to be will change, radically, multiple times, for years to come. The best thing you can do is expose him to what his options are. Show him what other people in life are doing. Take him to a museum, on a flight, for a walk down the streets: educate him on the possibilities.
The value of learning from others is exposure.
So listen to those podcasts, get a business coach if you truly feel like you need one, and read books on leadership and growing your business. Accept that you don’t have it all figured out today, but commit to learning from others and from your own experiences. This knowledge will provide you with the experience you need to understand your core values and make better-informed decisions about your business in the future.
Implement contracts. Don’t offer discounts. Run your gym. And see how it works out for you. Maybe you’ll love these approaches, maybe you discover they’re a huge pain in the ass.
Either way, that’s okay.
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