There are a million and one reasons why gym owners struggle with their business. We can mention specific reasons such as “I’m not making money,” “I’m tired of cleaning toilets,” or “I’m sick and tired of being at the gym,” but very generally speaking, all these symptoms can be narrowed down to one problem.
The discrepancy between the requirements and your capabilities.
Whether we went into this venture underestimating the legal requirements of owning our own business, or we wore rose-colored glasses daydreaming of the day we could refill the toilet paper in OUR VERY OWN GYM, the disappointment that set in when we encountered reality ultimately led to us becoming the burned out gym owners of today.
Ready to quit the struggle and grow your business already? Let’s dive in.
Step 1: Understand What’s Required to Grow Your Business
The first thing you need to do is get very clear on what the requirements are to keep your gym up and running, and at the very least, slowly growing.
Paying rent, having enough equipment to support a class, and taking care of quarterly sales taxes are requirements.
Getting your logo painted on the wall, picking out the best supplements to sell, and hosting the Christmas party at your house are not.
Not everything is a requirement, although it may feel that way. If you are still unclear about what’s really important, ask yourself: what allows me to keep the gym open everyday?
Still stuck? Let me answer that for you:
- Recurring revenue
- Paying the bills
- Product delivery
That last bullet point is where people get most confused. Many people don’t know what their core product is. It’s not thermogenics and cool t-shirts. It’s not stickers for your members to cover their car with.
The core product of any gym is:
This may vary for your type of gym, but you will easily find the correlation. For example, for a yoga studio, you need equipment (blocks, yoga mats), coaching (instructors to lead the classes!), and programming (what in the world are you having your students do for the hour they are there?).
If you’re doubting that those three things create your gym’s core product, ask yourself: Why are people paying me?
They are paying you to get a good work out. Sure – they might want to lose 15 lb. They might want to be ripped. Everyone has different motives for being in the gym, but they all are looking to achieve their individual goals through the same vehicle: the work out.
In order to effectively provide your members with “the work out,” again, you need equipment, coaching, and programming. Equipment for them to use in the work out, coaching to get them from point A to point B in the work out, and the programming, which IS the work out.
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Step 2: Understand Your Capabilities & Limitations
Now that we covered the requirements, let’s discuss your capabilities.
When I talk about understanding your capabilities, I am more specifically referring to understanding your limitations.
Yes, you can do a LOT. Your passion and drive have already gotten you here. We know that you’re perfectly capable of scrubbing your showers, programming, coaching athletes, restocking the fridge with energy drinks, building your website, running social media marketing campaigns, and of course, making sure your customers are happy.
No one is doubting you, though. And you do not have to prove yourself in every arena to prove that you have a right to be here, as a gym owner or business owner in general.
What are the biggest sources of our limitations?
- Personality and temperament
- Energy and mental capacity
Personality and Temperament
As an only child who grew up battling negativity in the household and in the oh-so-encouraging environment of the military, let’s just say I have a lot of temperamental limitations. From being introverted to having zero patience for people’s bullshit (I know, how did I end up in the fitness industry?!), my personality eliminates about 95% of the possible things I could do for a profession. Even being a gym owner, there are still only about 5% of the responsibilities that I would willingly and enjoyably do every day.
Embrace it. Sure, there’s something to be said for “sucking it up.” Coming from a military background and growing up with a Korean mother, that’s a notion I am all too familiar with. But the other side of the “suck it up” coin is “lack of joy” or “misery.”
You’re not an employee looking to your next meager paycheck to put Cheerios on the table tomorrow morning. You’re an entrepreneur who was driven here by more fluffy motivations such as “passion” and “helping others.” (Or maybe not.) Likewise, you eventually have to move past the “suck it up” phase, especially if you want to alleviate this burn out and love what you do every day.
Simply observe the way you react to things you do around the gym. From taking out the trash to coaching someone unsuccessfully through a work out, ask yourself: is the drudgery of this role something I don’t mind enduring because I enjoy the successes even more?
Am I willing to take out the trash indefinitely because I thoroughly enjoy the feeling that comes afterward of having a spotless gym?
Am I willing to feel at a loss and deal with an athlete’s frustration during a work out because I thoroughly enjoy the breakthroughs even more?
Whether the answer to those questions for you is a resounding yes or no, there is nothing to be boastful or guilty of. Embrace these answers no matter what they are.
Let me break something to you about time. Everyone on the planet has the same amount of it.
Even though we inherently know this, we are STILL trying to “7 Habits” our way to creating 36 hour days, in which we have modified our DNA to no longer need sleep!
If that isn’t delusional enough, we as entrepreneurs revel in being the resourceful jack-of-all-trades that got us here to begin with. Why pay someone else to build our website when we can easily purchase “Website Design for Dummies” to tell us how? Why would we have other people coach our classes when no one can coach or instill the culture like we can?
Because! With every minute you are devoting to something you can or should outsource, you are taking away from your ability to do something else.
Don’t ask yourself what is getting done. Ask yourself what isn’t?
How much more would your gym be able to offer if you had someone else cleaning it? How much time would you have to yourself if other people were coaching classes? Maybe you could finally get back to painting that logo on the wall after all.
It’s not about you doing as much as you can. It’s about your business doing as much as it can.
Energy and Mental Capacity
In 2017, Starbucks generated over 22 billion in revenue.
How? With people like you. People who ignore physiology and try to hack their limited energy and mental resources with caffeine (cream, and sugar, oh my!).
Unless you’re a professional juggler, you can only handle so many different priorities at the same time. If you are trying to develop your marketing campaign as you’re working on next cycle’s programming and training your way to the next national competition, you’re going to fail. At the very best, you’re going to accomplish each thing very poorly.
In your younger years, you may have been able to drink all night and show up to work the next day ready to bedazzle your boss, but those days are over. Your mind and your body are inherently limited in what they can do, and part of your burn out may be because you refuse to acknowledge that fact.
Well, what do I do now?
Step 3: Bridge the Gap Between the Requirements and Your Limitations
Recurring revenue, paying the bills, and delivering a quality product. Focus on these things. Understand these requirements and understand that you cannot do all of them on your own. Trust that the rest, to include your community and culture, will catch up.
Get as much help as you can (free or paid) to accomplish these things, which will allow you to grow your gym in the long run.